Pachacamac (pronounced: pah cha kamak) lies a mere 25 miles SE of Lima adjacent to the Pan American highway astride the Pacific coastline.
“Pachacámac” in Quechua means “Pacha” world, and “camac” to animate - “The One who Animates the World.” The site was considered one of the most important religious centers of the indigenous peoples of the central Andes, and contains a number of pyramids. Spanish historical records, along with extensive archaeological research, have served to clarify its history and significance.
Built centuries before the time of the Incas, Pachacamac is noted for its great pyramidal temples, and for the remains of frescoes adorning its adobe walls. Culturally and chronologically it is related to Chancay, and other centers of the Cuismancu empire, including Huari. At the time of the Spanish conquest it was a major Inca shrine.
Left: both sides of Oracle Staff.
Right: original excavation.
Pachacámac is the mythological God of “fire and earthquakes,” a very powerful huaca that controlled the balance of the World. The Idol, carved of wood, depicts a human figure with felines and serpent features in the Huari style, tied to the agricultural cycle of maize (corn).
According to legend - “in the beginning there were no foods for the first man and the first woman, and the man died of starvation. The Sun then fertilized the woman and she produced an offspring. Pachacámac became jealous of his heir, and killed the offspring, scattering the remains. These became the essential ingredients of humanity: the “teeth of man” were maize, his “bones”, yuca. Artistic images of Pachacamac do not exist, he was considered invisible. However, a wooden staff, thought to be a representation of Pachacamac, was found in 1938 during an excavation of the site. Miguel de Estete writes on the matter, “the Idol makes them [the Incas] understand that it can sink them if they anger it!” Tremors and earthquakes were expressions of his anger.
According to Spanish chronicles Inca Tupac Yupanqui, the monarch at the time of the Inca occupation, decided to commune with the god. He was said to have waited for 40 days for a dictate; history does not record if the Inca became a disciple, however he did in fact make contact in his dream state, and later erected a temple on the site. Besides the Inca, the priesthood alone were allowed to commune with the Oracle directly. The priests would present questions and then transmit the answers back to the throngs of visitors who arrived in great number. Today the Idol holds court in the Museum of Pachacamac located on the original site.
The first occupation of Pachacamac began around 200 AD with complex architecture, included were stone walls that served as the base for the fantastic adobe structures. With the arrival of the Huari culture in 650 AD, Pachacamac's influence extended to other zones of the central, and the coastal Andes. Numerous Huari influences appear on the ceramics and textiles of the site. After Huari's collapse, Pachacamac grew in size, eventually covering 210 acres.
During the late period 800-1450 AD, the majority of the architectural compounds and pyramids were constructed. The primary architectural unit is the walled enclosure containing a stepped pyramid, storage structures and patios. The site is organized around two perpendicular avenues aligned with the cardinal directions, which cross one another at the center of the site. A great religious cult formed at this time.
The Incas arrived last, between 1450-1532 AD they adapted the preexisting temples and adding the “Temple of the Sun,” the “Acllahuasi” (chosen women's temple), the “Palace of Taurichumbi” and the “Seat of the Peregrinos.”
The spectacular Incan Temple of the Sun, located at the top of a rocky promontory, overlooking the Pacific ocean, is made of four pyramid bodies truncated to superimpose one another. It acquires the form of a staggered pyramid with a trapezoidal appearance. The most important part of this Temple corresponds to the superior terrace and diversity of compartments dedicated to the Cult of the Sun. The main access is formed by a zigzag structure. Much of the original red and yellow paint can still be viewed on the walls.
The Acllahuasi (house of the chosen women) is classic Incan architecture, featuring the zigzag entrance surrounded by trapezoidal doorways, foundations of polished granite, and the living quarters of the Virgins (priestesses) of the Sun. Shortly after the Incan occupation of the site the conqueror Francisco Pizarro heard about Pachacamac while holding the Inca Atahualpa prisoner at Cajamarca (1532). He promptly sent an expedition to sack the center and seize a large amount of silver and gold, destroying the idol, along with a long history of Oracular Pilgrimage. The great religious center met its demise on the heels of the Spanish conquest wherein the Spanish chroniclers recorded the oral chronology for posterity.
Considered a powerful center by students of esoteric lore, today Pachacamac has become a destination for adherents of the ancient sacred way.
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