Pachacamac, a holy city in Peru

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Around 20 kilometres from Lima, capital city of Peru, lie the remains of the holy city of Pachacamac. This was a large religious centre similar to Chavin and Tiwanaku. For centuries, until the 16th century, it was a place of pilgrimage and an important oracle. When the Spaniards arrived in Peru they learned from the local inhabitants that, every year, thousands of people went to a place to pay their respects to Pachacamac, the god of the oracle. The pilgrims took with them many gifts to leave as offerings, such as items of gold, silver, pottery and fabrics.

In 2016 a new museum was opened at Pachacamac to tell the story of the complex and display some of the finds.

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The complex dates from a time before the Incas. We do not know who the people were who first began to worship at this site and built the first structures. When the Incas came to power they respected the cult and permitted worship to continue at the site. The Incas added many new structures, building on top of the remains of existing buildings.

The site of the city is a flat and desert-like area not far from the sea. In the oldest layers archaeologists have found buildings including the Old Temple, the Polychrome Temple, the Sun Temple and the Acllahuasi. These names have been invented by archaeologists. The Old Temple is the largest building and stands on a rocky spur of the Andes. It is built of adobe stones held together by clay and dates from between 300 and 600 AD.

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The Sun Temple is believed to have been built by the Incas in 1450 AD to worship the Inca sun god Inti. The best preserved building on the site, it is 40 metres high and its shape is a large stepped platform of five terraces. Like the Old Temple, this is also built of adobe stones and clay. It is plastered with layers of fine reddish clay.

The most distinctive building is one with a pyramid shape, named the Polychrome Temple. It comprises nine terraces and has red walls decorated with frescoes of plants and animals in bright colours of green, blue and pink.

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Other ruins include the Acclahuasi, a building in a clearly Inca style. It is thought that this ‘House of the chosen women’ provided accommodation for Inca concubines and slaves.

During the Late Intermediate Period Pachacamac became a huaca (the most important shrine of the central coastal area). At various times walls and passages were added, but most of these have since disappeared under the sand.

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Kat Walsh CC BY-SA (httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0)

Text                      Harrie Wolters

Translation         Alun Harvey

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