ancient Inca and modern Quechua and Aymara religious concept that is variously used to refer to sacred ritual, the state of being after death, or any sacred object. The Spanish conquistador Pedro de Cieza de Leon believed that the word meant "burial place." Huaca also means spirits that either inhabit or actually are physical phenomena such as waterfalls, mountains, or man-made shrines. The aforementioned shrines, which are found throughout the Inca territory from Ecuador to Chile, may be as simple as stones piled in a field (apachitas) or as complex as stepped pyramids that were once topped with canopies and carved images
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