“Excellent. This is the first comprehensive cultural history for the Nasca Drainage from the first settlers to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.”–Donald A. Proulx, author of A Sourcebook of Nasca Ceramic Iconography: Reading a Culture through Its Art
Inhabited for over 5,000 years before European colonization, the site of La Tiza provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine the dynamics of ancient complex societies. Although famous for the ancient geoglyphs created by the Nasca culture (AD 100–650), many societies–from hunters and gatherers of the Preceramic to the Inca empire–thrived in the Nasca Desert of Peru.
In Beyond the Nasca Lines: Ancient Life at La Tiza in the Peruvian Desert, Christina Conlee documents the cyclical rise and fall of societies in the region, with particular focus on the development of the Nasca culture, its subsequent conquest by the Wari state, followed by collapse and abandonment, and then the establishment of a new society in the Late Intermediate Period. Factors affecting these transformations included the organization of kinship groups, shifts in subsistence strategies, influxes of immigrants and new ideas, religious movements, climate change, trade and social networks, and external imperial policies.
Conlee synthesizes data she obtained while directing a multi-year excavation at the site with data from other investigations to reconstruct the development of social complexity over time. She includes detailed descriptions of the stratigraphy and artifacts, carefully separating materials from each period. Exploring how political integration, religious practices, economics, and the environment shaped societal changes at La Tiza, Conlee offers patterns that can be found in other areas and can be used to understand the development of long-lasting civilizations.
Christina A. Conlee is associate professor of anthropology at Texas State University.