On today’s episode, we will look at the new discovery of a giant cat carved into the hills of Peru. The Nazca lines are one of the most impressive and mysterious ancient sites, with an unknown history and complicated design!

(If you can’t see the podcast player click here to listen!)

To unearth (v) – to discover something in the ground

Building at the site was halted after human remains were unearthed earlier this month

To depict (v) – to represent or show something in a picture or story

The cave paintings depict a variety of human, bird and mythological figures and patterns 

To etch (v) – to cut a pattern, picture, etc., in a surface

Rory ordered a baseball bat with his own name etched in the wood

Feline (n) – a member of the cat family

A wildlife park with tigers and various other felines

Erosion (n) – the fact of soil, stone, etc. being gradually damaged and removed by the waves, rain, or wind

Coastal erosion caused the cliff to collapse

fertile (adj) – fertile land can produce large number of good quality crops

In order to turn the deserts into fertile and productive land, engineers built a 800-mile canal

speculation (n) – the activity of guessing possible answers to a question without having enough information to be certain

News of the president’s illness fuelled speculation that an election will be held later in the year

Ritual (n) – a set of fixed actions and sometimes words performed regularly, especially as part of a ceremony

Coffee and the newspaper are part of my morning ritual 


This October, a previously undiscovered example of an ancient mystery was unearthed in South America. A new Nazca line, depicting a cat, has been discovered on the side of a mountain in Peru. The Nazca lines are large geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. Geoglyphs are large designs produced on the ground and typically formed by rocks, stones, gravel and dirt. They can be formed by either adding material to the ground to produce the design, or by taking material away. Designs like this exist around the world, with very well known examples being found in the UK, North America, and other South American countries. However, i think it is fair to say the Nazca lines are the most famous. 

Maybe you have seen pictures of the Nazca lines before. Figures including a monkey, hummingbird and orca, alongside mysterious lines and shapes, have been etched into the desert of southern Peru, and in recent years become internationally famous. The newest feline geoglyph was discovered as construction workers were preparing to build a new viewing platform for the already discovered glyphs. The feline, which measures about 120 feet long, has wide, orb-like eyes and looks like it is resting in the warmth of the sun. Scientists believe the cat, as with other Nazca animal figures, was created by making depressions in the desert floor, leaving coloured earth exposed. In a statement, Peru’s culture ministry said: “The figure was scarcely visible and was about to disappear, because it’s situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion.” It added that the geoglyph, which is about 37m long, has been cleaned and conserved over the past week.

Recognised as the ancient people that managed to turn a desert into a fertile and green land, the Nazca were also skilled craftsmen who decorated not only their objects with fascinating designs but also the ground underneath their feet. From 400 AD to about 650 AD the Nazca etched many lines and pictures into the ground by the simple process of scraping away the upper layer of reddish soil and pebbles to reveal the lighter soil underneath.

However, Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca lines, told Efe news agency that the cat pre-dates the Nazca culture – which created most of the figures. The cat, he said, was actually from the late Paracas era, which was from 500 BC to 200 AD. Between 80 and 100 new figures have emerged over recent years in the Nazca and Palpa valleys, all of which predated the Nazca culture.

The Nazca Lines have fascinated researchers since their modern rediscovery in the 20th century. But experts remain divided over why the Nazca civilization and their predecessors dedicated so much time and energy to creating the massive figures. The fact that the geoglyphs can only truly be seen from above has led to significant speculation that the Nazca had access to some form of aircraft. Some even more sensationalist writers have claimed that these were meant to be seen by extraterrestrials. Between the 1940s and ’70s, Nazca experts Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche argued that the lines fulfilled “astronomical and calendrical purposes,”. Or in other words, the lines were connected to the stars and planets, as well as the way these ancient people understood time. In contrast, more recent theories argue that the lines relate to religious rituals designed to encourage rainfall and fertility. Or that the lines did not have one purpose, but many different purposes depending on when they were created, how big they are, and other factors

The Peruvian desert’s climate has preserved the Nazca Lines for thousands of years. But human activity and natural erosion present significant threats to the lines survival. A single footprint or tire mark could permanently destroy the surface of these ancient lines—and, in recent years, such damage has become increasingly common. In 2014, Greenpeace activists smudged the surface of a Nazca Line during a demonstration calling for action on climate change, and in 2018, a truck driver was arrested after he intentionally drove a tractor across a condor-shaped glyph.

Final Thought 

History. Many of the greatest mysteries and unanswerable questions that have captivated humans for centuries are about our history. Especially far in the past, written records are incredibly rare, actually often nonexistent, and even if they do exist they can be unreliable and unrelated to our interests. We want to know what happened in the past. How did people live? WHat did they do? Or more specifically, how did the Ancient Egyptians build the pyramids? How did the Ancient Britons drag the stones hundreds of miles to construct stonehenge? How did the Nazca design and produce their geoglyphs? People, especially people from western cultures, tend to assume that history is developmental. By this, I mean we often think that right now we are at the best point, or most advanced point, ever. The past was worse, and the future will be better. 

However, questions surrounding stonehenge, the pyramids, and even how people spread around the world thousands of years ago, can cause problems for this kind of view of history. Maybe people in the past had skills, knowledge, even technology that have since been long forgotten. There are many unanswered questions, and long standing mysteries, that challenge the way we look at history. Perhaps the past was not actually as dark as we tend to assume now. 

What do you think?.

Comprehension Question

Q. Where are the Nazca lines located?

A. Peru

Q. How long is the cat etched into the hill?

A. 37m or 120 ft

Q. In 2014, which organisation activists smudged the surface of a Nazca Line during a demonstration calling for action on climate change?

A. Greenpeace

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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