Archeology Video X-Files

Nazca’s Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca Wonder

Nazca's Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca Wonder

Peru is a remarkable country rich in history that spans several millennia. Known as the heart of the Inca Empire, Peru was also home to many other ancient civilizations long before the Incas arrived. There are many stunning and equally mysterious ancient places in Peru like Machu Picchu and  Nazca lines. However, far fewer people are aware of another mysterious part of Peru, a place known as “The Band of Holes.”

The Band of Holes also known in Spanish as Monte Sierpe (serpent mountain) or Cerro Viruela (smallpox hill), is a series of about 5,000-6,000 man-sized holes found in the Pisco Valley on the Nazca Plateau,  the same area as the more well known Nazca Lines.  Although some holes are precisely lined up and some are staggered, overall they give the impression of intentional man-made patterns.

Nazca's Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca WonderThe Band of Holes stretches for several miles in a generally north to south orientation. (Image Source)

The origin and purpose of the Band of Holes

The creators of the holes, and their purpose, remain a mystery.  Over the years, it has been speculated that they were graves, defensive positions, or storage places, or  that they are of extraterrestrial origin. The most recent study suggests that they were storage pits built during the time of the Inca Empire. However,  these theories have been criticized considering that there are far easier ways to store grain without carving into rock, and there have been no signs of bones, teeth or any burial artifacts to suggest that people were ever buried there. A different theory suggests that the alternating patterns of the holes might have been storage units for tribute payers to the Incan Empire. Different villages or people groups could have brought the required products to be counted by filling the holes in different sections, and after, the goods could be transported to a location decided by Incan authorities.

Though locals have always known about the Band of Holes, it’s possible that archaeologists have ignored it because it’s hard to see except from the air. The first modern-day record we have of the structure comes from an aerial photograph taken in 1931, and today two archaeologists, Charles Stanish and Henry Tantaleán, are exploring it with drones.

Nazca's Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca WonderThe view of Band of Holes from the sky defies the explanation. Left: A 1931 aerial photograph is the first known documentation of Monte Sierpe, an ancient Peruvian site popularly known as the “Band of Holes.” (Image Source)

Who made Band of Holes and how?

It is still remains unknown how exactly they were made, and there is disagreement on how long it might have taken. Some researchers say that it would take decades to complete the task, while others suggest that even with ancient technology, a larger group of people could have completed it in as little as a few months.

Nazca's Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca WonderA close-up look at one of the pits in the Band of Holes. The holes, actually pits with raised edges, are about 1 meter in diameter and 50–100 cm deep. (Image Source)

There have not been any artifacts discovered or uncovered to reveal any further information about the holes.  A few miles east, satellite images reveal what appears to be the remains of an ancient settlement. Though it resembles the well known ruins of Machu Picchu, and a major Incan administrative center lies just over 3 miles to the east (Tambo Colorado) of that site, the location hasn’t been officially identified as part of any particular ancient civilization.

Over at Archaeology magazine, Eric Powell has a fascinating article about the site, which is as controversial as it is mysterious. The Band of Holes was definitely within Inca territory at the time of European colonization, but the region was also home to many pre-Inca civilizations—including a group known as the Chincha who were conquered in the fifteenth century by the Inca, shortly before the Spanish arrived. In fact, archaeologist Stanish is known for discovering art and artifacts from a sophisticated culture that occupied the Chincha Valley region more than 2,300 years ago, long before the Inca empire rose. So the Band of Holes could have been made by one of these groups or created by one and appropriated by the next.

Nazca's Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca WonderThe Band of Holes as seen from Google Earth. Coordinates: 13°42′59.9″S 75°52′28.46″W and 13°42′20″S 75°52′28.46″W

The band covers an area of about a mile with a well-defined beginning and ending. The odd appearance of the ending point, unnaturally darkened in color which some say resembles an area destroyed by an explosion, has opened a range of theories about extraterrestrial visits to earth, even inspiring an episode on a popular aliens television show.

Nazca's Band of Holes: An Overlooked Inca Wonder(Courtesy Charles Stanish) The mile-long arrangement of depressions is visible here in a recent image taken from a drone. (Image Source)

Things as striking as The Band of Holes are bound to raise more questions than answers about the history and intentions of our ancient ancestors – how they lived and why they chose such monumental tasks. What is certain is that there must have been a reason for the holes, leaving us to look and to wonder.

This footage reveals the incredible uniformity of holes that run for nearly two miles across a remote mountain range. Who made these strange holes, and why?



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