Author of the Month

David Johnson, Author of the Month for February 2010

Beneath The Nasca Lines and Other Coastal Geoglyphs of Peru and Chile (cont.)
By David Johnson

The scientific study lasted five years and examined sites throughout the Rio Grande de Nasca drainage. The data indicated puquios were strategically located to intercept aquifers intersecting the river valleys. This is further substantiated by the location of archaeological sites, habitation and/or cemetery, at each of these locations. Faults were mapped, water sources were analyzed and the data compared to determine if there was more than one water source. Archaeological sites and geoglyphs were mapped and ground surveyed to determine if there was a correlation between them. The results supported my original observations.

As I expanded my investigation along the coasts of Peru and Chile, I realized the Nasca Lines were far from unique. Along Peru's central coast in the Supe Valley, I found numerous geoglyphs near Caral and others further north in the Casma Valley. I have documented geoglyphs in the Rimac and Ica Valleys in Peru as well as the Lluta, Azapa and Camarones Valleys of northern Chile. These sites cover a distance of approximately 1,200 mi / 1,931 km along the Pacific Coast. During these investigations I realized the concept of using geoglyphs and biomorphs may not have originated in Rio Grande de Nasca drainage since very similar patterns are also associated with other sites such as Caral, which is much older. It appears geoglyphs were constructed in a number of coastal regions by different cultures either during the same or different historical periods. The influence of the Nasca Culture extended from the Cañete Valley to the Chala Valleys in southern Peru, a distance of 230 mi / 370 km, with its heartland in the Ica and Rio Grande de Nasca drainages (Silverman and Proulx, 2002). This is a relatively short distance within the coastal desert. Another intriguing aspect is, throughout these coastal regions the function of the various geoglyph shapes remained the same. Until now only those found in the Rio Grande de Nasca drainage have been investigated extensively. Therefore my geoglyph interpretation is based on several sites located along the coasts of Peru and Chile. This data poses an intriguing question, did the concept of constructing geoglyphs originate in the Rio Grande de Nasca and Ica drainages or was it imported into this region? At this point in time I am not sure what the answer is.

One of the greatest challenges was to present our data in a way that would appeal to both the general public as well as the academic community. Therefore I include my initial discoveries in the first chapter and my interpretation of the geoglyphs in the second chapter. This provides anyone interested in the mysterious Nasca Lines with the basic discoveries that lead to their interpretation. Then one can continue on as far as they wish, by regions, along the coast of Peru and northern Chile. The text is also interactive with Google Earth. While reading the text you can observe the various features discussed simultaneously in Google Earth imagery. This way anyone, regardless of their degree of curiosity about this subject, will find something of interest.


Aveni, Anthony (editor)

1990 "An Assessment of Previous Studies of the Nasca Lines": In The lines of Nasca, edited by Anthony Aveni. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 183, pp.1-40. The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.

Reinhard, John

1996 The Nazca Lines: A New Perspective on Their Origin and Meaning: Editorial Los Pinos, Lima. Sixth Edition.

Schreiber, Katharina J. and Josue Lancho Rosas

1995 "The Puquios of Nasca": Latin American Antiquity 6(3): 229-254.

Silverman, Helaine

1990 "Beyond the Pampa: The Geoglyphs in the Valleys of Nazca": National Geographic Research 6(4): 435-456.

Silverman, Helaine and Proulx, Donald A.

2002 The Nasca: Blackwell Publishers Inc, Malden, Massachusetts. 50 and 80.

David Johnson was a National Geographic Research and Exploration recipient (1998) for his research on the correlation between geology, hydrology and the Nasca Lines in Peru. As an Adjunct Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology, at the University of Massachusetts, he conducted research for six years in Peru. As a member of the New York State Archaeological Association for 40 years he has worked on sites throughout the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys of New York State. Currently, David is president of the Orange County Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association and is writing a report on a middle to late archaic site. At the same time his research on the correlation between geology, hydrology and the Nasca Lines continues. He's principal investigator for two scientific expeditions in the Rio Grande de Nasca drainage of southern Peru and co director for several others.

A link to David Johnson's Web Site

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