Skilled artisans, the Nazcans fire ceramics and weave baskets with unparalleled craft, yet their military ferocity should not be forgotten.
Nazca civilization flourished for more than five centuries along the river valleys of the southern coast of modern-day Peru – a true crossroads of pre-Colombian Andean cultures. On these hot, arid territories traversed by fertile valleys, Nazca populations cultivated lands with high agricultural yields and mastered advanced artisanal techniques. The quality and refinement of their ceramics and textiles reached a level previously unequalled in the region.Find out more:
Successors to the Paracas, Nazca culture emerged at the beginning of second century CE and endured until the middle of the seventh century CE. The center of its territory was located some 350 kilometers south of Lima, in the Rio Grande valley, but its influence extended to the north as far as the Ica valley and Paracas peninsula. Although they shared a common culture and rituals, the Nazca communities were politically disunited and consisted of autonomous chiefdoms ruled by warrior priests.
Their burial sites have revealed important information about their material and spiritual cultures. Buried clothed, the Nazcas almost certainly attributed a sacred value to the large textiles in which they wrapped the bodies of their dead. Similarly, the polychrome, brightly colored ceramics buried with them frequently depicted anthropomorphic animal figures, characteristic of Nazca mythology. As well as testifying to their belief system, these objects reveal advanced skills in firing ceramics, spinning and weaving alpaca wool and cotton.
In the desert regions bordering their valleys, the Nazcas traced huge geoglyphs in geometric, animal, and plant shapes. These drawings are thought to be connected to religious ceremonies aimed at securing the benevolence of nature – its forces often unpredictable in these dry and earthquake-prone regions. The geoglyphs also provide us with valuable insight into the relationship the Nazcas had with their environment.
Excavations at a burial mound in Cahuachi uncovered a burial cloth measuring close to 300m2, consisting of more than 30,000 meters of cotton yarn. It is estimated that this would have taken an individual up to five years to weave, suggesting that its production was most likely the result of either a collective voluntary effort or forced labor.