A Giant 2,000-Year-Old Cat Drawing Was Accidentally Found by Workers In Peru

The outline of a cat dates back to about 200 BCE, which means it predates the Nazca culture that created most of Peru’s ancient geoglyphic designs.
October 19, 2020, 4:47pm
​Image: Peru Ministry of Culture, Communication and Image Office
Image: Peru Ministry of Culture, Communication and Image Office

One of the oldest artistic depictions in the Nazca Lines, a mysterious collection of geoglyphs preserved in southern Peru, was discovered during recent remodeling efforts within this UNESCO World Heritage site.

More than 2,000 years ago, people in this region created a 37-meter-long outline of a sprawling cat on a hill slope according to a statement released on Thursday by Peru’s Ministry of Culture. 

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The Nazca geoglyphs, some of which stretch across hundreds of meters, were made by ancient artists who removed rocks from the landscape to create stunning earthworks of animals, people, and more abstract designs. 

The newly discovered feline geoglyph dates back to about 200 BCE, suggesting that it was created by the Paracas people, who predate the Nazca culture that produced most of the region’s iconic geoglyphs between 200 to 700 CE. 

The cat geoglyph has substantially faded over the centuries, and was found by accident as workers remodeled parts of the Mirador Natural, a lookout point within the Nazca Lines.

“The figure was barely visible and was about to disappear due to its location on a fairly steep slope and the effects of natural erosion,” the Ministry of Culture noted in its Oct 15 statement. “In the last week, cleaning and conservation of the geoglyph was carried out, which shows the figure of a feline represented with the body in profile and the head in front, whose lines were mostly well defined by a line of variable width between 30 and 40 centimeters.”

Though it is among the oldest geoglyphs found in the Nazca Desert, the cat is similar in style to the dozens of other animal-inspired drawings in the region, which have mystified archaeologists and the public alike. 

The Nazca Lines span about 450 square kilometers (173 square miles); some of the most famous patterns include a monkey with a spiral tail, an orca, several birds, and humanoid figures. Given that more than 140 geoglyphs were found in 2019, there are likely many more of these creations awaiting discovery.

In its statement, Peru’s Ministry of Culture concluded that the discovery of the cat geoglyph shows that “even in times of pandemic,” researchers are still managing to reveal “the rich and varied cultural legacy that the area harbors.”