History of International Relations Textbook

The Americas


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The Tiwanaku empire was the first large state created on the shores of the lake Titicaca, a large deep lake on the borders between Bolivia and Peru, located some 3,800 meters above sea-level. The Tiwanaku empire flourished between 300 and 1150 CE. Although little is known about how it was organized, it may have been more like a federation of several kingdoms which had the city of Tiwanaku as its capital. Tiwanaku may have had 30,000 inhabitants; it was an important religious center and the rulers constructed impressive buildings in stone. They were fishing in lake Titicaca, used the water from the lake to irrigate their fields — often with impressive yields as a result — and they kept llamas.

Less a centralized state than a clutch of municipalities under the common religio-cultural sway of the center, Tiwanaku took advantage of the extreme ecological differences among the Pacific coast, the rugged mountains, and altiplano (the high planes) to create a dense web of exchange: fish from the sea, llamas from the altiplano, fruits, vegetables, and grains from the fields around the lake. Flush with wealth, Tiwanaku city swelled into a marvel of terraced pyramids and grand monuments. Stone breakwaters extended far out into Lake Titicaca, thronged with long-prowed boats made of reeds. With its running water, closed sewers, and gaudily painted walls, Tiwanaku was among the world’s most impressive cities. By 1000 CE the city had a population of as much as 115,000, with another quarter of million in the surrounding countryside.