The site of Tiahuanaco on Lake Titicaca in the Andean altiplano was first settled almost 4,000 years ago. The major constructions of apparent ceremonial significance date to around 300 BCE, and it appears to have developed regional significance as a place of veneration and pilgrimage. Around 400 CE religious power began to translate into political power and, either by colonization or conquest, Tiahuanaco gained sway over competing city states in the altiplano. At its peak, c. 1200 years ago, its hegemony extended over an area of c. 386,000 square miles (1 million sq. kilometres). The central site was originally enclosed by a moat, and probably reserved for the residence of the priesthood and aristocracy. It contains a number of gateways and courtyards (including the Kalasasya and Putuni) of differing scales, and a pyramidal structure, the Akpana. When the gods ceased to smile, the population turned. In the 11th century, after long drought, Tiahuanaco was extensively vandalized.
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