The Lost Civilization of Ancient Nazca

Long before European settlers landed in the Americas, there were sophisticated cultures flourishing throughout the Western Hemisphere. South America was home to a particularly interesting group of civilizations. The Nazca civilization is one of the most important legacies of ancient pre-Inca Peruvian culture.

The Nazca civilization was located in the Nazca region as defined by the Ica and Grande river drainages, on the southern coast of Peru between about AD 1-750. They worked as farmers, skilled potters, and basket makers, and as a group they made significant advances in underground irrigation systems. The villages had a distinctive art style, specific rituals and burial customs. Cahuachi, an important Nazca ceremonial center, was built and became a focus of feasting and ceremonial activities. Having been heavily influenced by the preceding Paracas culture, which was known for extremely complex textiles, the Nazca produced an array of beautiful crafts and technologies such as ceramics, textiles, and geoglyphs (most commonly known as the Nazca lines).

The Nazca culture is characterized by its beautiful polychrome pottery painted with at least 15 distinct colors. The shift from post-fire resin painting to pre-fire slip painting marked the end of Paracas style pottery and the beginning of Nazca style pottery. The use of pre-fire slip painting meant that a great deal of experimentation took place in order to know which slips produced certain colors. Major pottery shapes include double-spout bottles, bowls, cups, vases and effigy forms.

They were known to collect “Trophy Heads.” The Nazca removed the brain and soft tissue from the skulls, sewed the lips closed with cactus spines and drilled a hole through the forehead to accommodate a loop of woven rope. The heads were then hung on the ropes for display. Originally these were considered to be war trophies collected from distant tribes, but recent DNA analysis shows that the heads came from the Nazca population itself, suggesting that the motive was religious in nature.

The ancient Nazca culture is probably most renowned for the mysterious lines and geoglyphs that it inscribed on the high desert plain in the region of Nazca, beginning over two millennia ago. The Nazca Lines are located in the Pampa region of Peru, the desolate plain of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nazca. The lines were first noticed in the modern era when airplanes began flying over the Peruvian desert in the 1920s.

In 1927, Toribio Mejia Xespe, a Peruvian doctor and anthropologist was the first scientist to show interest in what he called these “great Incan ceremonial artifacts”. The first systematic and scientific survey of the lines began in the 1930s under the direction of Paul Kosok and Maria Reiche. Reiche took over the study in 1946 and until her death in 1998 lobbied to protect and preserve the lines. She lobbied successfully to have the lines declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Although the purpose of these ground drawings has not been fully established many archaeologists ascribe religious significance to them as the lines are thought to have been attempt by the Nazca people to display their work to their gods in the sky. Another theory maintains that the lines had astronomical and cosmological purposes and that they were intended to act as a kind of observatory, to point to the places on the distant horizon where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set. Nevertheless, there are many others theories about the creators of the lines, which include UFOs, God and even black magic.

It seems incredible that such simply-made drawings have survived for so many hundreds of years, and some have seen a mysterious element to this. But scientists have developed a natural explanation; the surface is made of stone, not sand, and the climate of the area is such that there is practically no erosion. The Nazca peoples chose an excellent place for an enduring monument. The Nazca Lines include straight lines and geometric shapes as well as stylized depictions of animals, humans and plants. The figures include: Monkey, Condor, Round-headed, the astronaut, another human figure, Spider, Hummingbird, Hands, and Tree.

Nazca Ceramics

The Nazca society had dissolved by about 700 C.E. The demise of the Nazca may have been caused by earlier natural disasters, severe drought followed by flooding brought about by El Nino. El Nino is an occasional phenomenon in which the waters of the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Ecuador and Peru warm up, usually around late December, sometimes bringing about drastic weather changes like flooding or drought.

-For all children, it is time to know and acknowledge the truths of history. Only then will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue. – Author Unknown

What a glorious day. And off I go…

About zoom50

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease”
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4 Responses to The Lost Civilization of Ancient Nazca

  1. akamonsoon says:

    I love the history of the indigenous peoples of South America. I have seen those lines on tv. There was a show on awhile back about UFOs (which I’m still not sure about) and the whole show focused on the lines being a sign to people from outter space. I find the drawings fascinating.

    What a beautiful little girl with her horse.

    • zoom50 says:

      They are theorized to be part of ritual paths, but how would they create those lines so perfectly, when they are so big that you can’t even really perceive them? Though, I believe that there must be an answer that does not involve aliens, one that science can provide.

      I know, she is simply gorgeous!

  2. kimkiminy says:

    Just fascinating. Thanks for the tutorial!

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