Tiahuanaco Culture


The tiahuanaco culture is one of the most important populations in South America since it is the longest-lived pre-Inca culture on the continent. Their territories occupied large tracts of land that today are part of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina . It developed in the Andean-Central highlands between 250 BC and 1200 AD . leaving today remains of its great cities and temples, stone monuments, crafts and other elements of its culture that are part of the pre-Hispanic history of America.


What is the tiahuanaco culture?


The tiahuanaco culture was a theocratic society that developed before the Inca empire in the Andean highlands, spreading to the lands of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile between 250 BC. C and 1200 d. C. Its main town Tiwanaku was located south of Lake Titicaca in the current Bolivian city of La Paz. Its main cities include Khonkho Wankane, Ojje, Lukumata and Pajchiri . The Puerta del Sol is one of its best known monuments and visited by tourists from all over the world who visit Peru.

  • Characteristics of the tiahuanaco culture
  • Who discovered the tiahuanaco culture?
  • History of the tiahuanaco culture
  • The village period (250 BC – W)
  • The urban period (0 – 700 AD)
  • The Expansive Period (700 AD – 1200 AD)
  • Location
  • Political organization
  • Ceramics of the tiahuanaco culture
  • Architecture
  • Religion and gods of the tiahuanaco culture

Characteristics of the tiahuanaco culture

Among the most representative characteristics of the tiahuanaco culture, the following can be mentioned:

  • It was a pre-Inca town .
  • His government was theocratic .
  • It spread throughout Peru and part of Bolivia.
  • They developed agriculture and livestock .
  • They developed crafts and textiles.
  • They carried out stone work.
  • Its architecture had religious motifs.
  • They had the aurochs for their language .
  • It was a warrior people.
  • Their god was Wiracocha .

Who discovered the tiahuanaco culture?

The Tiwanaku culture was discovered by the Spanish chronicler and historian Pedro Cieza de León in 1551 .

History of the tiahuanaco culture

The history of the Tiahuanaco culture developed in three periods . The village period (250 BC – 0), the urban period (0 – 700 AD) and the expansive period (700 – 1200).

The village period (250 BC – W)

The Tiwanaku culture had its origin in 250 BC in what is known as the Early Intermediate period . They settled mainly on the shores of Lake Titicaca on the border between Peru and Bolivia and constituted its capital called Tiwanaku .

In this period, the tiahuanaco still did not create their social classes but their adobe houses. They grew potatoes, quinoa, and other vegetables. They developed ceramics and metallurgy.

The urban period (0 – 700 AD)

In this evolutionary stage of the Tiahuanaco culture, the small town became a city , metallurgy developed with more advances and the first architectural designs in stone began to be made. The creation of social classes also began between those who lead work and production and those who worked the land, artisans, workers, among others.

At the end of this period, the Tiahuanaco culture reached a technological development that allowed it to create monuments, temples and fortresses . The expansion of their culture began and their crafts reached a more artistic level.

The Expansive Period (700 AD – 1200 AD)

At this time the Tiahuanaco culture began to expand towards the north of Chile and Argentina, as well as the south of Peru . These conquests of territory were made through their military forces.

New tiahuanaco cities were created such as: Khonkho Wankane, Ojje, Lukumata and Pajchiri .

In the year 1172 the great Tiwanaku empire began to decline due to warlike confrontations with the Mollo culture and natural disasters in the Andean area that gradually wiped out its population.


The tiahuanaco culture settled in large urban centers. Its main city was located in the Tiwanaku valley south of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia .

There were also other Tiahuanaco cities such as:

  • Khonkho Wankane located in the Desaguadero river valley below the foothills of the Chilla-Kimsachata mountain range .
  • Ojje located at the southern tip of the Copacabana peninsula .
  • Lukumata and Pajchiri located in the north valley immediate to the city of Tiwanaku (Pampa Koani), corresponding to the Katari River and separated by 8 kilometers away.

Political organization

Tiwanaku society was theocratic with a social structure divided into three classes : the elite, the artisans, and the peasants and merchants.

The tiahuanaco culture did not use military force to occupy its territories. His religious power was concentrated in the city of Tiahuanaco, which expanded to the western coast and also to the eastern forest.

Its economic activity was based on agriculture , livestock , handicrafts and the manufacture of textiles .

The elites of this society had the control of large herds and the coca leaf and corn trade in all their territories.

Ceramics of the tiahuanaco culture

The ceramics of the Tiahuanaco culture are incised, with glasses of regular size and colored with red, orange, white and brown tones.

In its ceramics you can see the drawings with stepped geometric figures and animals such as the condor, felines or snakes.

Among its best known crafts we can mention the Kero and the Cauldron.

The Kero is a large vase with decorations made of wood and ceramic and the Cauldron was in the shape of a feline with an open back where aromatic leaves were placed that made them burn to spread their perfume in religious ceremonies.


The architectural representations of the Tiahuanaco culture were mostly dolmens and rectangular stone works that served as housing. They also built funerary monuments known as chulpas with stone and clay. These monuments were initially rectangular in shape but later changed to a cylindrical one, as can be seen in the famous Chulpa de Sillustani in Puno .

Other of the most outstanding architectural works of the Tiahuanaco culture are the Akapana Fortress and the Kalasasaya Palace where the Puerta del Sol can be seen in one of its corners .

Religion and gods of the tiahuanaco culture

The Tiahuanaco people were polytheistic since they believed in many gods related to agriculture. Their main god was Wiracocha or God of the Staff. This god was worshiped on the Collao plateau since times before the Tiahuanaco culture.

An iconographic image of this God can be seen in the monument of the Puerta del Sol where Wiracocha appears in the center accompanied by winged beings.

Tiahuanaco myths say that Wiracocha created his people from a large rock and gave them life. It is also believed that this god created giants to help him build the city by moving huge stones and then destroyed them with a flood.

The religious rites practiced by the Tiahuanacos made use of hallucinogenic substances such as coca and anadenanthera seeds or parica that were consumed in tablets, by the priests and the beings that would be sacrificed.

Its spiritual and political center was Tiwanaku . This place was a focus of pilgrimage with great influence throughout the central Andean region. It was located on the tributary of Lake Titicaca south of the city of La Paz at 3,840 meters above sea level in Bolivia.

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