A team of researchers presented a new study that offers a fresh insight regarding the origins and nature of the mysterious Nazca lines in Peru. Through the new study, the researchers were able to explain how and why some of the geoglyphs were created.

For years, the large drawings of plants and animals in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru have been the center of speculations. Due to their large size and overall nature, many believed that the Nazca lines were made by extraterrestrial visitors.

Recently, a team of researchers from Japan made a surprising discovery that could explain how the landscape drawings came to be. Through a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, the researchers explained the origins of some of the drawings.

Out of the over 2,000 geoglyphs in the area, the researchers focused on 16 bird drawings for the study. By comparing the overall shapes of the drawing with the actual physical characteristics of several types of birds, the researchers were able to re-classify what some of the geoglyphs actually depicted.

“Until now, the birds in these drawings have been identified based on general impressions or a few morphological traits present in each figure,” Masaki Eda of the Hokkaido University Museum said in a statement.

“We closely noted the shapes and relative sizes of the birds’ beaks, heads, necks, bodies, wings, tails and feet and compared them with those of modern birds in Peru,” Eda added.

Through their approach, the researchers accurately classified some of the depicted figures in the Nazca Desert. For example, a geoglyph previously labeled as a depiction of a hummingbird was actually a hermit. Another geoglyph that was mistakenly classified as guano bird turned out to be a pelican.

Although the new classifications are birds that can be found in Peru, they are only located in specific parts of the country. For instance, pelicans can be found along the coast of Peru while hermits live on the eastern slopes of the Andes and in the northern region near Ecuador.

Based on the geographical location of these birds, the researchers concluded that the ancient civilizations that lived in Nazca most likely came across these birds as they were travelling. The birds probably caught their attention because of their exotic nature.

“The Nazca people who drew the images could have seen pelicans while food-gathering on the coast,” Eda said. “Our findings show that they drew exotic birds, not local birds, and this could be a clue as to why they drew them in the first place.”

Eda noted that further studies on animal and artifact remains in the Nazca ruins could also provide better explanations regarding the nature of the drawings.

Nazca Lines Duck
Aerial view of a geoglyph representating a duck or a dinosaurius at Nazca Lines, some 435 km south of Lima, Dec. 11, 2014. Geoglyphs can be seen only from atop the surrounding foothills or from aircrafts. The purpose of the Nazca lines remains unclear, according some scientists the Nazca people created them to be seen by their gods in the sky. Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images