The Benson Latin American Collection

Paul Kosok Papers, 1933-1959

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Kosok, Paul, 1896-1959
Title: Paul Kosok Papers
Dates: 1933-1959
Abstract: Personal archives documenting some of the career of Paul Kosok, historian, professor, explorer, and musician. The papers focus on Kosok's work in Peru and specifically with his influential research on the Nazca Lines and the irrigation systems of ancient Peruvian culture.
Extent: .5 linear feet
Language: English, Spanish, German, and French
Repository: Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Paul Kosok, historian and professor, was born in Long Island City, NY in 1896. His studies led him to become a professor in history and government at Long Island University in Brooklyn. Kosok's research interests focused on the irrigiation systems of ancient Peruvian cultures. Kosok, along with colleague Richard P. Schaedel, mapped hundreds of ancient canals, shedding light on the irrigation prowess of the cultures and the canals' ability to shift water to different valleys as needed.

During his field studies in Peru, Kosok would come across the Nazca Lines, realizing that they were not part of an irrigation system. In 1939 Kosok first made the discovery of the lines and over the next several years he would begin to map the lines with the help of his assistant Maria Reiche and aerial photography from el servicio Aerofotográfico de la Fuerza Aérea Peruana. Kosok was the first to hypothesize that the Nazca Lines were a gigantic calendar, believing that a reliable calendar was a necessity for an agrarian people.

Maria Reiche would continue Kosok's study of the Nazca Lines, mapping many more figures and eventually her and Kosok's work would lead to the Nazca Lines being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Kosok died in 1959, leaving two planned volumes on irrigation systems in Peru. The first being Life, Land and Water in Ancient Peru, which was published posthmously in 1965 with the support of Schaedel and the second volume was to be completed by the University of Texas; however, that volume has yet to be published.

Works Referenced:

Reiche, Maria. Geheimnis der Wüste = Mystery on the desert = Secreto de la Pampa 2nd ed. Stuttgart-Vaihingen: Selbstverl., 1976.

Reiche, Maria. Mystery on the desert. 1st ed. Lima, Peru, 1949.

Scope and Contents Note

The collection contains correspondence, written works, exhibit materials, and maps and diagrams.

Correspondence and written works: Contains correspondence covering the years 1946-1959 related to Kosok's field studies in Peru, time as a professor at Long Island University, and his publications. Also includes written works in the forms of essays and field reports from trips to Mexico and Peru.

Educational and research materials: consists of materials related to an exhibit on the Nazca Lines and scenes from Peru, materials on the Tiwanaku archaeological site in Bolivia, and photographs of the Chan Chan site in Peru.

Oversize materials: A range of materials including Peruvian highway maps from 1939-1940, a diagram showing average annual discharge of coastal rivers, photographs and educational materials related to Peruvian textiles, Machu Picchu, and the Twianaku culture.


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Standard copyright restrictions apply.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Kosok, Paul, 1896-1959
Schaedel, Richard P.
Reiche, Maria
Indians of South America -- Irrigation.
Aerial photography in archaeology.
Tiwanaku culture
Nazca Lines Site (Peru)
Corporate Names
Long Island University

Related Material

Richard P. Schaedel Papers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Paul Kosok Papers, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

Acquisition Information


Processing Information

Collection processed by Dylan Joy, 2017.


No further materials are expected for this collection.

Box and Folder Inventory

Correspondence and Written Materials

Box Folder
1 1 1946-1959, undated
2 Correspondence with Richard P. Schaedel, 1948-1959, undated
3 Trip to Mexico, 1933[?]
4 "Report and statement about the government of the Chincha Valley and other adjoining valleys before and during the rule of the Incas until the arrival of Christians" [Written in German], undated
5 "Discovering lost metropoli in the Peruvian desert," undated

Research and Educational Materials

Box Folder
1 6 Photographs of exhibit on Peru's Nazca Lines and Pre-Columbian civilizations of Peru, undated
7 Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) research materials on architecture and sculpture, 1948-1953, undated
8 Photographs of Chan Chan site[?], undated

Oversize Materials

Map_Case Folder
OV 1 Peruvian highway maps;"Archaeological map, west coast of South America;"
1 Diagram showing average annual discharge of coastal rivers
1 Photographs of ancient Peruvian textiles and artifacts and aerial photographs of Machu Picchu
1 Research and educational materials on the Tiwanaku culture