April 25, 2018 – Nazca, Peru
We didn’t start until 9 this morning. The 1st thing on the agenda was a flight over the Nazca Lines. They populate the planes by weight so everyone had to get on a scale. There were 10 of us. I was split from our group which flew on 2 different planes. I had to go with a group of people that I did not know. I wasn’t thrilled about that since the rest of the group had to wait on me since my plane took off 10 minutes after the others. The lines were fun to see from the air although I was on the wrong side of the plane. Supposedly, they were going to fly over the figures twice so that no matter which side of the plane you were on, you would get to see them all. The other flights did that, but the one I was on had most of the figures on the right side of the plane, and they didn’t circle around for most of them. Still I got to see some of them. They are truly amazing. I especially like the frog and the hummingbird.
After the flight, we came back to the hotel before we went to the Cahuachi ruin which was a major ceremonial center of the Nazca culture from 1 AD to about 500 AD in the coastal area of the Central Andes. It overlooked some of the Nazca Lines. The site contains over 40 mounds topped with adobe structures. The huge architectural complex covers 0.6 sq. miles and is 1,197.5’ above sea level.
Scholars once thought the site was the capital of the Nazca state but have determined that the permanent population was quite small. They believe that it was a pilgrimage center whose population increased greatly in relation to major ceremonial events. New research has suggested that 40 of the mounds were natural hills modified to appear as artificial constructions. Support for the pilgrimage theory comes from archaeological evidence of sparse population at Cahuachi, the spatial patterning of the site and ethnographic evidence from the Virgin of Yauca pilgrimage in the nearby Ica Valley.
Looting is the greatest problem facing the site today. Most of the burial sites surrounding Cahuachi were not known until recently and are tempting targets for looters.
From there we visited the aqueducts which the Nazca built to supply their city with water. These are spiral and reach down about 10’-15’ where they access the aquifer. Water still flows, and some people still use it.
We had lunch at a hotel where we experienced the Pachamanca. This is a traditional dinner. It involves an ancient ceremony akin to the Polynesian meal of burying a variety of meats and vegetable in the ground which are wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked with pre-heated rocks buried in the ground. We had beef, pork and chicken. The vegetables were 3 kinds of potatoes, broad beans, tortillas, corn and salad. I think we were all wondering if we were ever going to get to the place to eat because it was about 1.5 miles down a dirt back road. We were literally in the middle of nowhere when we arrived at an elegant hotel. It could truly be said that you really had to want to go there in order to get there.
The next stop was the Chauchilla Cemetery. Here were located 1,500 year-old mummies, bones and pottery. All of the graves have been looted, but we were still able to see how the Nazca buried their dead. On the way, again down a dirt road which was extremely washboardy, we saw burrowing owls and the burrows of coastal miner birds. When we arrived at the cemetery, we actually saw one of the coastal miner birds. We did not get to see the swallows nor the Peruvian Thick-Knee.
We had a great local guide who explained the rituals around the burials. Everyone was buried in the fetal position. They were clothed and then wrapped in cotton. Their organs were not removed as with many mummies. They had utensils for water and food buried with them to use in the afterlife. They were all buried facing east as is the custom in many religions.
On the way to the cemetery we saw Cerro Blanco. It is considered to be one of the tallest sand dunes in the world. It rises 3,860’ from its base. The asymmetry of the dune slopes indicates that the prevailing wind direction here is from the southwest or the Pacific Ocean.
The last stop of the day was at a pottery shop where the potter makes copies of early Nazca pottery. He explained the process of the formation of the clay he uses which is mixed with river sand. None of the pottery is turned on a wheel but is shaped by hand using a lama bone. It is fired twice and is hand painted. Of course, there was pottery for sale at the end of the demonstration. I found the perfect Christmas present for Donald at this stop.
It was 6:30 when we returned to the hotel. After our briefing on tomorrow’s activities, some of us met to go to dinner at a chicken place that Cheo knows. The chicken was great, and the 6 of us shared a pitcher of pisco sours which were even better. We may turn Donna away from her white wine to pisco sours! It was a nice end to a long day.
Tomorrow, we have to be up and have breakfast at 6:30 because we need to leave no later than 7:15. We have a 10 hour bus ride to Arequipa tomorrow.
Nazca is a town in Peru’s Southern Coast region. It is most famous for the so-called Nazca Lines, a mix of long lines, geometrical figures, and giant drawings in the desert sand. Founded in the late 16th century, the city of Nazca was recently reconstructed after being completely destroyed in 1996 by a violent earthquake
Today's Nazca town is on the site of where the ancient Nazca civilization was based after the fall of its first capital, Cahuachi, around AD 400. It has an exotic, dusty, desert setting but holds little enchantment in itself. It can provide between a few hours' and a few days' entertainment depending on one's interest in the ancient Nazca people.
For much of their history, the Nazca people were based in the Ceremonial City of Cahuachi, an ancient pilgrimage center 17 miles southwest of modern Nazca. The society emerged in around 100 BC and was active until around 750 AD. Its influence stretched from Cañete in the north to Acari in the south. The lower section of the Nazca Valley was likely chosen to situate Cahuachi due to its abundant underground water, which allowed extensive irrigation for improved agriculture.
This civilization was responsible for the famous Nazca lines, giant representations of animals and other designs that are also seen on Nazca pottery and textiles found at Cahuachi. Discovered pottery fragments also suggest that the Nazca people gathered in the desert to perform religious ceremonies with objects being smashed as offerings to the gods in the sky. The fragments found in the desert among the Nazca Lines are mainly pieces of panpipes and whistles suggesting the importance of music in the religious rites.
A series of natural disasters, climatic and tectonic, began to undermine the civilization in around 350 AD. An earthquake finished the capital, Cahuachi, around 400 AD, leaving the society to limp into oblivion for the next few centuries from its new base in what would become modern Nazca.
Nazca culture first aroused academic interest through its pottery. In the 1890s, archaeologist Max Uhle was studying ceramic samples at the Anthropologisch-Ethnografische Museum in Dresden. The consignment contained many works from South America including some striking and colourful work from the Nazca people. In 1901 he travelled to Peru to examine their origins. After months of searching he arrived at the Valley of Ica at a place called Ocucaje, where he met farmers who told him about the ancient cemeteries where these colorful ceramics were frequently found. Uhle excavated the sites and found Nazca ceramics at many of them. His work introduced Nazca culture to the wider world.
The Nazca Lines were first spotted when Faucette, an early Peruvian airline, began flying from Lima to Arequipa in the 1920s. The pilots noticed lines crisscrossing the desert between the valleys of Palpa and Nazca. The pilots' discoveries led Toribio Mejia Xesspe, an archaeologist, to come to Nazca in 1926. His research arrived at the conclusion that the lines were part of ancient sacred roads. Xesspe never flew over the area and so only saw straight lines; he missed the figures.
A more worthy discovery of the lines was made in 1939 by Paul Kosok of Long Island University. Kosok came to Nazca to study the ancient irrigation systems, the puquios. He surveyed the channels and noted that over 50 of the underground aqueducts were still in use. He was told of other, even older, ancient channels and so set out to the Nazca desert but found only long shallows furrows. He thought that perhaps these other ancient channels were located very far away and so hired a small crop-dusting aircraft to go and find them. On the flight he saw hundreds of lines and geometrical forms in the desert. He later recalled asking the pilot to follow one particular line and being somewhat surprised at it leading to a bird! Kosok later met Maria Reiche, who then devoted her life to studying and preserving the lines.
After the fall of Cahuachi, the Nazca people still achieved some notable, though oft overlooked feats. An extensive series of underground channels, the puquios (a Quechua word to describe a natural spring), are one of the greatest legacies of the Nazca culture. This underground system is unique in South America, and perhaps the world, because of its very intricate construction. Over 50 underground channels were built over one hundred years starting in 400 AD; many of them are still in use! Some of the best preserved channels are at Cantalloc, also known as Cantayo, where visitors can see a series of spiral blow holes, which were probably used to allow cleaning of the channels' interiors and also to restore them after earthquakes.
The cemeteries along the Nazca River contained the colorful ceramic works that first drew attention to the Nazca people. The high-quality work on vessels shows realistic and complex depictions of the ancient Nazca world: everyday life, animals, plants, fruits, birds, insects and gods are all represented. Vessels showing stylized creatures, including zoomorphic and anthropomorphic designs, sometimes containing over ten colors. Bridge-handle bottles with two landfills are the most common find, but spherical pots were also produced as well as cups and glasses. The best examples of Nazca ceramics are in museums, such as the Museo Arqueologico Antonini in Nazca, the Anthropological and Archaeological Museum in Lima, the Regional Museum of Ica and many others in Peru and around the world.
The Nazca people's belief in life after death led to mummification of their corpses. The shrouds wrapping the dead were fine textiles, which still retain their quality and colors. The Nazca people, like many other pre-Inca peoples, believed textiles to be spiritually important. This meant that their textiles were skillfully produced and depicted sophisticated artistic scenes on fabrics of cotton and the fiber of Andean camels. Samples from the ancient capital of Cahcuachi can be seen at the Musseo Arqueologico Antonini in Nazca.
The Nazca Lines are the star (and only) attraction of the town. Scattered over 195 square miles of an arid plateau between the Nazca River and Ingenio River. They are huge representations of geometric patterns, animals, human figures and thousands of perfectly straight lines that go on for miles. They were created by removing surface stones which revealed the lighter-colored soil below. They're unquestionably ancient (dating back 1400-2200 years) and remarkably precise (with straight lines and clean curves). The images are so huge that they are only appreciable from the air. This fact has led to speculation that the ancient Nazca people either had access to hot air balloons or alien helpers. Most academics attribute the lines' precision to low-tech surveying techniques, but nobody actually knows who made them or why.
Chauchilla Cemetery is a cemetery that contains pre-Hispanic mummified human remains and archeological artifacts, located 19 miles south of the city of Nazca.
The cemetery was discovered in the 1920s, but has not been used since the 9th century AD. The cemetery includes many important burials over a period of 600 to 700 years. The start of the interments was in about 200 AD. It is important as a source of archaeology of Nazca culture. The cemetery has been extensively plundered by huaqueros (grave robbers) who have left human bones and pottery scattered around the area. Similar local cemeteries have been damaged to a greater extent. The site has been protected by Peruvian law since 1997. After that time, the majority of the scattered bones and plundered pottery were restored to the tombs.
The bodies are so remarkably preserved due mainly to the dry climate in the Peruvian Desert, but the funeral rites were also a contributing factor. The bodies were clothed in embroidered cotton and then painted with a resin and kept in purpose-built tombs made from mud bricks. The resin is thought to have kept out insects and slowed bacteria trying to feed on the bodies.
The nearby site of Estaqueria may provide clues to the remarkable preservation of the numerous bodies in these cemeteries. At that site, archeologists found wooden pillars initially thought to have been used for astronomical sightings. However, it is now believed that the posts were used to dry bodies in a mummification process. This may account for the high degree of preservation seen in thousand-year-old bodies which still have hair and the remains of soft tissue such as skin.
Chauchilla Cemetery is a prominent setting in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Though not called by name in the film, the cemetery is explicitly identified in the screenplay, promotional materials, and merchandise. This fictionalized version of the cemetery features a number of embellishments including mask-wearing Nazcan guards and a hidden, underground burial chamber accessible through the barrows. The cemetery is depicted as being built on a promontory overlooking the Nazca Valley offering the characters a view of the famous Nazca Lines.
Pachamanca (from Quechua pacha "earth", manka "pot") is a traditional Peruvian dish based on baking, with the aid of hot stones (the earthen oven is known as a huatia), lamb, mutton, pork, chicken or guinea pig, marinated in spices. Other Andean produce, such as potato, green lima beans or "habas", sweet potato, occasionally cassava or yuca, and humitas (sweet treat) as well as ears of corn, tamale and chili, is included in the baking.
The dish is essentially made in the central Peruvian Andes in three main regions: 1) The upper Huallaga valley, in Huánuco and Pasco vicinity, where it is made with pork and seasoned with chincho, a local herb; 2) in the Mantaro valley and neighboring area around cities like Huancayo, Tarma and Jauja; they use lamb and a different seasoning; and 3) in several places of Ayacucho department. In the Peruvian Amazonia, the southern and northern Andes, and the mostly desert coast the dish is uncommon due to the lack of firewood or the type of stones needed without any content of sulphur. Meat is wrapped in marmaquilla or chincho leaves before being put in this kind of earthen stove.
This important part of Peruvian cuisine, which has existed since the time of the Inca Empire, has evolved over time, and its consumption is now widespread throughout modern Peru where regional variations have appeared in the technical process of production, but not in the ingredients or their baking. It's important to note that the preparation is not only limited to Peru, but also that it exists with minimal variants in other Andean countries, for example Ecuador.