Ancient Nazca Civilization Committed Fatal Ecological Error

posted on November 8th, 2009 in Archaeology, Environment, Peru, Recent Discoveries

Nazca Line in SW Peru

An enormous “Nazca Line” as seen from the air on Peru’s SW desert coast; the Nazca civilization, known for its complex weavings, beautiful pottery, and the “Nazca Lines,” visible only from high above the ground, mysteriously collapsed around the middle of the first millennium, A.D.

Logging Caused Nazca Collapse 

BBC News

November 2, 2009

The ancient Nazca people of Peru are famous for the lines they drew in the desert depicting strange animal forms.

A further mystery is what happened to this once great civilization, which suddenly vanished 1,500 years ago….

Now a team of archaeologists have found the demise of the Nazca society was linked in part to the fate of a tree.

Analyzing plant remains they reveal how the destruction of forests containing the huarango tree crossed a tipping point, causing ecological collapse.

The team have published their findings in the Journal of Latin American Antiquity.

A rare grove of huarango trees cling to an enormous sand dune near Ica, Peru

A rare grove of huarango trees cling to an enormous sand dune near Ica, Peru

This remarkable nitrogen-fixing tree was an important source of food, forage timber and fuel for the local people.

“These were very special forests,” says Dr David Beresford-Jones from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, UK who led the team.

The huarango tree (Prosopis pallida) is a unique tree with many qualities and played a vital role in the habitat, protecting the fragile desert ecosystem, the scientists say.

Huarango Tree

“It is the ecological keystone species in the desert zone enhancing soil fertility and moisture and underpinning the floodplain with one of the deepest root systems of any tree known,” Dr Beresford-Jones says.

The tree was also a useful resource.

“This remarkable nitrogen-fixing tree was an important source of food, forage timber and fuel for the local people.”

Researchers have previously found evidence that suggests the disappearance of the Nazca society was a due to catastrophic flooding event as a result of El Niño around AD500.

Nazca Lines in Peru

 The location of the Nazca Culture in SE Peru

El Niño is a cyclical event that occurs as a result of a change in ocean temperatures that can cause a change in climate and severe flooding to the the west coast of South America.

The researchers have now found new evidence that suggests the society would not have been so easily destroyed if they had not cut down the forests around them.

Analyzing plant remains and pollen in soil 1.5m deep, the team was able to trace an important sequence of events which show the clearing of woodland for agriculture.

“At the bottom of the profile there is a lot of huarango pollen and little evidence of human impact,” explains Dr Alex Chepstow-Lusty from the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima, Peru who also took part in the study.

“Then, at 80cm deep, maize pollen becomes common, showing the importance of this crop, suggesting a greater need for food and an increasing population,” he says.

“It is now we notice a big impact on the huarangos and a major decrease in their pollen.”

The landscape only became exposed to the catastrophic effects of that El Niño flood, once people had inadvertently crossed an ecological threshold.

“Then suddenly corresponding with the El Niño event at AD 500 or shortly afterwards, the pollen is dominated by weeds in the family Chenopodiaceae, which are adapted to salty conditions and this landscape is now the desert seen today.”

The Nazca are famous for creating complex line drawings that can only be seen from the air in the Nazca desert, Peru 400km south of Lima.

They were created between 500BC and AD500 and depict animals such as monkeys and whales as well as geometric figures several kilometers long.

As well as the lines, the Nazca also formed a sophisticated society, constructing complex irrigation systems for agriculture.

However, despite their skills and expertise, the researchers say the Nazca society inadvertently contributed to their own demise through the removal of the tree species.

Our research contradicts the popular view that Native American peoples always lived in harmony with their environment until the Spanish Conquest.

“The landscape only became exposed to the catastrophic effects of that El Niño flood, once people had inadvertently crossed an ecological threshold,” explains Dr Beresford-Jones.

“Such thresholds or ‘tipping-points’ are sharply defined in these desert environments.”

A Nazca Mummy

A Nazca Mummy; Is it possible that the Nazcas–as did presumably the Mayas and the inhabitants of Easter Island–destroyed themselves due to a self-inflicted ecological disaster?

“Our research contradicts the popular view that Native American peoples always lived in harmony with their environment until the Spanish Conquest,” Dr Beresford-Jones says.

Dr Beresford-Jones explains that with sufficient huarango cover, El Niños were in fact not great disasters and actually created years of abundance replenishing water aquifers.

Once too much clearance had occurred the landscape was exposed to the effects of the El Niño floods.

“The river down cut into its floodplain and that floodplain narrowed hugely, irrigation systems were left high and dry,” he says.

“Human induced gradual change is just as important to the full story of Nazca collapse as the major climatic impacts that eventually precipitated them.”

19 Responses to “Ancient Nazca Civilization Committed Fatal Ecological Error”

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  2. karen says:

    That is a runway in one of your pictures, for landing of space craft, read Zackaria Stitchens,Robert Ghost Wolf, there is so much more if only people will open their eyes

  3. Lukas says:

    Great read. Thanks for the article.

  4. privacy says:

    well, something changed the situation… perhaps this is correct.
    notice the mummy. pyramids, mummies egypt-south america.
    look at the strange peruvian skulls and compare them to some of the egyptian statues of the first pharoahs?
    coincidence? today coincidence is just a disparaging name for what mainstream science doesn´t want us to know.
    use your own eyes and brains, not the lying establishment.

  5. JTK says:

    Pyramids! Mummies! It must mean that science and history is all wrong because people putting stones on top of other stones wound up making a structure with the bottom larger than the top! Mystical forces are at work because drying out a human corpse happened on both sides of an ocean, nevermind that the process was completely different, that is just the lying establishment!

    Get an education. Gullibility is not an asset.

  6. babbuddias says:

    karen you’re a lunatic. Really, there’s no excuse for being sucked into outlandish pseudoscientific theories like those of Stitchens’ when a quick Googling reveals what a farking crackpot he is. Grow up already.

  7. Alex says:

    Government paid scientists have absolutely no idea why and who made the Nazca lines.
    Yah, get an education, except that all u get in universities is BRAIN-WASH. Fortunately the progress of science by now is out of the hands of government and university paid scientists. It is also time to stop giving them our tax dollars.

  8. Joe says:

    Everyone keeps making the same mistake with regards to “runways for spacecraft”. Anyone who has had any contact whatsoever with alien civilization, is aware that their craft do not require runways to land; that’s so “Earth!” They simply pick their desired terral debarkation point, hover, and gradually degravitize until they are resting on their target location.

    Sheesh, by now you’d think the word had gotten around! Where do you imagine all those circular patterns in the world come from? Think out of the globe, guys.

  9. The Nazca lines are probably analogous to the giant stone heads of Easter Island, and the temple complex of Angkor Wat – symptoms of excess produced by the hubris of a civilization near its apex. Civilizations made possible by the exploitation of ever shrinking resources by an ever growing population of consumers. Sound familiar?

  10. Susan Gose says:

    It is so useless to criticize scientific theories unless one has any real knowledge that can contradict them.

  11. Julia says:

    I think we must learn “the message”, maybe we won’t discover some mysteries but what is true is that humans all over the history have caused their destruction. Let’s get some Huarangos!

  12. alby945 says:

    qellq foto con il triangolo allungato da una punta sembra tanto e/o richiama (mi fa pensare) alla Mole Antonelliana a Torino !!! fate un po’ mente locale.-

  13. cdtmiss says:

    Maybe 1,500 years ago alien spacecraft did require landing strips. I’m sure they experienced evolution also. Surely their initial spacecrafts didn’t have hovering capabilities? There has to be an extraterrestrial connection to account for the global simmularities before human aircraft was invented.

  14. dr nitin jadhav says:

    kindly ask your heart before believing what is written about NAZCA LINES,the scale of the drawings is to big for simple tribes

  15. Paul says:

    to babbuddias
    Google all you want, but read Sitchin’s books or you don’t have an opinion. Science today has become a religion, where the Olmec statues don’t really look negroid to the expert blind people.
    Crackpots are those that pretend to see the Nazca drawings pointing to the nearest bus stop !
    Great article, good research.

  16. Uncle B says:

    The 200 year old American Civilization is already knee deep in humanocidal nuclear waste from their enriched Uranium, plutonium creating reactors. Yucca Mountain storage a failure, and the “Fast Breeder” reactors purported to remedy this situation simply never materialized? more coming? Yes, daily the accumulation increases is awaiting a terrorist bomb a dissident’s gunshot, even a human error, or catastrophic weather event.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UT2yYs5YJs U-tube China Thorium reactor due 2017!!!
    Americans. you need to see this video. It has long term consequences for you.

  17. [...] — the Nazca 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 [...]

  18. Gabrielle says:

    What if in Orions belt were these “ancient aliens” & what if some of the ancient people were takin so we wouldn’t no?

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