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Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) in Bolivia 200-375 AD, First Period of

Many great civilizations were established near bodies of water, and the Tiwanaku Empire (also spelled Tiahuanaco in Spanish) was one of them. It stood 20 kilometers from the shore of the Lake Titicaca near the border of Peru, The Incas themselves point to Tiwanaku as their sacred place of origin. The area was settled as early as 1500 BC, but the Tiwanaku culture flourished only in 200 AD and reached its zenith in 375 AD where it is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History. Its influence gradually spread from the altiplano (high plateau) of Bolivia to the coast of Peru down to the northern parts of Chile and Argentina.

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The city of Tiwanaku was initially known as an uninhabited religious or ceremonial center in the altiplano because it was built in a harsh environment that could not possibly support life. It was only in the 1950s when it was considered as an empire that grew from within the high plateau of Bolivia and then spread to surrounding areas because of politics, trade networks, and conflicts. Tiwanaku was initially composed of small political entities with shifting alliances and ruled by their own independent chieftains. Core territories stretched from Tiwanaku Valley to the Catari Valley in the north and the Desaguadero River region in the south.


At its peak, Tiwanaku was home to between 30,000 to 60,000 people who lived in the residential areas that surrounded the elite’s massive pyramids and palaces. The city was dominated by the Akapana Pyramid, which was shaped like a half of a chakana or Andean cross and rose up to 16.5 meters high. A walled platform called the Kalasasaya was built directly opposite the Akapana for religious or political rituals while less than a kilometer southwest of the Kalasasaya stands the remains of the Pumapunku (“gate of the puma” in Aymara). It was once the entrance to a great architectural complex made of stone and adobe. It possibly served as a religious center which attracted pilgrims from the Tiwanaku sphere of influence.

The people of Tiwanaku lived in a desert-polar climate in the Lake Titicaca Basin with temperatures that change drastically during the day and at night. Although the water supply from Lake Titicaca was abundant, the temperature in this arid but high altitude could go up to 20 °C with a low 0f 0°C at night, making it unsuitable for agriculture. The Tiwanaku people adjusted to their environment and sculpted the landscape to make raised fields. This technique improved soil condition and drainage, as well as protected the crops from frost and heat, which allowed them to thrive in an unforgiving environment. This ancient technique was recently rediscovered and was put to use by the people who now live in this region to cultivate their crops.

Picture By Alexson Scheppa Peisino(AlexSP) – Own work, Public Domain,
Janusek, John Wayne. Ancient Tiwanaku. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008
Stanish, Charles. Ancient Titicaca: The Evolution of Complex Society in Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003
Erickson, Clark L. “Raised Field Agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin: Putting Ancient Agriculture Back to Work.” Expedition Magazine 30, no. 3 (1988)
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