Christiane Clados
Nasca Drawings Collection

Mythical Groups


Many Nasca supernatural beings are product of a combination of anatomical part of different beings, plants or items. Many of them are composed of more than one body, as in the case of the Masked Mythical Being whose body is composed of a primary snake body (signifier) and a secondary human body that appears beneath the snake body.

1.  Animal Mythical Beings
To this group belong supernatural beings whose body or whose primary body (signifer) is that of an animal: Anthropomorphized Chiton, Feline Sea, Snail, Feline Chiton, Anthropomorphized Crayfish, Masked Mythical Being, Fox Mythical Being, Killer Whale Mythical Being, Feline Killer Whale, composed bird beings, and the group of Feline Serpents.

2.  Plant Mythical Beings
To this group belong supernatural beings whose body is that of a plant: Anthropomorphized Manioc, Anthropomorphized Sweet Potato, Anthropomorphized Yam Bean, Anthropomorphized Bean, Anthropomorphized Repining Maize, and Anthropomorphized Capsicum Pepper.

3.  Object Mythical Beings
To this group belong supernatural beings whose body is that of an item: Anthropomorphized Panpipe, Anthropomorphized Weaving Comb, and Anthropomorphized Weaving Sword.

4.  Anthropomorphic Beings
To this group belong supernatural beings whose bodies are merely composed of parts of a human body: Anthropomorphic Mythical Being with Snake Hair, Feline Man, Anthropomorphic Being in Flying Position, Seated Anthropomorphic Being, Anthropomorphic Being with Face Joints, Jagged-Staff God, Standing Anthropomorphic Being, and the Harvesters.

5.  Bodiless Mythical Beings
Although often interpreted as abbreviation (Seler 1923) I believe that these creatures should be considered a separate entity. They share features with the category of the Rayed Faces in Tiwanaku/Wari and Moche iconography by being composed of a central face to which snake rays, arm and legs are attached. To this group belong Feline Head with Snake Rays, Surrounded Feline Heads, and Rayed Faces.

Divine Intervention

Some late Nasca paintings show supernatural beings interfering in combat between humans, suggesting a direct effect on the course of human events. For example, CL 376 shows a descending Wari Stinger Animal holding a trophy head, which may be attacking the (defeated/victorious) warriors. CL 382 shows a combat between two parties, one supernatural and one human. The Mythical Monkey is involved and seems to be the head of the victorious party.

Supernatural Beings as Motifs of Headdresses

Nasca paintings depict figures wearing headdresses showing miniature scenes with important Nasca supernatural beings (for example in CL 325, the "Twins" and Spotted Cat are motifs in the headdress). Images CL 55 and CL 249 show two Nasca vessels dating to Nasca phase 5 in which the headdress of mythical beings shows the Bicephalic Serpent towering above the Spotted Cat. A very similar headdress is shown on paintings of Moche vessels. A fineline painting dating to Moche phase V shows a male deity standing on a litter and receiving a goblet. His headdress consists of a bicephalous serpent towering above two rosette-like stars.

The Gesture of Self-Humiliation, Harvest(er) Iconography, and Trophy Head Iconography

CL 384 shows a warrior grasping his own hair while being defeated by the Crested Bird. Because this gesture appears only to be "performed" by defeated warriors (CL 384, 392) or dead sacrifice victims (CL 74, 75, 247, 391) it may be interpreted as a gesture of self-humiliation recalling representations of Moche captives who hold their cord wrapped around the neck to trail themselves.

Several authors have mentioned the direct correlation between the growth of crops and trophy heads in Nasca iconography (Carmichael 1994; Proulx 2006). This is best shown by the use of identical gestures in both the contexts of trophy head taking and the harvest. The gesture of upraised arms is used in both contexts. For example, Feline Man is often shown with upraised arms holding a club and trophy head (CL 383). In the same way the Harvesters are shown presenting the gathered plants (CL 259). In CL 252 the relationship between the trophy head and harvest is expressed when the corn cob is replaced by a trophy head.

Late Nasca paintings show an increase in the representation of trophy racks (CL 376, 402). In Middle Nasca times, paintings favored instead the representation of staffs to which a row of trophy heads was attached (CL 92, 255).

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