The Nasca Culture

The Nasca culture reigned in the river valleys of Peru´s south coast c. 200 B.C.-600 A.D. It was a question of a divided federation formed by numerous little villages and dwelling centres where the same religion was shared and similar art was made. Although the Nasca dwelling centres have probably co-operated in religion and trade, they have also fought among themselves. Feuds over vital arable land have probably led to war events portrayed by the paint-decoration of the ceramics.

The Nasca ceramists achieved an extremely high tecnical and artistic level. The Nasca vessels are thin-walled and, all in all, thirteen mostly mineral-based colours have been used in their ornamentation. In addition to beautiful shades of colour, the geometricality and the primary status of the paint-decoration with respect to sculpturality attract attention.

The most famous relic group of the Nasca culture are the so-called Nasca lines. These lines, triangles, spirals and animal figures on the Nasca plain between the Nasca and the Ingenio rivers have been studied since 1940´s . With the decades, the mystery of the Nasca lines has spawned a great number of different interpretations. The theory of a huge astrological calendar that had a central position earlier has been disproved later on, and now it seems that the straight lines going through the desert have constituted some sort of ceremonial roads. It seems that the triangle figures, in turn, have connections with water veins underground. The meaning of the spiral and animal figures smaller in number than the two afore-mentioned groups of figures remains still unsolved.

An early Nasca vessel depicting a mythological being with features of a killer whale and a shark, a central figure in Nasca art and religion, called the Lord of the Fish. The killer whale is also pictured among the anthropomorphic Nasca lines. © Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera, Lima, Peru (Cat. 145)

The tree pattern of the Nasca lines, photographed from a lookout tower. It is very difficult to distinguish the Nascal line patterns from the earth level, but ascending just a couple of metres from the earth makes it easier to recognize them. © Antti Korpisaari