Recently, a team of researchers led by Rosa Lasaponara from the Institute of Environmental Analysis Methodologies examined satellite images to see if they could offer new insight into the existence of the “puquios”, a series of aqueducts located in 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) west of the city of Nazca, Peru. Built by the Nazca culture, There are about 40 such aqueducts, and the Nazca used them all year round.
These structures located in the lowlands of Peru were built just 4 km east of the famous Nazca Lines. And not only are they geographically close, but the structures may also share a common theme, as there has been speculation that the lines played a symbolic role in the search for water, the very resource that the Nazca Aqueducts were. meant to operate. Like the Nazca Lines, these canals would also have had some sort of religious purpose, aside from their practical use in making the soil more hospitable to crops.
The discovery of the aqueducts revealed how advanced the Nazca civilization was. These spiral structures called ‘puquios‘ were part of a hydraulic system to collect and channel water. Uniquely shaped holes allow the wind blew through a series of underground channels, forcing water from underground aquifers to areas where it was needed most. The puquios were a construction so large that 30 of them they continue to be used by farmers to this day.
Such a sophisticated and durable network is a testament to its architects’ understanding of the surrounding region’s geology and annual water supply characteristics.
The Nazca culture flourished between c. 100 y. C. – 800 AD C. in the river valleys of the Río Grande de Nazca watershed and the Ica Valley on the arid southern coast of Peru. Heavily influenced by the Paracas culture (known for their extremely intricate textiles), the Nazca produced a variety of crafts and technologies such as ceramics, textiles, geoglyphs and of course aqueducts.
In addition to these incredible water systems, the Nazca people who once inhabited the Ica region of Peru are best known for the Nazca Lines, huge drawings in the desert whose purpose is unknown.
Similar to other coastal Andean peoples of South America, the Nazca were keen observers of the vast ocean world. The whale tooth below, on which a captivating woman has been carved, is an example of this.
The salty ocean and its unusual creatures were a dyadic opposition to the freshwater land. Carving a ritual figurine into the tooth of a gigantic sea creature undoubtedly had additional spiritual significance.
But back to the incredible aqueduct systems of Nasca. They were built to transport water from springs in the mountains: the name “puquios” refers to the spiral-shaped points of origin.
Located high on the mountain slopes, these springs are usually covered with wooden roofs and lined with stones. From the puquios, the water descends through deep trenches to the lowland fields.
Built to form giant curves, the routes of the aqueducts are easy to follow. By building their waterways so curved, the Nazca actually prevented flooding by ensuring that the water would not flow too quickly with the spring snowmelt.
These spirals are called “eyes”. You can actually walk towards them, down the stone steps to the pits at the bottom. However, the aqueducts require annual maintenance, and farmers descend through the “eyes” to clean the channels. In return, they have a lush green space, a cool place to walk around, with spectacular mountain views in all directions.
All we really know about the Nazca, aside from what’s been mentioned above, is the obvious ingenuity in their designs. Therefore, these advanced Nazca water management systems are a must for anyone planning to visit the Nazca Lines. If the lines testify to a complex and artistic religious life, the Aqueducts of Cantalloc testify to an intelligent desire to ensure that the desert meets these needs.
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