Pachacamac pä˝chäkämäk´ [key], ruins of a walled Native American settlement, Peru, about 25 mi (40 km) SE of Lima in the Lurin Valley. This site, which contains a number of pyramids, was considered one of the most important religious monuments by the indigenous people of the central Andes. Spanish historical records, along with extensive archaeological research at the site, have served to clarify its history and significance. By the Early Intermediate period (c.AD 200–600) this site contained at least one pyramid, a cemetery, and a polychrome fresco of fish. The Huari Empire, based in the south central highlands of Peru during the period AD 600–800, gained hegemony over the central coast of Peru and sponsored construction at Pachacamac, probably turning it into a major Huari administrative center. Numerous Huari-influenced designs appear on the ceramics and textiles of this site's large cemetery. After Huari's collapse, Pachacamac grew in size, eventually covering c.210 acres (85 hectares). During this late phase (c.800–1450), the majority of its architectural compounds and pyramids were constructed. The primary architectural unit is the walled enclosure containing a stepped pyramid, storage structures, and patios. The site is organized around two perpendicular avenues, aligned with the cardinal directions, which cross one another at the center of the site. Historical sources indicate that in the 15th cent., the Rimac and Lurin valleys formed a small polity known as the Ichma, which established an alliance with the Inca. Following the expansion of the Inca empire, Pachacamac became an important Inca administrative center, while maintaining its status as a religious shrine. The Inca built five separate complexes there, including the Pyramid of the Sun and the Mamacuna. The latter contains fine Inca masonry in its entrance gate, a rarity on the coast. The Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro heard about Pachacamac from the Inca, while holding the Inca King Atahualpa prisoner at Cajamarca in 1532. He promptly sent an expedition to sack the center. The Spanish conquerors seized a large amount of silver and gold from the site and destroyed an idol. Spanish accounts indicate Pachacamac was one of the holiest shrines in the central Andes. The site's name derives from the Quechua term for the coastal deity, Pacha Camac [he who vitalizes the universe]. The main temple at the site was dedicated to this deity and held a famous oracle. Pilgrims traveled to the center from great distances, and its cemetery was considered sacrosanct. The site of Pachacamac has been preserved, and one of the Inca structures, the Mamacuna, has been reconstructed.
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