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Ica-Nazca culture

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The Nazca culture flourished in the Nazca region between 300 BCE and 800 CE. They created the famous Nazca lines and built an impressive system of underground aqueducts that still function today. Near the aqueducts open to tourists, there is a overlook point which includes an Inca building added after the Inca conquest of the area. On the pampa, on which the Nazca lines were made, the ceremonial city of Cahuachi (1-500 CE) sits overlooking the lines. Modern knowledge about the culture of the Nazca is built upon studying the city of Cahuachi.



The Nazca region is a desert that the Nazca turned into a viable agricultural area using their aqueduct technology. Nazca pottery has been divided into eight phases. Around 200 BCE, at the end of the Early Horizon drought, Nazca I began. Pottery from this era contains the mythical content of Paracas art, but added realistic subject matter such as fruits, plants, people, and other animals. Realism increased in importance in the following three phases (II,III,IV) referred to as the Monumental phases. The pottery from these phases includes renditions of their main subject matter against a bold red or white background. In the next phase, Nazca V, the backgrounds are filled in and the subject matter now included bodyless renditions of both deamons and humans. Nazca VI, and VII include the earlier motifs but also add militaristic ones, and portraits of elite members of the society. Nasca VI and VII also begin to show the influence of the Moche. Finally, Nazca IIX saw the introduction of completely disjointed figures and a rich iconography which we have yet to decipher. The phases were created before the advent of carbon dating and today have some problems. While the general order did not change there is a great deal of overlap of the phases, and while the Nasca IXX phase ends c. 600 CE, some of the pottery in that category was created at least as late as 755 CE.


The Nazca are also known for their textiles. They began using llama and massive quantities of alpaca a thousand years before the north coast cultures began to esteem the camelid wool. The source of the wool is believed to be from the Ayacucho region. The motifs that appeared on the pottery appeared earlier in the textiles. Textiles may have been as important to other cultures in the region as to the Nazca, but the desert has preserved the textiles of both the Nazca and Paracas cultures and comprise most of what we know about early textiles in the region.

Other information

The Nazca culture co-existed with the Moche culture of what is now northern Peru.


  • The Incas and the Ancestors: The Archaeology of Perú. Revised Edition. By Michael E. Moseley
  • Cahuachi in the Ancient Nasca World. By Helaine Silverman

Last updated: 08-18-2005 20:41:44