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Pachacamac - an ancient Peruvian site

Friday 17th August – Pachacamac

We woke normal Peru time (thank goodness) and had a pleasant hotel breakfast (after spotting some interesting tea choices of manzanilla (apple- I loved this), anise and coca. We were up early enough to walk to the chocolate shop Xocxactl and to the nearby Parque Kennedy, where we saw a sweet cat and a beautiful flowering tree.
After packing and dropping out bags at the desk we were collected by our private guide, Maria, at 9 o’clock. The small minibus drove us out of Miraflores along the Pacific towards the Christ statue on the hill. Apparently this 37m statue of Cristo del Pacifico is a bit controversial. It was only erected last year (2011) by Alan Garcia (the departing president) as a gift. Our guide complained that it was basically just a copy of the Rio Christ the Redeemer.
Then we headed inland along the main Pan-American through the suburbs.
There were loads of small, half finished houses built up the hills. Apparently, in Peru, you only pay house tax (like taxe d’habitation) when you declare your house complete. Hence no house was ever technically complete- many houses had semi- construction on their roofs as if for another floor. So, poorer households save for each section of work, sometimes taking several years e.g. for bricks to replace corrugated iron, then for plaster etc. Only very wealthy people say their houses are finished- like some wealthy parts of Lima to the north. 48878876288_a790b2bec4_o.jpgWe continued out of Lima towards Pachacamac (town). The hills around Lima are very interesting as they look like layers of sand, folded over- so very different to what we see. Then, a short drive to Pachacamac Archaeological site. We parked the minibus in the front. A small group of llama went past with a herder and several very friendly hairless Inca hounds. When I asked, our guide said it was government policy to put native flora and fauna on archaeological sites for authenticity.
Firstly we went into the excellent Pachacamac Museum. It was arranged mainly chronologically, with a nod to themes. We looked initially at the Huari/ Wari culture who preceded the Inca in Pachacamac (who only ruled the area for a very short time). The pottery was beautiful as was their totem to Pachacamac (look at it using the mirror to see both sides properly). I found the quipu examples very interesting.
The Inca were a pre-literate society, but as a highly organised and centralised empire, wanted to keep tabs on what was going on. Their means to this end was the quipu. This was a long string hung with series of shorter, knotted strings. 48879394466_3e7683279b_o.jpg
By varying the knot type, the distance between knots and the colours, they could record troops, tributes, agricultural produce, population and probably their legends/ stories. It was almost writing. It would be read or “written” by a quipucamayo (memory guide). Unfortunately the Spanish did not agree with “unchristian” writing and he ability to read the quipu has been lost.

Then out of the museum to drive into the site and up to the first structure- a beautiful stepped structure (I always hesitate to say pyramid as, although the shape name is correct, the link with burial Egyptian-style can confuse).

48878865993_e77da85ac2_o.jpgPachacamac was a pre-Inca site built by the Moche and Huari between 200-800AD with Inca additions 800-1450 AD. It is 30 km south of Lima and the Temples of the Sun and Moon are especially impressive. The buildings are made of sun-dried bricks and only the aridity of the site has preserved them. So far 17 pyramids have been discovered along with a cemetery. An Early Intermediate (200-600AD) multicoloured fish fresco is impressive. The Huari (Wari) 600-800AD built the city as an administrative centre and their designs appear on much excavated material. Between 800 and 1450 (when the Inca arrived) the Huari Empire had collapsed and a confederacy, the Ichma (Yschsma), was in control. The Ichma joined the Inca Empire who included the Huari creator god Pacha Kamaq into their pantheon, retaining his oracle. Pacha Kamaq means Earth-maker and the Inca added him as a brother to Manco Capac. Another legend places him, Viracocha (the Inca creator god) and Manco as sons of Inti. In this version he makes man and woman but forgets to feed them. The starving
woman asks Inti to become their god and her son Wichama (?Viracocha) throws Pacha Kamaq into the sea to become God of the fish! The Inca 1450-1532AD built five more buildings: the large Temple of the Sun, The Acllahuasi (Chosen Women or Maidens House) for their sacrificial woman, the Palace of Taurichumbi (for the emperor) and the Seat of the Peregrinos (Pilgrims to the oracle) are all Inca additions. Sadly, Francisco Pizarro heard about Pachacamac in 1532, when holding Atahualpa prisoner, and sent an expedition to seize all the gold and silver there and destroy the oracle.
The structure is currently being excavated and restored and its design and building was very clear. Bisecting it was the main North-South road, with
high protective walls.
We continued our drive clockwise round the site where we could very clearly see the limits of Pachacamac town (the site boundaries are government marked as, even though not visible, it is clear that there is a lot of archaeology to find). The houses come right along the edge of the site. We stopped to look over the Palace of TauriChumpi (below- access not currently available).
The Inca did not rule Lima for long, but a look at their “conquest” tactics is interesting. They operated a divide and rule system. A tribe/ confederation would be earmarked and the leader “invited” to join the empire. If he agreed, and most did, he would become an important regional leader. His children would be educated in Cusco (as elite hostages) and taught the Inca way of life before returning as the next leaders. A second thrust
would see enforced movements of people to areas they did not know (often speaking a different language) and a move of local Quecha speakers (as the Inca were) to troublesome areas (as with the Han).
A note on the Wari Culture
Also known in the Spanish version, Huari. They were a Middle Horizon culture in the central Andes, in a similar area to the later Inca, 500-1000AD. Their capital city, also called Wari, is close to modern Ayacucho/ Huamanga. There are a number of their ruins in the Cusco area, including Pikillaqta (south of Cusco- we saw it whilst driving from Puno to Cusco). They probably added to the building of Sacsayhuaman. The Wari extended, much as the Inca did later, north towards modern Lima where they took over the ancient oracle of Pacha Kamaq and built the temples and administrative centre of Pachacamac, as well as adding to Huaca Pucllana. They were a centralised state, which could reasonably be described as an empire. They built temple, roads and terraces. Like the Inca they were pre-literate, but clearly had significant social groupings.
In 2013 an undisturbed tomb at El Castillo de Huarmey was discovered with 3 royal or noble women with high status grave goods. They probably fell foul of a prolonged drought c800AD and by 1000AD most of their population centres had dramatically declined, and raiding/ intergroup warfare had become common.
Then we drove around past the Painted Temple (so called because much of the original red paint is clearly visible) and ended up parking at the bottom of the Temple of the Sun. A huge cactus impressively sat by the minibus as we began the gentle(ish) walk up to the temple. For me, it was interesting to see details of the original construction (a core of earthquake resistant boulders covered by mud-clay plaster that was clearly originally painted red and white- some still visible.) It’s estimated that over 50 million sun-dried clay bricks were used to build this temple alone! The Temple(s) are in fact, four pyramids, superimposed, built on an imposing rocky outcrop with spectacular ocean and inland views.
48878852098_6d9c3febac_o.jpg48879569372_a1eeb153f8_o.jpgWe walked around the temple on the zigzag path, which was probably also the original Inca entrance to the top where we rewarded by a magnificent view- out to the low pre-Andes one way and the Pacific and Islas de Pachacamac the other way. Our guide explained about the niches and the practise of sacrifice. Apparently, according to her, young noble people (mainly girls) would be raised in seclusion. If everything in the world was good (i.e. your sacrifice was not needed) when you became a woman you would be discharged and helped to find a good husband. However, if things were going pear-shaped (e.g. famine, no rain) you would be required for a sacrifice (which they may well have considered an honour!). The niches and seats at the top are known as the Pilgrims Seats (Sieti de Peregrinos).
We walked back down and the minibus took us to the last important structure- the reconstructed Maidens Temple or Acllahuasi (House of the Chosen Women). Now many people get all hot under the collar about reconstructions (see the fuss about Crete), but if done well, can give a real insight into how they lived. The reconstructed building shows the classic Inca architecture of a zigzag entrance, trapezoidal doorways and polished granite foundations. The Maidens (who would be priestesses by definition) living quarters look simple.

Posted by PetersF 18:49 Archived in Peru Tagged peru lima llama archaeology inca pachacamac

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