The Pachacamac Idol of Peru Survived Pizarro

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The Pachacamac Idol, a 1200-year-old wooden carving that held spiritual significance to the Inca (Sepúlveda et al., PLOS ONE, 2020)

This Inca Idol Survived the Spanish Conquest. 500 Years Later, Archaeologists Are Unveiling Its History

by Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com

As the year 1533 drew to a close, Spanish conquistador Hernando Pizarro departed Peru, full to bursting with stories of the wonders he had seen. The Inca Empire, he explained to his comrades and superiors, had readily succumbed to the four Pizarro brothers and their forces. Along the way, the Spaniards had attacked the locals, imprisoned their leaders, looted Inca valuables and desecrated places of worship.

One sacred casualty, Pizarro boasted, was an 8-foot-tall wooden idol, intricately carved with human figures and animals, once housed in the Painted Temple near what is now Lima. The Inca revered the idol, which represented one of their most important deities, as an oracle. But Pizarro quickly linked the artifact to apparent “devil” worship and ordered his followers to “undo the vault where the idol was and break him in front of everyone.”

Shortly after, Western records of the artifact dwindled, and the so-called Pachacamac Idol was presumed destroyed, as Pizarro had planned.

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