Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture of Bolivia

The city of Tiwanaku saw its heydays between 500 and 900 AD. It is a pre-Hispanic city located on the southern side of the Andes. During its apogee, it ruled this region and beyond. It is a monument that allows you to get some insights into a great power that was quite dissimilar from any other pre-Hispanic kingdom. It features ceremonial and public architecture of the yesteryears.

The city, like all the other pre-Hispanic cities started off as a small village during 1200 BCE. It was a self-sufficient city that used non-irrigation methods to grow its food. The high altitude that the city is situated allowed growth of potatoes, quinoa and orca. On more sheltered locations, the city dwellers would grow maize and peaches.

The city features rectangular adobe houses and paved streets. It seems that the city grew rapidly after copper metallurgy was introduced. The copper allowed them to produce better equipment and irrigation systems. The wealthy got their riches from selling wool and rearing large herds of alpaca. The city dwellers were also ingenious in creating cultivation fields along the shores of Lake Titicaca.

The most powerful era of the Tiwanaku Empire was in the 8th century AD as evidenced by the many smaller towns that were made in the kingdom, the most important one being Wari in Peru. Like all great powers, the Tiwanaku Empire began to decline in the 11th century AD and by 12th century, it completely collapsed.

Although there is large parts of the city that expand to the shores of Lake Titicaca, the most important buildings are to be found in the heart of the city. A large number of such buildings have survived in the protected zones. Of all these monuments, perhaps the most imposing is the temple of Akapana. It is a pyramid that features 7 superimposed platforms which rises to a height of 18 meters. Originally, the temple was decorated with some blue stones as is the case with most Mesoamerican pyramids. It is surrounded by an elaborate system of drainage canals. The temple features carved headstones that signified an early custom of show casing the severed heads of defeated enemies.

On the northern side of the Akapana temple is a large open temple that was perhaps used for observation. It is known as kalasasaya and is entered through 7 stairs from the eastern wall. On the center of the Kalasasaya are 2 statues show casing the image of Gate of the Sun. The deity is flanked by some strange birds and a series of human faces.

The best thing to do is not read about the place – just visit the city of Tiwanaku and you will be surprised at how this ancient civilization was organized.


By Kennedy Runo about Bolivia

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