The Nazca culture left us so many riddles to be solved spread around the vast Peruvian desert, we just wish they could have given us a guide to uncover them all. Cahuachi is one of the largest archeological sites in the area and holds a bigger mystery that we’ll uncover on this blog.
As you may already know, the region is famous for the enormous geoglyphs carved in the northern Nazca pampas. The Nazca Lines are and will be one of the greatest findings of ancient Peru, and though many travelers don’t know about anything else but these geoglyphs, we’ve come up with this section to show you even more.
The mysterious Nazca civilization was so much bigger than you might think, they managed to establish an administrative and religious control across the arid desert of Peru for centuries, and Cahuachi did not fall behind their greatness.
Actually, the site is a ceremonial center that gathered pilgrims from all the region, belonging to different communities but united to one purpose.
Although it was thought to be a citadel or the capital of the Nazca empire, now its real purpose has been uncovered. Make sure to know all about it while you’re here!
Many archeologists used to believe that Cahuachi was the capital of the Nazca society, but there is no archaeological evidence of a residential area at Cahuachi. Therefore, it is more likely to have been a ceremonial and ritual-based location.
Cahuachi is located in the southern Nazca Valley, especially at the south bank of the underground Nazca River, a reason that made this particular spot a sacred location among the arid desert of Nazca.
If you’ve been following our Nazca travel guide, you surely must have read about the underground aqueduct system that ensured a constant supply of water to the population. That way, they managed to extract it and irrigate the surrounding areas.
According to the ongoing fieldwork at Cahuachi, the place was a site of pilgrimage, worship and burial. Although a great part of these structures remain buried in the desert, it is known that the ceremonial center spread to cover over 150 ha.
Well, the answer is uncertain since the entire place was deliberately buried in the desert by the Nazca people before completely abandoning the site.
As we mentioned before, Cahuachi must have been a sacred place to the Nazca due to its ‘strategic’ location near the underground Nazca river. Historians believe that the site lost its sacred power and credibility due to constant earthquakes and floods.
Despite the site being systematically covered with earth and the desertion of the site was planned and deliberate, Cahuachi continued receiving offerings and burials for centuries after, meaning that local people still considered the place sacred even after the Nazca culture disappeared.
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As aforementioned, the site isn’t entirely excavated, but the largest part of the construction is, along with other facilities:
1. Grand Pyramid
It is a huge asymmetrical pyramid with a width of 100 meters and a height of 28 meters. It comprehends seven levels and was used for religious ceremonies. Currently, the huge structure is completely excavated.
It was built around 250 A.D. and it’s considered as the main temple of the site since evidence has revealed offerings associated with sacrifices. About 20 severed “offering heads” were found in various locations within the Grand Pyramid.
2. Temple of Stairs
It was one of the first and most important temples in Cahuachi, it has a width of 25 meters and it’s 5 meters high. The name originates from the carvings situated on its facade, a symbol that has been present in many ancient cultures, dating back to the Chavin until the Incas.
3. Burial Mounds
40 burial mounds were found at Cahuachi during the first excavations on the site, composed of earth and adobe bricks. The earliest structures date back to 550 A.D. whilst the oldest were traced before 100 B.C
The Nazca were known for sharing their cultural practices without influencing them as a political power. Mounds were used as a burial place for family or kin groups, with each mound to a specific group.
These might be a few of the many different sites within Cahuachi. Unfortunately, the rest of the site is buried in sand and only a part of it has been fully excavated and restored.
The arid climate in the Nazca desert made possible the conservation of many archeological artifacts and mummies. However, Cahuachi was exposed to grave robbers for a long time and most of the precious items were looted.
Occasional finds mostly include mummies wrapped in fine textiles, where some of these corpses showed signs of being sacrificed. But, these ‘offerings’ were not war prisoners but people from the Nazca civilization itself.
A great pottery collection has been extracted from the site, particularly intended for daily use. These pieces are distinctive of the Nazca with animals and hybrid human-animals figures painted in each one of them.
The Nazca people were recognized for their textiles, a tradition probably inherited by the Paracas and Topara cultures. Many textiles were found in the Cahuachi site, with borders depicting staring human skulls. The largest finds are a single length of cloth measuring 7x60 meters and a store of 50 women’s wrap dresses.
The archeological site is located in the Nazca region, about 50 minutes away from the city of Nazca to be exact. Many travelers don’t know about this incredible place in the desert, which is why most of them stick to their Nazca Lines Flight and don’t realise there’s so much more to know in these mysterious lands.
If you’d like to visit this place, we have structured the Cahuachi Archeological Site Private Tour so you can experience it at its fullest. If you’d like to add this attraction to your travel itinerary, make sure to contact our team!
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