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Tiahuanaco, located on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, was a major religious center of the Huari-Tiahuanaco empire. During the Middle Horizon (AD 600-1000), the Huari military organization dominated the Peruvian Andes, and eventually linked up with the formidable priestly apparatus at Tiahuanaco to create a powerful theocratic state.
The symbolic relief carvings on the Gateway of the Sun at Tiahuanaco, often strikingly well-preserved in slabs of volcanic andesite, were first reported in detail by Ephriam G. Squier in his 1877 book, Incidents of Travel and Exploration in the Land of the Incas.
Squier describes the tiers of winged condor-headed and human-headed figures kneeling toward the central sun god figure "as if in adoration, each one holds before him a staff or sceptre..." These winged figures represent the heads of condors, tigers, and serpents. The central figure in the Sun Gateway, holding a pair of staffs, is probably linked to the much earlier Chavin Staff God (from ca. 800-300 BC).
Squier also notes that the islands of Lake Titicaca were traditionally thought to have produced the founders of the Inca Empire. This appears to be upheld by modern archaeology, which shows that during the Huari-Tiahauanaco period, centralized state organization occurred with regional storehouses, roads, and redistribution of resources and local populations, all preceding the much better documented Inca empire by hundreds of years.
[Fig.1: Winged figures on the side of the Gateway of the Sun at Tiahuanaco (Squier 1877).]
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