The ancient South American people who carved the enigmatic Nazca Lines across the Peruvian desert some 1,500 to 2,000 years ago, literally lost their heads over spreading their puzzling culture, according to a recent analysis of specimens unearthed at various Andean archaeological sites.The Nazca civilization, which flourished in Peru between the first century B.C. and the fifth century A.D. and slid into oblivion by the time the Inca Empire rose to dominate the Andes, is mostly knownfor carving in the desert hundreds of geometric lines and images of animals and birds that are best viewed from the air. Less well known is that these ancient people boasted the largest collection of human heads in the Andes region of South America.Carefully prepared, the lips sewed with long cactus spines, all heads featured a hole in the center of the forehead so that a carrying rope could be inserted. Hanged and suspended from these woven cords, the heads were long believed to be war trophies.
analysis of the diet-related substances found in the teeth of some
heads unearthed in 1925, reveals that the Nazca built their collection
not from foreign enemies slain in battles, but from their own people.
"Nazca pottery gives us
very interesting information about the roleof trophy heads, both in
the hands of warriors and also in ritual activities, such as burials
and ritual caches.
We can use sophisticated laboratory techniques to
answer very interesting questions about the past, even when the
excavations took place almost 100 years ago," archaeologist and lead
author Kelly Knudson of Arizona State University in Tempe, told
Published in the Journal of
Anthropological Archaeology, the study examined 16 trophy heads of the
Kroeber collection at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History and 13
mummified bodies buried in the Nazca region.
Knudson and colleagues compared tooth enamel from the trophy heads with the mummified bodies.
The researchers looked for
subtle differences in three elements — strontium, oxygen and carbon —
found in the samples. These elementsdispla......
The mystery of why ancient South American peoples who created the mysterious Nazca Lines also collected human heads as trophies has long puzzled scholars who theorize the heads may have been used in fertility rites, taken from enemies in battle or associated with ancestor veneration.A recent study usingspecimens from Chicago’s Field Museum throws new light on the matter by establishing that trophy heads came from people who lived in the same place and were part of the same culture as those who collected them.
These people lived 2,000 to 1,500 years ago.Archaeologists determined that the severed heads were trophies because holes were made in the skulls allowing the heads to be suspended from wovencords. A debate has been raging for the past 100 years over their meaning.
A purdue university archaeologist discovered an intact ancient iron ore mine in South America that shows how civilizations before the Inca Empire were mining this valuable ore. "Archaeologists know people in the Old and New worlds have mined minerals for thousands and thousands of years," said Kevin J. Vaughn, an assistant professor of anthropology who studies the Nasca civilization, which existed from A.D. 1 to A.D. 750. "Iron mining in the Old World, specifically in Africa, goes back 40,000 years. And we know the ancient people in Mexico, Central America and North America were mining for various materials.There isn"t much evidence for these types of mines.
"What we found is the only hematite mine, a type of iron also known as ochre, recorded in South America prior to the Spanish conquest. This discovery demonstrates that iron ores were important to ancient Andean civilizations." In 2004 and 2005, Vaughn and his team excavated Mina Primavera, which is located in the Ingenio Valley of the Andes Mountains in southern Peru. The research team performed field checks and collected some samples in 2006 and 2007. The researchers determined that the mine is a human-made cave that was first created around 2,000 years ago. An estimated 3,710 metric tons was extracted from the mine during more than 1,400 years of use. The mine, which isnearly 700 cubic meters, is in a cliffside facing a modern ochre mine. Vaughn hypothesizes that the Nasca people used the red-pigmented mineral primarily for ceramic paints, but they also could have used it as body paint, to paint textiles and even to paint adobe walls. The Nasca civilization is known for hundreds of drawings in the Nasca Desert, which are known as the Nasca-Lines and can only be seen from the air, and for an aqueduct system that is still used today.
Everyone here, it seems, has a theory about the Nasca Lines. The mysterious markings on the desert floor are a massive astronomical calendar. That's a popular one. Or maybe they point to hidden reserves of water, the source of life in the desert.Then there's my favorite: UFO landing site. Forty years ago, Danish writer Erich Von Daniken popularized that theory with his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? Now, strapped into a four-passenger Cessna circling over a figure called the astronaut, I'm not sure what to think. One of its hands points to the sky, another to the ground. His owlish eyes stare intomine. Look at me, the 1,500-year-old seems to say.
Can you solve my mystery?For hundreds of years, the Nasca people created lines on the ground. Some form familiar figures: a spider, hummingbird and dog. Others -- a whale, monkey and parrot -- don't belong in the desert at all.
The only way
to see the Nasca Lines is from the air. That makes them even more
mysterious. How did pre-Inca people make these images without being
able to fly? And what was the point of forming lines if they couldn't
appreciate their glory? The lines weren't even discovered until 1929,
when a pilot flew over the area and was astonished to see eyes looking
up at him.
Thanks to the ancients, the
town of Nasca now has a veritable air force: More than a dozen
companies fly planes over the lines. The tours are an industry,as
indicated by the handwritten sign taped to my plane's instrument
console. ''Tips are welcome,'' it says in six languages.
Not bad for a dusty desert
town of about 20,000, a six-hour bus ride south of Lima. The modern
city of Nasca, a place that gets less than an inch of rain a year, owes
its prosperity to the mysterious markings. Statues inspired by the
desert figures decorate the town plaza. Sketches of the lines are
everywhere else. Elongated hummingbirds mark store signs, while a
lizard graces City Hall. On sidewalks, brass inlays of a monkey and
spider reflect the sun.
But the lines might have
been forgotten without Maria Reiche. She came to Peru from Germany in
the 1930s as a tutor and eventually dedicated her life to documenting
the creations. For years, she surveyed the area, measuring the markings
and pondering theirmeaning.
''To the lo......