MARÍA REICHE – THE LADY OF NASCA
Maria Reiche was born in Dresden, Germany, on May 15, 1903. She studied mathematics, physics, and geography at the Technical University of Dresden and Hamburg, graduating in 1928. Four years after finishing her studies, she was presented with the opportunity to fulfill her dream of leaving her country, and accepted the offer to work as a private tutor for the children of the German consul in Cuzco.
That was how he arrived in Peru, almost by chance. Without imagining that it would be in this country where he would find that passion that changed his life. From Cusco, he went on to settle in Lima. In the capital he worked restoring pre-Columbian textiles at the National Museum of Peru and translating texts for intellectuals of the time; among them, two great researchers: Julio C. Tello and Paul Kosok. Working with them sparked his interest in Peruvian archaeology.
In one of the articles that he translated to the archaeologist, Kosok learned of the existence of gigantic lines and figures in Nasca and Palpa. She traveled to this place for the first time in 1941, invited as a work assistant by the same archaeologist.
For years Paul Kosok and María Reiche extensively studied the soil of the Nasca pampas. When Kosok left Peru in 1949, Reiche continued to work on what had become her life’s purpose. The tireless search to discover the secrets of this enigmatic place that had become her home.
María Reiche reflected her arduous day-to-day research in the publication «Mystery in the desert. A study of the ancient figures and the strange outlined surface”, in 1968. This work meant putting the Nasca Lines in the eyes of the world, and from there visitors have not stopped arriving to learn about or study this arid terrain.
The lines and figures that fill the Peruvian plain date from the time that goes from the year 200 a. C. until 700 d. C., period in which the Nasca culture existed. According to María Reiche’s theory, the Nasca inhabitants used these figures as an astronomical system, rain calendar and harvest planning.
From the beginning of their studies, Kosok and Reiche observed that some lines converged toward sunrise on the southern hemisphere winter solstice. Later, Reiche also found an alignment with the summer solstice and proposed that some figures corresponded to constellation shapes; for example, he saw a similarity between the drawing of the monkey and the Big Dipper.
The Nasca Lines are today Cultural Heritage of Humanity and that is thanks to the conservation work that Reiche carried out in this mystical place. More than work, for the German this became part of her life. It was so much so that she dedicated herself to sweeping meter by meter the geoglyphs that occupy an area of 50 kilometers.
Something that was seen with strangeness by the locals. As an anecdote, she herself told that rumors circulated that she was a witch.
Knowing the enormous value of her findings, Reiche went to live in El Ingenio (near the lines) and began to fight to keep them. «The written press of the time gives details of that struggle, such as when Maria campaigned against a project by the Ministry of Agriculture to irrigate the area where the lines are located. She made it to Parliament, where she showed the deputies her research, geographical maps and photos of the figures. She thus achieved, after many debates, the support of the deputies ».
The mathematician spent her last years living in a hotel room near the lines. She passed away at the age of 95 in Lima. Her funeral was on June 10, 1998 at the National Museum of Lima and she was buried in Nasca. Until today she is loved and known in Peru as the “Lady of Nasca” or also the “Lady of the broom”.
© Via: National Radio.
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