Nasca culture flourished on the coastal plain of southern Peru between 200 BC and AD 600. The main centres were concentrated in the valleys of Acarí, Ica, Nasca, Pisco and Chincha. The capital, Cahuachi, one of the largest Nasca centres, was located inland on the south bank of the Nazca River and had agricultural terraces and public buildings made of adobe. Other known sites are Dos Palmos, Huaca del Loro, Cerro Soldado and Tambo Viejo.
Very large drawings (geoglyphs), traced on the desert near the modern town of Nasca, first brought this culture to public attention. The 'Nasca lines' depict animals (such as fish, reptiles, birds and monkeys), geometrical designs and human figures. Some of the drawings are a hundred metres or more in length and can only be seen without distortion from the air. Their meaning and function are still debated, but are thought to be linked to the location of acquifers and springs
The iconography and symbolism represented by the Nasca lines are mirrored on polychrome pottery and textiles, with motifs portraying local fauna and plants, scenes related to subsistence activities, supernatural beings and deities associated with water and agricultural fertility. Water was vital for Nasca subsistence, which depended mainly on a diet of maize. The rivers were not a reliable source to sustain the levels needed to feed the local population and a network of irrigation canals made it possible to practise intensive agriculture.