In 1901, when Max Uhle “discovered” the Nasca culture, it suddenly became possible to associate a certain batch of beautiful ceramics that had previously been unclassifiable in terms of their cultural background: the importance of Nasca pottery in the overall picture of Peru’s pre-history asserted itself overnight. Many of the best pieces were found in Cahuachi.
Unlike contemporaneous Mochica ware, Nasca ceramics rarely attempt any realistic imagery. The majority – painted in three or four earthy colours and given a resinous surface glaze – are relatively stylized or even completely abstract. Nevertheless, two main categories of subject matter recur: naturalistic designs of bird, animal and plant life, and motifs of mythological monsters and bizarre deities. In later works it was common to mould effigies to the pots. During Nasca’s decline under the Huari-Tiahuanaco cultural influence (see The Chimu era), the workmanship and designs were less inspired. The style and content of the early pottery, however, show remarkable similarities to the symbols depicted in the Nasca Lines, and although not enough is known about the Nasca culture to be certain, it seems reasonable to assume that the early Nasca people were also responsible for the drawings on the Pampa de San José. With most of the evidence coming from their graveyards, though, and that so dependent upon conjecture, there is actually little to characterize the Nasca and not much known of them beyond the fact that they collected heads as trophies, that they built a ceremonial complex in the desert at Cahuachi, and that they scraped a living from the Nasca, Ica and Pisco valleys from around 200–600 AD.