Location : South Andes
Area : 43,306 km2
Mínimum: 1,800 m.a.s.l (Otoca)
Máximum: 3,645 m.a.s.l. (Chalcos)
The department of Ayacucho is a hilly territory, ripe with low mountains and narrow valleys covered with all types of cactus.
Human bones found in the Paccaicasa and Piquimachay caves reveal that the region had been inhabited for at least 15000 years. Around the year 500, large factories that produced multicolored ceramics, became the center of a great empire that dominated all the highlands and coast of what is today Peru. The city of Wari, was its capital. A series of ruins are found throughout the Peruvian Andes, evidencing a domination that lasted until the year 1000, after which the empire broke down into small regional kingdoms. One of these kingdoms, Cusco, would later become the last and most famous of the Andean empires and Vilcashuaman the center of their new province.
When the Spaniards arrived into Ayacucho in the 16 th century, this region became of utmost importance given its location of being midway between the new capital of Lima and the old capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco. Vilcashusman was destroyed and the center of local power was moved to a new location, the town of San Juan de la Frontera in Huamanga, which assumed an important military role. It was from this base that Spanish military expeditions left to oppress the countless insurrections that the Incan Resistance posed to the 'conquistadores". The city in formation was destroyed by Manco Inca's troops and had to be rebuilt in a nearby zone, where is is still found today.
When peace was achieved in the early part of the 18 th century, Ayacucho became aware of its value as the strategical point between the opulent cities of Cusco and Lima. The exploitation of mercury (vital to silver mining and very much in demand in the Andean mines) in nearby Huancavelica gave much wealth to an aristocracy of traders and miners that found its identity in its Spanish heritage.
On the plains of Ayacucho, near the city, Antonio José de Sucre crushingly defeated (Dec. 9, 1824) Spanish forces under Viceroy José de la Serna. The battle not only secured Peruvian independence from Spain but also marked the triumph of the revolutionary forces in all Spanish South America. Known as Huamanga since the 16th cent., the city was renamed after the battle. It has a university and many fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture. In the 1980s and early 1990s Ayacucho was the center of the terrorist group the Shining Path.