National Geographic : 2010 Mar
• Paci c coast to altitudes of nearly 15,000 feet in the Andean highlands. Almost everywhere they have looked they have found evidence of Nasca villages---"like pearls in the valley mar- gins," says Reindel. "And near every settlement we nd geoglyphs." and hillsides made an inviting canvas: By simply removing a layer of dark stones cluttering the ground, exposing the lighter sand beneath, the Nasca created mark- ings that have endured for centuries in the dry climate. Archaeologists believe both the con- struction and maintenance of the lines were communal activities---"like building a cathe- dral," says Reindel. In the hyperarid southern valleys, early Nasca engineers may have also devised a more practi- cal way of coping with the scarcity of water. An ingenious system of horizontal wells, tapping into the sloping water table as it descends from the Andean foothills, allowed settlements to bring subterranean water to the surface. Known as puquios, these irrigation systems still water the southern valleys. Perhaps because of the adversity they faced, the Nasca people seem to have been remarkably "green." e creation of the puquios displayed a sophisticated sense of water conservation, since the underground aqueducts minimized evapo- ration. e farmers planted seeds by making a single hole in the ground rather than plowing, thus preser ving the substructure of the soil. During a visit to a Nasca site called La Muña, Isla pointed out layers of vegetative matter in the walls of buildings and terraces that marked the rocky hillside settlement. e Nasca, he said, recycled their garbage as building material. "It's a society that managed its resources very well," he said. " is is what Nasca is all about." Beneath the guiding hand of archaeologist Alberto Urbano, a snaking path traces an enigmatic figure that was meant to be walked on, as apparently were all the Nasca lines. At a distance (top right) Urbano paces the width of a trapezoid that cuts through the continuous swirls.