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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 civilization situated at Tiwanaku, in Western Bolivia. The capital city of Tiwanaku dates as early as 1200 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 kilometers, and had between 15,000 - 30,000 inhabitants. However, satellite imaging was used recently to map the extent of "flooded-raised field" agriculture (Aymara language: suka kollus) 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. 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. William H. Isbell states that "Tiahuanaco underwent a dramatic transformation between AD 600 and 700 that established new monumental standards for civic architecture and greatly increased the resident population." 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 center and the periphery as well as symbolizing 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 rule

Between 1438 and 1527, the Inca empire embarked on a mass expansion, acquiring much of what is now western Bolivia. However, they could not maintain control of the region for long as the rapidly expanding Inca Empire was internally weak, but nonetheless left the greatest mark on the Bolivian culture. In 1430, the Inca civilization 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 fifteenth 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.
Since the Incas had conquered the remaining parts of the Bolivian Altiplano, the native peoples experienced a breakthrough in what achievements. Like other cultures, the Inca spread their religion and language, Quechua, to their newly conquered territories. The Incas made an exception to the peoples living near Lake Titicaca; they were allowed to continue speaking Aymara. The Bolivians were introduced to a number of farming techniques, such as, terracing and the quipu system of keeping record with knotted strings (knotted strings of various lengths and colors were used for recording numerical information). The Incas were master builders and they constructed an elaborate system of roads, irrigation, and terraced mountain slopes.
Western Bolivia was not the only territory to be conquered by the Inca. Andean Ecuador, Peru, northern Chile, and northwestern Argentina made up an empire that stretched 2,000 miles in South America. The Inca enforced rules on the peoples living on the Bolivian Altiplano, but ruled as a welfare state; food, clothing, and shelter was provided for the needy and elderly. Like other Incans, Bolivians were expected to work for a number of days every year. If a person was unable to accomplish the designated number of days, they were punishable by death.
The Incan empire, before western contact, was thriving; everyone received the items that they needed. The Inca had a sort of caste system within the empire: the Inca ruling class, the priests, and the ayllus (the basic political and social units of Inca life). The Incas had an imperial colonization policy that intended to ensure the loyalty of the people to the empire by uprooting conquered people and whole communities and resettling them in safe territories that were friendly and loyal to the empire.


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