Artificial Intelligence Was Used to Discover a New Nasca Line

Caitlin Dempsey


Researchers tested out the use of artificial intelligence to assist with finding new Nasca lines. Nasca lines (sometimes spelled Nazca) are geoglyphs found in southern Peru.  Created between 500 BC and 500 AD, these ancient etchings in the ground feature living things, geometric designs, and other objects.

Japanese researchers from Yamagata University have found a total of 142 new Nasca lines in a study area on the Nasca Pampa since 2018. These researchers wanted to see if additional geoglyphs could be found using artificial intelligence.  Manually analyzing an immense amount of data in the form of LiDAR and high resolution aerial imagery would be very time consuming.  So the researchers  teamed up with IBM Japan to see if it would be possible to train artificial intelligence (AI) to take a deep dive through the data and identify any potential geoglyphs.  The team utilized IBM PAIRS Geoscope which is IBM’s cloud-based AI technology for applying geospatial analysis to large datasets.  Using imagery of existing geoglyphs, the team trained a deep neural network to recognize Nasca lines.  Then the researchers fed the system images to process to see if the AI could find previously undetected geoglyphs.

The AI test run was a success with a humanoid-like figure that had not been previously detected being identified.  This is the first geoglyph to be detected using AI.  The geoglyph is about 4 meters high and 2 meters wide and features a humanlike figure with a raised stick in one hand.

The geoglyph discovered using IBM Watson Machine Learning Community Edition
The geoglyph discovered using IBM Watson Machine Learning Community Edition. The geoglpyh in aerial image on the left is represented as a drawing on the left.  Source: Yamagata University and IBM Japan.

The discovery is a promising start for researchers from Yamagata University who hope to continue to use IBM’s AI system to analyze even more remote sensing and aerial imagery to discover additional Nasca lines.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.