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Huaca has a meaning that is widespread throughout the pre-Hispanic world. According to the Quechua dictionary by Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás, it means "temple of idols or the idol itself." In other words, huacas were ceremonial centers where pilgrimages, rituals, and festivals of various magnitudes and purposes were held. For example, Pariacaca is an immense mountain range that was worshiped by the inhabitants of the Lima foothills. Titicaca is a great lake on the high plateau of the Andes in the Collao area and was venerated as a huaca mayor (greater huaca). Pachacamac, near Lima, is a huge ceremonial temple where pilgrims arrived from all parts of Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca empire. There were also huacas menores (lesser huacas), which were places or objects of smaller magnitude or religious importance, such as the apachetas (stone mounds left by travelers to avoid hazards along the road) or cántaros de chicha (jugs of corn liquor), whose drink was a symbol of fertility. Overall, huacas played a key role in 1565 in the Taki Onqoy movement, when the Indians led a violent attack against Spanish rule with the understanding that the huacas were the force behind the rebellion and that they possessed the spirit of the rebels to expel the Spaniards and defeat the power of the Catholic gods.

See alsoIncas, The; Quechua.


Chapdelaine, Claude, Victor Pimentel, and Helene Bernier. "A Glimpse at Moche Phase II Occupation at the Huacas of Moche Site, Northern Peru." Antiquity 75, no. 288 (June 2001): 361-372.

"Feats of Clay: Ancient Peruvian Pottery Factory Yields Clues to Production of Ceramics." National Geographic 201, no. 6 (June 2002): xxii.

                            D. Wilfredo Kapsoli-Escudero