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Home > Peru Itineraries > Nazca Lines Travel > Ica - Nazca - Paracas Travel Information > Nazca Culture

Nazca Culture

The Nazca culture was developed on the coast of Ica department, with the main center of the city of Cahuachi in the Rio Grande Valley. Nazca was an ancient civilization that emerged in the province of Nazca, around the first century and into decline in the sixth century. It was located along the Rio Grande between the years 300 BC to 600 A.D. Had an area of influence that extended to the north Pisco to Arequipa in the south and east to Ayacucho. Until the sixth century increased their contacts with the Andes, reaching even into the highlands of Ayacucho. This contact was especially important in the formation of the Huari culture.

An outstanding feature is its polychrome pottery with figures of men, animals, plants, etc. In many of these ceramics, mutilated men are represented. The textile art flourished as much as in the time of the Paracas. They had an own style of metalworking, although of lesser quality at the time of Chavin.

According to many researchers Nazca culture would be a continuity of Paracas culture (Necropolis period), as both peoples had developed customs and advanced farming techniques. It was a society based on agriculture, although located in one of the most deserted areas of the Peruvian coast. To produce their foods use fully the river flows in summer, using reservoirs and canals. They were also militarist States. The military of the Nazca culture were very courageous and so gained a special place in the social pyramid with the priests. The peasants were at the service of a warrior aristocracy and theocracy residing in beautiful pyramid-shaped ceremonial centers. Examples of adobe architecture are the ruins of Kahuachi, the Tinguiña, Tambo Viejo, Huaca Dos Palmos and Chaviña. Also they built with thick trunks of Huarango as shown in the Estaquería.

The most impressive of this civilization are the lines made in the Pampas of Nazca and other sites on the southern coast of Peru. The Nazca lines are located in a geographical area with little rainfall, demonstrating knowledge of geography and meteorology. Twenty miles from the city of Nazca is located Chauchilla Cemetery, a open air cemetery where despite the looting can still see mummies in good condition and pottery.

They also practiced cranial deformation as the Paracas. They put a leather band around the skull of the newborn for a year, forcing the growth of the skull at the top. The aim of the cranial deformations was probably for reasons of social or religious differentiation.

Regarding the economy, was based on intensive agriculture. The Nazcas were able to solve the problem of uncultivated land on the coast by using a network of aqueducts, which is a feat of hydraulic engineering.

The Nasca culture belongs to the Intermedio Temprano, also called period of Master Craftsmen. As heirs of the Paracas Necropolis, highlighted their weavers, they made beautiful pieces of cotton, wool and feathers. But they were unique in painting ceramics. The Nazcas produced beautiful jars, pots and drums with a geometrically thin and very stylish polychrome decoration. Its craftsmen painted the pieces with naturalistic and abstract motifs. This mystical civilization succumbed to the advance of the Wari Empire (seventh century AD).

Cahuachi Ceremonial Center

The central site of Cahuachi is located 6 km from city of Nazca. Cahuachi is in the lower valley of Nazca and is completely unique from all other sites in the Nasca region, and definitely is the most important for the study of ancient Nasca culture. The social structure consisted of local chiefdoms and regional centers of power centralized around its capital Cahuachi, the main ceremonial center. Excavations in Cahuachi suggest that this site was home to rituals and festivals related to agriculture, water and fertility. This may have been the result of environmental degradation, and eventual collapse of the ceremonial center may also have been a result of the decline.

Remains of materials found on the site include large amounts of polychromed pottery, corn, pumpkin, beans and peanuts, and some simple and elegant textiles, small amounts of gold, spondylus shell. The pottery found in Cahuachi led archaeologists to believe that the site was not specifically urban and ceremonial.

Social and Political Organization

The Nazca were divided into valleys where there were many settlements. Each village had its own authority, usually a "specialist" priest. The Nazca elite lived in the pyramids constructions which were made of adobe and the walls covered with a layer of gypsum or lime to close the cracks. Instead the people lived on the outskirts of the city. Their houses were built with trunks of carob trees that formed the walls.

Nazca society was centralized mainly by priests, they had the power to organize community work and direct the religious activities. The service on these authorities, was a lot of skilled artisans (potters, weavers, astrologers, musicians, soldiers) living in small cities and ceremonial centers that stands between the ceremonial center of Cahuachi. The bases of society were farmers and fishermen who lived scattered in various parts of the territory. Farmers occupy almost all the fertile valleys to develop agriculture; they lived in thatched huts outside the cultivated area, that is, the border of the desert, to maximize plantings. These huts in villages were grouped around an adobe pyramid that serves as a sanctuary.

Nazca Pottery

Nazca pottery was studied by Max Uhle in 1901 and is considered the most successful of ancient Peru. The Nazca culture is characterized by the quality of its vessels, the complex representations painted on their surfaces before being cooked and the colors of their motives are pieces that have six or seven colors, and about 190 different hues.

The most typical form of the vessels is the bottle-bridge handle with two landfills, but also produced spherical pots, cups and ceremonial vessels. The main feature of Nazca pottery is the "vacuum Horror", meaning that the Nazca did not fail in any of its ceramic some space without painting or decorating. In these parts are represented elements of everyday life, such as flowers, fruits, birds, animals and insects, but also mythological characters that combine human and animal attributes. The Nasca reasons fall into three categories:
* Naturalist: Illustrating the environment.
* Mythical and religious: They reveal their perception about the world of Nasca.
* Geometry: Highlights circles, half circles, diamonds, lines, spirals, steps, etc.


The economy was based on intensive agriculture which was practiced in the narrow valleys of the tributaries of the Rio Grande of Nazca and the Ica Valley; the Nazca built several meters deep wells connected by a network of underground aqueducts called "puquios" to irrigation and thus alleviate the chronic shortage of water in this arid region. These aqueducts are still used today by farmers in southern Peru. The Nazca also were skilled fishermen, they found a large supply of food.

Nazca trade had basic importance as it could well meet the needs of people affected often by long droughts. Nazca traders maintained a steady trade with merchants of culture Huarpa exchanging products such as potatoes and wool in exchange for fish, cotton and ceramics (craft) of the Nazca culture.

Religion and Beliefs

The people of the Nazca culture were polytheistic and pantheistic, that is worshiped nature and the mountains, sea, sky, earth, fire, water, etc.. Most of the temples and other buildings were created in honor of these deities, in order to please the gods to not suffer famine. Their religion had much to do with the mystery of the Nazca Lines which is considered by some as a major astronomical and agricultural calendar, while others believe that archaeologists was a place where religious rituals were held. The Nazca practiced human sacrifice in religious rituals or ceremonies of war.

The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are located in the Nazca desert plains and other sites on the southern coast of Peru. These lines are in a geographical area with little rainfall and lack of vegetation, which permitted these geoglyphs form remained intact to this day, after 2000 years. The Nazca Lines are best-known artistic expressions of Nazca. The Nazca Lines are composed of large designs drawn on the desert plain north of the settlement Cahuachi. There were over 350 of these drawings that include: human figures, zoomorphic and fitomorfas, besides geometric lines of several kilometers in length. All were drawn, created with a precision that even today the world is impressed. Some scientists believe that these huge lines could not have been drawn by men but by extraterrestrial beings, the truth is that with a large number of people and a long period of time would have been more than possible to build these lines.

The aim of the lines also continues to be debatable. Some interpretations suggest they were created by gods or aliens, while others suggest they were a kind of calendar with astronomical alignments that helped in the planting and harvesting crops. Others have postulated that the purpose of the Nazca lines was only as for ceremonial procession, ie had a ritual function perhaps related to the water cycle in a deserted region. The Nazca lines has been studied by experts from various disciplines such as anthropologists, archaeologists and astronomers, but has not found evidence to support any of these hypotheses, and making it unlikely that we could know the true purpose of the geoglyphs.

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