Monday, 1 March 2010

The collapse of the Nasca civilisation

You confided your fears in your father but he refused to listen.

‘Of course we must cut down trees. My father farmed this land, and his father before him for sixteen generations. Look at the pottery I give you, the fine woven cloth. Do we not prosper? It is progress. It is what we have always done. We need more land.’

You went out past vast fields in the lower Ica Valley where crops of maize and cotton and squash thrived, watered by underground aqueducts. Your father must be right. The Nasca were blessed by the gods. You climbed up to the high plateau and walked the ritual pathways. The giant figures you had created would keep you safe.

But when the El Niňo hit, your land had no protection. The hurarango trees with their deep roots were gone. The fragile soil was swept away, along with your irrigation systems. You tried to start again but the harvests failed. War raged until the very last of your people died.

For one-and-a-half thousand years the Nasca were forgotten, until the day the first passenger flight crossed the desert, and people looked down in wonder at the mysterious figures you had left in the still, empty desert.