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An entrance to the puquios, near Nazca, Peru.

The puquios are an old system of subterranean aqueducts near the city of Nazca, Peru. Out of 36 puquios, most are still functioning and even relied upon to bring fresh water into the arid desert.[1] The puquios have never been fully mapped, nor have any been excavated.[2]


Debate about ageEdit

Research regarding when the aqueducts were actually built has led to conflicting results, in part due to a general lack of historical references both before and after the time of the Spanish Empire. Some archaeologists contend that they were built by Pre-Columbian Nazca architects around 540 CE in response to two prolonged droughts during that time, while others doubt that. The first historical writing of their existence was in 1605 by Reginaldo de Lizárraga, which some have contended could indicate that they were built by the Spanish.[3] The available Spanish texts, however, do not mention a project to build the puquios,[4] nor do the early Spanish texts describe water systems having already been in place when they conquered the territory.[5]

In their book Irrigation and Society in the Peruvian Desert, Katharina Schreiber and Josue Lancho Rojas explore puquios and show evidence that puquios were constructed by a pre-Hispanic civilization. Monica Barnes and David Fleming on the other hand, argue that Schreiber and Rojas misinterpreted evidence, presumably ignoring easier explanations for a construction in colonial times.[5] Some investigations have been performed to determine the age of puquios by using radiocarbon dating of organic materials (Bonn-1972) and accelerator mass spectrometer to date rock varnishes. With this technique, some puquios were dated to around the 6th or 7th century CE.[6]

Satellite researchEdit

Rosa Lasaponara, Nicola Masini, and their team of the Italian CNR (National Research Council), in cooperation with the archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici, studied the puquios using satellite imaging.[7] They found clear evidence that the puquio system must previously have been much more developed than it appears today. A series of canals was used to bring to the surface water from underground aquifers and channel it to the areas where it was needed. Any excess was stored in surface reservoirs. To help keep the water flowing, chimneys were excavated above the canals in the shape of corkscrewing funnels. These funnels admitted wind into the canals, and the difference in atmospheric pressure along the canal length forced the water through the system and eventually to the desired destination. Satellite imagery also revealed additional previously unknown puquios in the Nasca drainage basin.[8][9]


  1. ^ Proulx 1999, p. 6.
  2. ^ Barnes 1992, p. 111.
  3. ^ Proulx 1999, p. 7.
  4. ^ Proulx 1999, p. 8.
  5. ^ a b The "Puquios" of Nazca in Peru: A Prehispanic Invention or Colonial Artifact?. South American Explorer of unknown date. Retrieved on 2015-10-27 from
  6. ^ Clarkson, Persis B.; Dorn, Ronald I. (1995). "New Chronometric Dates for the Puquios of Nasca, Peru". Latin American Antiquity. 6 (01): 56–69. doi:10.2307/971600. ISSN 1045-6635.
  7. ^ Lasaponara & Masini 2012
  8. ^ William Park (8 April 2016). "The ancient Peruvian mystery solved from space". BBC. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  9. ^ Elisabetta Curzel (16 April 2016). "Perù: risolto il mistero dei «puquios» di Nasca" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 2017-07-08.


  • Barnes M., Dating of Nazca aqueducts, Nature 359, 111 (10 September 1992); doi:10.1038/359111a0
  • Clarkson P., Dorn R. (1995) Archaeology New Chronometric Dates for the Puquios of Nasca, Peru Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 56–69 doi:10.2307/971600
  • Lasaponara R., Masini N. 2012. Following the Ancient Nasca Puquios from Space, In: Lasaponara R., Masini N. (Eds) 2012, Satellite Remote Sensing: a new tool for Archaeology, Springer, Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, ISBN 978-90-481-8800-0, pp. 269–290, doi:10.1007/978-90-481-8801-7_12
  • Proulx, Donald A. Rickenbach, Judith, ed. "Nasca Puquios and Aqueducts" (PDF). University of Massachusetts.
  • Schreiber K. H., Lancho Rojas J. (2003) Irrigation and Society in the Peruvian Desert: The Puquios of Nasca. Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland ISBN 9780739106419

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