Deforestation left nothing to hinder ancient floodwaters on the desert plain, researchers find. Modern Peru could learn from the civilization's collapse, they say.
By Thomas H. Maugh II
"They died out because they destroyed their natural ecosystem," said archaeologist Alex J. Chepstow-Lusty of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima, coauthor of a paper in the current issue of Latin American Antiquity. "As the population expanded, they put in too many fields and didn't protect the landscape. The El Niño wiped away society."
Chepstow-Lusty, David Beresford-Jones of the University of Cambridge and their colleagues used pollen in the soil to trace the horticultural history of the valley, revealing environmental depredation.
This is notable because it's the exception that proves the rule. Unlike Western cultures, which routinely deforested the land they "settled," Native cultures usually lived within their means. That the Nazca deforested their land is newsworthy because most Native cultures didn't.
For more on the subject, see Ecological Indian Talk.
Below: "In the Ica Valley, about 120 miles south of Lima, 'the wind has blown away the topsoil,' one researcher said, 'so that features such as canals that were once cut into the landscape are now standing up above it, preserved in hard calcite.'" (Alex Chepstow-Lusty)