Located 400 km south of Lima, the Nazca lines are a phenomena researchers believe were etched into the Peruvian desert plains between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. From living creatures, plants, and imaginary beings, the geoglyphs are believed to hold some sort of ritual astronomical function, according to UNESCO.
However, there’s another structural enigma located near the Nazca lines. Nearby the Nazca lines, a series of spiraling rocks descend into holes dug into the earth.
Since the area is arid, researchers have long wondered how the ancient people who made the Nazca lines survived. Researchers led by Italy’s Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis believe these holes may hold an answer.
Using satellite imagery, the team deduced that the holes, known as puquios, were components of an ancient water distribution system.
The research study is slated for publication in Ancient Nasca World: New Insights from Science and Archaeology.
Rosa Lasaponara, who led the study, told BBC News the holes were part of a “sophisticated hydraulic system constructed to retrieve water from underground aquifers.”
According to the researchers, the underground canals circulated the water, a process also aided by the wind that was funneled into the system via the puquios.
“The construction of the puquios involved the use of particularly specialized technology,” Lasaponara told BBC News. “Maintenance was likely based on a collaborative and socially organized system, similar to that adopted for the construction of the famous ‘Naszca lines,’ which in some cases are clearly related to the presence of water.”
They were likely used by people in power to exert control over the local communities, Lasaponara suggested.
The Nazca civilization flourished in the southern coast of Peru between 200 B.C. and A.D. 600, with a maximum population estimated at 25,000. They are thought to have lived in the region from at least 1,000 B.C.
According to RedOrbit, the puquios were previously mysterious because they could not be analyzed using carbon dating techniques.
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