More than 5,000 geoglyphs—prehistoric works of art placed on or worked into the landscape—have been recorded in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile over the past thirty years. A summary of these investigations appears in a paper by Luis Briones entitled “The geoglyphs of the north Chilean desert
The best known geoglyphs in the world are the Nazca lines, built between 200 BC and 800 AD, and located approximately 800 kilometers away in coastal Peru. The Chilean glyphs in the Atacama Desert are far more numerous and varied in style, cover a much larger region (150,000 km2 versus the 250 km2 of the Nazca lines), and were built between 600 and 1500 AD. Both the Nazca lines and the Atacama glyphs had multiple symbolic or ritual purposes; while scholars believe the Atacama glyphs additionally had a vital role in the transportation network connecting the great South American civilizations.