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Tiwanaku or Tiahuanaco is clearly one of the oldest cultures in America, the pre-colonial city of Tiwanaku was the capital and the territory comprised Tiwanaku culture of the Altiplano in Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina, it was characterized by agriculture supported by a sophisticated system, a rate of balconies to produce grain at high altitude. 


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It is the most important archaeological site in Bolivia, it´s located at the Ingavi province, in La Paz, 70 km far from the city and 15 miles far from Lake Titicaca, at an altitude of 3,885 meters above sea level. It is assumed that Tiahuanaco Culture born between 1500 and 1400 BC, and collapsed for unknown reasons around 1100 to 1200 dc.


Tiwanaku was a crowded urban center that had a ceremonial civic center and a number of neighboring buildings covering an area of four square kilometers, it had been founded around 300 a.C. and some unfinished buildings were about 900 a.C.. It has been established the division of the Tiwanaku culture in 3 phases:

• Villager, 1500 B.C. - 45 A.C.

• Urban, 45 A.C. - 700 A.C.

• Expansive, 700 A.C. - 1200 A.C.


About their knowledge and technology, they are characterized by the use of bronze, giving them a great military and technological advantage over other contemporary cultures of America. 

The Tiwanaku masonry reveals one of the most skilled construction jobs in South America; their systems of attachment of the stone blocks reflect an ancient use of metal construction purposes. Their great ability as builders and architects in their lavish temples, their calculations of bows on the walls and excellent technical planning allowed them to create the networking and surface channels to remove rainwater and served. All temples are astronomical orientated with amazing precision. 


Tiwanaku´s influence in South America is revealed at menay monuments in Peru (Inca culture), Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia's eastern Amazon. Some scientists have proposed it as the mother culture of American civilizations, while others regarded it as the capital of an ancient megalithic empire. For the British researcher James Allen, Tiwanaku was one of the kingdoms of Atlantis of Plato.


Among its most important architectural constructions are:


tiwanaku tour        

Semi-underground Temple

It is one of the best pieces of architecture of Tiwanaku; it was built two feet below the surrounding area, with a quadrangular plan surrounded by walls with 57 of red sandstone pillars. These walls are decorated with 175 stone heads whose features represent the various ethnic groups that were part of the empire.


It should be noted the drainage system in this building, developed by stone made channels, with a perfect 2% decline that still operates today, and leading to a collector.


Embedded in the floor of the temple was the greatest anthropomorphic piece, known as the Bennett Monolith or Pachamama Monolith, it´s the largest in all Tiwanaku, measured 7.30 meters tall and, like many parts of the site it was carved from a single rectangular shape block. In contrast to the perfection of the whole construction and the Bennett Monolith inside the Temple there is the Beard Monolith or "Kontiki Wiraqocha" Monolith sculpted in sandstone, it is accompanied by two smaller steles. 


Kalasasaya: Among the temples, the one with the greatest impact is Kalasasaya or "From the standing stones," it´s a structure based on five acres of sandstone columns with decorative gargoyles or droppers for draining rainwater. It is a ceremonial center built with large stones of about five feet high, measured 126 meters long and 117 meters wide.


Inside, there is a large rectangular sunken courtyard or underground temple to which one descends a carved staircase in a single rock of six steps. Entering through the temple´s main gate, there is the Ponce Monolith, which represents a priest, there you can appreciate the purest art of Tiwanaku, fine iconography engravings as winged men, fish, puma heads and camels, condors and eagles. Inside you can see the remains of what would have been small semi-underground rooms. In the grounds there is a wall whose base is sandstone blocks that closes it leaving both sides a sort of atrium that separates the central area or "ceremonial".

In this hall, there are two blocks containing a hole that mimics, in scale, at a human hearing system through which you can hear noises or conversations that occur in remote sites, this allows the conclusion that in the pre-Columbian world it was known and applied acoustics. For its main entrance the sun used to pass at the equinoxes of spring and autumn, it means that, tiahuanacotas astronomers had deduced the solar year of 365 days.


Akapana Pyramid: Key landmark building and civic center of Tiwanaku, arranged in relation to the stars. The building is a pyramidal structure with seven stepped platforms; it has 18 meters high and 200 feet on each side. On its time, was once, crowned by sophisticated monuments where may had been human sacrifices. Its current state is ruined, because in the eighteenth century Spanish Oyaldeburo excavated the pyramid in search of treasure, penetrating from the top where there was a semi-subterranean temple that would have had a cruciform staggered like a Andean cross. The supporting walls of the first terrace were covered with stone pillow and the next to perfect cut stones, these differences in construction techniques, make us assume that the work was completed in a very long period.


tiwanaku tours   

The Sun Gate

The most famous and important monument of Tiwanaku, located in Kalasasaya, it´s cut into a single block of andesite stone of 10 tons, has 3 feet tall and almost 4 feet wide, and it was presumably part of a larger building. In its reliefs show the worldview of the Tiwanaku Culture with the image of the sun god, in each hand holding a scepter with figures of birds and lightning, it has thirty-two figures of sun-men and sixteen eagle-men, this hieroglyph language and codices so far have not been revealed, but some scientists assume that that could be an annual calendar that marks the time of sowing and harvesting. This iconography spread throughout Peru, especially in the later Inca Empire, and part of Bolivia.


The Sun Gate stayed unfinished, a fact that increases the mystery about its meaning, it´s known worldwide as the largest show the degree of perfection reached byTiahuanaco Culture, both for its art and for its symbolism.


Puma Punku: It has a much more refined and evolved technique than the other buildings, highlighting the impeccable management of lithic material. Puma Punku or the Gate of Puma is a temple with extraordinary architectural quality which covers an approximate area of two hectares. It has a pyramidal structure with a base of three platforms formed by carved stones; the floor is rectangular with two flaps that extend from north to south in this sector. At the top stands a small temple with their own drainage canals and west are seen the remains of what was an access stairway. This monument was the subject of multiple looting at the time of the Incas and this was more marked in the colonial and  Republic times.



Location: West of Bolivia Population in the province Ingavi department of La Paz, 72 miles from La Paz (seat of government).

Elevation: 3844 masl

Average temperature: 8 º C.

How to get from La Paz to Tiwanaku: There are public buses that leave every hour from the General Cemetery area of the city of La Paz, however it is the recommended option for transport quality despite being pretty cheap besides being an area not recommended for tourists overnight.


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