Tiwanaku…. another lost empire

Going through the front pages of the Rough Guide to South America I first saw a picture of Tiwanaku.

Sub-terranean temple of Tiwanaku

With a little more reading we realised that we would only be 75km away when we were in La Paz….. so Tiwanaku was added to our itinerary.
We had to wait for 2 days while I recovered from a bout of laryngitis but luckily we got there eventually.

View of Tiwanaku from the top of what used to be a very large pyramid.

Tiwanaku is the Macchu Pichu of Bolivia. It was the ritual and administration centre of the Tiwanaku empire. The empire first started in about 1500 BC (probably as a little agricultural village) and developed over the next 2000 years from there. Archaeologists believe that most of the buildings were built between 300 and 1000 AD and during this time the empire grew significantly and that the empire expanded.
It was discovered that the Tiwanaku people made human sacrifices where they disembowelled the person and then displayed in rituals to the gods. Mummies without heads were also discovered so it is thought that they may have decapitated people too. Despite all this it is believed that in general they were gentle group of people who were more interested in economic and agricultural growth making treaties with neighbouring people including them into their empire. (wouldn’t have wanted to get on their bad side though).

At about 950 AD something very significant happened that caused this empire to collapse. There was a significant climate change at that time and the most popular theory is that a very significant drought caused the collapse. Without water there was less food, less food means hungry people, when hungry rebellion is the next step with a loss of power. A few hundred years later the Inca’s then discovered Tiwanaku and integrated it into their culture.

Another view of the Subterranean temple with the stone heads. I can only imagine how exciting it must have been to excavate this.

My favourite was the Semi-subterranean Temple. A number of heads protrude from the walls. It was an awesome sight.

Close up view of one of the heads from the Subterranean Temple

Other highlights included the Gateway to the Sun which was decorated with fine carvings of Viracicha who was known as their “god of action and shaper and destroyer of many worlds.

Close up view of the Gateway to the Sun with very intricate carvings

Gateway to the Sun

There is a museum that houses all the pottery, tools made from stone, wood and bone, textiles and metal ware. I was again astounded at the artistic skill. The engravings were beautiful and they sculpted pumas, frogs, tortoises and many other animals. There was also a stone monolith with very intricate carvings that was bigger than the Moai statues in Easter Island. This was Andrew’s favourite.

Stone monolith

A close up view of the monolith with very detailed fine carvings

Yet another empire that has come and gone…..makes one realise there has been so much before us.

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Categories: Diary | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Tiwanaku…. another lost empire

  1. Never knew the place existed ??? Love Dad

  2. Rosemary

    Stunning pics and very interesting places. Such an amazing trip you are having!. Enjoy and take care.

  3. Aarjan

    Now if only Robert Mugabe’s empire would go!

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