Huaca Pucllana, which is also known as Huaca Juliana, was an important administrative and ceremonial centre that was built by the people of the Lima Culture from 200 to 700 AD. ‘Huaca Pucllana’ translates from Quechua (the language of the people of the central Andes of South America) as ‘The Place of Ritual Games’. The ‘step-pyramid’ is completely solid inside and today the ruins stand right in the middle of the Miraflores district of Lima.
The formal excavation and renovation of the site began in 1981, however so far only a small portion of the site has been uncovered and it will take at least another ten years to finish the excavation. As we arrive at the pyramid all we can see is a large mound of sand and dirt. It is thought that these pyramids, or ‘huacas’, were covered up in order to protect them from other invading societies.
Our guide takes us across a bridge to show us a plaza with a square shaped hole dug out in the middle. He explains that this plaza was where young women were sacrificed.
We are told that the entire pyramid is earthquake proof. The adobe bricks, which were all handmade and dried in the sun, are placed in ‘bookshelf fashion’ with spaces in between them, allowing them to move slightly without causing any damage to the pyramid during earthquakes.
As we climb the pyramid we reach the ‘Plaza de los Ancestros’ where sacrifices of corn, cloth, ceramics, needles and thread and other offerings to gods were buried. A little further on we reach the Ceremonial Plaza, where the Waris buried their elite along with the things they would need in their next life.
The Waris, a military society, came to Lima in 700 AD, by which time the huacas had already been buried in sand and dirt, however they used these large mounds for burials. A reconstruction shows a seamstress, who has been buried with her materials and a child, who was sacrificed in order to accompany her.
As we make our way back down we can see men hard at work, excavating the site. They carefully remove each adobe brick and dust away the sand and dirt that has been covering it, before replacing it in the way it would have been when Huaca Pucllana was used by the Lima Culture.
At the bottom of the pyramid is the main square. In the middle of the square a hairless dog is lying in the sun. This Peruvian hairless dog originates from pre-incan cultures. It was believed that these dogs had mystical values and they were often mummified and buried with their owners in order to help them find their way to the afterlife. This breed of dog almost became extinct, however they are now safe and this particular dog and her family are protected within the walls of Huaca Pucllana.
Within the grounds of the Incan ruins is a restaurant and in the evening the step-pyramid is lit up, providing beautiful views for diners. In front of the restaurant’s terrace are statues of people from the Lima culture making adobe bricks and taking part in pottery breaking rituals. The menu offers a variety of traditional Peruvian foods (as well as some regular dishes for the less adventurous eaters!), such as guinea pig and llama.