Nazca or Nasca (both: näsˈkä) [key], ancient culture of the Nazca, Pisco, and Ica river valleys on the desert coast of S Peru. Flourishing during the first millennium A.D., the Nazca culture seems to have developed out of the Paracas culture, and after 900 it was apparently under Tiahuanaco influence until the Inca conquered the region in the 15th cent. The Nazca excelled in the production of beautiful ceramics and textiles. Highly polished, expertly designed, and with polychrome painting, Nazca pottery is unlike that of other Peruvian cultures. Textiles show a multitude of weaving techniques and extraordinary skill in dyeing with several shades of the same color; both coastal cotton and highland alpaca wool were used. Aerial exploration of the arid tableland surrounding the Palpa valley has revealed a remarkable network of lines and trapezoids interspersed with giant animal figures of unmistakable Nazca origin; the animals were probably built to be seen by sky gods, and the lines are believed to be related to observations in astronomy.
See J. A. Mason, The Ancient Civilizations of Peru (1957, rev. ed. 1964); G. H. S. Bushnell, Peru (1956, rev. ed. 1963); E. P. Lanning, Peru before the Incas (1967); E. Hadingham, Lines to the Mountain Gods: Nazca and the Mysteries of Peru (1988).