Christiane Clados
Nasca Drawings Collection

New Insights on Nasca Imagery

Reasons for War

Besides collecting war trophies, (trophy heads, equipment of defeated warriors) the study of Nasca images may show two other reasons for war: fighting for water resources, indicated by fish that surround the fighting parties (CL 381), and starvation indicated by figures with ribs showing (CL 284, 285).

The Nasca-Wari Connection in Nasca Imagery/Wari in Nasca Imagery

Several elements in Nasca art indicate some influence of the Highland Wari culture. Image CL 379 (closeup 380) shows a warrior wearing a headdress identical to one shown in the Piquillacta Wari figurines. Image CL 267 shows a Harvester with a hat type seen in the Piquillacta figurines as well. An early version of the Wari Stinger Animal is shown on the handle of the bottle in CL 376. Also, the defeated warriors shown in CL 379 wear fox backflaps, which may indicate Moche influence.

Nasca Erotic Scenes

Erotic scenes are relatively rare in Nasca iconography compared to the contemporary Moche (CL 370-372). Two of them have an association with war, either represented by the presence of a high ranked warrior (CL 371), or by a battlefield (CL 372).


Nasca painters indicated the setting of an activity by including locators - objects that place the activity at a specific location. Fishes, crayfish, and pollywogs indicate a water environment (CL 16, 124-126, 180). Rats, pampas cats and loros devouring corn cobs indicate the field (CL 7, 8, 102, 113, 119, 131, 191, 192, 242, 271). Cacti, foxes, serpents, and lizards indicate a desert environment. Mountains, cacti, monkeys, snakes and guanacos indicate the loma zone (CL 377, 378). Torso, spread blood, decapitated heads, headdresses, loincloths and spears dispersed around warriors indicate a battlefield (CL 364, 376, 379).

Nasca and Wari Tocapu-related signs

Some Nasca paintings may represent tocapu-related signs (abstract language components; for further definition see Rowe 1979). Conjoined steps, nested boxes, checkerboard designs and recurved step-fret designs are used as central motifs (CL 231, 232, 234, 282, 393). Wari iconography clearly shows evidence for the existence of tocapus (CL 394 - 400). Image CL 396 shows the use of tocapus as face painting.

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