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The Nazca or Nasca culture is one that fascinates me, especially the massive line art and the mysterious headless burials that are associated with them. The culture flourished before the Inca, for almost 1,100 years, alongside the Moche culture in what is now northern Peru. One of the hallmarks of their society are the intricate underground aqueduct system that still functions.

Nazca PotteryA recent discovery of a 2,000-year-old mine hematite mine, is documented as being a product of Nasca culture. Hematite is the mineral form of Iron III oxide. Oxidized iron, as you may know, rusts and produces a red color. The discovery is lead by Kevin J. Vaughn, an anthropologist at Purdue University, who published his study in the Journal of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. In the paper, “Hematite mining in the ancient Americas: Mina Primavera, A 2,000 year old Peruvian mine,” he and his team write that they think that the Nasca mind the red-pigmented mineral primarily for ceramic paints.

According to Vaughn et al. the mine was hand dug and yielded about 3,710 metric tons or 8,179,066 pounds of ore over about 1,400 years of use! If the pigments on Nascan clay pottery match those produced from this mine, we’ll have a great understanding on about complexity of Nascan culture.

    Vaughn, K.J., Grados, M.L., Eerkens, J.W., Edwards, M.J. (2007). Hematite mining in the ancient Americas: Mina Primavera, A 2,000 year old Peruvian mine. JOM, 59(12), 16-20. DOI: 10.1007/s11837-007-0145-x