The Tiwanaku People
The Tiwanaku people lived in the basin of Lake Titicaca for around 500 years, 1,500 years ago. At the time, they were one of the most important civilizations on the Andes. It is believed that the earliest people depended on llamas and alpacas for their wool and meat. Archaeologists have been able to learn a bit about the people because they left behind stone slabs and some impressive ceramic pots. Many of them had geometric patterns, the likenesses of humans, and the likenesses of people. The people were from the city of Tiwanaku, and at its height, the city was able to produce enough food to support as many as 20,000 people. The end of the civilization occurred quite abruptly. The production of pottery ceased, and within a matter of decades, the people abandoned the core city. So far, archaeologists don’t know why this happened, and they are still looking for answers. One theory is that a prolonged drought is the reason the civilization died out, and the remaining people left the area.
Lake Titicaca is the largest river in South America, and it is fed by five main rivers and several smaller streams and creeks. At its deepest point, the lake is 923-feet deep, and it is 120 miles across. There is a channel that separates the lake into two distinct parts. Titicaca is also said to be the most navigational lake in the world. At one time, the lake can have four iron steamships sailing on it.
Evidence Of a Drought
Over the years, archaeologists have found what they assume to be evidence of a social breakdown. Broken food jars and destroyed buildings have been found in the area. Unfortunately, this isn’t real proof because it isn’t possible to find out exactly what caused the city’s end. All we currently have are theories. Thanks to centuries of destruction and widespread looting, much of the evidence of the Tiwanaku civilization has been destroyed.
A Recent Expedition
In 2013, an international team of scientists headed back to the site where the lost civilization is believed to have lived. They were searching for evidence of the Tiwanaku people. The leader of the expedition, Christophe Delaere, is a marine biologist from Oxford University and Brussels Free University. They figured that their best bet would be to check in the water because this area would have been less disrupted than the area on the land.
According to Christophe, he chose the area due to the things that have been found by archaeologists in the past. When speaking to the media in April 2019, he said, “Lake Titicaca protects its ancient material culture from time and man. Never before have so many artifacts of this quality been discovered. The history that these objects tell us is exceptional.” The team decided that the best site to dive was on the Khoa Reef. It is located just off the southern tip of one of Lake Titicaca’s 41 islands, the Island of the Sun.
When the team dove 15-feet beneath the water, they uncovered a ceremonial site. There, they found a puma made from lapis lazuli, which is a vibrant blue semi-precious stone. The team also found several small carved stone animals, gold ornaments, and incense burners made from ceramic. Each of them was in the shape of a puma.
Proof Of Sacrifice
During the dive, the team found what they believed to be proof of llama sacrifices. They found gold leaf decorations that were attached to pieces of leather. They thought that these were put on the llamas before the sacrifice. What backed up their theory was the discovery of llama bones. The remains of burnt fish found on the lake bed led archaeologists to believe that the people ate this fish during the religious rituals.
An Anthropologist’s Point of View
One of the team members is an anthropologist named Charles Stanish from the University of South Florida. He had some strong opinions regarding the significance of what he found. In his report, he said, “What we’ve discovered in the Titicaca basin are pilgrimages, and ritual processions, and these are part of the state apparatus.” He believes that what they found is proof that they were a powerful force back then.
A Strange Find
The researchers discovered something strange while searching the Khoa Reef. They found pieces of Spondylus shells and one entire shell. The discovery was odd because these shells aren’t native to Lake Titicaca. They come from the Pacific coast, which is about 1,200 miles from the site. Everyone on the team wondered how the shells got there in the first place. The team believes that the shells indicate a wide-ranging trade network of the civilization.
These archaeologists scouring this sacred Bolivian lake discovered a cache of ancient treasure which told them a lot about the people who once inhabited the area. The find was incredible, and it has led the team to make plans to return. They were sure that there are more hidden secrets below the water just waiting to be discovered.