Visual Archaeology Interpretation



Late Nasca Textile and a Shaped Bag with Feline

The Nasca culture developed out of the earlier Paracas culture, and its beginning is marked by the introduction of slip-painted pottery. Among the finest collections of Nasca ceramics are those of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Arqueologia in Lima and in The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Ancient Americas: Art From Sacred Landscapes
Richard F. Townsend 2004

Located in the Ica and Nasca Valleys of the south coast of Peru, ancient Nasca culture dominated a large part of southern Peru between 100 B.C. and A.D. 700. The Nasca people lived in a dry desert environment, intersected with rivers carrying rain from the Andes. In areas with sufficient water, they practiced agriculture and exploited marine resources. Because they depended on water and other natural resources to live, many Nasca activities were devoted to the spiritual powers that controlled the forces of nature.
Textiles with elaborate decoration and images, including depictions of the ritual use of trophy heads, are found in both late Paracas and early Nasca cultures.

Double Spout and Bridge Pottery Vessel with a Bird Deity 200-400 AD The British Museum

This globular jar depicts a fantastic bird in flight with a human face, adorned with a mouth mask and a diadem. The bird holds a human trophy head. Ritual beheading was a common practice in the Andes and scenes of decapitation can be seen painted on Nasca vessels. Not all birds depicted in Nasca art can be identified to a particular species. Some representations are quite naturalistic, while others combine fantastic and anthropomorphic elements. Certain birds are still revered in the Andean region today. The people of the modern town of Nasca believe that the condor and other birds, such as the pelican and the heron, are manifestations of the mountain gods. To catch sight of one of these birds means that rain will fall in the mountains.

The technique and range of colors used on this large vessel mark the peak of Nasca achievements. The number of colors used by Nasca artists are larger than that used by any other culture in the Americas before European contact. The iconography and symbolism represented by the Nasca lines are mirrored on polychrome pottery and textiles, with motifs portraying local fauna and plants, scenes related to subsistence activities, supernatural beings and deities associated with water and agricultural fertility.

Internet Links

The Nasca: Lesson Plan (PDF File)



Nasca Textiles and Ceramics

























Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft