Puquios of Nasca in the Peruvian Desert

Nasca and the puquios

  • The Nasca region is located in the Peruvian Desert
  • The Nasca culture (AD 1 – 750) was a period which has been divided into an early period (AD 1 – 400), a transactional period (AD 400 – 500), and a late period (AD 500 – 750). Nasca culture was located in the southern coast area of Peru in the desert day pampa in the Andean foothills.
  • Rio Grande de Nasca drainage area consists of several tributary rivers.
  • Found in Nasca region of the Peruvian Desert are ancient water systems called puquios that have similarities to qanats, karez, etc.
  • In Quecha, puquio denotes “source of water”, but also refers to natural springs or man-made water sources, i.e. sunken fields, irrigation canals, and irrigation galleries
  • Puquios are either (a) open trenches, (b) open trench with a filled trench gallery, or (c) a puquio with a tunneled extension as defined by Schreiber and Rojas (2003). Some also have branches called cangregeras.
  • The vertical holes along the puquio are referred to as
  • Puquios flow into small reservoirs called kochas at their lower end from where water is directed to the irrigation canals called acequias.
  • Date of initial construction roughly AD 400-500, according to: Schreiber and Rojas (2003), Irrigation and Society in the Peruvian Desert: The Puquios of Nasca, Lexington Books, NY
  • According to Schreiber and Rojas (2003) there is no evidence that the spiraling walkway was ever characteristic of the ojos, that these were an innovation created in 1986.
  • There are 29 puquios that are used to irrigate land in the Nasca Valley between elevations of 450 to 675 meters according to Schreiber and Rojas (2003).

Nasca region



Cantalloq puquio




Ojos – According to Schreiber and Rojas (2003) there is no evidence that the spiraling walkway was ever characteristic of the ojos, that these were an innovation created in 1986.

Showing in the background at the top of the mountains is Cerro Blanco, the highest sand dune in the world (2,078 m)

I am standing in the spiral walkway with the opening to the ojo.


Showing water in the bottom of the ojo.

Location of opening from gallery into the open trench of the puquio.

Location of opening from gallery into the open trench of the puquio.

Opening from gallery into the open trench of the puquio.

Location of open trench of the puquio.

Open trench of the puquio looking downstream of opening from gallery.

Looking upstream from kocha, showing open trench followed by the kocha.

Present-day kocha

Ocongalla puquio

Ocongalla puquio is an open-trench type of puquio approximately 600 m long emptying into a small kocha.  The pictures below are taken at the upper end of the trench where the pond is created that flows into the open-trench.  Water flows into the pond through three openings (locations from the ground) into the small pond.  Shown below is one of these three locations and the pond.




Notice the location just south of the Nasca River approximately six km east of the town of Nasca.



La Gobernadora puquio

Shows extent of the puquio.  Upper part is the tunneled gallery.

Shows upper part with the tunneled gallery.  The ojos don’t have the spiral walkway down the ojo.

Shows lower end of puquio which is an pen trench ending at the small kocha.


Cahuachi was the ceremonial center of the Nasca culture, consisting of several platform mounds and pyramids, and was located near the present-day town of Nasca.


Nasca Lines

In the desert pampa in the Andean foothills the people etched the geoglyphs, now referred to as the Nasca Lines.

The following are photos that I took in June 2017.

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Fountains of Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon


Castelo de Sao Jorge, overlooking Lisbon and the the Tagus River, was built by the Moorish






































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Bath, England















































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Roman Conimbriga, Portugal





























































































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Ancient Water Fountains












Day 4 746


Day 4 785


Day 4 627

Figure 7.14


Day 5 520


Day 5 515


Turkey 5 09 Ephesus 176

Remains of fountain at Ephesos


Side, Turkey


Side Turkey

Turkey 2 09 431 - Copy

Miletas, Turkey

Day 1 Roman Museum 222

Model of fountain at Miletas in the Museum of the Roman Civilization in Rome


Turkey 2 09 469

Shows the aqueduct to the left of the Miletas fountain that supplied water to the fountain.


Perge, Tukey

429 - Copy





Remains of Roman fountain at Petra


Remains of Roman fountain at Aspendos


Remains of Roman fountain at Aspendos

Greece 1 2006 241


Figure 7.13 - Copy


Neak Pean 1


Neak Pean 3













Machu Picchu




Machu Picchu








Ville d’Este, Italy


Ville d’Este


Ville d’Este


Ville d’Este



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Water Technologies of the Khmer Civilization: Angkor

Angkor (of the Khmer culture) covered more than 160 square kilometers in northern Cambodia, situated on the edge of the Great Lake (Tonle Sap).  The Classic Angkor civilization was part of the Khmer culture (between AD 802 and 1327).  Prior to AD 802 the Khmer political landscape consisted of a number of independent kingdoms (Coe, 2003). Angkor became the imperial capital of the Khmer Empire.  Ancient Angkor was a vast complex of temples built from the 8th to the 13th century AD.  Angkor has been referred to as the world’s first mega city and a hydraulic city. A study by Evans, et al (2007) concluded that the area of Angkor’s urban complex was roughly 900 to 1,100 square kilometers which is almost four times the size of present day New York City.  Angkor was a low density city with dwellings and water tanks spread over the area and connected by roads. Angkor is located in the Lower Mekong Basin which is subject to an annual cycle of monsoons causing alternation between a wet rainy season (summer monsoon) and a strongly marked dry season.  The heavy rainfall during the summer monsoon causes the Mekong River and its tributaries to rise and flood low-lying areas. Snow melt in Southwestern China and Tibet flowing down the Mekong contribute to the flood volume.  The Tonle Sap River, a tributary of the Mekong, reverses flow because of the back water effects from the large flows in the Delta of the Mekong and causes the water levels in the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) to rise.  Floods subside during the winter monsoon and again river flow is toward the Delta causing the water levels in the Great Lake (Tonle Sap) to lower.  Total rainfall in the Lower Mekong Basin fluctuates from year to year and is never very high, with an average of 150 cm per year in area of Angkor.  In Phnom Penh the mean rainfall is 143 cm and can be as high as 231 cm and as low as 97 cm.



The simulated natural color image was acquired on February 17, 2004, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite. It is centered near 13.4 degrees North latitude, 103.9 degrees East longitude, and covers an area of 22.4 x 29.9 km. In this image, water is black and blue, vegetation is bright green, and bare earth is pink.  Satellite of Angkor (Courtesy of NASA) The Angkor Wat temple complex is visible in the above image as the small black frame just below the image center. North of Angkor Wat is the larger square of Angkor Thom, the inner royal city built in the 12th century. The now dry moat around Angkor Thom is still visible as a pale pink square cut through the surrounding green vegetation. Within the square is a palace, homes for priests and government officials, and government administration buildings.  West of Angkor Thom is the vast Western Baray, a reservoir built in the 11th century. The earthen walls constructed to hold water form a perfect rectangle, oriented exactly east-west.  Possibly the Western Baray and its predecessor, the Eastern Baray, were built to provide water to the city, control water levels on the Siem Reap River, and provide irrigation water to the surrounding plain.  The smaller Eastern Baray is also visible in this image.  (Adapted from NASA) img451 Map of Angkor showing surface features such as topography and waterways. (Modified figure courtesy of NASA with print added)

Barays The ability to store water was accomplished by constructing large reservoirs called barays. These reservoirs had inlet and outlet control structures so that they were used both in the time of drought and flooding.   There were four large barays which had the respective approximate storage volumes (Coe, 2003): West Baray (48 million m3), East Baray (37.2 million m3), Preah Khan (Jayatataka) Baray (8.7 million m3), and Indratataka Baray (7.5 million m3).  The approximate surface areas of these barays are West Baray (16 million m2), East Baray (12.4 million m2), Jayatataka Baray (2.9 million m2), and Indratataka Baray (2.5 million m2).  The West Baray even holds water today.  All of these barays may not have been functional at the same time, but one thing is for certain the water management system including the barays and other water infrastructure such as moats, canals, etc. required constant maintenance. A vast canal system was built that was used for both irrigation and transportation.

Angkor Wat Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious monument.  it has been referred to as a pyramid of three levels with each side enclosed by a well developed gallery of with four gopuras and corner towers, and crowned by five towers in a quincunx (Freeman and Jacques, 2013).


Satellite photo of Angkor Wat inside the moat (Courtesy of NASA)

SAI_1262 At entrance Angkor Wat Entrance 1 Entrance/bridge to Angkor Wat.  Entrance to Angkor Wat is from the West as compared to the other temples which have the entrance from the East. Angkor Wat Moat surrounding Angkor Wat showing bridge.  The moat defines the outer limits of Angkor Wat, which has walls faced with laterite and sandstone. Angkor Wat Entrance 3 Reservoir along entrance to Angkor Wat showing pond on left side (to the north) of the entrance walkway Angkor Wat Entrance 2 Reservoir along entrance to Angkor Wat showing reservoir on right side (south side) of the entrance walkway SAI_1277 Angkor Water near pools Stone basin on second level of Angkor Wat Angkor Water Pool On the second level of Angkor Wat there were four stone rectangular basins (one shown above) in the cruciform cloister.  These basins were most likely made water proof using a layer if clay.  SAI_3590 Model of Angkor Wat at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Neak Pean Neak Pean 6 Neak Pean 1 Neak Pean 5 Neak Pean 2 Neak Pean 4

Preah Khan Preah Khan entrance Preah Khan entrance Preah Khan Moat Moat Preah Khan Baray 1 Preah Khan baray Preah Khan Baray Preah Khan baray

Ta Prohm Ta Prohm Entrance to Ta Prohm Ta Prohm 1

Sras Srang

Two photos below are of Sras Srang, a large reservoir. Sras Srang 2 Sras Srang Sras Srang

Angkor Thom SAI_1109 Elephant’s Terrace SAI_1148


SAI_1138 SAI_1099 An_artists_representation_of_Angkor_Thom_Cambodia_at_musée_Guimet SAI_1166 The Bayon is situated at the center of the Angkor Thom.   SAI_1067 Remains of bridge near Siem Reap River SAI_1054 Above two photos are of a bridge at Angkor


Acker, R (1998) New geographical tests of the hydraulic thesis at Angkor, South East Asia Research¸6(1), pp. 5-47.

Evans D, Pottier C, Fletcher R, Hensley S, Tapley I, Milne A, Barbetti M (2007) A comprehensive archaeological map of the world’s largest preindustrial complex at Angkor, Cambodia, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(36), 14277-14282

Freeman, M. and Jacques, C., Ancient Angkor, Books Guides, River Books Ltd, Bangkok, 2013.

Groslier, B.-P. and J. Arthaud (1957) The Arts and Civilization of Angkor, Praeger, New York National Geographic (2009) Angkor: Why an Ancient Civilization Collapsed, July, pp 36-55

Stone R. (2006) The End of Angkor, Science, 311(5766), 1364-1368

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Ancient Water Technologies in North America

Canal Irrigation (North America: Chaco and Hohokam Systems)

The Hohokam and the Chaco regional systems stand out as two of the major prehistoric developments in the American Southwest. These two systems expanded over broad geographic areas of similar size (the Hohokam in Arizona and the Chacoans in New Mexico). These systems were of the similar time period but seemed to have developed and functioned independently, with little interaction. The Chaco and the Hohokam systems evolved in quite different environments, having considerably different irrigation infrastructure.

The Hohokam people inhabited the lower Salt and Gila River valleys in the Phoenix area in Arizona. These Hohokam Indian canal builders were given the name later by the Pima Indians. Even though the Indians of Arizona began limited farming nearly 3,000 years ago, the construction of the Hohokam irrigation systems probably did not begin until a few centuries C.E. It is unknown who originated the idea of irrigation in Arizona, whether it was local technology or introduced to them from cultures in Mexico.

Around 1450 C.E., the Hohokam culture declined, possibly because of a combination of factors: flooding in the 1080s, hydrologic degradation in the early 1100s, and the recruitment of labor by the surrounding population. A major flood in 1358 ultimately destroyed the canal networks, resulting in movement of the people. Canal use was either quite limited or entirely absent among the Pima Indians, who were the successors to the Hohokams Indians. The prehistoric people who lived outside the Hohokam culture area also constructed irrigation systems, but none was of near the grand scale as the Hohokam irrigation systems.

Hohokam canals

Hohokam canal system in Phoenix, Arizona (Turney, O. (1929) Prehistoric irrigation in Arizona. Arizona Historical Review, 2(5), Phoenix, AZ, USA).

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Remains of a Hohokam canal at the Park of the Canals in Mesa, Arizona

Around 900 C.E., the Anasazi of northwestern New Mexico developed a cultural phenomenon that now has more than 2,400 archaeological sites with nine towns each with hundreds of rooms along a 5.6-kilometer (9-mile) stretch. The Chacoan system is located in the San Juan basin in northwestern New Mexico. This basin has limited surface water, with most surface discharge from ephemeral washes and arroyos. The water collected from the side canyon that drained from the upper mesa top was diverted by either an earth or a masonry dam near the month of the side canyon into a canal. These canals averaged 4.5 meters (about 15 feet) wide and 1.4 meters (more than 4 feet) deep and were lined in some areas with stone slabs and bordered in other areas by masonry walls. These canals ended at a masonry head gate. Water was then diverted to the fields in small ditches or into overflow ponds and small reservoirs.


Chaco Canyon wash with mesa tops in background.




Chaco Canyon, situated in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico, had limited surface water, most of which was discharged from ephemeral washes and arroyos. The Chacoans developed a method of collecting and diverting runoff as previously discussed.  The diversion of water from the mesas into the canals combined with the clearing of vegetation resulted in the eroding (cutting) of deep arroyos to depths below the fields being irrigated.  By ca. 1000 AD the forests of pinon and juniper trees had been deforested completely to build roofs, and even today the area remains deforested.  Between ca. 1125 and 1180 AD, very little rain fell in the region. After 1180, rainfall briefly returned to normal. Another drought occurred from 1270 to 1274, followed by a period of normal rainfall. In 1275, yet another drought began which lasted 14 years.

Mesa Verde

The Ancestral Puebloan people made what is now known as Mesa Verde (Mesa Verde National Park) in southwestern Colorado their home for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 AD. Today, Mesa Verde National Park preserves this ancient culture with over 4,000 known archeological sites including cliff dwellings and the mesa top sites of pit houses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures.


Mesa Verde National Park, southwestern Colorado


Cliff dwelling at Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park

Four reservoirs have been identified in Mesa Verde National Park: Far View Reservoir (950 – 1180 AD); Morefield Reservoir (750 – 1100 AD); Sagebrush Reservoir (950 – 1100 AD); and Box Elder Reservoir (800 – 950 AD) (Wright, 2006).  Far View Reservoir (also known as Mummy Lake), located in Chapin Mesa, was built during two different periods and was used to store water for domestic uses. Reservoir dimensions are about 90 feet (27 m) in diameter and 12 feet (3.6 m) deep (with a depth of water storage of about 4.6 ft). This reservoir structure (shown below) contains masonry work, a diversion ditch (inlet structure), and channels.  The restored inlet structure is also shown in the figure below.


Remains of Far View Reservoir at Mesa Verde National Park.

In the foreground is the restored intake structure (canal) into the reservoir.


Restored stairway at Far View Reservoir in Mesa Verde National Park. Stairway not only funcitoned as a way to the stored water but also may have had special social or religious function.

Mesa Verde photos


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