Ayacucho  was the seat of the Huari empire, which spread across Peru A.D. 700–1200 and built many of the highways, cities, and fine stone buildings that made the Inca empire possible. Their capital, also named Huari , is 2,000 hectares of stone ruins that continue to yield clues about this mysterious empire.
Between A.D. 900 and 1200 the Huari empire was probably conquered by the rebellious Chancas, who in turn yielded to the Inca in the mid-15th century.
After the Spaniards arrived, Inca forces retreated to the nearby jungle of Vilcabamba and would sporadically attack passengers on the main road that linked Lima , Cusco , and Potosí, in present-day Bolivia. Ayacucho was founded in 1539 (only three years after Lima) as a base for defending travelers on this route and soon thereafter became the home of Spanish families involved with the Santa Barbara mercury mine in Huancavelica .
Money from this mine—which supplied the mercury critical for extracting silver in the mines of Potosi—financed a huge building campaign in the city, with rich families building entire churches and often competing for the most lavish altars.
Ayacucho , still referred to today by its more ancient name of Huamanga, is also known for a series of bloody battles in Spanish times—its name in Quechua means “corner of death.” It was here that Peru’s new viceroy, Cristobal Vaca de Castro, brought peace to the colony by defeating the rebel Almagrista forces at the Battle of Chupas in 1542. The bodies of the slain officers were probably buried at the tiny Templo de San Cristobal, one of the city’s first churches after the temple of La Merced.
During the independence wars, the plains above Ayacucho were the site of the final, decisive battle between the Spanish and the patriot forces led by José Antonio Sucre. The independence treaty was signed in the nearby village of Quinua , which today is a Quechuan town known for producing the clay houses—called casas de quinua—that adorn the roofs of homes in the area.
Recent studies have proven that Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, one of America’s first Indian writers, was from Ayacucho. He is most known for Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno, a compilation of letters written by Guamán Poma over several years toward the end of 17th century that form a scathing critique of repression under the Toledo viceroyalty, 1569–1581.