Maria Reiche Museum – Nazca, Peru - Atlas Obscura

Maria Reiche Museum

A museum dedicated to the German scientist who revealed the significance of the mysterious Peruvian Nazca Lines. 


Dr. Maria Reiche, trained as a mathematician and scientist, became famous for her life’s work as an archaeologist. She studied the Nazca Lines, a mysterious set of gigantic geoglyphs only visible from the air drawn by ancient Peruvians 1,500 years ago.

Reiche and her colleague, Professor Paul Kosok, were the first European and North American scientists to study the drawings. After Reiche convinced the Peruvian Air Force to fly her above the lines, she published a theory suggesting the lines might be astronomical calendars due to how they lined up with the sun. Though this has since been disproved, their intense study exposed the significance of the site. Thanks to Reiche and Kosok’s research and writing, the Nazca Lines have been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dr. Reiche lived in Peru since 1932, when she arrived there from Dresden to work as a nanny. Her home was situated atop a lookout peak, and it was here that she did her writing as well as where she kept the archaeological artifacts collected over her career. Upon Reiche’s death in 1998, her home, along with all its rare and unusual items, was converted into a museum. 

Here, visitors can see the measuring tape and blueprints Reiche used while studying the Nazca Lines. Though she did not deal in forensics, as Nazca’s resident archaeologist she came to possess various human remains. There are skulls in glass cabinets, and even one sacrificial mummy, its tattooed and withered arms curled around itself. A wealth of artifacts from the precolonial era are also on view. Printed information at the museum is scant. Instead, the artifacts and the house speak for themselves. A wax figure of the white-haired scientist sits at the typewriter in her bedroom, while the real Dr. Reiche is buried just outside.

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