Mummified by the arid climate, this local Nazca was slaughtered in a ritual to supplicate the mountain gods during a time of increasing drought which lead to the ultimate demise of the civilization
Like many ancient civilizations, the Nazca flourished in an oasis within an otherwise inhospitable climate. Located in the arid Southwest coast of Peru, this geologic basin fed by the ephemeral streams of the Andes Mountains became a fertile cultural epicenter by 200 BC, from which sprang a civilization whose remains continue to tantalize archeologists today. The cyclic patterns of rain cultivated a deep understanding of natural processes, as shown by the spatial relationships of ancient cities. The capital of Cahuachi is placed precisely where the water table intersects the surface, providing an artesian water supply. Equipped with ceremonial monuments, it was certainly a mecca of worship, replete with belts of ritual severed heads for the supplication of rain gods to feed the mountain channels, on which their civilization depended.
The geoglyphs, commonly referred to as the Nazca Lines, are now thought to be intimately connected with the cultural importance of geologic awareness. The figures are contour drawings, allowing one to traverse an entire figure from one entrance to one exit while experiencing a panoramic view of the surrounding highlands. The continuous pathways shielded from destruction by the arid climate have bestowed upon locals the continuity of custom, a translation of culture from the past into a sort of hyperreality by the repetition of ritual.
Geophysical investigations have confirmed the figures were used this way, as evident by signatures indicating the soil within the paths has been repetitively compacted by prayer processions. These valley rituals were often addressed to mountain deities who embodied the natural force of water. The location in the low land is therefore suitable- meager man in a panopticon at the whim of forces ordained by Gods watching from elevated rocky thrones.
A recently unearthed trail of artifacts track an annual pilgrimage up to the summit of Illkata, the peak of which is mantled with ceremonial stones arranged around the feeder channel to the Nazca drainage system. Similar ceremonial mounds are found in corners of trapezoidal borders surrounding many of the geoglyphs. Amongst pottery shards and organic remains, the fragmented shells of genus Spondylus were found, which only inhabits the coastal Peruvian waters during El Nino cycles, and so are associated with seasonal rainfall and fertility. However, these supplications largely unanswered by approximately 340 AD, as evident from a rapid increase in the frequency of ritual sacrifice concomitant to a period of prolonged drought. By 650 AD, the desert margins had encroached upon the region, draining the aquifers, along with the civilization on which they depended.
Image source: http://www.nazcamystery.com/images/nazca_382.jpg
Information source: Hall, Stephen. "Spirits in the Sand". National Geographic March 2010