('ə-wə-nä') pronunciation

A site of pre-Incan ruins in western Bolivia near the southern end of Lake Titicaca. The ruins, including statues, monoliths, and a temple of the sun, are evidence of a civilization that flourished here from c. 1000 to 1300.



Capital city of the Tiahuanaco empire, situated on the altiplano of the central Andes at 4000m above sea level at the southern end of Lake Titicaca. Flourishing during the middle Horizon.

In the centre is a major ceremonial complex spread over an area 1 000m by 500m. The largest temple platform is called the Akapana; each side measures 200m long and it stood 15m high. A lower, smaller platform, the Kalasasaya, 3m high and 126m by 118m stood at its base. At the northwestern entrance to the Kalasasaya stood a massive carved monolith known as the Gateway of the Sun. Made from a single slab of andesite weighing at least 10 tons, this monolith is carved in the form of a doorway with niches on either side. Above the door is a representation of the most important local deity, the Staff Deity: a human wearing an elaborate headdress with appendages ending with the heads of animals and holding a staff in each hand.

The surrounding state was large and appears to have extended into southern Peru, northern Chile, most of Bolivia, and some of Argentina. There was a sharp boundary between Tiahuanaco and the adjacent Huari state. Tiahuanaco declined in the late first millennium ad and was abandoned by about ad 1000.

[Rep.: C. W. Bennett, 1934, Excavations at Tiahuanaco. Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, 34, 359–494]

Tiahuanaco (tyäwänä'), ancient native ruin, W Bolivia, 34 mi (55 km) S of Lake Titicaca on the Tiahuanaco R. in the S central Andes, near the Peruvian border; also called Tiwanaku or Tiahuanacu. Nearly 13,000 ft (3,962 m) above sea level, Tiahuanaco was probably the center of a pre-Inca empire and is believed by some to have been built by the Aymara and to have had some 30,000-40,000 inhabitants. Much of the construction is unfinished. Building was begun at some time before A.D. 500, and there is evidence of additional construction c.1100-1300. About 1000, Tiahuanaco culture spread to E Bolivia, N Chile, and Peru; the culture flourished for about 200 years. Built of massive blocks weighing up to 100 tons and brought from several miles away, the structures of Tiahuanaco consisted of terraced pyramids, courts, temples (some containing monolithic stone statues of human figures), and urban areas covering some 2.3 sq mi (13.6 sq m) and are superb examples of masonry. The stones, fitted together without mortar, were cut, squared, dressed, and notched with a precision equaled in no other aboriginal South American civilization, not even the Inca. Construction is largely of the platform or monolithic type decorated by conventional incised carving or heads in low relief. The creators of Tiahuanaco excelled as well at ceramics; Tiahuanaco painted pottery is one of the great achievements of pre-Columbian art. Also found at Tiahuanaco were goods made of copper, silver, and obsidian, thought to have been used by the society's elite members.


See A. Posnansky, Tiahuanacu (4 vol., 1945-58); J. A. Mason, The Ancient Civilizations of Peru (1957, rev. ed. 1988); A. L. Kolata, The Tiwanaku (1993).

Post a question - any question - to the WikiAnswers community: