ICA AND THE NAZCA LINES
Ica (Quechua: Ika) is a region (formerly known as a department) in Peru. It borders the Pacific Ocean on the west; the Lima Region on the north; the Huancavelica and Ayacucho regions on the east; and the Arequipa Region on the south. Its capital is the city of Ica.

Geography

The Ica Region has a remarkable geography. It is the only region of the southern coast formed by plains, also called coast plains, since the Andean Cordillera rise up inland. Some geological folds have determined the formation of dunes moving toward the sea, which form much of the Paracas Peninsula. Some isolated formations located at the southern part created the Marcona complex, with the biggest deposits of iron in the Pacific coast.

Ica’s configuration is due to the geomorphology of its two big and unique fluvial watersheds: the Pasco and Ica rivers. Also, it has a waterway called the Rio Grande, although its waters do not reach the ocean. Some waters are diverted for irrigation and agriculture in the provinces of Pampa, Nazca and Ingenio; the Rio Grande’s final riverbed is dry since sand and dried lands absorb its limited resources. There are extensive deserts in Ica, such as the Lancha PampasPozo Santo and Villacuri pampas are extremely hot areas. Strong and persistent winds called paracas are present and stir up large sandstorms.

History

Ica has a rich history. The first settlers are from 10,000 years ago, from which the Wari, Chincha, Nazca, Ica and Paracas cultures developed, the latter being the most important.

The Paracas culture developed from the seventh through the 2nd century BC. It is distinguished by its matchless textile skills, trephinations, and the art of mummifying their dead.

The Nazca culture, on the contrary, well known for its artistic pottery, in which colorful designs and representations excel over the form, the same as their famous lines and figures that have undergone implausible interpretations. This culture expanded from the 2nd century BC through the 7th century AD. They have left us their wonderful aqueducts that made good use of underground water, of rivers and rain, showing a great knowledge of hydraulic engineering.

In the 15th century, during the Inca empire, Pachacuti incorporated the territories of Ica, Nazca and the Chincha valley.

Years later, in 1563, with the arrival of the Spanish, Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera founded the Villa de Valverde del Valle de Ica. Since then, the area became an important vineyard and cotton center.

During the independence war, General José de San Martín landed in Paracas and fixed his headquarters in Pisco, to start the fight for the independence of Peru.

Points of interest

City of Ica

Capital of the Ica Department. A very modern clean city that has popular Peruvian street markets, many old churches and landmarks, modern malls, hotels, coffee shops, theatres, and hotels as well.

Huacachina

Located on the west side of the city of Ica, capital of the Ica Department. One of the most popular places to visit in Ica is La Huacachina. The famous desert oasis is located 5 km from Ica. It is a small lake with medicinal water, lying in the middle of a spectacular sand desert.

Pisco

Pisco is the most important port in Ica and a litoral province. The most important attractions within this province are likely Paracas, Paracas Bay and the Paracas National Reserve. Pisco was home of an ancient pre-Hispanic culture, Paracas, who are known for their exquisite textiles.

Paracas

Paracas (a municipality within the Paracas District) is a small town catering to tourism. It serves as the jumping point for tours to Islas Ballestas and to Paracas National Reservation. The beautiful Paracas Bay protected by Paracas Peninsula gives these shallow, warmer waters break from ocean waves permitting life to flourish, particularly near its south western edge encompassed within Paracas National Reserve. The Paracas Museum, also found just near the south western edge of Paracas Bay, provides excellent information about Paracas culture and the many unique species, in particular, the birds of Paracas.

Nazca

The Ica-Nazca culture flourished along the southern coast of Peru from around 200 BC to 600 AD. This area is extremely dry. The Nazca developed extensive irrigation systems, including underground canals, that allowed them to farm the land. The Nazca are known for their beautiful textiles and pottery which feature images of animals and mythological beings.

They are even more famous, however, for an extraordinary but puzzling set of creations known as the Nazca Lines, which are geoglyphs and geometric line clearings in the Atacama desert, in the district of Nazca. On a large, rock-strewn plain, the Nazca made huge drawings by scraping away stones to reveal the lighter soil underneath. The drawings depict various plants and animals, including humans, a monkey, birds, and other creatures, as well as lines and geometric shapes. These drawings are so huge, however, that they can be seen only from the sky. Scientists believe that the Nazca made these drawings for their gods. The area of the Nazca lines is called the Pampa Colorada (red plain).

Cachiche

A small village near Ica, Cachiche is well known for its history of witches. Doña Julia, Cachiche’s first witch, was known to practice “good magic,” curing and helping villagers with her spells. Near the entrance to the town, a carving from a single huarango tree  depicts this first “bruja de Cachiche” (witch of Cachiche).

Tourism

Ica has significant wine and pisco industries, annual fiestas, a museum and historic colonial churches. The climate is generally sunny and dry due to its elevation above coastal fog and mist

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines /ˈnæzkɑː/ are a series of ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 km (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana, about 400 km south of Lima. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 500 BCE and 500 CE The figures vary in complexity. Hundreds are simple lines and geometric shapes; more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of animals, such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, and monkeys, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes, such as trees and flowers.

The designs are shallow lines made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath. The largest figures are up to 1,200 ft (370 m) long. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs but, in general, they ascribe religious significance to them.

Because of its isolation and the dry, windless, stable climate of the plateau, the lines have mostly been naturally preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of 2012, the lines are said to have been deteriorating because of an influx of squatters inhabiting the lands.

Contrary to the popular belief that the lines and figures can be seen only with the aid of flight, they are visible from the surrounding foothills.

History

The first mention of the Nazca Lines in print was by Pedro Cieza de León in his book of 1553, where he mistook them for trail markers. Although partially visible from the nearby hills, the first to distinguish them were Peruvian military and civilian pilots. In 1927 the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía Xesspe spotted them while he was hiking through the foothills. He discussed them at a conference in Lima in 1939.

Paul Kosok, a historian from Long Island University, is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines. In the country in 1940–41 to study ancient irrigation systems, he flew over the lines and realized one was in the shape of a bird. Another chance helped him see how lines converged at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. He began to study how the lines might have been created, as well as to try to determine their purpose. He was joined by Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist, to help figure out the purpose of the Nazca Lines. They proposed one of the earliest reasons for the existence of the figures: to be markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose. Archaeologists, historians, and mathematicians have all tried to determine the purpose of the lines.

Determining how they were made has been easier than figuring why they were made. Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Archaeological surveys have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and was the basis for establishing the age of the design complex. Prominent skeptic Joe Nickell has reproduced the figures using tools and technology available to the Nazca people. Scientific American called his work “remarkable in its exactness” when compared to the actual lines. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of people could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance.

On the ground, most of the lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth between 10 and 15 cm (4 and 6 in). Such trenches were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca Desert. When this gravel is removed, the light-colored clay earth which is exposed in the bottom of the trench produces lines which contrast sharply in color and tone with the surrounding land surface. This sublayer contains high amounts of lime which, with the morning mist, hardens to form a protective layer that shields the lines from winds, thereby preventing erosion.

The Nazca “drew” several hundred simple but huge curvilinear animal and human figures by this technique. In total, the earthwork project is huge and complex: the area encompassing the lines is nearly 450 km2 (170 sq mi), and the largest figures can span nearly 1,200 ft (370 m). Some of the measurements for the figures conclude that the hummingbird is 93 m (310 ft) long, the condor is 134 m (440 ft), the monkey is 93 m (310 ft) by 58 m (190 ft), and the spider is 47 m (150 ft). The extremely dry, windless, and constant climate of the Nazca region has preserved the lines well. This desert is one of the driest on Earth and maintains a temperature around 25 °C all year round. The lack of wind has helped keep the lines uncovered and visible.

The discovery of two new small figures was announced in early 2011 by a Japanese team from Yamagata University. One of these resembles a human head and is dated to the early period of Nazca culture or earlier, and the other, undated, is an animal. In March 2012, the university announced a new research center would be opened at the site in September 2012 to study the area for the next 15 years. The team has been doing field work there since 2006 when it found about 100 new geoglyphs.

Purpose

Archaeologists, ethnologists, and anthropologists have studied the ancient Nazca culture to try to determine the purpose of the lines and figures. One hypothesis is that the Nazca people created them to be seen by their gods in the sky. Kosok and Reiche advanced a purpose related to astronomy and cosmology: the lines were intended to act as a kind of observatory, to point to the places on the distant horizon where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set in the solstices. Many prehistoric indigenous cultures in the Americas and elsewhere constructed earthworks that combined such astronomical sighting with their religious cosmology, as did the later Mississippian culture at Cahokia in present-day United States. Another example is Stonehenge in England.

Gerald Hawkins and Anthony Aveni, experts in archaeoastronomy, concluded in 1990 that the evidence was insufficient to support such an astronomical explanation.

Reiche asserted that some or all of the figures represented constellations. By 1998, Phyllis B. Pitluga, a protégé of Reiche and senior astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, had concluded that the animal figures were “representations of heavenly shapes”. According to The New York Times, “she contends they are not shapes of constellations, but of what might be called counter constellations, the irregularly-shaped dark patches within the twinkling expanse of the Milky Way.” Aveni criticized her work for failing to account for all the details.

In 1985, the archaeologist Johan Reinhard published archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data demonstrating that worship of mountains and other water sources predominated in Nazca religion and economy from ancient to recent times. He theorized that the lines and figures were part of religious practices involving the worship of deities associated with the availability of water, which directly related to the success and productivity of crops. He interpreted the lines as sacred paths leading to places where these deities could be worshiped. The figures were symbols representing animals and objects meant to invoke the gods’ aid in supplying water. The precise meanings of many of the individual geoglyphs remained unknown as of 2013.

Henri Stierlin, a Swiss art historian specializing in Egypt and the Middle East, published a book in 1983 linking the Nazca Lines to the production of ancient textiles that archeologists have found wrapping mummies of the Paracas culture. He contended that the people may have used the lines and trapezes as giant, primitive looms to fabricate the extremely long strings and wide pieces of textiles typical of the area. According to his theory, the figurative patterns (smaller and less common) were meant only for ritualistic purposes. This theory is not widely accepted, although scholars have noted similarities in patterns between the textiles and the Nazca Lines, which they take as sharing in a common culture.

Environmental concerns

People trying to preserve the Nazca Lines are concerned about threats of pollution and erosion caused by deforestation in the region.

The Lines themselves are superficial, they are only 10 to 30 cm deep and could be washed away… Nazca has only ever received a small amount of rain. But now there are great changes to the weather all over the world. The Lines cannot resist heavy rain without being damaged.

  • Viktoria Nikitzki of the Maria Reiche Centre.

After flooding and mudslides in the area in mid-February 2007, Mario Olaechea Aquije, archaeological resident from Peru’s National Institute of Culture, and a team of specialists surveyed the area. He said, ” he mudslides and heavy rains did not appear to have caused any significant damage to the Nazca Lines”, but the nearby Southern Pan-American Highway did suffer damage, and “the damage done to the roads should serve as a reminder to just how fragile these figures are.

In 2013, machinery used in a limestone quarry was reported to have destroyed a small section of a line, and caused damage to another.

In December 2014, Greenpeace activists irreparably damaged the Nazca Lines while setting up a banner within the lines of one of the famed geoglyphs. The activists damaged an area around the hummingbird by grinding rocks into the sandy soil. Access to the area around the lines is strictly prohibited and special shoes must be worn to avoid damaging the UN World Heritage site. Greenpeace claimed the activists were “absolutely careful to protect the Nazca lines,” but this is contradicted by video and photographs showing the activists wearing conventional shoes (i.e. not special protective shoes) while walking on the site. Greenpeace has apologized to the Peruvian people, but Loise Jamie Castillo, Peru’s Vice Minister of Cultural Heritage, called the apology “a joke”, because Greenpeace refused to identify the vandals or accept responsibility. Culture Minister Diana Alvarez-Calderon said that evidence gathered during an investigation by the government would be used as part of a legal suit against Greenpeace. “The damage done is irreparable and the apologies offered by the environmental group aren’t enough,” she said at a news conference. This also directed attention to other damage to geoglyphs outside of the World Heritage area caused in 2012 and 2013 by the Dakar Rally.

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