Cahuachi is an archaeological site, believed to have been a pilgrimage site of the Nazca people, which is dominated by several adobe pyramids made of sand and clay.
History of Cahuachi
Little is known about Cahuachi, but as it overlooked the Nazca Lines, it is thought to have been a ceremonial site. The site is believed to have been built sometime in the 1st century AD, and was abandoned by 500AD, probably because of drought. Over time, it’s thought it turned from a ceremonial site into effectively a graveyard.
At its peak, the site would have stretched across 0.6 square miles – evidence suggests it was a non-urban centre, and never sustained a large population. There are over 40 mounds – naturally occurring structures – which were used as the base for the later adobe structures.
Another site at Cahuachi is known as Estaquería, which archaeologists believed was used for mummification purposes. Looting remains a major problem around the area as the burial areas are fertile grounds for thieves. The site is still undergoing excavation by the Italian archaeologist Guiseppe Orefici.
Excavations have unearthed various useful clues about Nazca society, including their diet, trade patterns and artistic production. The tombs have revealed more clues about Nazca society – bodies were buried facing south, and often wrapped in elaborate textiles and buried with pottery. A variety of ‘trophy heads’ were also found, believed to have been taken either in warfare or ritual sacrifice following victories.
The site is quite difficult to access and it’s a sometime active archaeological site, so there’s no signage or explanation. Going with a guide – either as part of a tour or hiring one privately – will drastically improve your experience and massively aid your understanding. Don’t come expecting Macchu Picchu, but the site remains impressive in its own right, particularly given its desert location.
Getting to Cahauchi
Access is relatively difficult – the site lies 25km west of Nazca, down a dirt road. It’s recommended you join an organised tour to get here with the least hassle, although it is possible to drive yourself or hire a taxi should you wish.