Monday, November 21, 2005

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Indians lived in Peru during the first millennium of the Christian Era. The Nazca had a reasonable sophisticated society, with fairly advanced craft skills. They were subsumed after a series of conquests by neighboring tribes, all of whom are now virtually extinct themselves. The painful truth is that the Nazca left no great literature. They built no fabulous palaces. They were not hiding weapons of mass destruction. They didn't memorably slaughter any other culture. In short, there is only one reason that the Nazca have been elevated above the level of historical footnote -- The Nazca Lines, gigantic illustrations etched into the ground which can only be viewed from high in the air. Let's take a closer look...

The Nazca Lines are a form of art called geoglyphs, which scientists tell us means "giant pictures drawn on the ground." From the ground, the Nazca lines basically look footpaths. The lines were made by scraping away the dark surface dirt to reveal the lighter colored dirt underneath.

For centuries, the lines were seen simply as sacred paths used by the surviving remnants of the Nazca and other Indians in the region. In 1927, a local archaeologist named Mejia Xespe "discovered" the lines for modern audiences. When viewed from the air, he found that the apparent paths didn't really lead anywhere and speculated that they were used for pointless "walking around in circles" ceremonies by the Nazca.

A dozen years later, an American historian named Paul Kosok tried to map out one of the Nazca Line sets and discovered that it kind of looked like a bird. He speculated that the lines functioned as a positional calendar, similar to Stonehenge. But as Kosok and his research assistant Maria Reiche (who took over the project in the '40s) continued to map the lines, they discovered more and more pictures.

To the astonishment of the scientific community, aerial photography documented that the lines were massive pictures drawn across more than 200 square miles. In all, more than 110 pictures and simple geometric structures have been mapped in the region. About 70 of the Nazca diagrams depicted people or animals, including hummingbirds, pelicans and dogs.

There were several reasons why this discovery was astonishing. For one thing, the first millennium C.E. was notoriously short on airplanes, which meant that (in theory) the Nazca could not possibly have viewed the pictures themselves. For another thing, the lines were just scratched into the ground, yet they had endured for several centuries. For another thing, the whole idea was freaky-weird and seemed to demand a freaky-weird explanation.

Worried about the freaky-weird cheering section, scientists rushed to present a rational explanation, which we must admit is sounds as though it may also be the correct explanation. With virtually no historical record to work from, they argued the designs were almost certainly religious in their purpose, for the simple reason that no one would go to so much trouble except for religion.

While the Nazca themselves couldn't see the pictures, their gods would theoretically have a nice vantage point to enjoy the artwork. In principle, there was no reason that a careful planner couldn't chart out instructions for drawing the actual lines. And the lack of water and wind erosion in the Peruvian desert accounted for the lines' longevity.

With all these reasonable arguments nicely articulated, the scientists sat back, clinked their brandy snifters together and fired up some celebratory cigars.

Starting in the 1950s, what ‘rational scientists’ had fear occurred, the lunatic fringe seized hold of the Nazca lines, and they never let go.

UFO enthusiasts began to promulgate a theory that the Nazca Lines were landing strips in a giant runway for aliens who visited the idiot Nazca tribe and helped them build the Nazca Lines, which were so clearly beyond the ability of simple natives to construct. The theory continued to gain popular momentum when it was discussed by Erich von Daniken in his 1968 epic Chariots of the Gods.

Let’s look at a few things. First off, the fallacies behind the "alien landing strip" theory are so extensive that it is impossible to enumerate all of them. However, there are a few which stand out from the crowd:

1. If primitive 21st century earth humans are already capable of creating vehicles which do not require landing strips, then why would super-advanced interstellar aliens need them?

2. If you put all this aside, and grant for the sake of argument that aliens need landing strips, why would the landing strips look like monkeys, spiders and hummingbirds? Landing strips as we know them are straight -- for rather obvious and practical reasons.

3. If the Nazcas needed alien help to build the landing strips, but the aliens need the landing strips in order to land, how could the aliens have landed in the first place in order to teach the Nazca how to build the landing strips?

It's a simple fact that you don't need aliens -- or technology of any kind -- to draw pictures like the Nazca Lines. All you need is a lot of determination and intelligence. And despite the preconceptions of many modern folks, being primitive is not the same as being stupid.

Assuming, for the moment, the Nazca hadn't invented a simple hot air balloon, there remains an intriguing mystery. Exactly why would the Nazca draw massive pictures that they could never view themselves?

While the answer is still unknown, there are many rows to hoe before resorting to extraterrestrial intervention -- anything from mental imbalance to religious fervor to illustrating an existential point about the meaninglessness of human endeavor.

Or there could simply be no point to the lines at all. If you have to invoke UFOs every time you need to explain seemingly irrational human behavior, you'll end up blaming aliens for everything from Crystal Pepsi to Al Gore to Wife Swap. You'd think aliens would have better things to do. Besides, let’s give some credit to human beings for a change, isn’t it possible that humans decided for whatever reason to do this and then found a way to achieve it? What ever you view of the Nasca Lines, it sure is more proof that we do indeed live in a big weird world!


I’m Average Joe

1 comment:

Lewis said...

Suicide Spammers Alert

Most of us agree that “spamming” is a growing problem on the internet. But now it looks as if the spammers are shooting themselves in the foot. They seem to be committing mass suicide. Because, by using spamming software to “automate” their competitive efforts, they are raising their hand in the cyber classroom and identifying themselves as … well … spammers worthy of internet contempt.

Many of these “spammers” are small-time entrepreneurs searching for a spotlight in a medium (the internet) which is being bought and paid for by Big Guys with oversized ad budgets. In other words, the small-time entrepreneurs see the “spamming software” as a way of competing with the swollen internet expenditures of Fortune 500 companies.

Now comes news that it may not be working for the little guys. They may be making themselves even smaller by identifying themselves to the large search engines such as Google, AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Teoma and Yahoo!

Let me share with you my own experience with Blog Submitter Pro V.Search. It’s a popular, heavily-marketed “spam machine” which posts comments to blogs, either automatically or semi-automatically, depending on a user’s settings. And, yes, I bought it because I am one of those small-time entrepreneurs looking for attention in a cyberspace bought and paid for by Big Guys with oversized ad budgets.

On Nov 8th 2005, I began pointing Blog Submitter software to one of my real estate sites. At the time, my site “ranking” on major search engines was reasonable, but not great.

I purchased Blog Submitter Pro after many months of trying to claw my way up the cyberspace ladder on a peanut-sized budget. Prior to using the software, my site popularity numbers were: Google: 27 links … AltaVista: 589 links … AllTheWeb: 584 links … Teoma: 30 links … Yahoo!: 595 links and MSN: 10 links.

I have run Blog Submitter Pro V.Search quite a bit between then and now. Some glitches appeared, but overall I felt it was an OK piece of software … or at least a clever one. The fact that it would often post repeatedly to the same blog was a serious problem, but I still felt the program was delivering a shot at cyber stardom. My blogger “comments” were well thought out, and they posted accurately. They were innocuous and unobtrusive messages. An example or two of my typical comments:

Hi. After suffering through the tree-busting, home-wreaking destruction of Hurricane Wilma, and being away from the Internet for well over a week because Adelphia broadband blew away in the wind, it’s nice to read things like your blog. Even though I really am searching for information on Boca Raton Real Estate, which I might be able to use on my Boca Raton real estate site ... thanks for the read.

Or this:

Blog-skipping is the latest cybersport … sort of like skipping stones across the water … see how many blogs you can ripple through before your fingers stiffen up. It’s an amusing break from working on my Boca Raton real estate site . Your blog has slowed me down a little, because I enjoyed the read. Still … off I cyberskip to the next site :o)

I had a minimum of ten such messages whenever I turned on Blog Submitter Pro V.Search, validated by ten different sets of “credentials” (blogs I have at Blogger.com, proving I’m a fellow blogger and kindred internet spirit).

My messages were posted on thousands of blog sites, and the sites were then automatically “pinged” to let the search engines know a post had been made. Then the search engine would come and look at the post and it would be “fooled” into thinking that the site which the post pointed to – my site – was a worthwhile, busy entity in cyberspace.

The first hint of a letdown came when three of my credentials (blogs I have at Blogger.com) were tagged by the Blogger folks as “SPAM BLOGS” … a DIRECT result of using Blog Submitter Pro V.Search software.

Didn’t take them long to figure out I was a dreaded spammer. And that, sadly, turns out to be the GOOD news.

My site popularity ranking on major search engines (the result of many months of hard work prior to using Blog Submitter Pro) was, in my opinion, badly damaged. The exact numbers as of this writing are: Google: 27 links (as before) … AltaVista: 283 links (a drop of 306 links) … AllTheWeb: 71 links (a drop of 513 links) … Teoma: 30 links (as before) … Yahoo!: 286 links (a drop of 309 links) and MSN: 96 links (an increase of 86 links).

I attribute this damage directly to the use of Blog Submitter Pro V.Search software. I expect my rankings on Google and Teoma to slide on the next update from their search engines (which seems to happen about once a month). I am sure the increase in MSN will also seriously reverse.

To say I am disappointed in the software would be a gross understatement. I am only glad that I had the foresight to use it on a single website, and not on all of my websites. I will continue to use it on the damaged site to see if it continues to hurt, rather than help. And I will report back to anyone interested. The site in question is http://www.bocasite.com.

My e-mail is temple@bocasite.com.

Good luck, folks. I think, with this software, we are well on the road to identifying and, ultimately, watching the suicide of a lot of spammers. And I intend to use the software itself to propagate the message. Poetic justice rules. Spread the word.