Science: Mystery on the Mesa

The long strips crisscrossing the desert veer from a straight line by only a few yards every mile. The accompanying triangles, rectangles and trapezoids are laid out with equal precision. In their midst are drawings of huge spiders, a giant nine-fingered monkey, birds, fish and reptiles, some of them so large they are recognizable only from the air. For decades these ancient patterns, spreading across 30 miles of Peru's desolate Nazca plain, have confounded archaeologists. Why were they so painstakingly etched out of the bleak mesa? Could they have been signals to the gods, or—as the current movie Chariots of...

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