Wednesday

New Pre-Columbian Culture Found In Peru: The Teletubbies

Last week we visited Nazca in coastal Peru and did the obligatory flyover of the Nazca Lines. Like many tourists before us we marched straight to the airport and organized our 35 minute flight over the lines. On that day of perfunctory sightseeing, however, I made the startling discovery of a totally-new Pre-Columbian culture: The Teletubbies.

Before I offer the details of my groundbreaking discovery, here's some background on the lines. The Nazca Lines are a series of geoglyphs located in the Nazca desert, a high arid plateau that stretches more than 50 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana in Peru. These mysterious lines are largely believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 200 BCE and 700 CE. There are hundreds of individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks or orcas, llamas, and lizards. The lines are shallow designs in the ground where the brownish pebbles that cover the surrounding landscape have been removed, revealing the whitish earth underneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes, and more than seventy are natural or human figures. The largest are over 660 ft across. Scholars differ in interpreting what the lines were for but generally ascribe religious significance to them.

We arrived in Nazca after taking all all-night semi-cama bus from Arequipa. We’d heard that there was not much else to do in Nazca beyond flying over the lines, so we decided to arrive in the morning, see the lines and then keep heading north. We took a taxi to the airport, arranged our flights, ate an overpriced meal at the airport café and popped some motion sickness tablets. Most of the flights are in 5- or 7-seater Cessna planes which often make sharp banked turns in order to get closer looks at the lines. I remember the last time I flew over the lines, 23 years ago; our pilot pointed to a rectangular funnel shape and said, “UFO landing strip,” and dove the plane down towards it as if to land it there. It was at this point that Bernard, my French traveling companion, vomited into his air-sickness bag.

We met our pilot, got into our 7-seater, took off and began our aerial tour of the Nazca Lines. Not five minutes into our flight I made my startling discovery. There, on the side of a mountain was what our pilot called the “astronaut” or “owl man” figure. I’m not an archeologist or an historian, but it was pretty obvious to me that what we were looking at was a Teletubby. Round head, vacant eyes, puffy body, big feet and a friendly wave. Don’t take my word for it; judge for yourself with the two photos below.











Much is known about Nazca, Moche and Aymara Pre-Columbian cultures but very little is known about the Teletubbies presence in the early part of the first millennium here on the flat dry Nazca plain. My discovery was further supported by a visit to Las Ventanillas near Cajamarca in Northern Peru a few days later. Carved into the volcanic rock are what my guidebook described as funerary niches. Again, it was clearly obvious that these niches were perfectly carved to accommodate a television set (see photo below).

After making my startling discovery we continued with the flight, seeing the famous humingbird, monkey and whale figures, but my mind was on my breakthrough. I plan to publish my findings soon in the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian.

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