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Cantalloc Aqueduct in Ica

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Cantalloc Aqueduct in Ica

Hydraulic engineering work built by the ancient Nasca. Of the 46 aqueducts found, 32 are still in operation today.


For its construction, flagstone and huarango trunks were used, which have withstood the passage of time. Thanks to their technological knowledge, the ancient inhabitants of Nasca managed to capture groundwater to irrigate dry areas, and thus combat prolonged droughts.


Work of Nasca culture that surprises the world and is used to this day. They are very deep channels through which underground water flows.


What do we know about the Nazca Aqueducts?

Although the actual function of the Nazca Lines, as these monumental glyphs are known, is still unknown, the lines have endured in the desert ever since. Now, a team of archaeologists in Peru has found that the Nazca aqueducts are closely related to the sacred animals that, undisturbed, still inhabit the Peruvian desert.


The Cantalloc underground aqueducts created by the Nazca culture in Peru

The Nazca culture, which developed in the valleys of the current department of Ica in Peru between the 1st and 7th centuries AD, is famous for the impressive lines of the same name, made in the Pampas of Jumana, and which represent gigantic figures of animals, humans and geometric motifs.


But the Nazcas also stood out for their advanced technology and hydraulic engineering, building an impressive network of aqueducts, canals and wells that allowed them to permanently supply croplands with water.


This set of aqueducts, canals and wells are called puquios (from the Quechua pukyu, which means source, spring or well) and more than 40 have been found, most of them currently in use.


They were used to bring fresh water for irrigation and domestic use to desert settlements, and although their dating is disputed, their construction has been estimated around the year 500 AD. Some aqueducts and puquios in other parts of Peru and northern Chile (where they are called sinkholes) may have already been built after the conquest of the Inca empire in the 16th century.


Those who believe that they are a product of technology of Hispanic origin argue that puquios do not differ substantially from mine drainage techniques, of which the Potosí mine is an early example, drained by underground channels as early as 1556 following instructions from the Florentine engineer. Nicholas of Benito.


Those who defend their pre-Hispanic origin believe that they were built after the arid period that began around the year 400 AD. and which lasted several centuries until approximately 1100 AD.


The settlements in the river valleys of the 6th century would have been stimulated precisely by the water supplied by the puquios. This is the general consensus currently, although no method has been found to date them precisely.


There is even a hypothesis, defended by David Johnson, that relates the puquios to the famous Nazca lines. These would be maps and plans of the underground aquifers that feed the puquio system. However, it is not a very popular hypothesis.


Wells, canals and underground galleries

The Nazca puquios are located at about 500 meters above sea level along five of the nine streams that feed the Rio Grande de Nazca during the rainy season (most of the rest of the year are dry): Las Trancas, Taruga and the Nazca, which has two tributaries, the Tierras Blancas and the Aja. The sources of all these rivers are in the Andes, about 70 kilometers away.


The most famous puquios are the so-called Cantalloc Aqueducts, located about 4 kilometers north of the city of Nazca. To make these aqueducts, several wells were first dug, separated between 20 and 50 meters from each other. Then, once the water table was found, the waters were channeled through underground channels to take them to the reservoirs or lakes from where the valleys were irrigated.


The Cantalloc aqueducts (of which the most important are those of Ocaña, Matara, Uchulla, Tejeje, Bisambro, Cantillo, Aja, Curve, Llícuas, Soisonguito, Copara and Achirana) were built as underground tunnels made of flagstones and logs. from huarango.


At intervals of about 10 to 30 meters they have ventilation shafts in a typical spiral shape called eyes, through which they could be lowered to the subsoil to carry out cleaning and maintenance work on the system.


These underground aqueducts usually have a height and width of 1 meter, although some more modern ones reinforced with wooden beams (and more recently cement) can reach 2 meters in height. The length of the puquio galleries ranges from a few meters to a few hundred, with the longest being 372 meters.


At the end of the 16th century, the area stood out for its viticulture, to the point that some travelers, such as Clements Markham, described it as the most fertile and beautiful place on the coast of Peru.


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