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Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture

Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture

The city of Tiwanaku, capital of a powerful pre-Hispanic empire that dominated a large area of the southern Andes and beyond, reached its apogee between 500 and 900 AD. Its monumental remains testify to the cultural and political significance of this civilisation, which is distinct from any of the other pre-Hispanic empires of the Americas.

Tiwanaku : centre spirituel et politique de la culture tiwanaku

La ville de Tiwanaku fut la capitale d'un puissant empire préhispanique qui étendit son influence sur une vaste zone des Andes méridionales et au-delà, et atteignit son apogée entre 500 et 900 de notre ère. Les vestiges de ses monuments témoignent de l'importance culturelle et politique de cette civilisation qui se distingue nettement des autres empires préhispaniques des Amériques.

التيواناكو: المركز الروحي والسياسي لثقافة تيواناكو

كانت مدينة تيواناكو عاصمة لإمبراطورية قوية بسطت نفوذها قبل الغزو الإسباني على منطقة واسعة من الأنديز الجنوبية وغيرها من المناطق وبلغت ذروتها بين العام500 و900 ب.م. وتشهد آثار هذه المواقع على الأهمية الثقافية والسياسية التي ترتديها هذه الحضارة المتميّزة عن سائر الإمبراطوريات السابقة للغزو الإسباني في الأميركيتين.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Древний город Тиауанако: духовный и политический центр доиспанской индейской культуры

Город Тиауанако, столица мощной доиспанской империи, которая господствовала на огромном пространстве, занимаемом Южными Андами и их окрестностями, достигла своего апогея в период с 500 до 900 гг. н.э. Памятники свидетельствуют о культурной и политической значимости этой цивилизации, которая выделяется среди всех других доиспанских империй Америки.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Tiwanaku: centro espiritual y político de la cultura Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku fue la capital de un poderoso imperio prehispánico que alcanzó su apogeo entre los años 500 y 900 de nuestra era. Su influencia se extendió por una vasta zona de los Andes meridionales y otras regiones adyacentes. Los vestigios de sus monumentos atestiguan la importancia cultural y política de una civilización netamente diferenciada de las restantes culturas prehispánicas de América.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Tiwanaku: spiritueel en politiek centrum van de Tiwanaku cultuur

De stad Tiwanaku – hoofdstad van een krachtig pre-Spaans rijk – domineerde een groot deel van de zuidelijke Andes en verder. In de 8e eeuw na Christus ging het Tiwanaku rijk z'n meest invloedrijke fase in. In de uitgestrekte regio werden veel dochtersteden of kolonies opgericht. De belangrijkste daarvan was Wari in Peru dat zich later tegen Tiwanku keerde. De politieke dominantie van Tiwanaku begon af te nemen in de 11e eeuw en het rijk stortte de eerste helft van de 12e eeuw in. De monumentale overblijfselen getuigen van de culturele en politieke betekenis van deze beschaving, die zich onderscheidt van andere pre-Spaanse rijken van Amerika.

Source: unesco.nl

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Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture (Bolivia (Plurinational State of)) © Rodrigo Varas
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Tiwanaku is located near the southern shores of Lake Titicaca on the Altiplano, at an altitude of 3,850 m., in the Province of Ingavi, Department of La Paz. Most of the ancient city, which was largely built from adobe, has been overlaid by the modern town. However, the monumental stone buildings of the ceremonial centre survive in the protected archaeological zones.

Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture began as a small settlement which later flourished into a planned city between 400 A.D. and 900 A.D. The maximum expression of this culture is reflected in the civic - ceremonial organized spatially with a centre oriented toward to the cardinal points, constructed with impressive ashlars stones carved accurately and equipped with a complex system of underground drainage that was controlling the flow of rain waters.

The public - religious space of this city is shaped by a series of architectural structures that  correspond to different periods of cultural accessions: Temple Semi-underground, Kalasasaya's Temple, Akapana's Pyramid, Pumapumku's Pyramid. In addition, the area politician - administrative officer is represented by structures as the Palace of Putuni and Kantatallita. This architectural complex reflects the complex political structure of the period and its strong religious nature. The most imposing monument at Tiwanaku is the Pyramid of Akapana. It is a pyramid originally with seven superimposed platforms with stone retaining walls rising to a height of over 18m. Only the lowest of these and part of one of the intermediate walls survive intact. Investigations have shown that it was originally clad in sandstone and andisite and surmounted by a temple. It is surrounded by very well-preserved drainage canals. The walls of the small semi-subterranean temple (Templete) are made up of 48 pillars in red sandstone. There are many carved stone heads set into the walls, doubtless symbolizing an earlier practice of exposing the severed heads of defeated enemies in the temple.

To the north of the Akapana is the Kalasasaya, a large rectangular open temple, believed to have been used as an observatory. It is entered by a flight of seven steps in the centre of the eastern wall. The interior contains two carved monoliths and the monumental Gate of the Sun, one of the most important specimens of the art of Tiwanaku. It was made from a single slab of andesite cut to form a large doorway with niches (Hornacinas) on either side. Above the doorway is an elaborate bas-relief frieze depicting a central deity, standing on a stepped platform, wearing an elaborate head-dress, and holding a staff in each hand. The deity is flanked by rows of anthropomorphic birds and along the bottom of the panel there is a series of human faces. The ensemble has been interpreted as an agricultural calendar.

The settlers of this city perfected the technology for carving and polishing different stone materials for the construction, which, together with architectural technology, enriched the monumental spaces. .

The economic base of this city is evidenced through the almost 50.000 agricultural fields, known locally as Sukakollos, characterized by their irrigation technology which allowed the different cultures to easily adapt to the climate conditions. The artificial terraces constitute an important contribution to agriculture and made possible a sustained form of farming and consequently the cultural evolution of the Tiwanaku Empire. These innovations were subsequently taken up by succeeding civilizations and were extended as far as Cuzco.

The social dynamics of this population of the highland plateau were sustained in strong religious components that are expressed in a diverse iconography of stylized of zoomorphic and anthropomorphous images. The political and ideological power represented in different material supports extended to the borders coming up to the population’s vallunas and  to more remote coastal  areas. Many towns and colonies were set up in the vast region under Tiwanaku rule. The political dominance of Tiwanaku began to decline in the 11th century, and its empire collapsed in the first half of the 12th century. Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture is one of the urban accessions the most important pre-Inca of the Andean region of South America. Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture was the capital of a powerful empire that lasted several centuries and it was characterized by the use of new technologies and materials for the architecture, pottery, textiles, metals, and basket-making. It was the epicentre of knowledge and ‘saberes’ due to the fact that it expanded its sphere of influence to the interandean valleys and the coast.

The politics and ideology had a religious character and it incorporated to the sphere of influence to different ethnic groups that lived in different regions. This multiethnic character takes form of the stylistic and iconographic diversity of his archaeological materials. The monumental buildings of his administrative and religious centre are a witness of the economic and political force of the cardinal city and of his empire.

Criterion (iii): The ruins of Tiwanaku bear striking witness to the power of the empire that played a leading role in the development of the Andean prehispanic civilization.

Criterion (iv): The buildings of Tiwanaku are exceptional examples of the ceremonial and public architecture and art of one of the most important manifestations of the civilizations of the Andean region.


All the attributes to convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are located within its boundaries. The archaeological remains have maintained to a certain extent their physical integrity although systematic conservation and maintenance measures will be required to ensure their physical stability and the protection against the adverse effect of climatic conditions in the long term. Similarly, effective enforcement of regulatory measures for the protection of the large areas of the ancient urban complex, that exist beneath the modern village of Tiwanaku and farmhouses, is crucial for maintaining the integrity of these remains.


As with most archaeological sites, Tiwanaku preserves a very high degree of authenticity. However, a conservation plan with precise guidelines for interventions, which take into consideration the original form and design, as well as the materials used for construction, will need to be implemented to ensure that the conditions of authenticity continue to be met.

Protection and management requirements

The Bolivian State has established regulations at the national, departmental and local government levels for the conservation, protection and safeguarding of the property. These include: The Political Constitution of the Bolivian State, Art. 191, Law 03/10/1906; D.S. 11/11/1909; Law 8/05/1927; D.L. 08/01/1945; D.S. Nº 05918-06/11/1961; R.M. Nº 1652-27/11/1961; D.S. 7234-30/06/1965; R.M. Nº 082/97-03/06/1997; D.S. Nº25263-30/12/1998. The departmental regulation: RAP Nº 0107-19/02/1999. Agreements between the Institutions of the Bolivian State and Tiwanaku's Municipality: Record of commitment for Tiwanaku 22/02/1999; Agreement of Interinstitutional cooperation between the Viceminister of Culture and Tiwanaku's Municipality 01/12/1998. Certification Municipal of protection to archaeological heritage Tiwanaku's 08/01/2000. The limits for the protection and safeguard of the property were established by means of the D.S. 25647-14/01/2000, where it is stipulated that the cultural heritage is of property of the State and divided it in three areas. The first two areas (Kalasasaya, with 23.5 ha and Pumapunku, with 7.0 ha) are physically protected, the third area (Mollukontu, with 41 ha) is going to be protected as part of the main plan of conservation. To guarantee the integrity and the authenticity of the areas declared property of the Bolivian State, there is delimited a protection zone that consists of a perimeter band, a 100 meters wide, surrounding the three archaeological areas before indicated as a single polygonal one. There is also a programme for the acquisition of other areas for of the Bolivian State.

In addition, planning tools exist through the main plan of Tiwanaku (1999-2009) and a main plan of conservation. The main plan will entail the implementation of the following programmes: archaeological investigations, conservation and restoration, investigation in anthropology, infrastructure in general, dissemination and communication and administration of the site. This will also complement the main conservation plan that will address natural and human factors that affect the site Tiwanaku.