Tiwanaku: History, Religion, Economy & Civilization

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Tiahuanaco Civilization: Tiwanaku History

Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco or Tiahuanacu: Spanish) – Civilization that developed on the shores of Lake Titikaka, between the year 500 and 1000 BC.

Date 500 BC. – 1000 BC
Location Bolivian plateau, margins of Lake Titikaka
Form of Government Theocracy
Religion Polytheism
Economy Agricultural production and trade

What was the Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco)?

Tiahuanaco was a civilization that had its center in the Bolivian highlands, on the shores of Lake Titikaka and between the year 500 and 1000 BC approximately, which corresponds to the Middle Horizon Period, according to the traditional periodization of the Andean area.

The city of Tiahuanaco and the southern region of the lake were considered sacred spaces by later peoples and are the place of origin of numerous Andean myths.

The Incas considered them their ancestors. The civilization arose from the settlement in the area of ​​small populations that between the years 100 and 400 BC absorbed neighboring cultures and became an expansionist state. Then, for the next 700 years, it created colonies towards the south of the territory, reaching the current territories of Chile and northern Argentina.

Around the year 1000, a climate change caused great droughts and resulted in famines, the rise of the population and the destruction of the main temples of the city. From this, there was a disintegration of the State that was fragmented into numerous manors.

Location of the Tiahuanaco civilization

The Tiwanaku civilization was located in the Andean highlands, on the southwestern shore of Lake Titikaka. Tiahuanaco and its satellite cities spread along the Tiwanaku river valley, between the Achuta mountains to the north and Quimsachata to the south.

Location on the map of the Tiwanaku Tiahuanaco

Location on the map of the Tiahuanaco civilization.

Characteristics of Tiahuanaco

The main characteristics of Tiwanaku are the following:

  • It was a theocracy in which both the natural and the built landscape responded to sacred cosmic principles. The city of Tiahuanaco was the symbolic axis of the State, the capital of the empire and the center of the universe.
  • The center of the city was the space where the earthly and the sacred met. From there, artificial canals marked the separation with less sacred areas. The city was also divided into 4 parts, according to the cardinal points. In the north and south sectors were the two main ceremonial centers: the Akapana and the Pumapunku.
  • In the center of the city lived the elite priest-rulers. Towards the periphery the workshops of specialized artisans were located: weavers, potters, stonemasons, masons, sculptors, painters, goldsmiths and weavers, among others.
  • In the neighborhoods inhabited by the elite, the palaces had a spring water system that provided domestic consumption and a network of drains that carried sewage to the Tiwanaku River.
  • Around the city of Tiahuanaco, satellite cities such as Lukurmata, Pajchiri, Khonto, Wankane and Ojje, fulfilled different functions: they organized rural space, dealt with administrative and commercial matters, fulfilled the function of ceremonial and ritual center, and were centers of pilgrimages.
  • It is estimated that the city of Tiahuanaco had between 30 and 60 thousand inhabitants. Nearby cities had about 10,000 each.
  • In the vast rural areas lived most of the population, who were the peasants. These inhabited thatched-roof mud houses, built on mounds, and engaged in agricultural production.

Religion of the Tiahuanaco Civilization

As a theocratic Empire, life in Tiahuanaco was regulated by rituals and ceremonies. The conception of time was mythical and cyclical. Human actions recreated mythical events.

From the images of stone sculptures, textiles and ceramics, it is known that they worshiped the character known as “Lord of the Wands” and also a character with feline fangs, both common in the Andean area.

The Tiahuanacotas performed shamanic rituals in which, through the consumption of hallucinogenic substances, the shamans mediated between the people and the gods.

They also practiced ritual human sacrifices and carried out the burials of the elite with grave goods that included llamas, gold, copper and silver objects, precious stones and ceramics.

Political and Social Organization of the Tiwanaku Culture

Political Organization of the Tiahuanacu

The Tiwanaku state was an imperial theocracy. During its heyday it controlled and established colonies in remote territories.

The government was exercised by a hierarchy of warrior-priests who could connect with supernatural forces and control natural phenomena.

Social Organization of the Tiahuanaco

Tiwanaku society was hierarchical. There were 3 social groups:

  • At the top was the elite warrior-priests, who held religious and political positions.
  • In between there was a class of specialized artisans.
  • The lowest place in society was occupied by peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who supported the state economy. During the time when they did not work in the fields, the peasants took care of public works: construction of palaces, roads, pipelines, etc.

Economy of the Tiahuanaco Civilization

Tiahuanaco‘s economy was based on agricultural production and the exchange of luxury goods with peripheral regions.

It was cultivated with different techniques: in depressions dug in the ground, on platforms on the slopes of the mountains and on ridges. This allowed them to obtain a great variety of products such as potatoes, goose, quinoa, corn, etc.

The long – distance trade was done with freighters flames troops that were owned by the state. These caravans provided the Tiwanaku elite with the luxury goods they consumed and contributed to the expansion of the empire.

Tiahuanaco Cultural Manifestations

Tiahuanaco artisans were great masters of stone work. They managed to carve huge blocks with precision.

They also stood out in the carving of stone reliefs and in the production of ceramics, bone objects and textiles.

photo of monolithic in Tiahuanaco

Puerta del Sol, monolithic monument in Tiahuanaco.

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