Pachacamac was once part of the Huari Empire from c.AD 200-600, and in the early period contained at least one pyramid, a cemetery, and a polychrome fresco of fish. The Huari supported construction at Pachacamac, turning it into a major Huari administrative center.
After Huari’s collapse, Pachacamac grew in size, eventually covering c.85 hectares. During this late phase (c.800-1450), the majority of its architectural compounds and 17 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.
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 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 important 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 two faced 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.