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A Bayesian Re-Assessment of the Earliest Radiocarbon Dates from Tiwanaku, Bolivia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Erik J Marsh*
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA. Email:
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The development of sociopolitical complexity at Tiwanaku around AD 500 was one of the major episodes of social change in the history of the Lake Titicaca Basin. It was the result of poorly understood processes that took place at a series of ceremonial centers in the preceding centuries. The history of Tiwanaku during this time is especially unclear, because the only radiocarbon dates are from excavations whose details were never completely published. Despite this, there is consensus that Tiwanaku was founded around 300 BC. A re-evaluation of the archaeological context of each of these dates shows many of them to be unreliable. Two Bayesian models from independent excavations agree that Tiwanaku was in fact founded centuries later, most likely around AD 110 (50-170, 1σ). This has important implications for widely used monolith and ceramic sequences, as well as understanding the rise of Tiwanaku and other archaic states.

Copyright © 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 


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