The Paracas Candelabra


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Imagine yourself on a yacht, sailing down the coast of South America, stopping along the various Peruvian coastal towns. One morning, as you are about to head in toward Paracas and the harbor of Pisco, you spy upon the coast what appears to be a giant candlestick, pitchfork, or trident, pointing inland. As you draw closer to land, you realize that this huge figure has been etched into the sands of a sloping hill, above the rocks on the coastline. You have found the Paracas Candelabra, or "the Candelabra of the Andes".

The Candelabra has been recorded as being around 600 feet from tip to base, dependent upon the section measured. In appearance it is a large central line from which two arms branch out to form an overlying U shape. At the top of the main, or middle, line there are smaller lines resembling antlers or candle holders that reach from either side of the main line. These additions also appear on both of the outer arms as well. Overall, the figure has the appearance of a giant candlestick.

In addition to the main lines of the Candelabra, there is also a second set of tracks from the main lines sent out to support the large, branching arms. Another interesting feature is the lower set of lines looping the sides of the branching arms. They almost look like a person with a bizarre hat and their hands on their hips. This has led the way to descriptions of the figure as that of a large, alien–like persona with arms upraised and fingers extended.

The Candelabra was literally etched into the earth. The rock base of the sandy cliff that the Candelabra sits on is not hard, and is easily chipped. Due to the softness of the rock, the lines of the gigantic drawing are up to three feet in depth. This depth has prevented the lines from being covered completely, and allowed it to survive to puzzle us up to the present day.

Visible from as far as 12 miles out to sea, the famous figure has provoked many arguments in the scientific community. Very little is known of the origins of the mysterious landmark. Pottery found near the Candelabra has been dated at 200 BC, and is assignable to the Paracas Culture. Yet, the Candelabra bears no similarity to Paracas artifacts found locally or to those attributed to the Ica, Nazca, or Huari cultures. If none of these societies, all of whom populated the lands surrounding the Candelabra, are the people who made the figure, then who did, and for what possible reason would they create this enormous carving?

The Candelabra greatly resembles the famous lines of the Glastonbury Zodiac and the Nazca lines, the latter just 130 miles away from the Candelabra. Due to these similarities, many have proposed that the Candelabra serves as a sort of celestial chart, or an enormous road sign, pointing directly toward the Nazca lines. The latter idea fits handily in with a popular theory, dismissed by most scientists, that the Nazca desert lines are a type of runway for spacecraft. This theory was first presented in the late 1960s and early 1970s by noted scholar Erich von Daniken in his book "Chariots of the Gods?".  Seeming to support this is an ancient Peruvian legend, which survives to this day, about the goddess Orejona (or Orellana) landing in a great ship from the sky. But if this were the case, why the placement of the Candelabra in so obvious of a position as best to be seen by sailors, not spacepeople?

Charles Berlitz, in his book, "Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds", states that the Spanish conquistadors noticed the Candelabra and took it as a sign from heaven - the Holy Trinity - interpreting it as a good omen which encouraged their quest to conquer and Christianize the locals. Upon examining the carving, the Spaniards discovered a huge rope attached to the central fork, and indications that other cords and ropes, connected to the other outer two arms, comprised an apparatus of unknown use. Various theories have arisen from these findings, and all seem to point toward a crude pulley system. Some scientists favor the theory that the Candelabra may have been a tidal calculator for sailors, although no one is quite sure how it would have operated. Baltran Garcia, a Peruvian commentator, thinks that the Candelabra may have been more than a tidal calculator, that "[this] system, equipped with counterweights, graded ladders and ropes sliding on pulleys constituted a gigantic and precise seismograph, able to register telluric waves and seismic shocks coming not only from Peru, but from all over the planet…" While a seismograph seems a bit farfetched, there is a certain ring of truth in clues pointing towards its uses by the sailing community, especially since the early Peruvians were noted for their seamanship.

Tony Morrison, a celebrated writer, researcher, and photographer who has documented the Nazca lines for the BBC and in books, has delved into the mystery of the Candelabra as well. He found that the overall consensus of local folklore pegged the Candelabra as a landmark made by early sailors, with no serious evidence pointing toward any other motivation for building it. This information was verified through talks with a local Englishman, Duncan Masson, who had lived on a farm in Ica (some 130 miles south of the Candelabra) most of his life. Duncan heard first hand accounts about the Candelabra from people who were born in the early 19th century. In addition, Mr. Morrison notes that the Paracas Coastline, which includes Pisco Bay, has been a stopping point and layover for sailors for centuries – starting with the Spanish in the 16th century. He points out that these early sailors would have had many inactive months to complete the carving and that the symbolism of its three branches seems European – examples being the three-armed tree of life and the Holy Trinity.

Perhaps it is a giant tidal calculator, a seismograph, or a landmark for sailors to return to – or maybe the Candelabra served as a sort of anchor for a pulley system that enabled the Peruvians to haul large rock pieces from the cliffs below into the mountains for use in their monolithic stone architecture. Perhaps the answer is some combination of these theories.

We may well solve the riddle of the Candelabra by figuring out the answers to the other historical mysteries and controversies of Peru. It is a land of many unanswered questions. There are many indications that Peruvians possessed technology that, as far as scientific findings have shown, they should not have possessed. How, for example, without the aid of electricity, did the ancient Peruvians plate precious metals? How did they successfully perform brain surgery by taking out sections of the skull and replacing them with gold or copper plates, lacking modern medical knowledge or instruments?

We may never know the real answer to the question of why a group of people etched the particular candlestick-like figure into a hill by the ocean. We can, however, choose to visit and explore this strange place for ourselves to see if we ourselves might uncover a clue to the mysterious Candelabra of Paracas.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Tony Morrison

For more information about Ancient Peru and the Nazca Lines, read Mr. Morrison's book, Pathways to the Gods: The Mystery of the Andes Lines