The Ica region has quite a rich history. The first settlers came there about 10,000 years ago, from which the Ica, Nazca, Chincha, Wari, and Paracas cultures flourished. The city of Ica is located 300 km south of Lima, on the Ica River, along the desert coast in the south of Peru. Developed in the vast desert and dunes, the Ica people transformed this region into fertile fields.
The people of Nazca and Paracas were thoroughly studied by archeologists Julio Cesar Tello and Frederic Engel. The artifacts from their 10-year research can be seen in the Julio C. Tello Museum in Paracas.
The region in which the Nazca and Paracas cultures were born is dry, so fertile land and the sources of water were limited to several valleys. The early Ica Peruvians used these fertile valleys to develop their irrigation systems and supply their land with water. Local farmers use these irrigation systems even today.
Besides irrigation systems, the people of Nazca and Paracas developed advanced techniques in trephination (perforation of the skull), ceramics, and textiles. Of course, the Nazca people are most known for their Nazca Lines – geoglyphs etched into a 200 sq mi stretch of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They showed advanced knowledge of hydraulic engineering, leaving us their aqueducts that made excellent use of underground water, rain, and rivers. The Nazca people were also known for their beautiful, artistic pottery. The culture flourished in the 2nd century BC and thrived through the 7th century AD.
To this day we haven’t figured out why these people disappeared, but it is believed that it has something to do with the drought which lasted some 30 years during the 500s AD. It took about 700 years for another culture (the Chincha) to develop in the Ica area.
The Chincha culture resided here from 1000 AD to the mid-1400s when they were conquered by the Inca people. Not much is known about the Chincha culture’s social structure, but it is believed that they didn’t have a strong central government.
When the Spanish conquistadors colonized the country, the Ica region became an important agricultural area.
The Paracas culture existed between 800 BCE and 100 BCE and was distinguished by its trephinations, exceptional textile skills, and the art of mummifying. Their water management and irrigation knowledge were significant in the textile arts. The imagery on their textiles included spiritual journeys and ceremonial practices, with figures appearing to have face paint. These garments were worn to establish authority and social standing, and they were brightly colored with a palette of whites, purples, reds, greens, yellows, and pinks.
The territories of Ica, Nazca, and Chincha were incorporated in the 15th century by the Incas.