Huaca, a Peruvian word, signifying something sacred, applied particularly to sepulchral mounds. Among the Peruvians all persons remarkable for their inventions, or for having in any way ameliorated the condition of mankind, were the recipients of a kind of hero worship. Few had temples, their shrines being generally their tombs, called huacas. The Peruvians made sacrifices to the huacas, which were supposed to respond to petitions and questions supported by appropriate offerings made in a proper spirit. The inner chambers of these oracular tombs were sometimes inhabited by priests; and generally they seem to have been devices whereby an inferior class of priests obtained their support. Some were of great extent, and erected over the remains of the in-cas, who were entitled to divine honors after death, and over the chiefs of provinces. In accordance with an invariable custom, the wealth of these high personages was buried with them. The violation of their tombs was commenced soon after the conquest, and from some of them vast treasures were taken.
A single huaca among the ruins of Chimu, near the port of Trujillo in Peru, opened in 1563 by Garcia Gutierrez, afforded so large a treasure of gold and silver, that he paid 85,547 castellanos of gold, as the royal fifth, into the treasury of Trujillo. But he did not obtain the whole of it, for in 1592 it was again opened, and 47,020 castellanos of gold were paid into the treasury as the royal fifth. So it seems that not less than 677,600 castellanos of gold, equal to $931,000, were taken from this single tomb. The name huaca, as applied to aboriginal graves, gradually became extended to the provinces adjacent to Peru on the north, where they were also found to contain more or less of treasure. The name has also been applied to Indian graves in the district of Chiriqui in Colombia, whence many golden ornaments and images have been extracted.