Archaeology of the Nazca geoglyphs and its context

The geoglyphs of southern Peru lead back to the Nazca culture (200 BC - 600 AD), partly even to the preceeding Paracas culture (800 - 200 BC). Both are rural irrigation cultures, which were restricted to the river valleys (summary at Wikipedia). Nearly all places of settlements or burials can easily be discovered (but not differenciated) on satellite images because the are interspersed by innumerable funnel-shaped holes of wild excavations. They are situated mostly at the rims of the valleys, that means close to, but not on the areas which were arable in those times. Wild excavations are unfortunately very attractive in the region, because not only metal objects and painted pottery obtains high prices, but also the extraordinary well perserved textiles from the burials. – By the way: the area of Paracas and Nazca culture, archaeologically defined by the style of ceramic and textile decoration,  spreads far over the area of the geoglyph concentration to the north.

It seems now evident that at least a part of the so-called puquios, how the ancient underground irrigation channels are named and which are partly active still today, originate alread from Nazca culture (Google-maps-image with control shafts of historic puquios). Anyway, an intense rural use of the river valleys required a highly developped irrigation system and the knowledge of tapable underground water reservoirs, which has to be approved as late as Nazca culture. Anyhow, the rivers lead much water only one time the year after the rain period in the Andes, which must be sufficient for the irrigation during the other, nearly completely dry months of the year. This is only possible while tapping underground water reservoirs in combination with efforts of effective use of the river water during the droughts e. g. by use of channels or dammed ponds. To avoid evaporation long parts of the channels were covered by stone slaps.

 Pictures of marine animals, so as geoglyphs of whales or marine birds or correspondig figural decoration of ceramics or textiles, as much as finds of marine food remains and spondylus shells show that the inhabitants of the geoglyph area visited the sea from time to time or received them by means of exchange of goods. Also the use of the lama which lived naturally not in the desert was known. As shown by the ground drawing of a monkey, also these animals living in far-away forests were known.

Already Maria Reiche discovered Nazca ceramic sherds spread within and around the geoglyphs. While most geoglyph areas could not be habitated at all, it is impossible that they were settlement garbage. Newer archaeological investigations within the geoglyphs resulted in platform-like structures with remains of ritual offerings. Except of this, traces and even remains of wooden posts werde found, which were partly components of the geoglyphs, partly they are interpretated as visible land marks.

Other archaeological traces you can observe there on satellite images

Page still under construction. Bad English: make correction suggestions to the author!

Start of Museum Albersdorf (German language)  Start Nazca lines  Back © Volker Arnold, last changes: