Nazca Art

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The classical Nazca culture inhabited areas around the Nazca Valley on the South coast of Peru

during the Early Intermediate period, or 300 BC - 600 AD. Their capitol city was Cahuachi, located near

the Rio Nazca several kilometers inland. In its florescence Cahuachi was a ceremonial place where the

Nazca would go and meet to conduct rituals or do business; since the average citizen did not live within the

city. Eventually Cahuachi was changed into a mortuary ground filled with votive offerings; most stolen by

looters ( Moseley 1992: 187, 190 ). Though the river valleys contained water, the majority of the Southern

Coast was arid and water supply was a major concern. To deal with this they built a sophisticated

irrigation system; one composed of slightly downward tilted tunnels that eventually supplied water to

canals ( Moseley 1992: 186).

Little information regarding Nazca political organization has survived to become part of the

archaeological record.

However, it is known that they had a federated style of rule in which each group

had its own unique identity and style ( Moseley 1992: 187 ). At this time literacy had not yet developed in

Peru; leaving the best way to learn more about this culture through studying their art and trying to infer

behavior from it. Their main themes are usually of a religious nature, and allow some interpretation of the

beliefs and values of the Nazca society. Multi-colored, or polychrome pottery and fine textiles are found in

abundance at Cahuachi; and the mysterious lines of the Nazca '...are sporadically distributed from the

Lambayeque region into northern Chile. ' ( Moseley 1992: 189 ) Nazca art range from very plain styles to

highly abstract symbolism of deities or supernatural beings.


Nazca textiles were rich in iconography and brightly colored. In...