The Ancient Aqueducts of Nazca Desert

Jun 10, 2016 0 comments

Dotting the landscape across the dry valleys of southern Peru, near the city of Nazca, an area famous for the mysterious Nazca lines, are large spiraling, rock-lined holes that lead to an underground network of ancient aqueducts. These aqueducts form part of a sophisticated hydraulic system containing trenches, tunnels and wells —known collectively as puquios— that bring water from underground aquifers up to the surface for domestic and agricultural use. Although their age is still debated, the puquios are thought to have been constructed by the same people who created the Nazca geoglyphs. Many of these are still used by the inhabitants of the valley.

The most visible part of the system are the spiraling, funnel-shaped holes called ojos. On the surface of the ground, the opening of the conical ojos can be as wide as 15 meters. At the bottom they are about a meter or two across. Aside from providing access to the water in the tunnels, they also served as entrances to the tunnels for cleaning and maintenance, a task that continues up to the present day. The wells also let wind into the canals and force the water through the system.


Photo credit: Ab5602/Flickr

The lower end of the puquio system consists of open trenches which emerge from the tunnels allowing public access to the water for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes as well as a means to channel it for agricultural purposes. These trenches or aqueducts are V-shaped, and often lined with pebbles to prevent the soil from collapsing. Some of these trenches are as wide as 10 meters at the top, and as long as one kilometer in length. Many of the open trenches empty into small reservoirs which serve as wells and as distribution points.

The existence and purpose of these aqueducts have been known to archeologists for a long time, but their age has been a mystery. Because these wells were made from the same materials as the surrounding terrain, it is impossible to carbon date them.

Puquios first appeared in historical texts in 1605 in the writings of a Spanish Catholic priest, which some believe is an indication that these aqueducts and wells were built by the Spanish. But there is no evidence from Spanish texts to support that. Some archaeologists believe that the aqueducts were built by Pre-Columbian people around 540 CE in response to two prolonged droughts during that time. But there is no historical evidence to support that either. There is no mention in history about either their construction or presence both after and prior to the Spanish conquer of the territory. The aqueducts maybe as old as 3,000 years or as recent as 1,250 years.


Photo credit: Getty Images


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Photo credit: Reinhard Gloeckner/Panoramio


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Photo credit: Getty Images

Sources: Wikipedia / Nasca Puquios and Aqueducts by Donald A. Proulx


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