An Ancient Peruvian Mystery Has Been Solved From Space – IFLScience

The Nazca are famous for their impressive lines carved into the Peruvian desert, but they also built an incredible system of aqueducts, some of which still function today. The system is covered in spiral openings, called puquios, but their function remained unclear – until now.

Rosa Lasaponara and a team from the Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis in Italy have discovered that the puquios’ corkscrew-shaped tunnels funnel wind into a system of underground canals that push the water where it needs to go. The team used satellite images to pinpoint the position of all the puquios across the Nazca region and then compared them to how water sources and settlements were distributed…

“The puquios were the most ambitious hydraulic project in the Nazca area and made water available for the whole year, not only for agriculture and irrigation but also for domestic needs,” Lasaponara told the BBC.

Source: An Ancient Peruvian Mystery Has Been Solved From Space | IFLScience

7 comments on “An Ancient Peruvian Mystery Has Been Solved From Space – IFLScience

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  1. I don’t know if you bothered to scroll down and read the comments or not. The discussion there centers on the idea that the purpose of the ostensible “solution” of “An Ancient Peruvian Mystery” is to refute the “ancient aliens” hypothesis a la von Daeniken. Opinions seem to fall out about evenly–half or so argue that the scientific “solution” of the problem doesn’t disprove the “ancient aliens” hypothesis, the other half trumpets the clarifying rationality that scientific scrutiny brings to bear on such “mysteries”.

    I suspect that both sides of the argument are misapplied. It’s easy to pooh-pooh the “ancient alienists”, less so to understand that the “modern rationalists” may be approximately as goofy. I tend to think that artifactual remains of prehistoric cultures are so far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension, that to supply any interpretation of them at all–be it “ancient aliens” or “the puquios were the most ambitious hydraulic project”–is to do little more than guess or project. That both the “ancient aliens” and the “hydraulic project” hypotheses are projections of our contemporary life seems obvious–and that even if one believes the former speculation or the latter has a certain plausibility.

    • Nope, didn’t read the comments.

      The association with the Nazca lines would naturally point in the direction you describe, but all ages are contemporary, as the man said. I of course do not know whether the proposed “solution” is correct, but I don’t see why we need to presume that what a civilization accomplished some 2,000 years ago must remain “far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension.” Around the same time the Romans, after all, were building their aqueducts, some of which are still partly in use. There is still disagreement, I believe, over the reason or main reasons for the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge, but I’m not sure we exactly and entirely know, or comprehensively comprehend, why the Burj Khalifa skyscraper was built, or why we leave comments at blogs, or why World War II was fought, and so on. Maybe we start out with one idea or another, recognize a better explanation somewhere in the middle of the process, and to our delight or shame or both arrive at the explanation that sticks much later. Could be that all such acts are themselves “comprehensions” in one mode that we quite predictably find difficult to translate into verbal form. So, maybe the puquios were brilliant and useful engineering, but were also beautiful and mysterious and even “alien” to the makers and users, as the makers and users remained to themselves, and as we remain to ourselves.

      • I tend to think that artifactual remains of prehistoric cultures are so far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension, etc.

        I don’t see why we need to presume that what a civilization accomplished some 2,000 years ago must remain “far removed from any prospect of modern comprehension.” Around the same time the Romans, after all, were building their aqueducts, etc.

        The Romans are certainly not accurately characterized as “prehistoric”. Perhaps I myself am not accurately characterizing the Nazca as “prehistoric”, since I know nothing about them other than what I read in this article. However, the fact that the artifactual remains in question–the so-called paquios–are characterized as a “mystery”, such a mystery indeed, that some have invoked extraterrestrials in possession of high technology to explain them, itself testifies to a problem of incomprehension. It may well be that my “tendency”, as I put it, to be skeptical about the prospect of accurately interpreting these things will prove to be wrong, but it at least acknowledges that the “mysterious” aspect of the problem is reflective of a supramundane, unusual degree of perplexity concerning these matters.

        By contrast, though you’re right that we don’t perhaps understand the causes of the Second World War–and maybe we never will–few feel the need to invoke such superlunary explanations as space-faring aliens. The Second World War wouldn’t appear to be quite as “mysterious” as the Pyramids. (However, even as I write these lines, I feel that I might be open to the idea that events like the Second World War, etc. are approximately as “mysterious” as are ancient monuments like the Pyramids–but I think that takes us into a worldview that is far removed from modern rationalism. I’m willing to go there, but I don’t think you would be.)

        The Romans are, in a very real sense, part of our own cultural and civilizational matrix–I think we could legitimately say that they are us or of us, in approximately the same way in which our fathers and grandfathers are of ourselves. The Romans left plenty of texts behind, which we can read. Their leaders and thinkers have always been held in the highest esteem by Western man, right on up to the present day. The Romans play an essential role in our religious tradition, having been the rulers of Judaea and the Mediterranean in the time of Jesus and his apostles. By contrast, the Nazca are disconnected from our own cultural matrix and I think that poses real problems to our understanding of their culture.

        The most succinct point I was making, though, is that it is just obvious that characterizing the paquios as a “hydraulic project” is a projection from contemporary life, so one has to account somehow for why the “projectional” quality of the hypothesis doesn’t undermine it.

        A more obvious rejoinder to my skepticism about the possibility of interpreting prehistoric artifactual remains would be: are we not able to interpret spoons, cups, knives, houses, etc.?

        • All reasonable arguments I think. As for the question on “pre-historic,” there’s a tautological aspect to the question of what is and isn’t “historic.” To the extent we think we know that something happened when and why, then it may enter into “history.” To the extent we’re referring to a particular narrative – “our history” or “history for us” – maybe we’re in the process of bringing or trying to bring Nazca civilization into “history for us.” Others seem to treat the term “pre-historic” as purely or nearly purely a chronological designation: Before ca. 10,000 BC or so… Still others consider the term obsolete or at any rate imprecise and un-scientific or un-philosophic or even politically questionable: ethnocentric, Eurocentric, etc. I tend to avoid the term, though not because I’m terribly concerned about offending multiculturalists.

  2. Looking at it only as construction that interacted with the environment in a clear way ie pushing water to the location of the people and their activities, I don’t see a lot o projection. Certainly this engineering effect would have a cultural overlay that we have little information about. But ” push the water where it needs to go” is pretty openended.

    Apparently “some of the puquios were so well constructed that some of them are still in use today” – as a hydraulic project.

    • Bob, I really must insist that this business isn’t as straightforward or clear-cut as you imply. Throughout the article you cite, verbs like “believe” and “suggest” preponderate to describe the scientists’ newly-minted view of the paquios as a “water distribution system”. In fact, I’m tempted to quote those sentences here and highlight those verbs in order to make my point, but I suppose it would be tedious of me. However, that this idea–“the paquios are a hydraulic project/water distribution system”–is a speculative hypothesis is made plain from the article itself.

      The new “belief” and “suggestion” concerning the paquios is contrasted with the “mystery” and “puzzlement” that pervaded the study of the paquios before the new “belief” about them was formulated. If the paquios were as straightforwardly comprehensible as a “hydraulic project” as you imply, such that you can see no projection here, one might suppose that the baffling “mystery” of the paquios would have been solved considerably earlier. Yet both of the articles that we’ve looked at make clear that the perplexing “mystery” of the paquios is one of long standing.

      In fact, the article you cite even makes clear that scientists don’t actually know if the paquios were constructed by the Nazca. Again, they “believe” they were, but…

      As to “some of the paquios [being] still in use today”–it sounds dubious to me. If some of the paquios were “still in use”, I don’t see how we could have had a “mystery” of such proportions in the first place.

      As I said, the speculation that the paquios are a “hydraulic project” is obviously a case of projection. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the speculation is proven false thereby–strictly speaking, I suppose, it’s possible for an assertion to be “projective” yet somehow true–but it does prima facie undermine it. It won’t do simply to insist that there is no projection here–I’m confident that it is as obvious to you as it is to me or anyone else. The problem with which you’re faced is to account for why the projective nature of the hypothesis doesn’t cast considerable doubt on same.

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