Mara Reiche (1903-1998), dubbed the “lady of the lines”, discovered what may have been the greatest cultural treasure in Peru, following Machu Picchu. In 1994, Unesco designated this site a World Heritage Site after Reiche investigated it in depth. This geoglyphic sanctuary revealed interesting information about Peruvian indigenous cultures. A biography of Mara Reiche, a perseverant woman and selfless archaeologist, offers a wealth of information.

A brief biography of Maria Reiche

The index

  • Genius

  • Reiche’s first archaeological approach

  • The Nazca lines need to be dusted off

  • Discovered something extraordinary

Genius in a nutshell

Maria Victoria Reiche Neumann was born on May 15, 1903, in Dresden, northwestern Germany. She has been an idealistic girl with a vivid imagination since she was a child. Even though Reiche grew up far from the opportunities of the capital, her parents provided her with an exemplary education, which cultivated her scientific and language abilities.


Before reaching her majority, María Reiche already spoke English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish almost fluently, in addition to her native German. Her passion for reading led her to devour books from an early age.

In 1930, Maria Reiche graduated with a degree in mathematics from the University of Hamburg. Germany was experiencing a difficult time at that time. It was during this time that the political-religious impositions of Adolf Hitler began to spread throughout the country. So, when Reiche found an announcement about a position teaching the children of a German consul in Peru, she did not hesitate to accept the position.

She once told me that when she grew up, one of her greatest wishes was to travel and see the world. By leaving German territory, so cold and conflictual for its time, and entering the highly diverse and warm cultural context of Peru, Reiche was able to realize those dreams of an innocent girl.

Reiche’s first archaeological approach

Upon arriving in Peru, María Reiche had no idea how the country operated. However, the German quickly fell in love with Peruvian culture and people. Living in Lima allowed him to quickly connect with foreign compatriots working on the country’s archaeological history. As well as mathematics, María Reiche was also passionate about geography and physics. In college, she became interested in both fields.

Reiche discovered the work of Peruvian researcher Julio César Tello as a result. In 1937, he worked with American anthropologist Paul Kosok in the Nazca area, towards the center of the country. This geographic extension contains an immense geoglyphic mystery related to the Nazca culture that should be carefully studied, according to his research.


Nazca civilization flourished in the mountains and plains of the department of Ica, in the north of Peru. Among their most common activities were the creation of textiles and the production of ceramics. The Nazca lines, a set of geoglyphs that gave a new perspective on Peruvian archaeology, were his greatest contribution.

The Nazca lines need to be dusted off

Several kilometers of rocky grooves extend throughout the Nazca plains, which possess a deep archaeological significance. South American indigenous communities used these grooves, made with stones, as irrigation systems, according to Kosok and Tello’s research.

To the observant eye of Maria Reiche, however, the situation seemed to be more complicated than that. Reiche devoted much of the middle of the 20th century sweeping these furrows in order to verify his initial theory: these Nazca works were geometric shapes with an unknown meaning, which the German longed to learn.

In order to study these figures, Reiche lived in a hut near the Nazca lines. In this way, the German woman was able to discover more and more figures, which, as she realized, had forms suggesting humans, animals, and plants. Reiche also noted the predominance of spirals, which she attributed to astrological practices.

Discovered something extraordinary

Due to the hard work of Mara Reiche, it is now known that the Nazca lines extend over a terrain covering more than 500 kilometers. It should be noted that these discoveries were not easy at all. Her strenuous field work consisted of sweeping and cleaning the areas where geoglyphs were found for almost two decades. Her diary also marked the relationship between these figures and astronomical events.

If I had a hundred lives, I would give them all to Nazca. It was my goal to give Peruvians back a sense of identity, so they could see their wealth with the same eyes I see it. Maria Reiche.

He has made the Nazca lines a Cultural Heritage of Humanity thanks to his work in Peruvian archeology since 1994. She is considered to be one of the most important researchers in Peru, despite her death from cancer on June 8, 1998. Reiche is also considered a Peruvian despite her German nationality. In fact, it was she who made the most fantastic discovery of the 20th century in a land so far from her own.

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