The Nazca Plateau in Peru contains two dozen new geoglyphs that predate by two centuries the famous monkey, spider and hummingbird listed at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Almost invisible on the surface, the images were captured by researchers from the University of Yamagata in Japan thanks to 3-D scans of the ground a mile north of the city of Nazca.
The team discovered 24 geoglyphs of animals, "some of which probably depict Andean native camelid, llamas," the researchers said in a press release.
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The number of images adds to the 17 geoglyphs of similar style unearthed in the adjacent area by the same team last year, stretching the discovery to 41 ancient outlines.
"All these geoglyphs were drawn on the slopes of the hill, to make them clearly visible," team leader Masato Sakai said.
Ranging from around 16 feet to 66 feet tall, the images are estimated to date back to 400 B.C. to 200 B.C. The dating makes them earlier versions of the motifs previously found on the plateau, which are believed to have been created between 400 A.D. and 650 A.D.
According to Sakai, the newly found geoglyphs feature a different technique compared to the most famous Nazca lines.
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He explained the Nazca Pampa, the arid region of Peru between the Andes and the coast, is covered with black oxidized pebbles. White ground lies underneath.
"If you remove the surface pebbles along lines of interest, white lines emerge. This technique was employed to draw the contours of the most famous animal figures," Sakai told Discovery News.
On the contrary, Sakai noted that to draw the newly discovered figures of llama and other animals, the Nazca people removed the surface pebbles with the shape of the animals, so that white ground filled their bodies.
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Mostly known for their ability of carving in the desert hundreds of geometric lines and images of animals and birds that are best viewed from the air, the Nazca flourished in Peru between the first century B.C. and the fifth century A.D. and slid into oblivion by the time the Inca Empire rose to dominate the Andes.
Their civilization was also obsessed over trophy heads. Indeed, they boasted the largest collection of human heads in the Andes region of South America.
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According to Sakai, the discovery is particularly important as there is no other site on the Nazca Plateau that boasts a concentration of 41 geoglyphs.
"Yet they are in danger of being destroyed by the recent expansion of urban areas without being recognized as geoglyphs," Sakai said.
"It is important to share this information with local people and government to preserve them," he added.