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Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture1
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party Bolivia
Criteria iii, iv
Identification no. 567
Region2 Latin America and the Caribbean
Formal Inscription: 2000
24th WH Committee Session
WH link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/567
1 As officially inscribed on the World Heritage List
2 As classified officially by UNESCO
Tiwanaku (Spanish spellings: Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in Bolivia. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca, about 72 km (44 miles) west of La Paz, Bolivia - 16°33′17″S, 68°40′24″W.
Some have hypothesized that Tiwanaku's modern name is related to the Aymara term "taypikala", meaning "stone in the center". However, the name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants has been lost, as the people of Tiwanaku had no written language.Contents [hide]
1 Cultural development
2 Architecture and art
5 Further notes
8 See also
9 External links
Area of the Middle Horizon
The site of Tiwanaku was founded in approximately 200 BC as a small agriculturally-based village, with a number of similar neighbors. The high altitude Titicaca Basin required the development of a distinctive farming technique known as "raised-field" agriculture, which are only found in today's South America as experimental, government-funded projects. In antiquity, they comprised a small but significant percentage of the agriculture in the region, along with irrigated fields, pasture, terraced fields and cocha (small lake) farming. Artificially raised planting mounds (known as "suka kollus" in the local Aymara language) are separated by canals filled with water. The canals supply moisture for growing crops, but they also absorb heat from solar radiation during the day. This heat is gradually emitted during the bitterly cold nights, providing thermal insulation. Over time, the canals also were used to farm edible fish, and the resulting canal sludge was dredged for fertilizer. The use of various agricultural techniques allowed local communities to grow and population to increase.
Though labor-intensive, suka kollus produce impressive yields. While traditional agriculture in the region typically yields 2.4 metric tons of potatoes per hectare, and modern agriculture (with artificial fertilizers and pesticides) yields about 14.5 metric tons per hectare, suka kollu agriculture yields an average of 21 tons per hectare.
More importantly, the experimental fields recreated in the 1980s by Kolata and Rivera (see below) suffered only a 10% decrease in production following a 1988 freeze that killed 70-90% of the rest of the region's production. This kind of protection against killing frosts in an agrarian civilization is an invaluable asset. For these reasons, the importance of suka kollus cannot be overstated.
The community grew to urban proportions between AD 600 and AD 800, becoming an important regional power in the southern Andes. According to early estimates, at its maximum extent, the city covered approximately 5.0 square kilometers, and had as many as 40,000 inhabitants. However, satellite imaging was used recently to map the extent of fossilized suka kollus across the three primary valleys of Tiwanaku, arriving at population-carrying capacity estimates of anywhere between 285,000 and 1,482,000 people.
More narrowly, the proposed population range is between 570,000 and 1,111,500. This is based on 1) 19,000 hectares of suka kollus discovered so far; 2) the Bolivian and Peruvian experimental staple tuber production rates of 21 and 10.65 metric tons per hectare respectively; 3) 533kg of tuber consumption per person per year; and 4) assumptions of 75% utilization and double cropping.
Tiwanaku's unique art style is found in vast areas covering modern highland Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. It is difficult to tell, however, whether these areas were part of an empire in the political sense, under cultural and commercial influence, or independent trading partners.
Tiwanaku collapsed around AD 1000, possibly due to environmental reasons, from an invasion of new people from the south, a loss of faith in the Tiwankau religion, or a combination of all three. The area around Tiwanaku was not abandoned, but the city fell into decay and its characteristic art style vanished.
Architecture and art
Closeup of carved stone tenon-head embedded in wall of Tiwanaku's Semi-subterranean Temple
Fine detail of stonework in newly-uncovered wall of Akapana pyramid
Tiwanaku architecture is characterized by large stones, weighing up to 100 tons, with stone cutting, squaring, dressing, and notching exceeding even the Inca in artisanship. The stones are set without mortar, so closely together that a razor blade cannot penetrate the seams. The stones are cut irregularly (unlike Egyptian square stone blocks), with each stone matched uniquely to its neighbors, possibly to resist lateral motion due to regional earthquakes. Supporting this notion is the use of elaborate "double-T" copper clamps to hold stones together in the critical drainage and irrigation tunnels.
The Tiwanaku art style is distinctive, and, together with the related Huari style, defines the Middle Horizon of Andean prehistory. Both of these styles seem to have been heavily influenced by that of the earlier Pukara culture in the northern Titicaca Basin.
The name of the religion of Tiwanaku is unknown because they had no written language.
Their myths have been passed down to the Incas and the Spanish who in turn took that part of South America. They worshipped many gods, and one of the most important gods was Viracocha, the god of action, shaper of many worlds, and destroyer of many worlds. He created people, with two servants, on a great piece of rock. Then he drew sections on the rock and sent his servants to name the tribes in those areas. In Tiwanaku he created the people out of rock and brought life to them through the earth.
Viracocha is carved in the Gateway to the Sun, to overlook his people and lands.
Ponce stela in the sunken courtyard of the Tiwanaku's Kalasasaya temple
Walls around the temple Kalasasaya
"Gateway of the Sun", Tiwanaku, drawn by Ephraim Squier in 1877. The scale is exaggerated in this drawing.
Much of the architecture of the site is in a poor state of preservation, having been subjected to looting and amateur excavations attempting to locate valuables since shortly after Tiwanaku's fall. This destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period, and during 19th century and the early 20th century, and has included quarrying stone for building and railroad construction and target practice by military personnel.
Detailed study of Tiwanaku began on a small scale in the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1860s, Ephraim George Squier visited the ruins and later published maps and sketches completed during his visit. German geologist Alphons Stübel spent nine days in Tiwanaku in 1876, creating a map of the site based on careful measurements. He also made sketches and created paper impressions of carvings and other architectural features. A book containing major photographic documentation was published in 1892 by engineer B. von Grumbkow. With commentary by archaeologist Max Uhle, this was the first in-depth scientific account of the ruins.
In the 1960s, an attempt was made at restoring the site, but by very uninformed parties. The walls pictured to the right, of the Kalasasaya, are almost all reconstruction. The original stones making up the Kalasasaya would have resembled a more "Stonehenge" like style, spaced evenly apart and standing straight up. Unfortunately, the parties that made the reconstructions decided to make the Kalasasaya be enclosed by a wall that they themselves built. Ironically enough, the reconstruction itself is actually much poorer quality stoneworking than the people of Tiwanaku were capable of. It should also be noted that the Gateway of the Sun, that now stands in the Kalasasaya, is not in its original location, having been moved sometime earlier from its original location, which is unknown.
Modern, academically-sound archaeological excavations were performed from 1978 through the 1990s by University of Chicago anthropologist Alan Kolata and his Bolivian counterpart, Oswaldo Rivera. Among their contributions are the rediscovery of the suka kollus, accurate dating of the civilization's growth and influence, and evidence for a draught-based collapse.
Today Tiwanaku is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is administered by the Bolivian government.
Robotic exploration of a newly-discovered tunnel in the Akapana pyramid, June 13, 2006
Recently, the Department of Archaeology of Bolivia (DINAR) has been conducting excavations on the Akapana pyramid. The PAPA project, or Proyecto Arqueologico Pumapunku-Akapana (Pumapunku-Akapana Archaeological Project), run by the University of Pennsylvania, has been excavating in the area surrounding the pyramid for the past few years, and also conducting Ground Penetrating Radar surveys of the area. An archaeological field school, offered every summer through Harvard's Summer School Program, offers archaeology students the chance to learn to excavate in the residential area outside the monumental core. The program directors are Dr. Gary Urton of Harvard, expert in quipu, and Dr. Alexei Vranich of the University of Pennsylvania.
On January 21, 2006 newly-elect Bolivian president Evo Morales attended an indigenous spiritual ceremony at Tiwanaku where he was crowned as Apu Mallku of the indigenous people of the Altiplano and received gifts from many groups of indigenous peoples from various parts of Latin America and the world.
During the fad for theories suggesting extraterrestrial visits in prehistoric times, pseudoscientists advancing these ideas were fond of ascribing an immense age to Tiwanaku, on the order of 12000 years.
A documentary titled "Atlantis in the Andes" aired recently on Discovery Civilisation, in which cartographer Jim Allen claims Tiwanaku is one of the "ten kingdoms of Atlantis."
Posnansky, Arthur. Tiahuanacu: The Cradle of American Man (4 vol., 1945–58). J. J. Augustin, New York, 1945.
Kolata, Alan L. The Tiwanaku: Portrait of and Andean Civilization. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, 1993.
Kolata, Alan L. Valley of the Spirits: A Journey into the Lost Realm of the Aymara. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, 1996.
Tiwanaku was one of the locations in Tomb Raider Legend where Lara Croft searched for a mysterious dais.
H.S. Bellamy, who wrote several speculative science books about the ancient city and its people.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Interactive dig (Archeology Magazine of the Archaeological Institute of America)
Panoramica de Kalasasaya'
Research done at the University of Pennsylvania
Tiahuanaco on emuseum.mnsu.edu
Tiwanaku society by tiwanakuarcheo.net
Tiwanaku society (flash)
Tiahuanaco, City and Empire with links to other sites (broken link).
Daily Life at Tiwanaku