Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Arid North > Tiwanaku in the north of Chile


The ruling class of Tiwanaku is thought to have legitimized its rule through emblematic iconography, which was designed to proclaim and maintain its domination over the empire’s many territories. Symbols of power were disseminated as portable artifacts that promoted adherence to Tiwanaku society through imagery and objects. This iconography represented a shamanistic religion based on hallucinogenic-induced trance. In the city of Tiwanaku, these common motifs are sculpted onto large boulders and were also reproduced on a variety of objects–fine textiles, ceremonial drinking vessels (keros) made of ceramic or wood, and on artifacts used to ingest hallucinogenic substances. Along with these objects went a series of body ornaments such as malachite necklaces, gold jewelry and the characteristic four-pointed caps, all of which signaled adherence to the State ideology.