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“Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture” comprises the ruins of the capital of an important and distinct pre-Hispanic empire in the Andes. It reached its apogee between 500 and 900 A.D. The empire covered what now is southern Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and parts of Argentina.

The city lies in a valley on the alitiplano, 3,885 meter above sea level, close to Lake Titicaca. Its inhabitants had an unchallenged mastery of agriculture, including the farming of potatoes and quinoa, and the construction of terraced fields.
The ancient city was mostly built of adobe, especially the residential buildings that have now faded away. For the ceremonial and administrative architecture lithic material was used. The capital once had between 70,000 and 125,000 inhabitants.

The Tiwanaku empire collapsed in the first half of the 12th century, without known cause. The remaining monuments include:
- Akapana – the major temple, a stepped pyramid
- Semi underground temple – with monolithic stelae and heads (clavas) built-in the walls
- Kalasasaya – open temple built on a platform, possibly an astronomic observatory; it includes stelae and the Gate of the Sun frieze

Visit May 2011

Tiwanaku lies 72km to the west of La Paz. It's a very fine trip to get out there: you'll pass the buzzing suburb of El Alto and the quintessential Altiplano landscape with lama's, indigenous Aymara women in traditional dress and mountain vistas.

The Tiwanaku-site consists of 2 museums and the archeological site. The entrance fee for foreigners is 80 bolivianos (8 EUR), which gives you access to both museums and the site. The ceramics museum has a lot of pottery made by the Tiwanaku, as well as by their predecessors and the Inca. The "Lithic Museum" still only holds one piece - the Pachamama or Bennett Stele. It's a grand piece of work, a 7 meters high monolith, transported here from the center of La Paz where it had stood for years. It did not look as if other prominent findings were soon to join it in the "museum". Further development of both the museum and the archaeological site seems to have come to a stop. Our guide told us that there is a conflict between the local indigenous people and the Ministry of Culture how to proceed.

The archeological site is spread out over a vast area, without many obvious highlights. The "pyramid" is just like a small hill. They hope to have it restored completely in 5 years, but that doesn't seem likely to me.

Having visited so many archeological sites in Peru, for me it was interesting to see the links between the Tiwanaku and the (earlier) Chavin and the (later) Inca. For example at the Semi Underground Temple, my favourite spot of the complex. Here the walls are still (or again?) dotted with 175 stone heads, just like it once was in Chavin. At Chavin there is only one left in situ.

In all, a site not to go out of your way for, but a nice enough addition if you'd like to see the whole spectrum of Andean pre-Hispanic civilizations.

Click here to see more of my photos of Tiwanaku


Joyce (The Netherlands):
Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) is a complex of buildings, temples and a pyramid from pre-Inca times and is therefore Bolivia's most important archeological site.
The site consists of two museums and the archeological grounds with the buildings. One museum hosts mostly ceramic artifacts and the other one only hosted one sculpture by the time I visited it (June 2008). More artifacts and sculptures will be brought from the archeological site to the museums in the near future for preservation.
The archeological site has a piramide that covers more square meters than the one from Geops in Egypt, but is less tall. Total excavation is to be done in about 7 years. Interesting are the way the bricks are placed on the buildings (just like the Inca's used to do it later on), the ear-shaped loudspeaker, the interesting and very detailed carving on the sculptures and the faces on the wall of the Semi-subterranean Temple.
Date posted: July 2008

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Site info

Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture
Country: Bolivia
Inscribed: 2000
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (3) (4)
Category: Archaeological site, Pre-Columbian

Site history:
2000 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription
Bureau - for more info re protection/management (of undoubted siginifance however)
Bureau - better boundaries. Help to be given to Bolivia

Site links

Official website:
»Complejo Arqueológico

In the news:
» Bolivia detects buried pyramid at Tiahuanaco site (02-04-2015).
» Akapana "renovation" threatens site's World Heritage status (21-10-2009).

Related links:
» Ancient Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) Restored Monolith Returned .
» Tiwanaku, a Photo Gallery.

Related Forum posts:
Not available

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Cemeteries . Passage of the Sun . Pyramids . Stelae . Tunnels .
Andes . Highest cultural WHS .
Archaeological "Type Sites". . Pre-Inca cultures . Qhapaq Nan (Inca) .
Human Activity
Astronomy and Astrology . Irrigation and drainage . Language isolate . Mummies .
Individual People
Max Uhle . Visited by Alexander von Humboldt on his travels .
Built in the 6th century .
Dubbed as another WHS . Epic Subtitles . Exact locations inscribed twice (or more) . Excavated by American Universities . Located in a Former Capital . On Banknotes .
WHS on Other Lists
U.S. Ambassadors Fund .
World Heritage Process
Reconstruction regarded as unsatisfactory by UNESCO/ICOMOS .

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