Japanese researchers have added to the "Nazca line" mystery by uncovering yet another ancient geoglyph in Peru, the Smithsonian reports. The 98-foot-long bas-relief appears to depict a mythological creature that's sticking out its tongue, has many legs, and a body covered in spots, per a press release. What's it all about? Interpretations of Peruvian geoglyphs have varied, but the researchers, Masato Sakai and Jorge Olano, suggest this one is linked to ancient pilgrimages to a ceremonial center. Called Cahuachi, the Nazca center existed between about 1 AD and 500 AD in the Central Andes' coastal area. In 2011, Sakai and Olano found another geoglyph near the path to Cahuachi showing "anthropomorphic figures" in "a scene of decapitation," they say.
The latest find was made by pulling up dark-colored surface stones to reveal "the underlying whitish ground" and piling the stones in the shape of the animal, they explain. "This is a characteristic technique of geoglyphs and [the find] may date back to 2,000 to 2,500 years ago," says Sakai, per Andina. "Taking into account there is an ancient path, between the two geoglyphs, heading to the Cahuachi ceremonial site, we might say the figures are linked to a pilgrimage way to such religious place." The Nazca lines were once thought of as calendars, but prevailing theory says they led to rituals performed for water and crop fertility, National Geographic reports. Their visibility from the air has led to some to say extra-terrestrials were involved, notes Ancient Origins. (Read more Peru stories.)