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9 ancient man-made environmental catastrophes

By: Bryan Nelson on Nov. 25, 2009, 8:38 a.m.
The Nazca Culture and Desertification

Photo: palegoldenrod/flickr

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Nazca culture and desertification

Peru's ancient Nazca culture — famous for the construction of their cryptic "Nazca lines" or geoglyphs — likely perished because of deforestation and subsequent desertification of the landscape, now among the driest, most arid in South America. The land, which was once a vast riverside oasis with fertile soils capable of supporting thousands of people, was held together by the ancient root systems of trees called huarangos, which were systematically cut down by the Nazca people for fuel and wood.