History

THE CULTURE NAZCA

The culture of the Nazca was a pre-hispanic culture, which represents together with the culture of the Mochica one of the most important cultures of the ancient Peru.

Their name-giving center was located in the river system of the Río Grande de Nazca, their dissemination area however extended up to the Río Chincha in the north and up to the Valley of Acari in the south.

The people of Nazca established already larger settlements like the city Cahuachi with living quarters and depots, yards, workstations and temple systems, whose fronts were covered with Adobe. Great irrigation systems with aquaducts, channels, water reservoirs and in particular underground tunnels (the latter singularly in the before-European America) witness from the highly differentiated technical abilities of this culture.

Further inheritances of the Nazca culture rose from the intensive dead cult, as in the culture of the Paracas. Among the numerous gifts for the deceased the colored ceramics with representations from the everyday life and from the mystic religious area and the beautiful textiles, double fabrics and painted fabrics with applied feathers are the most precious products of the Nazca artists.

The most well-known characteristic of this culture are their ceramics, which the archaeologists divided in different style classes. Thus one differentiates between the so-called Protonazca (200 - 100 A.C.) with salient influences of ceramics of the Paracas, early Nazca (100 A.C. - 200 D.C.) with the first emerging of the typical style of the Nazca, medium Nazca (200 - 300 D.C.) with an evolution of the stylistic features toward symbolism, late Nazca (300 - 600 D.C.) with complex motives, which cover the entire surface of the ceramics with drawings (dominant the drawing "horror vacui"), and finally end Nazca (600 - 700 D.C.).

The decoration was laid on before burning on all possible forms such as plates, dishes, glasses, vases and jugs. One differentiates between three fundamental styles: geometrically, naturally (with figures of plants, animals and humans) and symbolically (abstractly, with motives of the fantasy, zoo-morphical figures etc., difficult to interprete).

The Nazca could process metal and produced foils of copper, silver or gold, controlled the production of paraffin for molds, the coining/shaping and relief technique for leathers and the Broschieren of fabric.




THE LINES OF NASCA

However, no creation of the Nazca culture attracted such an attention in the recent past like the lines of Nasca in the area between Nazca and Palpa. "Engraved" into the landscape are geoglyphs with extents of many kilometers of length which can be seen only from a high altitude. This led to the most daring hypotheses and most absurd attempts of explanation about the time of its emergence and its production across the different scientists and authors. Today however there is no more doubt about the fact that this geoglyphs were created by the people of the Nazca culture. Concerning their form they can be divided into two groups: the 300 geometrical figures, above all trapezoids, triangles, spirals, points/teeth, with their cord-even, up to 20 km long lines; altogether this geometrical geoglyphs extend to a length of 1300 km. The second group covers representations of humans and most frequently of animals (birds, fish, ape, spiders) as well as unite plants, which achieve a length of more than 300 m. Some the represented animal figures are shown also on the ceramics of the Nazca; likewise one found many ceramics of the typical Nazca style in the area of the geoglyphs. And also the time frame of the Nazca culture (200 to 600 A.D.) was confirmed by modern methods of the age determination (so for example a C-14-date of a wood post from the area of the earth characters).

For the production of the geoglyphs no highly developed technology was necessary. With the assistance of simple models true to scale the figures were engraved into the sand. One removed the ferric oxide-brown small stones of the highest level, whereby the yellowish background taken off from the environment appeared sharp. Since it (almost) never rains in this region, the earth characters were preserved until today. Meaning and function of the geoglyphs however are unknown until today; perhaps different motives were decisive. There are some respectable interpretation attempts, to which however generally the lack adheres that they apply only to a part of the earth characters and do not sound plausible to all: these geoglyphs were made for ritual or magical purposes, in particular for the harvest protection; or they served astronomical calculations of the calendar and represent star constellations; according to other interpretations they mark stores of water; again in accordance with different interpretations they were ritual paths and ways in connection with the center of the Nazca culture. Perhaps all these assertions together come next to the truth, so that the earth characters would fulfill probably different functions: being markings of the sky, the water and the floor in ritual and supernatural connection.

One of the first persons who studied these lines,María Reiche, developed a theory according to which the lines helped the Nazcas, to study the stars and predict the seasons (similarly to the ancient stone set Stonehenge in England). The latest analyses of the geometry of the lines with the assistance of computers resulted however in no significant coincidents with the position of the sun or constellations of the stars.

Therefore, the question always asked remains open: why the Nazca people underwent such efforts, if they could not see the characters and in particular the figures here because of their enormous extents. Perhaps it was sufficient if the Nazca priests could assume the figures or figures of the divinities during their trances "in the flight".

In 1994, the lines of Nasca were defined as a world cultural heritage by the UNESCO.


The following image shows an overview of all the Lines of Nasca:





THE CULTURE OF PARACAS

The culture of Paracas (1200 v.Chr. to 600 v.Chr.) received their name from the peninsula Paracas in the proximity of the Peruvian city Pisco. The entire coast of Peru already has an extremely dry desert climate, but the still rainpoorer southern coast allowed that the most fragil products and works of art from wood, cotton, wool and even feathers in the graves survived over thousands of years.

Since the early twenties of the 20th century expanded grave fields were found on the peninsula Paracas, which were equipped with a rich and impressive inventory. The older Paracas Cavernas tombs which can be dated to approximately 700 A.C. contained numerous mummies wrapped into several layers of fabrics and accompanied by beautiful ceramics. These prove an original tradition in form and ornament technique (cutting decoration with thick, pasted colors after burning), however they also show the influence of the Chavín in the contents - e.g. representations of mountain cats with powerful teeth.

Additionally more than 400 mummy bundles were discovered (therefore the designation "Paracas Necropolis" = Paracas City of the Dead), which had been buried in stone-dressed graves as mass funerals. Up to 40 mummy bundles were located in only one grave chamber. They originate from a recent period which is dated to 200 A.D. The dead ones sit in stool position in baskets, some wear accessories, and often meals were added to them. Many mummies were wrapped into several layers of fabrics (one of the largest mummy bundles contained 44 artful and 25 simple fabrics) and containded additionally separate textiles, among which were those which lead to the singularness and famousity of the Paracas.

These often up to 3 m long dead cloths ("manto") consist of a thin cotton fabric of alpaka wool whith applications of colorful figural embroideries. Furthermore, in the mummy bundles embroidered, carefully folded textiles were found, unused and sometimes even unfinished, which clearly indicates that these were made especially for the dead cult. They contained also richly embroidered articles of clothing like shirts, tunicas, struts etc., which the deceased had carried during lifetimes and which should refer to their high status both in their life and in the the other world.

According to the arrangement of the embroideries the Paracas embroideries can be divided in two groups of styles: Strips (tapes or borders, perhaps originally developed of edgings) and fields. As the designation already says, the colored embroideries of the "older strip style" consist only of (vertically, horizontally or diagonally running) strips, which often only were applied to the edges of textiles; sometimes however the strips run also in series arranged over the center of the in-colored basic fabric.

The representations of the handle pass embroidery are held in red, green, yellow and blue are often difficult to detect, because the colored threads of the basic fabric for the outlines of the figures were referred and it is difficult to differenciate them against the surrounding basic fabric. Due to the relative restriction by the narrow strips the forms are limited in size and were set one above the other, on the other hand the contents, the representation of the figures, was also held in a close canon. Free space for artistic creativity was hardly available. The characteristic motives are of a mystic natures in human or animal shape (mountain cats, birds or snakes). An often shown figure seems to have been of special importance: Their characteristics are the u-shaped "smiling" mouth and the remarkably large, hexagonal eyes, which brought them the designation "eye nature". Often this is illustrated together with human trophy heads, which grow out from its head or body. Thus the strip style generally served for the trading of formal and rather abstract conceptions.

So these singular embroideries, which later never were brought out, can be seen as a kind of ideograms or a symbol language. They tell us something about the view of the humans of Paracas to their real and supernatural world. Possibly it was a uniform view, in which there was no separation between real and supernaturally, as for instance in our western thinking. Probably therefore reading this language is so difficult for us.


CAHUACHI

Cahuachi, the archaeological place from the middle period of the Nazca culture, is one of the most important and most representative ruin cities of the ancient Peru. This up to today largest of all discovered systems is located left of the river Rio Aja and reaches almost up to the Rio Grande de Nazca. This system covers a pyramid temple with gradation stairs, which achieves a height of 20 m, a large palace and 6 further complexes with residential districts, depots etc., which were built with adobes.


Also, the remainders of a cementary were found, where polychromatic ceramics, gold and silver decoration as well as richly embroidert textiles were found, which are typical for this pre-hispanic culture (see above). A vertical well of about 4 m of depth forms the chamber, in which the corpse was buried, adorned with jewels and wrapped in colorful fabrics of wool of Llamas and Vicunas or cotton, beautifully worked, with geometric drawings, anthropomorphous and zoomorphous figures of great originality; to the side they deposited jugs with offerings.




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