The Territorial Expansion of the Tiwanaku Polity in the South Central Andes: a Study of Human-Land relationships in the Cochabamba Valleys, Bolivia. Presented at the 61st annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, New Orleans, April 1996.

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Cochabamba is an extremely important region in the analysis of Tiwanaku's expansion in the south central Andes. In this region I have analyzed the prehistoric spatial relationships between human settlement and agricultural lands in the maize-producing Cochabamba region, from the Formative to the period of Tiwanaku style material occurrence in the region, the Intermediate Period. This data allowed an archaeological test of the interpretations made on the interaction between Cochabamba and the altiplano. Specifically, Kolata suggested a direct colonization and control of Cochabamba in a vertical mode, where the Tiwanaku polity could have had access to maize. This research was built on expectations made on this interpretation.

A distribution of settlements paralleling good quality lands was expected to occur if the interest of the Tiwanaku polity was the exploitation of maize. If a differential interaction in the Cochabamba region could be explained in relation to maize production potential, sites with Tiwanaku style ceramics should differ in relation to previous local settlements. Overall, Tiwanaku's presence in richer areas would have generated an intensified maize production with settlement locations on and adjacent to prime agricultural land.

However, if Tiwanaku were not intensifying maize production I did not expect to see major settlement shifts in comparison to the Early Intermediate period and expected the distribution of Tiwanaku style materials to bear no relationship to good farming areas. If pre-Tiwanaku settlements in Capinota or Mizque had already been arranged to maximize maize production and if expansion of the agricultural base was not undertaken, interaction with Tiwanaku would not produce any significant shifts in settlement locations either.

In this research: (1) A Tiwanaku-centered perspective is avoided by assuming that local settlements and local exploitation patterns influenced the occupation made in the Intermediate Period; (2) Land-use and settlement patterns are a new line of evidence explored to test several models of political economy; this evidence assesses the essence of most prehistoric political arrangements, which is resource exploitation. The Intermediate Period in Cochabamba would have been interpreted as a classic case of domination by the Tiwanaku polity if using a traditional pottery-based analysis; and (3) Land's agricultural productivity is used both as a proxy to model specific site location, but foremost regional settlement clustering patterns (but I assume in the following models that settlement patterns are shaped by sociopolitical considerations as much as by environmental variables).

The models

The land-use and settlement patterns resulting from interregional interaction are interpreted under four models: a Political subordination scenario, as consequence of a direct control strategy; a Verticality scenario; a Prestige-good economy scenario, as consequence of indirect control; and, a Status-quo scenario, reflecting no impact of the Tiwanaku polity in the land-use patterns of the local populations in the region. The verticality, the subordination, and the prestige-good economy scenarios could not be supported for either area. It is the Status quo scenario that is proposed for the Capinota-Parotani and Mizque survey areas based on the data documented.


The chronological sequence used consists of: (1) A long Formative period from roughly 1300 BC to AD 350; (2) An Early Intermediate period with local styles: Parroquia, Tupuraya, Sauces, Mojocoya, and Cochabamba styles up to AD 500-600; and (3) An Intermediate period with Tiwanaku style ceramics (of Bennett's Derived type), overlapping with the previous period styles, but foremost contemporaneous to the Omereque (Nascoide) style. Tiwanaku style pottery is treated as a single stylistic unit.


Two 200 km˛ areas were surveyed with a random sampling strategy and provided comparable and measurable large-scale data on site location in three topographic zones (alluvial plain, piedmont and mountain) and on three soil groups (based on FAO categories for agricultural use) of the Capinota and Mizque valleys. A comparison of the differential distribution of occupation with Tiwanaku style materials in these areas, which differ in the amount of optimal soils available and in the year-round water supply, was then possible.


The data analysis evaluated (1) significant differences in the occupation between survey areas by period; (2) preferences for settling any of the three soil groups and the three topographic zones within each survey area; and (3) diachronic changes in the occupation area of each topographic and soil group zone.

Preferences for settling topographic and soil zones are produced by comparing percentages of occupation of each topographic zone, and of each soil zone by periods (in fact, by a graphic comparison of means and error ranges at a 95% confidence level, Figures 9 and 10). Preference was indicated by the highest percentage of occupation of a zone and the significant difference to the occupation of the other two zones. (The comparison of the occupation distribution among, say, the three topographic would not be meaningful given the different size of each zone zones).

Results of data analysis

Five observations allow us to analyze the effects of interregional interaction between Cochabamba and Tiwanaku in the Intermediate Period (Figure 11). First, no significant differences, at the 95% confidence level, occur in the estimated Intermediate Period occupation area between the Capinota-Parotani and Mizque survey areas. However, in the Early Intermediate Period, the Mizque survey area did have a significantly larger occupation area than the Capinota-Parotani survey area. The factor of agricultural productivity did produce in this period a focus by local populations in the most productive survey area, prior to the Intermediate Period. Therefore, in this latter period, occupation was not limited or concentrated to pockets of best agricultural production.

Second, there is no significant preference for settling the best soils within either survey area. Rather, there is a significant preference for concentrating settlement of the piedmont zone in both areas in different periods: in the Formative and Intermediate Periods in the Capinota-Parotani survey area, and in the Early Intermediate and Intermediate Periods in the Mizque survey area. Topographic location, for strategic purposes, can be suggested to have been an important factor in the settlement preferences. This pattern has, however, different effects in each area since only in the Mizque survey area does settlement in the piedmont gives access to the best soils; but it maintains a preference set in the previous period.

Third, there is no significant increase in the total occupation area from the Early Intermediate Period to the Intermediate Period in either survey area, suggesting that the latter period occupation maintains the occupation levels of the Early Intermediate Period and not expanding the occupation area in a fashion that could have been correlated with an occupation that maximized agricultural production.

Fourth, there is a reoccupation of settlement locations in the piedmont zone in the Intermediate Period in the Mizque survey area. In the Capinota-Parotani survey area the reoccupation of Early Intermediate Period sites is complemented by new Intermediate Period sites.

Fifth, the Intermediate Period settlements patterns in both survey areas lack exclusive settlements with local pottery style occupations, contemporaneous to occupations with Tiwanaku style materials. In the Capinota-Parotani survey area occupation changes from a dominant Tupuraya style to a dominant Tiwanaku style occupation. In the Mizque survey, this same change occurs but with one-fifth of the total Intermediate Period assemblage of the local Omereque style. Additionally, there are no major differences in the Tiwanaku style pottery assemblages composition between both survey areas, with no differences in the proportions of the forms collected, where keru and puku vessels predominate in the decorated ware.


The Status quo model is proposed for the Capinota-Parotani and Mizque survey area. In both cases, the occupation of the Intermediate Period is not focused on agricultural intensification and rather maintains levels and strategies established in the Early Intermediate Period. The hypothesis of a Tiwanaku polity aiming at a larger agricultural production cannot be suggested.

The Status quo model in Mizque is warranted by a lack of significant increase in the occupation area in the Intermediate Period, and a repetition of the preferential location in the piedmont zone. In addition, Early Intermediate Period sites are occupied again in the Intermediate Period. In sum, patterns of agricultural intensification, indirectly suggested by the settlement on the rich piedmont zone, but not confirmed by the lack of preference for settlin on the richest soil group, were already present in the Early Intermediate Period.

The Capinota-Parotani survey area obtains in the Intermediate Period a preferential occupation of the piedmont zone following the settlement distribution of the previous period (which was not significantly different at the 95% confidence level). In this period, new settlement locations add to the Intermediate Period occupation of Early Intermediate Period sites. Even if there is no significant differences in the total area of occupation between both periods in this area, the deployment of new sites is an important factor to differentiate it from Mizque's case. However, this shift is far from sufficient to argue for direct incorporation of the Capinota region into the Tiwanaku polity. First, the scale of the settlement reorganization --that has no impact on the size of the occupation-- has no comparison with other central Andean cases. And second, hard data on the settlement typology and settlement hierarchy will only be gathered in the future.

Finally, the model of vertical exploitation cannot be supported for Cochabamba: Tiwanaku style materials occupation is not clustered to the most productive area where an intensive rather than extensive occupation would be expected; occupation does not have a preference to settle the best agricultural areas within each survey area; growth of the occupation area in the Intermediate Period is not significant; and, there in no synchronic coexistence of local styles with Tiwanaku style materials sharing settlement occupation, but an almost exclusive distribution of Tiwanaku style materials in the two survey areas. The scale of this occupation clearly exceeds the spatial scale of the traditional verticality strategy. The large agricultural capacity of the Cochabamba region in that light provides a new case study for other political economy strategies in the Andes.

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Tiwanaku and Andean Archaeology
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