The ruins of Tiahuanaco were happened upon by the Spanish conquistador Pedro Cieza de Leon as he searched for the southern capital of the Incas. By the time of his arrival (1549), the natives of the area were as mystified as to their origins as he was. Modern archaeology suggests that it was a major religious/ceremonial centre for over a millennium before falling into disuse before the arrival of the Inca in the middle of the 15th century. The broadly contemporaneous Huari culture of Peru bears certain trademarks of the Tiahuanaco culture (the ubiquitous Doorway God, chevron motifs) which suggests they were culturally, if not politically, linked. To the south, the pucara (fortified villages) of the Humahuaca valley show evidence of links to Tiahuanaco. At the main site by Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian altiplano, a wall with 175 embedded limestone heads may represent tributary peoples – or pilgrim ‘selfies’.
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