Florida International University professor sheds light on Tiwanaku Culture at UTPA
By Brig Lopez III, Informational Writer II
Posted: 03/08/1999
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EDINBURG — Dr. C. Manuel Torres, associate professor of visual arts at Florida International University, presented a public lecture on “The Tiwanaku Culture in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile” Thursday (March 4) at the University of Texas-Pan American.

Dr. C. Manuel Torres, associate professor of visual arts at Florida International University, presented a lecture on "The Tiwanaku Culture in Atacama Desert, northern Chile"

The lecture focused on the evidence of the Tiwanaku culture in northern Chile and the many distinctive Tiwanaku artifacts, such as pottery and wooden trays for inhaling snuff, which have been found at numerous sites in northern Chile.

“These snuff kits were mainly used for diagnostic medicine by the healers,” Torres said. “The substances snuffed or even smoked placed the user in a state where the healer could allegedly see the sickness almost if he were watching a television set.”

Torres said the substance the Tiwanaku inhaled and occasionally smoked was derived from the seeds of the Cebil tree found in the northwest region of Chile and in Peru.

The Tiwanaku culture, dating between A.D. 100 and 1000, was centered at the famous site of Tiwanaku, located in northern Bolivia near Lake Titicaca.

According to Torres, the site of Tiwanaku, situated in an apparently inhospitable high plain some 12,000 feet above sea level, has long been noted for its impressive stone buildings and stone carvings.

Torres said that during much of its existence, the Tiwanaku culture was widespread throughout most of Bolivia, southern Peru, northern Chile and northern Argentina.

The lecture was sponsored by the UTPA Anthropology Club, the Center for International Studies, and the International Women’s Board of The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation.

Torres is a leading authority on the art of the Tiwanaku culture and its relationship to shamanism or curing practices, and he has been actively engaged in research on the art history and archaeology of South America for 20 years.