Large Tihuanaco – Tiwanaku Bolivian Polychrome Jar, 5th Century AD
Pre-Columbian, Bolivia, Lake Titicaca region, Tihuanaco / Tiwanaku, ca. 400 to 700 AD. A graceful, polychrome (red, black, and creamy white) pottery vessel of an aryballos form with four panels of abstract geometric motifs on the exterior walls followed by a band of black-on-white zigzags above, and finally lovely festoons decorating the upper neck just below the rim.
Pre-Columbian Bolivia covers the historical period between 10,000 BCE, when Upper Andes region was first populated and 1532, when Spanish conquistadors invaded Inca empire. The Andes region of Pre-Columbian South America was dominated by the Tiwanaku civilization until about 1200, when the regional kingdoms of the Aymara emerged as the most powerful of the ethnic groups living in the densely populated region surrounding Lake Titicaca. Power struggles continued until 1450, when the Incas incorporated upper Bolivia into their growing empire. Based in present-day Peru, the Incas instituted agriculture and mining practices that rivaled those put in place many years later by European conquerors. They also established a strong military force and centralized political power. Despite their best efforts, however, the Incas never completely controlled nomadic tribes of the Bolivian lowlands, nor did they fully assimilate the Aymara kingdoms into their society. These internal divisions doomed the Inca Empire when European conquerors arrived.
Cultures of indigenous peoples in Bolivia developed in the high altitude settings of altiplano with low oxygen lewels, poor soils and extreme weather patterns. The better suited lowlands were sparsely inhibited by hunter-gatherer societies while much of the pre-Columbian population was concentrated in altiplano valleys of Cochabamba and Chuquisaca.
Potato was domesticated near lake Titicaca between 8000 and 5000 BC, quinoa some 3000–4000 years ago and production of copper began in 2000 BC. Llama, alpaca and vicuña were domesticated and used for transport, food and clothing.
The site of Jisk’a Iru Muqu was first investigated in 1994. A necklace consisting of nine gold beads was found in an excavated grave located next to a Terminal Archaic pit house. Charcoal recovered from the burial dates the gold beads to 2155-1936 cal BC.
The earliest cultures in Bolivia are the Wankarani culture, and the Chiripa. The earliest Wankarani sites are dated from 1800 BC onwards. Wankarani culture arose in the area of Oruro Department near Lake Poopo.
Tiwanaku empire: Situated in Western Bolivia its capital city of Tiwanaku dates as early as 1200 BC as a small agricultural village. In around 400 Tiwanaku empire began expansion, reaching into Yungas and establishing contacts with other cultures in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. By 600 it became an important regional power in the southern Andes. Tiwanako underwent a dramatic transformation between 600 and 700 that established new monumental standards for civic architecture and greatly increased the resident population.
Tiwanaku empire absorbed cultures rather than eradicated them. Archaeologists have seen a dramatic adoption of Tiwanaku ceramics in the cultures who became part of the empire. Tiwanaku gained its power through the trade it implemented between all of the cities within its empire. The elites gained their status by the surplus of food they gained from all of the regions and then by having the ability to redistribute the food among all the people. This is where the control of llama herds became essential, for carrying goods back and forth between the center and the periphery.
In about 950 a dramatic shift in climate occurred. A significant drop in precipitation in the Titicaca Basin followed. Many cities further away from Lake Titicaca began to produce less crops to give to the elites. The capital city became the last place of production, due to the resiliency of the raised fields, but in the end even the intelligent design of the fields was no match for the weather. Tiwanaku disappeared around year 1000 because food production, its main source of power, dried up. The land was not inhabited for many years after that.