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Pachacamac, a major deity in the ancient Andean pantheon, whose name translates from Quechua as "creator of the earth." Pachacamac was a pre-Inca deity of enormous prestige dating back at least as early as the Middle Horizon (ca. 540–900). The principal shrine to Pachacamac was a large complex of adobe buildings and pyramids located on a hill above the seashore at the mouth of the Lurín valley, just south of modern Lima. This shrine was one of the most sacred places in all of the Andes. Pilgrims came from everywhere to visit the shrine and to receive prophecies from its oracle. Important people were also brought there for burial. The Spanish described the shrine as a small, fetid, dark chamber on top of a pyramid that contained a wooden idol smeared with the blood of offerings. In order to approach the idol, a supplicant had to be purified through fasts and rituals that were reputed to last a year. Admittance had to be gained through three successive precincts of the temple before one could approach the inner sanctum. There, the idol was addressed through the priestly intermediary, and the Spanish report that even the priests were very much afraid of the idol. The cult of Pachacamac was administered by a large and highly organized priesthood which established branch oracles in other parts of the country. The Incas co-opted this cult into the imperial religion and enlarged and embellished the shrine. The temple of Pachacamac was visited by Hernando Pizarro in January 1533. He and his companions observed the cult, questioned the priests, and finally overthrew the idol in front of the shocked natives.

The ruins of Pachacamac were the site of a pioneering excavation by Max Uhle in 1896. In his classic monograph, published in 1903, Uhle laid the foundations for the basic chronological and culture sequence models of Andean archaeology.

See alsoArchaeology; Pizarro, Hernando.


John H. Rowe, "Inca Culture at the Time of the Spanish Conquest," in Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 2 (1946), pp. 183-330.

Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Empire of the Inca (1963) and The Lords of Cuzco: A History and Description of the Inca People in Their Final Days (1970). For the archaeology of Pachacamac, see Max Uhle, Pachacamac (1903).

Additional Bibliography

Boone, Elizabeth Hill, and Cummins, Tom, eds. Native Traditions in the Postconquest World: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 2nd through 4th October 1992. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1998.

Cantos de Andrade, Rodrígo, and María Rostworowski de Diez Canseco. El señorío de Pachacamac: el informe de Rodrigo Cantos de Andrade de 1573. Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos: Banco Central de Reserva del Perú, Fondo Editorial, 1999.

Eeckhout, Peter. Pachacamac durant l'Intermédiaire récent: Étude d'un site monumental préhispanique de la côte centrale du Pérou. Oxford: J. and E. Hedges: Distributed by Hadrian Books, 1999.

Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, María. Pachacamac y el Señor de los Milagros: Una trayectoria milenaria: Señorios indígenas de Lima y Canta. Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2002.

Urton, Gary. Inca Myths. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.

                                         Gordon F. McEwan

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