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Early Intermediate Period-Nazca and Moche Cultures

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Cultures thriving in this period date from approximately 200BCE to 600CE. Significant technological development took place in metalworking, pottery and irrigation systems. The two largest and most important cultures in this period are the Nazca and the Mochica or Moche cultures.

Nazca: In search of water

The members of the Nazca culture lived in the Nazca Valley, 250 miles or 400 km south of Lima between 100BC to 800AD. They were experts at turning desert land into arable land and were continuously searching for water. They dug underground, filtered the water and channeled it to the surface to a reservoir where it was distributed to agricultural fields resulting in highly sophisticated underground irrigation systems.

However, the Nazca are best known for its lines and drawings of animals that cover a large area of the desert outside the towns of Nazca and Palpa. The Nazca lines, as they are known, are shallow designs and were created by removing dark stones and exposing the lighter sand underneath. At the beginning of the construction period it consisted of geometrical designs and lines crossing the desert. Toward the end, animal drawings such as a monkey, hummingbird, spider, fish and other anthropomorphic designs were added. The Nazca lines have been well preserved due to the dry and windless climatic conditions of the desert.

The Nazca Lines remain a mystery. Since they were first recorded in the 1920s, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations. The most general accepted theory of archeologist, scientists and anthropologist is that the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca people in order to worship their gods, representing a shrine for the gods to see from above. The drawings in the desert are similar to those found in their pottery.  The construction of the lines was part of their religious practice to worship natural resources and was undertaken during religious ceremonies as offerings to the gods to secure the supply of water for the success in the productivity of crops. Other theories suggest that the lines and drawings were part of a giant agricultural calendar and that the Nazca people  had a broader vision of the cosmos and were highly intelligent in their attempt to translate abstract concepts into their drawings.  It has also been suggested that the lines were constructed by extraterrestrials. They are best seen from a hill or from the air.

The Nasca culture developed splendid multicolor pottery using natural pigments from local plants and minerals. These pottery makers were creative artists who knew how to use and mix colors to create eye catching designs.

Moche or Mochica: Aqueduct engineers

The Moche expanded its rule through the north coast in the present department of La Libertad from about 100 to 700 AD. Since most of its wealth came from agriculture they became skilled engineers who build canals up to 32 kilometers long that irrigated the fertile valleys that we currently know.

The Moche was an urban civilization that had much in common with the Incas. In each of these valleys lived a lord that had complete control and who was considered a deity. One of them is the “Gran Señor de Sipan” or the Lord of Sipan whose tomb was found intact by the Peruvian archeologist Walter Alva 1987, it is considered the most important archeological discovery of the last 30 years. In 2006 a female mummy was discovered and she was so well preserved that the tattoos in her arms were still visible. In her tomb was found gold jewelry and precious stones suggesting that she was an important person, maybe a leader. The Moche culture produced a great amount of pottery, they used molds to create large quantities of specific shapes and were the only artists that produced only realistic sculptures in Pre-Colombian cultures. Their color pallet was mostly limited to red and white and used their ceramic to shape human faces and animals; they also painted vases showing ceremonial scenes.

The Moche civilization ended with a famine caused by El Niño. El Niño causes extreme weather such as floods, droughts and disturbances that affect agriculture and fishing.

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