There is no denying that Lake Titicaca has been pivotal in the South American historical context as most of the ancient civilizations we study today may have emerged from nearby areas. 

Even the uncovering of underwater ruins in recent years has only provided further evidence to the fact that Lake Titicaca was vital in both a social and religious context for the region. 

Many historians have claimed that Lake Titicaca embodies the creationism of the region with more than one civilization having relied on it. This reliance was not just for food and livelihood but was also spiritual as the lake has healing waters blessed by the gods. 

The Civilizations In A Nutshell

According to the archeological finds that have been recovered from the islands and areas around Lake Titicaca, a certain timeline comes into view. 

The Pucara civilization lived in the area around the time of 400BC to 100AD followed by the Tiwanaku people in 200BC to 1000AD. The Lake is still home to the indigenous Uros people that live in the man-made floating totora reed islands. 

It goes without saying that the Incas were the dominant power in the region and able to exercise the most power after the Tiwanaku. The Incas did, however, take a great deal of inspiration from Tiwanaku structures and ways of life. This is why some Inca sites bear a resemblance to earlier constructions. 

In this timeline, the Incas were a later addition as they only appeared as conquerors in the 14th Century at the earliest. By the end of the 15th Century, they were mostly extinct having been overthrown by the Spanish. 

In comparison, the Uros people have persevered for more than a thousand years and survive to this day, following a traditional pattern of life. 

Life For The Pucara Civilization 

The Pucara people are an earlier example of Andean civilizations. It is possible and even likely that a few others predated the Pucaras as is the case with any body of water in the world. This is because humans everywhere prefer to settle around a river or a lake for obvious reasons. 

Archeological finds suggesting an earlier civilization than 400 BC are few but Tafi, Condorhuasi, Aguada, Cienaga are races that are known. The Pucara people were hunters and gatherers and in that pre-historic time, they still knew how to make full use of available animals and plants to survive. 

They used the llama in particular not just for meat and wool for clothing, but also to transport goods from one village to the next. 

As far back as 3000 years ago they dabbled in pottery for utensils and figures and settled fully in the area around Lake Titicaca. This means they stopped traveling considerable distances on foot to barter for what they needed but became quite content with the resources that were available. 

They were growing food crops such as corn and potatoes and even quinoa and this allowed them to become quite self-sufficient. 

Worship For The Pucara 

Each Pucara village circulated around one family which had an elder or predecessor who dead or alive warranted great respect. In general, a sculpture made from stone that was called the founder and could indeed be a real or imaginary ancestor was singled out for worship and guidance. 

There were rituals and offerings to divine beings but in order to communicate or connect with these beings, the populace was keen to use plants which had hallucinogenic properties. This made them see what they wanted to see and reaffirmed their beliefs. 

The nobility of each village had a ‘curaca’ constructed which set them apart from the ordinary people and designated a figure for everyone to worship. The figure would usually be connected to the worship of the sun. 

The Tiwanaku Empire 

The city of Tiahuanaco was the ancient capital of the Tiwanaku Empire which pre-dated the Incas. The empire covered parts of Peru all the way to Bolivia and was a major power in the region. 

It is believed that everything about the city of Tiahuanaco, whose remains are still intact today, was very important to the development of the Inca ideology. This was so especially relating to housing, military structures, and roads. 

Much like the later Incas, the Tiwanaku people thought that the world revolved around the sacred Lake Titicaca and that it was the fount of creation. 

The people thought that two islands around the lake were actually symbolism for the sun and the moon and that the first race of human beings had emerged from the lake. Just like the Incas, they thought stone giants were first created and destroyed before humans could come into being. 

The Tiwanaku was perhaps the first civilizations to employ the amphitheater design for outside activities such as gatherings and rituals enabling a large number to watch and participate at the same time. 

Religious Practices Of The Tiwanaku 

The puma was a spirit animal for the Tiwanaku and later for the Incas as well, and they made idols and effigies with its face for rituals. The shamans believed in the animal’s link to the gods and thus acquired a key position in their shamanic practices. 

In the city of Tiahuanaco, there are various stone figures all over the city with different animal heads and these beliefs in part transferred to the Incas. However, the Incas had four favorites which they preferred over the others. 

There is some indication that the Tiwanaku believed in the creator god Viracocha but that other entities differed from the Incas. 

The Inca Civilization 

The Incas also derived their creation story from the waters of Lake Titicaca. Their creator god Viracocha had risen from the lake, ordering the creation of the stars, the sun god, and other deities. 

According to Inca belief, since the creator god came from the lake, it was then by extension the center of the universe and where the rest of the world had also sprung. 

A race of giants to inhabit the islands around Lake Titicaca was the creator’s first creation until he created a rudimentary version of humans. The humans were easier to control but they were greedy, selfish and lacked any understanding of the gods or the proper way to live. 

While this race of humans was allowed to thrive for a while, the creator god soon sent a flood by lifting the waters of Lake Titicaca and ended them. The humans that came after were given two divine beings to guide them and teach them about worship, crops, hunting and so on. 

Many of the narratives about the powers of Lake Titicaca are thought to be preserved in a way of writing practiced by the Inca called knotted strings. They left behind no written records and all we know about them outside of archeological evaluation is from the accounts of Juan Diez de Betanzos who wrote a book about the beliefs and story of his Incan wife Cuxirimay Ocllo Yupanqui. 

The Center Of Power 

Incas believed in their divine right to rule, claiming their royalty had descended from the gods themselves and was a source of guidance even after death. They built their civilization in its entirety around Lake Titicaca and their link to it gave them the legitimacy they needed to exert their control over all the local people and tribes.