About 30 km south of Lima is one of the most interesting and accessible archaeological sites in Peru: the Ceremonial Center of Pachacamac. The place still retains a veil of mystery and solemnity that conveys visitors the feeling of being witness to the religious rites which took place about 1400 years ago at the citadel by the river Lurin, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
is a large architectural complex that developed from about the 1st century on the Lurin River valley, next to right bank of the river, near the ocean and a group of small islands also called Pachacamac. The original culture living at the place was the Lima
, later conquered by the Wari
and subsequently ruled by the Incas
. The site had its highpoint during the Inca period and thrived on this site until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the third decade of the 16th century.
During its development, the place was a nucleus of pilgrimage for many cultures and remained for centuries as a busy religious center. One of the largest and most spectacular buildings is the Temple of the Sun, built on a rocky promontory placed on top of four pyramids. It is an elevated construction with stone walls sections still coated in deep red paint. In its time, the walls were also covered with strips of stones swathed with a thin gold film. This color combination gave the Sun Temple a dramatic appearance that created the illusion of a giant burning pyre visible from long distances.
Pachacamac was the main oracle in the coastal region. For the native people, Pachacamac was the creator of all things and the force that animated all living beings. The oracle was considered the path through which God communicated directly to men.
Because it was a deity invisible to the eyes of the people, Pachacamac was represented by a totem pole carved in wood with the face of two idols, one female and one male, symbolizing the duality of the pre-Hispanic Andean thinking. As a "maker of the world" and creator of humans, plants, animals and everything existing, Pachacamac was linked to the natural elements like water, the sun and even earthquakes, frequent occurrences along the Pacific coast. However, the divinity did not spontaneously protect people from earthquakes, but instead it was the one who caused them. Because of this it was necessary to please and make offerings to appease the god and avoid punishment by earthquakes.
But, in 1527 the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru and everything changed. They brought with them smallpox
, strong horses, an insatiable greed for gold, large crosses, and their own divinity which did not allow the idolatry of the native’s two-faced totem pole. The Incas suffered a hard blow in 1533 when their god was broken into two pieces by the Spanish officer Hernando Pizarro
, half-brother of Francisco Pizarro
, conqueror of Peru. Part of the temple of the Oracle of Pachacamac was also destroyed and burned by Pizarro and his soldiers.
Some of the ancient Pachacamac myths are still present in the beliefs and legends of the common people, both in the coast and in the Andean highlands. The Peruvian authorities have managed to limit the expansion of slum-like settlements
that otherwise would overtake the archaeological site occupying the “the sacred grounds of the ancient oracle”.
Pachacamac is currently one of the main attractions of Lima and a major site for archaeological research. Digital Journal visited the location that contains the remarkable ruins of stone and adobe buildings, including the Temple of Pachacamac, the Square of the Pilgrims, the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, also known as Acllahuasi
, where chosen noble women lived since childhood, some of which were intended to serve as wives for political and religious leaders and others who were prepared to be offered in mystical sacrifices during ceremonies to worship the god Pachacamac.