The lines created between 500 BCE and 500 CE. Most lines run straight across the landscape, but there are also figurative designs of animals and plants, made up of lines. The individual figurative geoglyph designs measure between 0.4 and 1.1 km across. The lines are typically 10 to 15 cm deep. They were made by removing the top layer of reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles to reveal a yellow-grey subsoil.
Some of the Nazca lines form shapes that are best seen from the air, though they are visible from the surrounding foothills and other high places. Because of its isolation and the dry, windless, stable climate of the plateau, the lines have mostly been preserved naturally. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs.
The figures vary in complexity. Hundreds are simple lines and geometric shapes; more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of animals such as a hummingbird, spider, fish, llama, jaguar, monkey, lizard, dog and a human. Other shapes include trees and flowers.