South Coast history

The History of the South Coast is one of the most extensive in Peru and even South America. Some of the oldest civilizations appeared in the region around 6000BC as is proven in the coastal provinces of Chilca and Paracas.

The Paracas culture emerged on the South Coast of Peru around 300BC. Other cultures such as the Moche and Nazca Culture flourished in these regions from about 100BC to about 700CE. The Moche produced impressive metalwork, as well as some of the finest pottery seen in the ancient world, while the Nazca are known for their textiles and the enigmatic Nazca lines.

The Nazca Culture was discovered in the 1890s, when a German archaeologist named Max Uhle discovered the Nazca ceramics at many archaeological sites, started to classify them and also made them known around the world.

The Nazca culture had as its main capital the Ceremonial City of Cahuachi, an ancient pilgrimage center that is located some 28 km southwest of the modern city of Nazca. According to archaeologists, the Nazca culture thrived between 500 BC and around 600 AD, and their cultural influence covered an area of almost 600 km, with the Ceremonial Center of Cahuachi as its capital.

It was the capital of political and religious power of the rulers of the Nazca culture to the people who organized the valleys from Ica to Acari for the construction of large works, such as Cahuachi or the world-famous Nazca Lines. The Nazca culture is credited with making the famous Nazca Lines, as the evidence abounds. Most of the animal figures and other designs that were etched onto the desert surface are repeatedly seen also on the pottery and textile iconography left behind under their necropolis and found around the desert and at the archaeological site of Cahuachi.

In the Nazca desert, the presence of over 300 hundreds figures and over 10,000 lines has been recorded, covering a huge area of 525 km, according to archaeologists and scholars. Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Orefeci believes the Nazca people lived for over 800 years at the ceremonial centre of Cahuachi, and it began to decline due to certain natural disasters that took place around 350 AD. One hypothesis is that during this time there were changes in the climate and El Niño caused a great flood that engulfed a big portion of the Nazca valley, including the ceremonial centre of the Nazca people Cahuachi.

It was around 400 AD that the Nazca people abandoned Cahuachi and moved out to the upper section of the valley, where the modern Nazca city lies today. In addition to the Nazca geoglyphs, as they are archaeologically called, it is also important to mention their great achievements in hydraulic engineering. The famous underground channels of Nazca, locally known as Puquios (a Quechua word to describe a natural spring), are one of the greatest legacy also left behind by the Nazca Culture, this unique underground system is unique in South America and perhaps in the whole world, as their construction are very intricate. The Nazca culture built over 50 underground channels in the Nazca region between the years 400 AD till around 500 AD, and many of them are still in use by the local communities in the Nazca Valley.

The Nazca Lines were first spotted when one of the first Peruvian airlines called Faucette, started to fly from Lima to Arequipa in the 1920's. Pilots who flew over this area had noticed that between the valleys of Palpa and Nazca there were many lines crisscrossing the desert in all directions, this great news were shown at the local papers in Lima, and soon arose the interest of some people.

The Nazca Lines have always been a mystery and probably will stay so. Nevertheless, many scholars and archeologists have spent their lives studying and protecting these so impressive and mysterious lines and gigantic drawings. The most famous is probably Maria Reich after whom the museum about the lines in Nazca is called.

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