“What strange compulsion made men etch vast designs on the side of the Earth? On downlands and desert, on the slopes of solitary mountains. Why can so many only be seen from the air? What is their message from the distant past?”
It seems such an obvious point, but I’d never really stopped to wonder why ancient man created some of these images when they couldn’t see them from the ground, although Giants for the Gods does open with the possibility that some two thousand years ago the Nazca Indians might have had the power of flight (via some kind of hot-air balloon). The Nazca Lines – created in Peru – are discussed in some detail. With lines running for thirty miles it’s an astonishing achievement, but what purpose did they serve? Various explanations have been postulated over the years – a giant map for space travellers was popular during the 1960’s and 1970’s when interest in Erich von Däniken’s theories were at their height, whilst others are convinced that they served an astronomical/calendar purpose. More recently there’s been other suggestions (a little more detail can be found here).
We then travel to England to meet the rude man of Cerne. He’s a very well-endowed giant chalk figure carved on a Dorset hillside. Why or when he was carved is a mystery, but luckily there’s some colourful local characters on hand to give us their theories. The first is a man with an incredibly impressive beard and whilst the next man’s beard is less impressive he does have an interesting story to tell. “We did have one girl who had been married for about seven years and hadn’t managed to have a child. So we told her to go and sit on the giant – apparently you’re supposed to sit up there with your knickers off, I don’t know whether she did that or not – but the next spring she was pregnant.” It’s probably not as old as the carvings of the Nasca Indians though. The earliest record of the figure dates to the middle of the eighteenth century, although some remain convinced that he’d been there since Roman times. Further information can be found here.
Chile is our next destination, and the Chilean Geoglyphs have some similarities to the Nazca Lines, although the images here are more varied. The massive image of a man takes us back to the suggestion at the beginning that maybe the ancients had the power of flight (otherwise they’d have no way of viewing these carvings). If that wasn’t the case then possibly they were produced for their gods who would be looking down at them.
Arthur’s honest enough to say that he can’t begin to answer why they were created, although he does suggest they might have been inspired in part by man’s desire to leave a mark on the face of his planet. So there’s no definite answers, but although Giants for the Gods isn’t the flashiest edition of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, it is one of the most thought-provoking.