Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Arid North > Tiwanaku in the north of Chile


The Tiwanaku developed a huge farming and herding economy. Although they grew crops in terraces and large depressions dug out of the ground, the bulk of their farming was carried out in camellones or raised beds surrounded by water. This technological response to the adverse Altiplano conditions allowed them to grow thousands of hectares of potatoes and quinoa. The camelids they raised were also important to the Tiwanaku, providing them with meat, wool and other material and, used as beasts of burden, enabling their active traffic in goods. In Azapa, the local communities grew maize, beans, squash, jíquima and gourds that were sent to the Altiplano by llama caravan. In the Atacama, in contrast, the groups had an economy based on mining and the caravan trade, as this was a hub for the exchange of raw materials and manufactured goods among peoples of distant regions, including the Altiplano.