• Environment and Geography

    The Nazca culture was located in the valleys and coast of what is now southern Peru, in the area around Pisco, Ica, Cañete, Acarí and the Nazca Valley itself. This coastal desert region is carved by narrow fertile valleys.

  • Economy and Technology

    The Nazca introduced some major advances in agricultural technology, building underground aqueducts for groundwater that enabled them to water their fields in this very arid environment. This technology allowed them to grow maize, squash, beans, chili peppers, and other crops.

  • Art

    Artistically, the Nazca are most famous for their geoglyphs, enormous drawings traced out on the desert floor north of the settlement of Cawachi. They outlined human, animal and plant shapes, as well as straight lines several kilometers long, all of them amazingly precise. The actual significance of the Nazca figures is not known, but most of them are so large they are best appreciated from the air. According to one popular hypothesis, the place served as an astronomical observatory; another holds that it was a major ceremonial center.

    The Nazca also were skilled ceramicists and are renowned for their fine, complexly painted imagery and especially for their polychromatic motifs, some of which contain six or seven different colors. The most typical type of Nazca ceramic vessel was the bridge-handled bottle with two spouts. These were often painted with domestic images such as flowers, fruit, birds, animals and insects, though some bear mythological figures or individuals with both human and animal attributes.

  • Social Organization

    Nazca society achieved a political complexity similar to that of Andean societies, but their central authorities were mainly priests, who organized community work and led elaborate ceremonies. A large number of skilled tradespeople served these officials, including ceramic and textile makers, astrologists, musicians and soldiers. These people lived in small cities and ceremonial centers such as the Cawachi complex. At the base of Nazca society were the peasants, who were spread around the territory.

  • Religion and Funerary Practices

    The Nazca buried their dead in funerary bundles composed of several layers of blankets and clothing, inside of which they deposited ceramic vessels and other grave goods. Higher ranking individuals had more complex bundles that in some cases included several dozen layers of textiles. Dismembered human heads have been found among the grave goods in many graves, indicating the importance of human sacrifice in Nazca society. This practice was apparently associated with fertility rites.

  • Settlement Pattern

    The Nazca used adobe for their public buildings, especially their temples. Their dwellings were made of lengths of cane tied together. Their major centers included Cawachi in the Nazca Valley, which some scholars believe was a ceremonial center, others a civic center. This site contains a stepped pyramid 20 meters high that was built upon a natural mound and surrounded by plazas, residences and tombs.

  • History

    The Nazca were the direct descendants of the Parakas people, whose culture had developed in more or less the same territory. From the Parakas, the Nazca inherited the rich Chavín tradition. Later, the Nazca cultural tradition would itself have a major influence on the Wari people, who would form one of the most extensive empires of the Andean region.