Have new satellite images revealed the meaning of the Nazca spirals?

Odd constructions in southern Peru are part of a sophisticated irrigation system, a new study says

A puquio in Nazca, Peru.Photo: reuters_live | Video: EL PAÍS - QUALITY

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A new study of satellite images reveal the significance of puquios, large spiralling structures found in the Nazca region of southern Peru, an area already famous for its enormous geometric lines that can be seen from space.

While these lines remain an enigma, the new study has revealed that puquios - spiralling holes that sink into the ground- were part of a complex system used to irrigate crops in this desert land.

The puquios were the most ambitious hydraulic project in the Nazca area

Researcher Rosa Lasaponara

Italian researcher Rosa Lasaponara at the Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis analyzed satellite images of puquios, focusing on their distribution throughout the region where the Nazca culture flourished between 200 and 600 AD.

Her team says the location of puquios is consistent with the distribution of water in the area. These spiral structures formed a ventilation system that channeled wind to a network of underground canals used to irrigate crops and bring water where there were no springs or streams.

Some of the famous lines in Nazca.
Some of the famous lines in Nazca.Getty

“The puquios were the most ambitious hydraulic project in the Nazca area and made water available for the whole year,” Lasaponara told the BBC. This irrigation system allowed the Nazca people to raise crops in one of the most arid regions of the world, she added.

This kind of large-scale construction required an enormous collaborative effort and an organized society, Lasaponara said. She believes the strange lines are also linked to this irrigation system. Other experts say the drawings may be maps that indicate the location of water and puquios in the area.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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