A letter from Dr. Thurston
Dear Professor Edwards,
I received word from the Dean of Miskatonic University that you were on extended expedition in the nation of Peru, when I inquired as to your health at a recent conference. Consequently, when I received a letter from Alfred Louis Kroeber, esteemed archaeologist and cultural anthropologist from New York University (now based in California), asking for my opinion of a discovery his Peruvian counterparts had told him about, it occurred to me that you might be interested in making some firsthand observations while you are on the southern continent.
I have enclosed his notes herein, along with a letter of authorization from the Dean at Miskatonic to use the University’s resources at your disposal to return to me with a preliminary report, which we can publish under joint authorship in a future journal.
— Francis Wayland Thurston
Professor of Anthropology, Boston University
Enclosure: The notes of Alfred Louis Kroeber, as relating to the Cahuachi site, Pacific Coastal Pamas Region, near Ica, Peru
- A site of approximately 370 acres, comprising mounded hills carved into strange geometric shapes, has been under investigation in the area now known as Cahuachi in the Pampas desert in Peru.
- I have identified a number of fascinating geometric and linear geoglyphic constructions of truly fantastical scale, apparently carved directly into the ground near (all around, but not within) the ancient site at Cahuachi.
- A great variety of cultural influences, art styles, and apparent food sources seemed to be present at this site, whose organization suggests a vast cultural and ceremonial center, until the end of what we now designate the Nasca 4 cultural period. Subsequent to Nasca 4, the site not only contains a monoculture of mostly very similar pottery, art, and textile forms indicating the presence of a single cultural group, but its entire focus shifts.
- Cahuachi transformed, almost overnight, into a vast ritual burial ground. The pyramids, originally symmetrical and beautiful in their design, became increasingly angular and asymmetrical. Evidence of the collection of trophy heads from human sacrifices began to appear, and different body parts are buried in different areas around the temple in the later excavations. At the same time, the Nazca people dispersed across the Pampas, taking with them their unique cultural artifacts and influences. Those who moved to the northwest appear to have developed vast geoglyphs portraying various natural forms. There is also significant recurrence in all cultures beginning with Nasca 4 of what we are calling the Horrible Bird – an iconic aviary creature that appears to consume human beings hole, and who is frequently portrayed with severed heads in its mouth.
- We theorize that this Horrible Bird is in some way related to the radical shift in culture and activity at Cahuachi. What we know for certain is that the culture did not survive more than a few decades beyond this dispersal, and we seek to determine what might have befallen this once vast culture, which seems to have disappeared almost entirely even before the Incas invaded.
My colleague at Ica, Dr. Antonio Villamon, will be happy to assist you or your designees further if you see fit to attend the site and help us identify the cause of the Nasca 4 peoples’ demise.
My kindest professional courtesies,
Dr. Alfred Louis Kroeber