Genetic study reveals new insights into the pre-Inca Tiwanaku civilisation

A genetic study of the Tiwanaku has shown that the pre-Inca civilisation was more genetically homogeneous than previously thought.

The Tiwanaku civilisation was a Pre-Columbian polity in western Bolivia, based in the southern Lake Titicaca Basin. They emerged during the 6th century AD, centred on their capital at the monumental city of Tiwanaku, until their empire disintegrated around the 12th century AD.

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Very little is known about the origins of the Tiwanaku, but a new study published by an international team in Science Advances has shown that its people were definitely more homogeneous in terms of genetics than previously believed.

The research revealed that rural populations living around Lake Titicaca were not affected genetically by any major external migrations for several hundred years.

In the city of Tiwanaku however, the data showed high levels of DNA migration, most likely attributed to the city being a religious centre, and a place of pilgrimage for pilgrims and travellers from across the southern Andes.

“We discovered the presence of newcomers from southern Peru, and even one individual from the distant Amazon. He was sacrificed,” said CENT geneticist Dr. Danijela Popović. She added that the studies of the remains of two people show that they also had nearby ancestors from the Amazon area, in addition to those from the Lake Titicaca area.

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Prof. Ziolkowski from the Centre of New Technologies at the University of Warsaw (CENT) said: “This is interesting information, because so far it was not known whether the artefacts associated with the Amazon region, such as a jaguar tooth necklace, only indicate trade – or the presence of people from the Amazon region”.

The researchers used samples from human remains for genetic research, enabling the study to place them on the timeline, because so far, the age of the remains was determined on the basis of the accompanying monuments.

“For example, it turned out that the people sacrificed in the late Tiwanaku period around the middle of the 10th century were from the Lake Titicaca area and had no foreign + impurities +. This may indicate a narrowing of the scope of influence of Tiwanaku in this period ” said Prof. Ziolkowski.


Header Image – Gate of the Sun, Tiwanaku – Image Credit : Adwo – Shutterstock

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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