Paracas Candelabra of Peru

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The Nazca Lines in southern Peru are some of the best known geoglyphs on earth, but they aren’t the only ones in the Nazca desert. About 200 kilometers north west of Nazca is another isolated and somewhat less popular geoglyph called Paracas Candelabra. It is also known as the “Candelabra of the Andes” because of its resemblance to a three-branched candlestick.

The geoglyph is etched on the sloping face of a hill at Pisco Bay on the Peruvian coast. The design has been cut into the soil to a depth of two feet with stones, possibly from a later date, placed around it. The figure is 181 meters tall, large enough to be seen as far as twenty kilometers out at sea.

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Photo credit: Unukorno/Wikimedia

The Paracas Candelabra is generally attributed to the Paracas Culture of the first millennium BCE, based on pottery discovered in the area that was radiocarbon dated to 200 BC. The pottery likely belonged to the Paracas people, although it has never been confirmed whether they were involved in the creation of the geoglyph.

The overall shape of the geoglyps is that of a trident—possibly representing the lightning rod of the god Viracocha, a mythological figure in South America— the branches split out further into more smaller branches. Some say it looks more like a cactus.

Frank Joseph, an author obsessed with alternative theories, have found likeness of a hallucinogenic plant called jimson (Datura stramomium) in Paracas Candelabra. His theory is that prehistoric inhabitants of the Paracas region travelled north to California to collect the plant, and the geoglyph was used to help navigate home. The idea that the geoglyph was used as a navigational aid is an old one though. Locals believe it was used by sailors to identify the peninsula.

Paracas Candelabra is certainly an enigma. Together with the Nazca lines it shows how little we currently understand about these sites and pre-Colombian cultures in general.

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Photo credit: Dan Kit/Flickr

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Photo credit: David Stanley/Wikimedia

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Photo credit: Yoli Marcela Hernandez/Wikimedia

Sources: Wikipedia / www.hows.org.uk / Bad Archaeology

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