Christiane Clados
Nasca Drawings Collection
Printable version

Nasca Culture and Imagery

Setting and Chronology
The Origin of the Drawings Database
Nasca Iconographic Design
Non-perspective Method
Hierarchic Measure
Gestures as Indicators of Ownership and Conflict
Heroes in Nasca Iconography
Feline Man
Principle Couple
Narrative Style

Different/Sequential Moments of Time in one Scene
Non-Separating in Late Nasca Style
Mythical Beings
Snake Hair, Snake Arms, Snake Legs, and "Anatropicas"
Head Types
Mythical Groups
Divine Intervention
Superntural Beings as Motifs of Headdresses
The Gesture of Self-Humiliation, Harvest(er) Iconography, and Trophy Heads
New Insights on Nasca Imagery
Reasons for War
The Nasca-Wari Connection in Nasca Imagery/Wari in Nasca Imagery
Nasca Erotic Scenes
Nasca and Wari Tocapu-related signs
Indentifying Individual Artists and Workshops in Nasca Paintings
About the Author
Sources Cited

Setting and Chronology

The Nasca/Nazca (hereafter 'Nasca') culture flourished in the valleys of the South Coast of present-day Peru. During its zenith from 0 to 650 AD its influence extended throughout southern Peru's coastal valleys. The core area of Nasca culture was originally restricted to the Nasca/Nazca river valley. Its northern incursion into Pisco Valley is reflected in the site of Dos Palmos, while southern expansion into the Acarí Valley is expressed at the site of Tambo Viejo. The era of expansion coincides with the florescence of Cahuachi, the Nasca capital, located on the south bank of the Río Nazca. With an area of approximately 150 hectares and more than 40 mounds, forecourts and attendant plazas, Cahuachi was one of the most important Nasca centers. Because the unpredictability of water was a consistent threat, Nasca people built a highly refined irrigation system similar to the Near Eastern qanats, which opened the desert to richly productive agriculture. Cotton, and all of the major food sources (maize, sweet potato, yam bean/jícima, pepino, achira, manioc, lúcuma, bean, peanut, squash) were cultivated by Nasca people.

Nasca culture is particularly famous for its ground drawings, the "Nazca Lines", also called 'geoglyphs'; designs, that were already created by Paracas people before the flourishing of the Nasca culture. These images were created by removing the dark, oxidized upper desert sediments to expose lower, lighter-colored surfaces. These geoglyphs occupy the pampa flats between the rivers tributaries.

Like their Paracas precursors the Nasca people produced a wide variety of crafts including finely made textiles, ornaments and jewelry of gold, copper and spondylus shell, feather work, pyro-engraved gourds, and artifacts made of wood and sperm whale or killer whale teeth. In addition, Nasca culture is renowned for its polychrome slip-painted ceramics, which have been divided into nine chronological phases; Nasca 1 to Nasca 9 (for further information on Nasca 9 pottery see Menzel 1964 and Knobloch 1991).

The Origin of the Drawings Database

This drawing collection is a database derived from a dissertation finished in 2001 by Christiane Clados. It comprises an analysis of 4,000 objects (ceramics, textiles, and objects of wood, bone, or gold). The main purpose of the database is to provide a new iconographic corpus that will help in testing current interpretations and in developing new ones. The database consists of 402 rollouts (CL 1- CL 402). With each rollout comes a brief description referring to materials, shape, provenience, current location, date, phase, analysis and image interpretation. Links display other images related to the discussed image. Click here to search and view the database records.

Dr. Christiane Clados
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dept. of Anthropology
Email questions or comments to Dr. Clados

Return to top of page