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Tiwanaku Civilization in Bolivia

The Bolivian city of Tiwanaku, considered by the Inca as the sacred place of their origin, was also home to a great civilization that flourished between AD 200 and 900. Located on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca in the modern Department of La Paz, the city was a famous pilgrimage site for the region. And was later the seat of a socially and politically influential Andean empire. The civilization peaked between 500 and 600 AD where it is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History. Most of the magnificent structures were built, including the Akapana, Pumapunku, Kalasasaya, and Semi-Subterranean Temple during that time. What remained of the monumental architecture in modern times, however, was only a shadow of their former glory.

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Tiwanaku Politics and Society

As was the case of great cities all over the world, Tiwanaku started out as a simple farming village without a hierarchy among its inhabitants. As years passed and as population increased, Tiwanaku society became more complex with rulers and warriors elevated to a higher status. While farmers and merchants remained in the lower half of the hierarchy. The houses of the elite, as well as the ceremonial centers, were built on the lake and surrounded by a moat. These were oriented to the nearby mountains and various celestial events that appeared in the sky. It was also a pilgrimage site which drew the people from distant Cochabamba and Moquegua regions who travelled to dedicate sacrifices and celebrate feasts. The interaction was not a one-way street, however, as the Tiwanaku-style artifacts were found in some parts of Peru and as far as Argentina—evidence of Tiwanaku’s far-reaching political and economic influence in the region.

Tiwanaku_in_Bolivia
“Gate of the Sun”

Priests were on top of the Tiwanaku hierarchy, and they led the worship of different deities in which the sun god, Viracocha, was the head. This particular god was also worshipped by the Inca people (who rose to prominence thousands of years later, after the decline of Tiwanaku). They considered Lake Titicaca as the place of origin for the creator god Viracocha.

Survival in the Altiplano

The production of staple food in the ancient times was a challenge for the Tiwanaku people as the environment on the Andean Plateau was usually arid yet cold. The Tiwanaku managed to grow hardy crops such as quinoa, corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes for sustenance. Survival proved to be more difficult during the onset of the El Niño phenomenon which resulted either in intense rains or droughts. They developed raised field agriculture (also known as suka kollus) to adapt to this harsh environment. Crops were planted in rows of raised fields that reached up to three feet in height to protect the plants from heat and frost. Fish were caught from the lake and placed in the ditches beside the rows.

References:
Picture By Arthur Posnansky – http://bilddatenbank.khm.at/viewArtefact?id=253874, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24862061
Woods, Michael, and Mary B. Woods. Seven Wonders of Ancient Central and South America. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2009.
GRID-Arendal. Climate Impacts of El Niño Phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean. Accessed June 29, 2016. http://www.grida.no/graphicslib/detail/climate-impacts-of-el-nio-phenomenon-in-latin-america-and-the-caribbean_921c.
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