A Night with the Grave Robbers of Nazca

The Ica region on the southern coast of Peru, was once the homeland of the Nazca civilization, who thrived in the desert area from 2nd century BC to about 800 AD, due to their expertise in hydraulic engineering. The Nazca excelled in pottery, but they achieved global recognition for their geoglyphs, the famous Nazca Lines.  Like their predecessors the Paracas, the Nazca developed exceptional skill in intricate weaving of textiles and it is precisely this skill that led to the unscrupulous exploitation of their ancestral cemeteries.

Example of a mudbrick tomb, with a mummy wrapped in precious cloth, accompanied with pottery and decapitated skulls at Chauchilla Cemetery. (Image: Willem Daffue)

Example of a mudbrick tomb, with a mummy wrapped in precious cloth, accompanied with pottery and decapitated skulls at Chauchilla Cemetery. (Image: Willem Daffue)

Nazca Chauchilla Cemetery

Located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Nazca, the Chauchilla Cemetery consists of several mud-brick tombs where the Nazca were buried. In 1920 the cemetery was discovered and revealed bodies painted with a resin to slow down bacterial decomposition. The dry arid climate also served to preserve these bodies to such an extent that they still retained their hair and some skin after centuries.  Like most ancient civilizations, the Nazca buried their elite with an array of possessions, including pottery and jewelry, but was it was not these items that led to the desecration of the graves.


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