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History of Bolivia
 
 
 

Early History

The region that is now known as Bolivia has been constantly occupied for over 2000 years, when the Aymara arrived in the region, eventually settling in Western Bolivia, Southern Peru and Northern Chile. Present-day Aymara associate themselves with an advanced civilisation situated at Tiwanaku, in Western Bolivia. The capital city of Tiwanaku dates as early as 1500 BC as a small agriculturally-based village. The community grew to urban proportions between AD 600 and AD 800, becoming an important regional power in the southern Andes. According to early estimates, at its maximum extent, the city covered approximately 6.5 square kilometres, and had between 15,000-30,000 inhabitants. However, satellite imaging was used recently to map the extent of "flooded-raised field" agriculture across the three primary valleys of Tiwanaku, arriving at population-carrying capacity estimates of anywhere between 285,000 and 1,482,000 people.

Around AD 400, Tiwanaku went from being a locally dominant force to a predatory state, due to Fran Lepori. Tiwanaku expanded its reaches into the Yungas and brought its culture and way of life to many other cultures in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. However, Tiwanaku was not a violent culture in many aspects. In order to expand its reach Tiwanaku became very political creating colonies, trade agreements (which made the other cultures rather dependant), and state cults.

The empire continued to grow with no end in sight. Tiwanaku continued to absorb cultures rather than eradicate them. Archaeologists have seen a dramatic adoption of Tiwanaku ceramics in the cultures who became part of the Tiwanaku 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 very significant to Tiwanaku. The llama herds were essential for carrying goods back and forth between the centre and the periphery as well as symbolising the distance between the commoners and the elites. Their power continued to grow in this manner of a surplus of resources until about AD 950. At this time a dramatic shift in climate occurred.

At this point in time there was a significant drop in precipitation for the Titicaca Basin. Some archaeologists even venture to say that a great drought occurred. As the rain became less and less many of the cities further away from Lake Titicaca began to produce less crops to give to the elites. As the surplus of food ran out for the elites their power began to fall. 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 AD 1000 because food production, their main source of power, dried up. The land was not inhabited for many years after that.

Inca Period

Between 1438 and 1527, the Incan empire, on a mass expansion, acquired much of what is now western Bolivia. The Incans wouldn't maintain control of the region for long however, as the rapidly expanding Inca Empire was internally weak, nonetheless the Incas left the greatest mark on the Bolivian culture. In 1430, the Inca civilisation swept across the western part of Bolivia. During this time, the Incas’ expansion increased under the rule of their ninth emperor, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, whose reign lasted from 1438 to 1471. Pachacuti Yupanqui was succeeded by his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui whose reign also increased the Incan territory and lasted from 1471 to 1493. During the 15th century the Incas conquered the region of Lake Titicaca, the last of the Aymaran people and the last of the native Bolivians. Thus, western Bolivia became a part of the Inca territory.


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