Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Arid North > Tiwanaku in the north of Chile

Beliefs and funeral rites

Early Tiwanaku religious practices display influences from the Amazon basin, especially in its emphasis on shamanism associated with the consumption of hallucinogens. Later, official State rituals gradually led to a more institutionalized form of worship with a focus on the consumption of fermented beverages such as corn chicha, which played an important role in the social relations and religious ceremonies of this society.

In funerary practices, the influence of Tiwanaku appears across the region. In Azapa, the Cabuza people traditionally buried their dead in cylindrical pits with the body bent and wrapped in elaborate unkus (locally made woolen tunics). However, around 800 CE a few tombs appear with much finer textiles and the four-pointed Tiwanaku hats, suggesting that the deceased individuals were officials or authorities of that State. Also found in graves of this time period were ceramic vessels, mostly in the Cabuza style but with the forms and iconography of Tiwanaku ceramics. In the Atacama region, tombs attributed to this period include those of miners, accompanied by tools of the trade; more notable however are tombs of the Atacameña elite class, whose bodies were attired in fine woolen tunics of Tiwanaku manufacture, along with a series of prestige goods such as gold ornaments, keros ceramic drinking vessels and finely crafted implements used for ingesting hallucinogenic substances. All of these artifacts were imported from the Altiplano State or decorated with their iconography.