Maria Reiche

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Maria Reiche
Maria Reiche 1986.jpg
Maria Reiche in 1986
Born(1903-05-15)15 May 1903
Died8 June 1998(1998-06-08) (aged 95)
Alma mater Dresden Technical University
Known for Nazca Lines
Scientific career
Fields Archaeology

Maria Reiche (15 May 1903 – 8 June 1998) was a German-born Peruvian mathematician, archaeologist, and technical translator. She is known for her research into the Nazca Lines, which she first saw in 1941 [1] together with American historian Paul Kosok. Known as the "Lady of the Lines", Reiche made the documentation, preservation and public dissemination of the Nazca Lines her life's work. [1]

Mathematician person with an extensive knowledge of mathematics

A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in his or her work, typically to solve mathematical problems.

Technical translation is a type of specialized translation involving the translation of documents produced by technical writers, or more specifically, texts which relate to technological subject areas or texts which deal with the practical application of scientific and technological information. While the presence of specialized terminology is a feature of technical texts, specialized terminology alone is not sufficient for classifying a text as "technical" since numerous disciplines and subjects which are not "technical" possess what can be regarded as specialized terminology. Technical translation covers the translation of many kinds of specialized texts and requires a high level of subject knowledge and mastery of the relevant terminology and writing conventions.

Nazca Lines ancient geoglyphs

The Nazca Lines are a group of very large geoglyphs formed by depressions or shallow incisions made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were created between 500 BCE and 500 CE.


Although her work gained limited scholarly recognition, Maria Reiche was widely recognized as the curator of the lines and lived nearby to protect them. She received recognition as Doctor Honoris Causa by the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria in Lima. Reiche helped gain national and international attention for the Nazca Lines; Peru established protection, and they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. [2]

Following her death, her former home in Nazca was adapted as a museum, the Museo Maria Reiche. She is honored as the namesake of Maria Reiche Neuman Airport in Nazca, and of some fifty schools and other institutions in Peru.[ citation needed ] The 115th anniversary of her birth was commemorated with a Google Doodle in May 2018. [3] [4] [5]

Maria Reiche Neuman Airport airport

The Maria Reiche Neuman Airport is a small airport serving Nazca, in the Ica Region of Peru. The airport is named after Maria Reiche, a principal researcher and proponent of the Nazca Lines.

A Google Doodle is a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google's homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures. The first Google Doodle honored the Burning Man festival in 1998, and was designed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to notify users of their absence in case the servers crashed. Subsequent Google Doodles were designed by an outside contractor until 2000, when Page and Brin asked public relations officer Dennis Hwang to design a logo for Bastille Day. Since then, a team of employees called "Doodlers" have organized and published the Doodles.

Early life and education

Reiche in 1910 Maria Reiche 1910 (cropped).jpeg
Reiche in 1910

Maria Reiche was born in Dresden on 15 May 1903. She studied mathematics, astronomy, geography and foreign languages at the Dresden Technical University. [6] She learned to speak five languages. [1]

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city and, after Leipzig, the second-largest city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.

Multilingualism the ability to speak multiple language

Multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. It is believed that multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population. More than half of all Europeans claim to speak at least one language other than their mother tongue; but many read and write in one language. Always useful to traders, multilingualism is advantageous for people wanting to participate in globalization and cultural openness. Owing to the ease of access to information facilitated by the Internet, individuals' exposure to multiple languages is becoming increasingly possible. People who speak several languages are also called polyglots.

In 1932 as a young woman, she went to Peru to work as a governess and tutor for the children of the German consul in Cusco. In 1934, while still in Cusco, she accidentally stabbed herself with a cactus and lost a finger to gangrene.

Governess woman employed to teach and train children in a private household

A governess is a woman employed to teach and train children in a private household. In contrast to a nanny, she concentrates on teaching children instead of meeting their physical needs. Her charges are of school age rather than babies.

Cusco Place in Peru

Cusco, often spelled Cuzco, is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region and of the Cusco Province. In 2017, the city had a population of 428,450. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft).

Gangrene serious and potentially life-threatening condition

Gangrene is a type of tissue death caused by a lack of blood supply. Symptoms may include a change in skin color to red or black, numbness, swelling, pain, skin breakdown, and coolness. The feet and hands are most commonly affected. Certain types may present with a fever or sepsis.

In 1939, she became a teacher in Lima and also worked on scientific translations. [1] When World War II broke out that year, Reiche stayed in Peru. The next year she met American Paul Kosok, who was researching ancient irrigation systems in the country. She assisted him with making arrangements in the country, including a flight in 1941 by which she first saw the lines and figures of Nazca from the air. [1] [7] They collaborated for years on further studies of these earthworks, trying to determine how they were made and, with more difficulty, for what purpose.

Lima Capital city in Peru

Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population of more than 9 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru and the third-largest city in the Americas, behind São Paulo and Mexico City.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Nazca lines

In 1940, Reiche became an assistant to Paul Kosok, an American historian from Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, who was studying ancient irrigation systems in Peru. [1]

In June 1941 Kosok noticed lines in the desert that converged at the point of the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Together he and Reiche began to map and assess the lines for their relation to astronomical events. Later Reiche found lines converging at the summer solstice and developed the theory that the lines formed a large-scale celestial calendar. [8] Around 1946, Reiche began to map the figures represented by the Nazca Lines and determined there were 18 different kinds of animals and birds.

After Kosok left in 1948, after his second study period in Peru, Reiche continued the work and mapped the area. She used her background as a mathematician to analyze how the Nazca may have created such huge-scale figures. She found these to have a mathematical precision that was highly sophisticated. Reiche theorized that the builders of the lines used them as a sun calendar and an observatory for astronomical cycles. [1]

Wax figure of Reiche in her former home, now a museum dedicated to her work Maria Reiche Nazca.jpg
Wax figure of Reiche in her former home, now a museum dedicated to her work

Because the lines can be best seen from above, she persuaded the Peruvian Air Force to help her make aerial photographic surveys. She worked alone from her home in Nazca. Reiche published her theories in the book The Mystery on the Desert (1949, reprint 1968). She believed that the large drawing of a giant monkey represented the constellation now called Ursa Major (Great Bear). [8] Her book had a mixed response from scholars. Eventually scholars concluded that the lines were not chiefly for astronomical purposes, but Reiche's and Kosok's work had brought scholarly attention to the great resource. Some researchers believe that the lines were made as part of worship and religious ceremonies related to the "calling of water from the gods." [9]

Reiche used the profits from the book to campaign for preservation of the Nazca desert and to hire guards for the property and assistants for her work. Wanting to preserve the Nazca Lines from encroaching traffic, after one figure was cut through by the Pan American Highway government development, Reiche spent considerable money in the effort to lobby and educate officials and the public about the lines. After paying for private security, she convinced the government to restrict public access to the area. She sponsored construction of a tower near the highway so that visitors could have an overview of the lines to appreciate them without damaging them. Reiche contributed to the lines becoming a World Heritage site in 1994. [8]

In 1977, Reiche became a founding member of South American Explorers, a non-profit travel, scientific and educational organization. She was on the organization's advisory board and was interviewed for the South American Explorer on the lines' significance and importance. [10]

Personal life

Reiche's partner was Amy Meredith, who helped her in her work. [11]

Reiche's health deteriorated as she aged. She used a wheelchair, suffered from skin ailments, and lost her sight. In her later years, she also suffered from Parkinson's disease. At the age of 90 she published ''Contributions to Geometry and Astronomy in Ancient Peru''. Maria Reiche died of ovarian cancer on 8 June 1998, [8] in an Air Force Hospital in Lima. Reiche was buried with her sister near Nazca with official honors. A street and school in Nazca are named for her.

Related Research Articles

Department of Ica Region in 5 provinces and 43 districts, Peru

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Cahuachi, in Peru, was a major ceremonial center of the Nazca culture, based from 1 AD to about 500 AD in the coastal area of the Central Andes. It overlooked some of the Nazca lines. The Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici has been excavating at the site for the past few decades. The site contains over 40 mounds topped with adobe structures. The huge architectural complex covers 0.6 sq. miles (1.5 km2) at 365 meters above sea level.. The American archeologist Helaine Silverman has also conducted long term, multi-stage research and written about the full context of Nazca society at Cahuachi, published in a lengthy study in 1993.

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The Nazca culture was the archaeological culture that flourished from c. 100 BC to 800 AD beside the arid, southern coast of Peru in the river valleys of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage and the Ica Valley. Having been heavily influenced by the preceding Paracas culture, which was known for extremely complex textiles, the Nazca produced an array of crafts and technologies such as ceramics, textiles, and geoglyphs—specifically the Nazca Lines. They also built an impressive system of underground aqueducts, known as puquios, that still function today. The Nazca Province in the Ica Region was named for this people.

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A geoglyph is a large design or motif produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, live trees, gravel, or earth. A positive geoglyph is formed by the arrangement and alignment of materials on the ground in a manner akin to petroforms, while a negative geoglyph is formed by removing patinated clasts to expose unpatinated ground in a manner akin to petroglyphs.

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