Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana (1994)

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Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, some 400 km south of Lima, the geoglyphs of Nasca and the pampas of Jumana cover about 450 sq. km. These lines, which were scratched on the surface of the ground between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, are among archaeology's greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometres long. They are believed to have had ritual astronomical functions. 

Nazca is a South American civilization that flourished between 200 bc and ad 600. Centered in the Ica and Nazca river valleys of southern coastal Peru, Nazca culture spread over a territory of approximately 30,400 sq km (10,900 sq mi) along the Pacific coast, extending eastward to the present-day city of Ayacucho in the Andes. Nazca culture developed from the earlier Paracas culture and retained many of the religious and cultural traditions of that society. 

Peru 1935. View of Ica.

Peru 2002. Paracas National Reserve. Nazca Booby. [Sula Granti].

Peru 1935. Commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of Ica. Supreme God of the Nazcas.

The Nazca economy relied on intensive irrigation agriculture. The Nazca also harvested fish and shellfish from the Pacific Ocean. Due to the scarcity of fresh water in the deserts of southern Peru, Nazca engineers dug deep wells, known as pukios, with interconnecting tunnels to tap underground aquifers. 

While most Nazca settlements were relatively small, a few larger sites, such as Ventilla in the Nazca Valley, may have been urban centers. The largest and best-known site, Cahuachi, which covers an area of 150 hectares (370 acres) in the Nazca Valley, was an uninhabited ceremonial center to which pilgrims came from all parts of the Nazca realm. 

The central portion of the site, covering 25 hectares (62 acres), contains extensive cemeteries and over 40 stepped pyramidal mounds, natural hills reshaped to serve as foundations for ceremonial buildings. 

  • Peru 1935. Commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of Ica. Supreme God of the Nazcas. 

Scholars once thought that the Nazca lived in a centralized kingdom. Most researchers now believe that the Nazca realm comprised a number of semi-independent chiefdoms sharing a common culture and religion. Nazca religion focused on rituals designed to ensure abundant crops. During these ceremonies, the Nazca buried groups of carefully prepared decapitated human heads, previously taken in battle. Participants in these rituals drank hallucinogenic drugs while masked shamans played music. Nazca religious art portrays a wide range of fantastic half-human, half-animal creatures, thought to be symbols of the most fearsome creatures inhabiting the earth, sky, and water. 

The Nazca are best known for their beautiful polychrome pottery, sometimes painted with designs incorporating up to 15 colors. Naturalistic images, such as birds, plants, and fish, as well as complex mythological or religious motifs, adorn variously shaped vessels, including double-spout bottles, vases, and bowls. The Nazca also made exquisite woven and embroidered textiles, feather work, and metal objects of gold and copper. 
  • Peru 1978. Huaco Culture, Nazca. 
  • Peru 1992. Huaco Culture (Inca), Nazca. 

Peru 1978. Huaco Culture, Nazca.

Peru 1992. Huaco Culture (Inca), Nazca.

Formations known as the Nazca Lines have drawn much attention from scholars and the public in recent years. Consisting of gigantic lines, geometric forms, and naturalistic images, the Nazca Lines appear on the surface of a rainless desert near the modern town of Nazca, Peru. 

Peru 1999. Maria Reiche (1903-1998), Peruvian scientist, studying the Nazca Lines.

The ancient inhabitants etched these drawings onto the ground by sweeping aside darker stones to reveal the lighter sand beneath. 

Prominent scholars have argued that these huge drawings, known as geoglyphs, served astronomical functions. 

However, most scholars now believe that the straight lines probably served as ritual pathways connecting sacred places. 

The representational geoglyphs depict birds, spiders, and killer whales, apparently created to be viewed from the sky by the gods. 

  • Peru 1999. Maria Reiche (1903-1998), Peruvian scientist, studying the Nazca Lines.  

Sources and links:

Other World Cultural Heritage Properties in Peru (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Peru-section. for more information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 03 aug 2006  
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