New finds at the Sanctuary of Cahuachi in Peru’s Nazca Valley


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A large religious building, that the archaeologists have named the ‘South Temple’, divided from the adjacent ‘Great Temple’ by a huge wall 13 metres thick and 5 metres high without openings,  has been found in the monumental Sanctuary of Cahuachi in the Nazca Valley in Southern Peru during last excavation directed by the archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici, who has been investigating the site since 1982.

New finds at the Sanctuary of Cahuachi in Peru's Nazca Valley
The ‘Great Temple’ at Cahuachi [Credit: WikiCommons]

The actual height of the wall – explains Giuseppe Orefici in a recent interview during the 27th International Archaeological Film Festival of Rovereto – does not correspond to the original one. And the function of the wall itself remains unclear, as it wasn’t built for defensive purpose in the Sanctuary.

Five huge vases more than 2 metres tall and a metre and half wide were also found inside the ‘South Temple’.

New finds at the Sanctuary of Cahuachi in Peru's Nazca Valley
View of the current excavation area [Credit: © Giuseppe Orefici, CISRAP]

“It is possible that these contained the remains of deceased kings or priests”, continues Giuseppe Orefici, “but if this was the case, those remains were taken away from the Sanctuary by the Nazca long ago.”

Thirty-five years of excavations and discoveries have both revealed and deepened the mysteries of the Nazca, and most of the questions will remain unanswered for lack of written sources.

New finds at the Sanctuary of Cahuachi in Peru's Nazca Valley
Detail of the excavation area [Credit: © Giuseppe Orefici, CISRAP]

The Sanctuary of Cahuachi was occupied for eight centuries, from 400 BC until 450 AD., after which time it was abandoned.

“Today we have a plausible answer as to why Cahuachi ceased to be prominent non-urban ceremonial centre and pilgrimage destination”, says Orefici. “The inhabitants may have believed they were being punished by the gods. Between 420 and 450 AD, the Nazca Valley suffered two devastating floods and a terrible earthquake whose effects can be still clearly seen and dated in the excavated ruins.”

New finds at the Sanctuary of Cahuachi in Peru's Nazca Valley
Detail of the excavation area [Credit: © Giuseppe Orefici, CISRAP]

“These catastrophic events may have compelled the people to abandon their hostile deities  – possibly turning on their priests in the process – and to close and seal the sanctuary. But when they departed they still left gifts of farewell for the gods. Even so, the site continued to be used as a necropolis in the following centuries.”

“Several trefoil-shaped ovens which appear to have had a ceremonial function have been found scattered on the South Temio platforms and these still need to be explained”, adds Orefici.

New finds at the Sanctuary of Cahuachi in Peru's Nazca Valley
Ceramic vessel with remains of colored feathers on the inside [Credit: © Giuseppe Orefici, CISRAP]

“Insofar as the tracks in the desert are concerned, the Nazca continued to make them even after the sanctuary of Cahuachi was abandoned. They were attended by the masses of the faithful, not only by the ruling classes as previously in the sanctuary,” continues Orefici.

“Our dating is pretty accurate thanks to the lichen that grew over the tracks until the invasion of the Huari warriors, a people who came from the mountain and extinguished forever the civilization which had flourished in the Valley of Nazca, but who also continued to create their own tracks, adding new forms, up to a thousand years after.”

Source: AGI [October 08, 2016]



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