Friday, May 5, 2017

The Nephite Nazca Lines – Part I

We have been asked several times regarding the purpose of the Nazca lines and figures, so are setting down information regarding them: 
These lines are found in the coastal region of southern Peru and among a series of valleys of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage and the Ica Valley. This area is one of the most arid regions in the world with an average annual precipitation of 4 millimeters. Nazca's weather is controlled by Humboldt's Current, which carries water from Antarctica up the west coast of South America, and cools the air and limiting the accumulation of moisture within clouds, which results in very little rain, though clouds and fog are prevalent. The area has been settled at least since 100 B.C., and possibly before by the archaeology culture of the Nazca (Nasca), which had been heavily influenced by the preceding Paracas culture.
    In the small, protected basin where the Nasca culture arose, ten rivers descend from the Andes, to the east, most of them dry at least part of the year. These ten fragile ribbons of green, surrounded by a thousand shades of brown, offered a fertile hot spot for the emergence of an early civilization, much as the Nile Delta in Egypt, or the rivers of Mesopotamia did. "It was the perfect place for human settlement, because it had water," claims geographer Bernhard Eitel, a member of the Nasca-Palpa Project. "But it was a high-risk environment—a very high-risk environment."
    Best known for the geoglyphs (commonly called the Nazca Lines), the people also built an impressive system of subterranean aqueducts, known as puquios, which still function today though they have yet to be mapped and excavated, and their origination is hotly debated, though many claim they were built by a pre-Columbian civilization. There are even those who believe the Nazca Lines depict maps and pointers to the subterranean aquifers that feed the puquios system—an irrigation system that was probably taught the Nazca by the preceding Paracas, themselves extensively knowledgeable of irrigation and water management.
Planes flying over the Nazca valleys and a ground-level image shot showing the scoured ground that makes the image stand out from the air

    According to Professor Bernhard Eitel and his University of Heidelberg colleague Bertil Mächtle, the micro­climate in the Nazca region has oscillated dramatically over the past 5,000 years based on the regions Limnology. When a high-pressure system over central South America called the Bolivian High, which moves to the north, and the accompanying “Nordeste low” that moves to the east, more rain falls on the western slopes of the Andes. According to Dr. John D. Lenters at the Center of Limnology, University of Wisconsin, this results from the linear model that indicate these two features are generated in response to precipitation over the Amazon basin, central Andes, and South Atlantic convergence zone, with African precipitation also playing a crucial role in the formation of the Nordeste low. When the high shifts southward, precipitation decreases, and the rivers in the Nazca valleys run dry.
    Despite the risky conditions, the Nazca flourished for eight centuries. Around 200 B.C., the Nazca people emerged out of a previous culture known as the Paracas, settling along the river valleys and cultivating crops such as cotton, beans, tubers, lucuma (a fruit), and a short-eared form of corn. Renowned for their distinctive pottery, they invented a new technique of mixing about a dozen different mineral pigments in a thin wash of clay so that colors could be baked into the pottery.
A famous ceramic tableau known as the Tello plaque (above)—showing several Nazca strolling while blowing their panpipes, surrounded by dancing dogs—has been viewed as an iconic snapshot of a peaceful people whose rituals embraced music, dance, and sacred walks.
    Assuming these were the inventors of the geoglyphs, one still has to try to figure out what the lines were created for and that seems to baffle everyone, though there are theories covering just about every possibility. At this point in time, it appears as though this is one that may never be solved unless we can get out hands on the Large Plates of Nephi.
    The theocratic capital of early Nazca times was a sand-swept mecca called Cahuachi. The site, first excavated in the 1950s by Columbia University archaeologist William Duncan Strong, is a vast, 370-acre complex featuring an imposing adobe pyramid, several large temples, broad plazas and platforms, and an intricate network of connecting staircases and corridors. In their 2003 book on Nazca irrigation systems, archaeologist Katharina Schreiber of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Josué Lancho Rojas, a local schoolmaster and historian, point out that the Nazca River, which goes underground about nine miles to the east, resurfaces like a spring on the doorstep of Cahuachi. "The emergence of water at this point," they write, "was almost certainly regarded as sacred in prehistoric times."
    "Cahuachi was a ceremonial center," says Giuseppe Orefici, an Italian archaeologist who has led the excavation for many years. "People came here from the mountains and from the coast, bringing offerings."
    Elsewhere in the Nazca realm, people moved east or west along the river valleys as rainfall patterns shifted. The Peru-German archaeological initiative has explored the region from the Pacific coast to altitudes of nearly 15,000 feet in the Andean highlands. Almost everywhere they have looked they have found evidence of Nasca villages—"like pearls in the valley margins," says Reindel. "And near every settlement we find geoglyphs."
    The parched desert and hillsides made an inviting canvas: By simply removing a layer of dark stones cluttering the ground, exposing the lighter sand beneath, the Nasca created markings that have endured for centuries in the dry climate. Archaeologists believe both the construction and maintenance of the lines were communal activities—"like building a cathedral," says Reindel.
A system of horizontal wells scattered across the Nazca valleys

    In the hyperarid southern valleys, early Nasca engineers may have also devised a more practical way of coping with the scarcity of water. An ingenious system of horizontal wells, tapping into the sloping water table as it descends from the Andean foothills, allowed settlements to bring subterranean water to the surface. Known as puquios, these irrigation systems still water the southern valleys.
    Perhaps because of the adversity they faced, the Nasca people seem to have been remarkably "green." The creation of the puquios displayed a sophisticated sense of water conservation, since the underground aqueducts minimized evaporation. The farmers planted seeds by making a single hole in the ground rather than plowing, thus preserving the substructure of the soil. During a visit to a Nasca site called La Muña, Isla pointed out layers of vegetative matter in the walls of buildings and terraces that marked the rocky hillside settlement. The Nasca, he said, recycled their garbage as building material. "It's a society that managed its resources very well," he said. "This is what Nasca is all about."
    To most people today, Nasca is all about the lines. But although the Nasca were certainly the most prolific makers of geoglyphs, they were not the first. On a hillside abutting a plateau south of Palpa sprawl three stylized human figures, with buggy eyes and bizarre rays of hair, that date to at least 2,400 years ago—earlier than almost any textbook date for the start of the Nazca civilization.
(See the next post, “The Nephite Nazca Lines – Part II,” for more information on these early Nephites and their purpose of drawing on the ground)

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