Aqueducts of Cantalloc

November 11th, 2008
One of the wells down into the aqueduct

One of the wells down into the aqueduct

The Aqueducts of Cantalloc, also known by the more hispanified Cantayo, are one of the Nazca civilisation’s greatest achievements – building them was a far more difficult task than creating the Nazca lines.

Cursed with a barren, dry and rocky desert in which to live, with only the narrowest of valleys with the narrowest of areas suitable for agriculture, developing hydraulic engineering was a necessity.

Between 30 and 50 underground channels were constructed about 1500 years ago, bringing water from rivers higher in the valley to the centre of their civilisation. Spanning kilometres, trenches were dug that were lined with stones and covered by wood from local trees before being reburied.

At Cantayo, 4km from the modern city of Nasca, we find about 17 open wells. These have paths that spiral down to the level of the running water that provide access to this precious resource, but possibly also access to clean or repair the structures in case of an earthquake.

This year-round irrigation system allowed the Nazca to widen the farmable area of the valleys in which they lived, growing their crops of cotton, corn, beans and potatoes, as well as a variety of fruit. The valleys around Nazca are as green today as they were when the canals were finished, and this is because these very same canals are still in use today.

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