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Tiwanaku - Tiahuanaco - Tiahuanacu
Near the Shores of Lake Titicaca

The original port of Tiahuanacu was built on the shores of Lake Titicaca less then 600 feet away, but whose coastline now lies some 12 miles away. According to author/researcher, Graham Hancock, "Fingerprints of the Gods," scholars including Arthur Posansky, Becker, Kohlschutter, and Muller have concluded from astronomical investigations of the ecliptic, that the site may well have been constructed as far back as 12,000 BC making Tiwanaku one of the oldest city temples on the planet, if not the oldest!

Tiwanaku was first recorded in written history by Spanish conquistador and self-acclaimed 'first chronicler of the Indies' Pedro Cieza de León. Leon stumbled upon the remains of Tiwanaku in 1549 while searching for the Inca capital Collasuyu. Some have hypothesized that Tiwanaku's modern name is related to the Aymara term taypiqala, meaning "stone in the center", alluding to the belief that it lay at the center of the world. However, the name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants has been lost, as the people of Tiwanaku had no written language.

The area around Tiwanaku may have been inhabited as early as 1500 BC as a small agriculturally-based village. Most research, though, is based around the Tiwanaku IV and V periods between AD 300 and AD 1000, during which Tiwanaku grew significantly in power. During the time period between 300 BC and AD 300 Tiwanaku is thought to have been a moral and cosmological center to which many people made pilgrimages. The ideas of cosmological prestige are the precursors to Tiwanaku's powerful empire.

An important Pre-Columbian archaeological site, Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca in the La Paz Department about 72 km (44 miles) west of La Paz, Bolivia. Tiwanaku¹s location between the lake and dry highlands provided key resources of fish, wild birds, plants, and herding grounds for camelidae, particularly llamas. The Titicaca Basin is the most productive environment in the area with predictable and abundant rainfall, which the Tiwanaku culture learned to harness and use in their farming. As one goes further east, the Altiplano is an area of very dry arid land.

Much of the architecture of the site is in a poor state of preservation, having been subjected to looting and amateur excavations attempting to locate valuables since shortly after Tiwanaku's fall. This destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period, and during 19th century and the early 20th century, and has included quarrying stone for building and railroad construction and target practice by military personnel. Another issue for archaeologists is the lack of standing buildings at the modern site. Only public, non-domestic foundations remain, with poorly reconstructed walls. The ashlar blocks used in many of these structures were mass-produced in similar styles so that they could possibly be used for multiple purposes. Throughout the period of the site certain buildings changed purposes causing a mix of artifacts that are found today.

Detailed study of Tiwanaku began on a small scale in the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1860s, Ephraim George Squier visited the ruins and later published maps and sketches completed during his visit. German geologist Alphons Stübel spent nine days in Tiwanaku in 1876, creating a map of the site based on careful measurements. He also made sketches and created paper impressions of carvings and other architectural features. A book containing major photographic documentation was published in 1892 by engineer B. von Grumbkow. With commentary by archaeologist Max Uhle, this was the first in-depth scientific account of the ruins. In the 1960s, an attempt was made at restoring the site, but by very uninformed parties. The walls of the Kalasasaya are almost all reconstruction. The original stones making up the Kalasasaya would have resembled a more "Stonehenge" like style, spaced evenly apart and standing straight up.

Unfortunately, the parties that made the reconstructions decided to make the Kalasasaya be enclosed by a wall that they themselves built. Ironically enough, the reconstruction itself is actually much poorer quality stone working than the people of Tiwanaku were capable of. It should also be noted that the Gateway of the Sun that now stands in the Kalasasaya, is not in its original location, having been moved sometime earlier from its original location, which is unknown.

Modern excavations were performed from 1978 through the 1990s by University of Chicago anthropologist Alan Kolata and his Bolivian counterpart, Oswaldo Rivera. Among their contributions are the rediscovery of the suka kollus, accurate dating of the civilization's growth and influence, and evidence for a drought-based collapse of the Tiwanaku civilization. Archaeologists like Paul Goldstein argue that the Tiwanaku empire ranged outside of the altiplano area and into the Moquegua Valley in Peru. Excavations at Omo settlements show signs of similar architecture characteristic of Tiwanaku such as a temple and terraced mound. Evidence of similar types of cranial deformation in burials between the Omo site and the main site of Tiwanaku is also being used for this argument.

Little is known of the 30,000 to 60,000 urban dwellers or of the city's crafts or administrative functions. We also know little about the storage system that was required for the bounty of surplus foods from the agricultural fields, the vast llama herds on the Poona, and the abundant fish caught in the lake. The core of this imperial capital was surrounded by a moat that restricted access to the temples and areas frequented by royalty.

Artists Rrendering Ancient Tiwanaku

Some occupations include agriculturists, herders, pastoralists, etc. Along with this separation of occupations, there was also a hierarchal stratification within the empire. The elite of Tiwanaku lived inside four walls that were surrounded by a moat. This moat, some believe, was to create the image of a sacred island. Inside the walls there were many images of human origin that only the elites were privileged to, despite the fact that images represent the beginning of all humans not only the elite. Commoners may have only ever entered this structure for ceremonial purposes since it was home to the holiest of shrines.

No Written History

The city and its inhabitants left no written history, and modern local people know little about the city and its activities. An archaeologically based theory asserts that around AD 400, Tiwanaku went from being a locally dominant force to a predatory state. Tiwanaku expanded its reaches into the Yungas and brought its culture and way of life to many other cultures in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. However, Tiwanaku was not exclusively a violent culture. In order to expand its reach, Tiwanaku used politics to create colonies, negotiate trade agreements (which made the other cultures rather dependent), and establish state cults.

Many others were drawn into the Tiwanaku empire due to religious beliefs as Tiwanaku never ceased being a religious center. Force was rarely necessary for the empire to expand, but on the northern end of the Basin resistance was present. There is evidence that bases of some statues were taken from other cultures and carried all the way back to the capital city of Tiwanaku where the stones were placed in a subordinate position to the Gods of the Tiwanaku in order to display the power Tiwanaku held over many.

Among the times that Tiwanaku expressed violence were dedications made on top of building known as the Akapana. Here people were disemboweled and torn apart shortly after death and laid out for all to see. It is speculated that this ritual was a form of dedication to the gods. Research showed that one man who was dedicated was not a native to the Titicaca Basin, leaving room to think that dedications were most likely not of people originally within the society.

The community grew to urban proportions between AD 600 and AD 800, becoming an important regional power in the southern Andes. According to early estimates, at its maximum extent, the city covered approximately 6.5 square kilometers, and had between 15,000 - 30,000 inhabitants. However, satellite imaging was used recently to map the extent of fossilized suka kollus across the three primary valleys of Tiwanaku, arriving at population-carrying capacity estimates of anywhere between 285,000 and 1,482,000 people.

The empire continued to grow, absorbing cultures rather than eradicating them. William H. Isbell states that "Tiahuanaco underwent a dramatic transformation between AD 600 and 700 that established new monumental standards for civic architecture and greatly increased the resident population."

Archaeologists note a dramatic adoption of Tiwanaku ceramics in the cultures that became part of the Tiwanaku empire. Tiwanaku gained its power through the trade it implemented between all of the cities within its empire. The elites gained their status by control of the surplus of food obtained from all regions and redistributed among all the people. Control of llama herds became very significant to Tiwanaku, as they were essential for carrying goods back and forth between the center and the periphery. The animals may also have symbolized the distance between the commoners and the elites.

The elites' power continued to grow along with the surplus of resources until about AD 950. At this time a dramatic shift in climate occurred. A significant drop in precipitation occurred in the Titicaca Basin, with some archaeologists venturing to suggest a great drought. As the rain became less and less many of the cities furthest away from Lake Titicaca began to produce fewer crops to give to the elites.

As the surplus of food dropped, the elite power began to fall. Due to the resiliency of the raised fields, the capital city became the last place of production, but in the end even the intelligent design of the fields was no match for the weather. Tiwanaku disappeared around AD 1000 because food production, the empire's source of power and authority, dried up. The land was not inhabited again for many years. In isolated places, some remnants of the Tiwanaku people, like the Uros, may have survived until today.

Beyond the northern frontier of the Tiwanaku state a new power started to emerge in the beginning of the 13th century, the Inca Empire. In 1445 Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (the ninth Inca) began conquest of the Titicaca regions. He incorporated and developed what was left from the Tiwanaku patterns of culture, and the Inca officials were superimposed upon the existing local officials. Quechua was made the official language and sun worship the official religion. So, the last traces of the Tiwanaku civilization were integrated or deleted.

Monumental Architecture

Tiwanaku monumental architecture is characterized by large stones of exceptional workmanship. In contrast to the masonry style of the later Inca, Tiwanaku stone architecture usually employs rectangular ashlar blocks laid in regular courses, and monumental structures were frequently fitted with elaborate drainage systems. The drainage systems of the Akapana and Puma Punku include conduits composed of red sandstone blocks held together by ternary (copper/arsenic/nickel) bronze architectural cramps. The I-shaped architectural cramps of the Akapana were created by cold hammering of ingots. In contrast, the cramps of the Akapana were created by pouring molten metal into I-shaped sockets. The blocks have flat faces that do not need to be fitted upon placement because the grooves make it possible for the blocks to be shifted by ropes into place. The main architectural appeal of the site comes from the carved images on the blocks along with carved doorways and giant stone monoliths. The stone used to build Tiwanaku was quarried and then transported 40 km or more to the city.

The most important edifice for dating purposes is the Kalasasaya ("Place of the Vertical Stones"). It is built like a stockade with 12 foot high columns jutting upward at intervals, each of these being carved into human figures. The steps of the Kalasasaya (Temple), are each a rectangular block of stone about 30 feet wide. The megalithic entrance to the Kalasaya mound is here seen from the Sunken Courtyard viewing west. The Kalasaya stairway is a well-worn megalith, a single block of carved sandstone. Like the Kalasaya mound, the Sunken Courtyard is walled by standing stones and masonry infill. In this case the stones are smaller and sculptured heads are inset in the walls. Several stelae are placed in the center of the 30 m square courtyard.

The largest terraced step pyramid of the city, the Akapana, was once believed to be a modified hill, and has proven to be a massive human construction with a base 656 feet square and a height of 55.8 feet. It is aligned perfectly with the cardinal directions. Its base is formed of beautifully cut and joined facing stone blocks. Within the cut- stone retaining walls are six T- shaped terraces with vertical stone pillars, an architectural technique that is also used in most of the other Tiwanaku monuments. It originally had a covering of smooth Andesite stone, but 90% of that has disappeared due to weathering. The ruinous state of the pyramid is due to its being used as a stone quarry for later buildings at La Paz. Its interior is honeycombed with shafts in a complicated grid pattern, which incorporates a system of weirs used to direct water from a tank on top, going through a series of levels,and finally ending up in a stone canal surrounding the pyramid. On the summit of the Akapana there was a sunken court with an area 164 feet square serviced by a subterranean drainage system that remains unexplained.

Artists Rrendering Ancient Tiwanaku

Associated with the Akapana are four temples: the Semi-subterranean, the Kalasasaya, the Putuni, and the Kheri Kala. The first of these, the Semi-subterranean Temple, was studded with sculptured stone heads set into cut-stone facing walls and in the middle of the court was located a now-famous monolithic stela. Named for archaeologist Wendell C. Bennett who conducted the first archaeological research at Tiwanaku in the 1930's, the Bennett Stela represents a human figure wearing elaborate clothes and a crown. The ancient Tiwanaku heartland is estimated to have been about 365,000, of whom 115,000 lived in the capital and satellite cities, with the remaining 250,000 engaged in farming, herding, and fishing.

This megatlithic doorway is all that remains of the walls of a building on a small mound near the Kalasaya. Much of the readily accessible masonry at the ruin was used to construct the Catholic church in the village. A nearby railroad bridge also has Tiwanaku stone. Adjacent to the sunken court, residences of the elite were revealed, while under the patio the remains of a number of seated individuals, believed to have been priests, faced a man with a ceramic vessel that displayed a puma-an animal sacred to the Tiwanaku. Ritual offerings of llamas and ceramics, as well as high-status goods made of copper, silver and obsidian were also encountered in this elite residential area. The cut-stone building foundations supported walls of adobe brick, which have been eroded away by the yearly torrential rains over the centuries.

In 1934 the Peruvianist Wendell C. Bennett carried out several excavations at Tiwanaku. Excavating in the Subterranean Temple he found two large stone images. One was a bearded statue. Depicted are large round eyes, a straight narrow nose and oval mouth. Rays of lightning are carved on the forehead. Strange animals are carved up around the head. It stands over 7 feet tall with arms crossed over an ankle- length tunic, which is decorated with pumas around the hem. Serpents ascend the figure on each side, reminding one of the Feathered Serpent culture-hero known as Quetzalcoatl in Central America.

Beside the bearded statue was a much larger statue Bennett's report as "the large monolithic statue" and is over 24 feet tall. It was sculpted out of red sandstone, and is covered with carved images of various kinds. He holds objects in each hand which are totally unidentifiable, although numerous interpretations have been suggested. The lower half of its body, which is covered with fish-heads; immediately one recalls the Mesopotamian deity called Oannes, the man-fish amphibious being who conveyed special knowledge to ancient mankind. The statue had been removed from the site to a plaza in La Paz for several years, but has now been returned to the archaeological site and housed in a new pavillion.

This monolithic piece of work has a number of designs scattered over its surface, many of which resemble the running winged-figures found on the Gate of the Sun, only with curled-up tails. The "Weeping God" is depicted on the sides of the head of the statue.

There are numerous other statues which have been found at Tiahuanaco, several of which have found their way into various museums. Most have the incomprehensible stiff designs scattered about on their surfaces in the typical Tiahuanaco style. Some are rather large, and others are small. Depictions of toxodons and several other extinct creatures are plentiful at Tiahuanaco. The images of these extinct animals are understandable on pottery and textiles, they could be copied by anyone from the stone monuments dotting the area. In the northwest corner stands the Gateway of the Sun, and in the southwest corner is The Idol.

This is one of two large anthropomorphic figures standings in the southwest corner of the Kalasasaya Temple. This one faces the entrance and is placed on the central axis. With the exception of the Sun Gate, it is the most picturesque of the sculptures at Tiahuanaco, since its 7-foot height is almost covered with hieroglyphic-like carvings. No one knows if these carvings represent a form of writing or are merely decorative. The figures resemble those on Easter Island.

The Akapana is the biggest platform on the site measuring 200 meters on each side and 17 meters tall and the largest ashlars of andesite or sandstone weigh over 100 tons. Originally, the Akapana was thought to have been made from a modified hill, but recent studies have shown that most of the hill is man-made by taking dirt from the moat and packing it behind stone walls.

It is constructed from a mix of tall, upright, and small stones. There are staircases present on the east and west sides with a sunken court 50 meters long between them. Today the area where this would be is an indiscernible hole. The structure was possibly for the shaman-puma relationship or transformation. Tenon puma and human heads stud the upper terraces.

The Akapana East was built on the eastern side of early Tiwanaku and later became a boundary for the ceremonial center and the urban area. It was made of a thick prepared floor of sand and clay and supported a group of buildings. Yellow and red clay were used in different areas for what seems like aesthetic purposes. One major observation was that it was swept clean of all domestic refuse, signaling great importance to the culture.

The Kalasasaya is a large courtyard over three hundred feet long, outlined by a high gateway. It is located to the north of the Akapana and west of the Semi-Subterranean Temple. Within the courtyard is where explorers found the Gateway of the Sun, but it is contested today that this was not its original location.

Near the courtyard is the Semi-Subterranean Temple; a square sunken courtyard that¹s unique for its north-south rather than east-west axis. The walls are covered with tenon heads of many different styles postulating that it was probably reused for different purposes over time. It was built with walls of sandstone pillars and smaller blocks of Ashlar masonry. There are many more colossal stone statues, gateways and blocks including one that is 7.5 meters tall weighing well over 10 tons.

Within many of the sites structures are impressive gateways; the ones of monumental scale being placed on artificial mounds, platforms, or sunken courts. Many gateways show iconography of "Staffed Gods" that also spreads to some oversized vessels, indicating an importance to the culture. This iconography is most present on the Gate of the Sun-- a stone gateway constructed by the Tiwanaku culture. It is located near Lake Titicaca at about 3,825 m above sea level in La Paz, Bolivia. The gate is approximately 9.8 ft (3.0 m) tall and 13 ft (4.0 m) wide. It was originally constructed by a single piece of stone that weighs an estimated 10 tons.

When the gate was originally found, it was lying face down and had a large crack. It stands in the place where it was found, although it is believed that this was not its original location. The Gate of the Sun is a valuable monument to the history of Bolivian art, with astronomical metaphor. There have been innumerable interpretations of the inscriptions including that it was used as a calendar. The lintel is carved with 48 winged effigies each in a square, 32 with human faces, and 16 with condor's heads, and the head of the figure is surrounded by 24 stripes that represent rays shooting from his face. The styled staffs held by the figure symbolize thunder and lightning representing the Sun God or the Inca god, Viracocha.

This huge monument is hewn from a single block of stone, and some believe that the strange symbols might represent a calendar, the oldest in the world, facing east in the direction of sunrise, it stands as silent witness to an unknown civilization that was established around 2200 years ago, or much earlier, according to researchers.

The Gateway of the Sun and other monuments located at Puma Punku are missing part of a typical recessed frame known as a chambranle and having sockets for clamps present for additions. These architectural examples, as well as the recently discovered Akapana Gate, have a unique detail and skill in stone-cutting that reveals knowledge of descriptive geometry. The regularity of elements suggest be part of a system of proportions. One theory proposes that they used a luk¹a which is a standard measurement of about sixty centimeters. Another argument is for the Pythagorean Ratio. This idea calls for right triangles at a ration of five to four to three used in the gateways to measure all parts. Lastly, Protzen and Nair argue that Tiwanaku had a system set for individual elements dependent on context and composition. This is shown in the construction of similar gateways ranging from diminutive to monumental size proving that scaling factors did not affect proportion. With each added element, the individual pieces shifted to fit together.

Throughout their imperial reign the Tiwanaku shared domination of the Middle Horizon with the Huari culture Their culture rose and fell around the same time and was centered 500 miles north in the southern highlands of Peru. The relationship between the two empires is unknown either being cooperative or antagonistic. Definite interaction between the two is proved by their shared iconography in art. Significant elements of both of these styles, the split eye, trophy heads, and staff-bearing profile figures, for example, seem to have been derived from that of the earlier Pukara culture in the northern Titicaca Basin.

The Tiwanaku created a powerful ideology, using previous Andean icons that spread throughout their sphere of influence using extensive trade routes and shamanistic art. Tiwanaku art consisted of legible, outlined figures depicted in curvilinear style with a naturalistic manner, while Huari art used the same symbols in a more abstract, rectilinear style with a militaristic manner.

Tiwanaku sculpture is comprised typically of blocky column-like figures with huge, flat square eyes, and detailed with shallow relief carving. They are often holding ritual objects like the Ponce Stela or the Bennett Monolith. Some have been found holding severed heads such as the figure on the Akapana, possibly a puma-shaman. These images suggest ritual human beheading, which correlate with the discovery of headless skeletons found under the Akapana. Ceramics and textiles were also present in their art, composed of bright colors and stepped patterns. An important ceramic artifact is the kero, a drinking cup, ritually smashed after ceremonies and placed in burials. However, as the empire expanded, ceramics changed in the society. The earliest ceramics were "coarsely polished, deeply incised brownware and a burnished polychrome incised ware". Later the Qeya style became popular during the Tiwanaku III phase "Typified by vessels of a soft, light brown ceramic paste". These ceramics included libation bowls and bulbous bottom vases.

Examples of textiles are tapestries and tunics. The objects typically depicted herders, effigies, trophy heads, sacrificial victims, and felines. The key to spreading religion and influence from the main site to the satellite centers was through small portable objects that held ritual religious meaning. They were created in wood, engraved bone, and cloth and depicted puma and jaguar effigies, incense burners, carved wooden hallucinogenic snuff tablets, and human portrait vessels. Like the Moche, Tiwanaku portraits had individual characteristics in them.

PUMA PUNKU 15,000 B.C.

A large temple complex located in Tiwanaku, is the Puma Punku meaning, "The Door of the Cougar" situated near the south eastern shore of Lake Titicaca, at 12,600 feet above sea level. Puma Punku's construction is generally argued to have taken place beginning around 200 BC. Many researchers date is thousands of years earlier. The temple itself stood at least 56 feet tall and took up an area of 164 square feet while the overall site and the surrounding constructions, namely the pyramid which the ruins sit on, extend over half a kilometer in length. At its peak, Puma Punku is thought to have been unimaginably wondrous, adorned with polished metal plaques, brightly colored ceramic and fabric ornamentation, and trafficked by costumed citizens, elaborately dressed priests and elites decked in exotic jewelry.

Understanding of this complex is limited due to its age, the lack of a written record, and the current deteriorated state of the structures due to looting, stone mining for building stone and railroad ballast and natural weathering. The technological innovation and the beautiful stonework that went into the creation of Puma Punku have drawn comparisons to the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and Easter Island.

Determining the age of these ruins has been a focus of researchers since the site's discovery. Currently archaeologists date the beginning of the Tiwanaku culture to some time around 1500 BC, and the construction of the Puma Punku complex to around 200 BC. Previously, in the early 1900s, Bolivian engineer Arthur Posansky in his epic work "Tihuanacu: The Cradle of American Man", based on astronomical alignments, concluded that Tiwanaku was constructed as early as 12,000 to 15,000 BC (17,000 BP), possibly even older and was not an original construction of the Tiwanaku.

The processes and technologies involved in the creation of these temples are still not fully understood by modern scholars. Our current ideas of the Tiwanaku culture hold that they had no writing system and also that the invention of the wheel was most likely unknown to them. The architectural achievements seen at Puma Punku are striking in light of the presumed level of technological capability available during its construction. Due to the monumental proportions of the stones, the method by which they were transported to Puma Punku has been a topic of interest since the temple's discovery. The stones are argued to have been transported up a steep incline from a quarry near Lake Titicaca roughly 20 miles away. Some of the blocks are said to weigh in the range of 100 tons.

One notable block has been measured at 36 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 6 feet thick. Archaeologists argue that this was accomplished by the large labor force of ancient Tiwanaku, these theories remain speculative. Two of the more common proposals involve the use of llama skin ropes and the use of ramps and inclined planes.

In assembling the walls of Puma Punku, each stone was finely cut to interlock with the surrounding stones and the blocks fit together like a puzzle, forming load-bearing joints without the use of mortar. One common engineering technique involves cutting the top of the lower stone at a certain angle, and placing another stone on top of it which was cut at the same angle. The precision with which these angles have been utilized to create flush joints is indicative of a highly sophisticated knowledge of stone-cutting and a thorough understanding of descriptive geometry.

Many of the joints are so precise that not even a razor blade will fit between the stones. Much of the masonry is characterized by accurately cut rectilinear blocks of such uniformity that they could be interchanged for one another while maintaining a level surface and even joints. The blocks were so precisely cut as to suggest the possibility of prefabrication and mass production, technologies far in advance of the Tiwanaku¹s Incan successors hundreds of years later.

Tiwanaku engineers were also adept at developing a civic infrastructure at this complex, constructing functional irrigation systems, hydraulic mechanisms, and waterproof sewage lines. To sustain the weight of these massive structures, Tiwanaku architects were meticulous in creating foundations, often fitting stones directly to bedrock or digging precise trenches and carefully filling them with layered sedimentary stones to support large stone blocks. Modern day engineers argue that the base of the Puma Punku temple was constructed using a technique called layering and depositing. By alternating layers of sand from the interior and layers of composite from the exterior, the fills would overlap each other at the joints, essentially grading the contact points to create a sturdy base.

Notable features at Puma Punku are I-shaped architectural cramps, which are composed of a unique copper-arsenic-nickel bronze alloy. These I-shaped cramps were also used on a section of canal found at the base of the Akapana pyramid at Tiwanaku. These cramps were used to hold the blocks comprising the walls and bottom of stone-line canals that drain sunken courts. I-cramps of unknown composition were used to hold together the massive slabs that formed Puma Punku's four large platforms.

In the south canal of the Puma Punku, the I-shaped cramps were cast in place. In sharp contrast, the cramps used at the Akapana canal were fashioned by the cold hammering of copper-arsenic-nickel bronze ingots.The unique copper-arsenic-nickel bronze alloy is also found in metal artifacts within the region between Tiwanaku and San Pedro de Atacama during the late Middle Horizon around A.D. 600-900.

The Puma Punku is another man-made platform built on an east-west axis like the Akapana. Its main difference from other structures at the cite is its T-shaped construction. It measures 150 meters on each side and 5 meters tall. The heaviest stone block weighs 131 tons and was dragged from a quarry 10 km away. One of the sunken temples includes projecting heads of volcanic tuff which may imply remote Chavin influence.


It is theorized the Puma Punku complex as well as its surrounding temples, the Akapana pyramid, Kalasasaya, Putuni and Kerikala functioned as spiritual and ritual centers for the Tiwanaku. This area might have been viewed as the center of the Andean world, attracting pilgrims from miles away to marvel in its beauty. These structures transformed the local landscape; Puma Punku was purposely integrated with Illimani mountain, a sacred peak that the Tiwanaku possibly believed to be home to the spirits of their dead. This area was believed to have existed between heaven and Earth.

The spiritual significance and the sense of wonder would have been amplified into a "mind-altering and life-changing experience" through the use of hallucinogenic plants. Recent excavations have unearthed hallucinogenic cacti, other psychedelic entheogens, drug paraphernalia, snuffing kits, and mummified shamans with assortments of drugs and medicines. Examinations of hair samples exhibit remnants of psychoactive substances in many mummies found in the Tiwanaku area, even those of babies as young as 1 year of age, demonstrating the importance of these substances to the local people's spirituality.

The Tiwanaku civilization and the use of these temples appear to some to have peaked from around 700 AD to 1000 AD, by which point the temples and surrounding area may have been home to some 400,000 people. By this point, an extensive infrastructure had been developed with a complex irrigation system running over 30 square miles to support potatoes, quinoa, corn and other various crops. At its peak the Tiwanaku culture dominated the entire Lake Titicaca basin as well as portions of Bolivia and Chile.

The culture in question seems to have dissolved rather abruptly some time around 1000 AD and researchers are still seeking answers as to why. A likely scenario involves rapid environmental change, possibly involving an extended drought. Unable to support the massive crop yields necessary for their large population, the Tiwanaku are argued to have scattered into the local mountain ranges only to disappear shortly thereafter.

Reverse side of Sun Gate, Tiwanaku.


As these people had no written language, what is known of their religious beliefs are based on archaeological interpretation and some myths, which may have been passed down to the Incas and the Spanish. They seem to have worshipped many gods, perhaps centered around agriculture.

One of the most important gods was Viracocha, the god of action, shaper of many worlds, and destroyer of many worlds. He created people, with two servants, on a great piece of rock. Then he drew sections on the rock and sent his servants to name the tribes in those areas.

El Fraile depicting two left hands, similar to the hands depicted of Seti I, Egypt

Viracocha, like Quetzalcoatl, is described in many forms - human and a god. Both were sometimes described as a Caucasian, a bearded man in some writings, with white skin, bearded and with beautiful emerald eyes. In some writings he is described as wearing long white robes and sandals, carrying a staff, with a cougar lying at his feet. Viracocha, as the feathered serpent god, is one of the great mysteries of ancient American cultures. He was also known as Kukulkan by the Mayas, Quetzalcoatl by the Aztec, Viracocha by the Inca,s Gucumatz in central America, Votan in Palenque and Zamna in Izamal.

Viracocha was generally depicted as having staves in both of his hands and an aureole, suggests the qualities of a sun god, perhaps holding thunderbolts or lightning bolts associated with Zeus head of the Greek Pantheon of Gods. The staves suggest Viracocha's distant ancestry from the Chavin Culture in North Peru. His attendants were ranking deities in the shapes of cougar, condor, falcon and snake. Viracocha was worshipped as the main god of the Huari. As the head of Tiahuanaco state functioned as both a king and the arch-priest, he was revered as Viracocha's embodiment.

It was believed that Viracocha allegedly created humans out of rock and brought life to them through the earth. He created giants to move the massive stones that comprise much of their archaeology, but then grew unhappy with the giants and created a flood to destroy them. Viracocha, arrived in pre history to restore civilization, culture and knowledge after the Flood. Inca legend claims that the original people were flood survivors who by hiding in a hollow caverns high in the mountains, they were saved and repopulated the Earth.

Viracocha is depicted by a water symbol --that of the serpent or snake, carved into the most famous gateway, a monolithic structure of regular, non-monumental size found at Kalasasaya, but due to the similarity of other gateways found at Puma punku it was probably originally part of a series of doorways. It is recognized for its singular, great frieze. Along with Viracocha, another statue is in the Gateway of the Sun, associated with the weather - a celestial high god that personified various elements of natural forces intimately associated the productive potential of altiplano ecology - the sun, wind, rain, hail - in brief, a personification of atmospherics that most directly affect agricultural production in either a positive or negative manner". This statue is more complicated than Viracocha in that it has twelve faces covered by a solar mask and at the base thirty running or kneeling figures. Some scientists believe that this statue is a representation of the calendar with twelve months and thirty days in each month.

Viracocha was said to use holy relics such as four skulls of wisdom. When brought together in ceremonial rites, these four skulls delivered enlightenment to the worthy. The power of the skulls was also used to vanquish their enemies by bringing fire from the skies. Legends of the Aymara Indians say that the Creator God Viracocha rose from Lake Titicaca during the time of darkness to bring forth light. Viracocha was a storm god and a sun god who was represented as wearing the sun for a crown, with thunderbolts in his hands, and tears descending from his eyes as rain. He wandered the Earth disguised as a beggar and wept when he saw the plight of the creatures he had created, but knew that he must sustain them. Viracocha made the earth, the stars, the sky and mankind, but his first creation displeased him, so he destroyed it with a flood and made a new, better one, taking to his wanderings as a beggar, teaching his new creations the rudiments of civilization, as well as working numerous miracles. Viracocha eventually disappeared across the Pacific Ocean setting off near Manta Ecuador, and never returned. It was thought that Viracocha would re-appear in times of trouble. References are also found of a group of men named the bearded ones.

Evidence also points to a system of ancestor worship at Tiwanaku. The preservation, use, and reconfiguration of mummy bundles and skeletal remains, like the later Inca, may suggest that this is the case. Later cultures within the area made use of large "above ground burial chambers for the social elite, known as "chullpas". Similar, though smaller, structures were found within the site of Tiwanaku. Kolata suggests that, like the later Inka, the inhabitants of Tiwanaku may have practiced similar rituals and rites in relation to defunct. The Akapana East Building has evidence of ancestor burial. In comparison to the brutal treatment of the dead on top of the Akapana, the human remains at Akapana East seem to be much less for show and more so for proper burial. The skeletons show many cut marks that were most likely made by removing the flesh after death. Then these individuals were bundled up and buried rather than left out in the open.


Jim Allen's extraordinary research, “Atlantis in the Andes” and “Decoding the Tiwanaku Calendar” suggest a Mesopotamian connection. Many people have stood in front of the massive stone monument known as the “Gate of the Sun” in the ancient city of Tiwanaku in the Bolivian Andes. They admire the craftsmanship of the small carved figures known as “Chasquis” or “Messengers of the Gods” and ponder over the use of the gate as an ancient calendar. But in fact, the gateway itself is not the calendar, the calendar is a little known row of 11 giant upright stones, now built into a wall which exists just behind the gateway. Today, there are only 10 stones in the wall and the missing 11th stone lies face down some distance out in the field behind the wall. When the 11 stones were in their original positions in a row, the sun would set each evening over the row of stones so that priests standing in the centre of the adjacent courtyard could easily calculate the time of the year in a remarkable calendar which divided the year into 20 periods of 18 days and also meshed with a lunar calendar so that three solar years equalled 40 sidereal lunar months which was 2 “zocam” years and even more remarkably it also meshed with a Muisca lunar period of 37 months. This meant that every 30 solar years was at the same time 20 Muisca Zocam years of 20 sidereal months of 27.32 days and 10 Muisca Acrotom years of 37 synodic months of 19.53 days. Additionally every thirty years an extra month had to be added to both lunar calendars to keep them synchronised with the solar calendar and this is commemorated in the Gateway of the Sun with thirty Chasquis marking the solar years and forty condor’s heads marking the lunar months. So the Gate of the Sun is not the actual calendar but the key to operating the calendar and how it works is explained in this remarkable booklet, “Decoding the Tiwanaku Calendar” by J.M. Allen.

Precision-Carved Granite in 17,000 Year-old site Rewrites History Lake Titicaca

World Reviewer July 2010-- Bolivian ruins of Tiwanaku at Lake Titicaca with precision diamond-cut stonework predate the presumed migration of indigenous peoples into the New World over the Bering Strait by several thousand years. The oldest city on Earth may be in Bolivia.

Once on the coast of sacred Lake Titicaca, but now twelve miles inland, the enigmatic site of Tiwanakuwas the source of the creation myths, the social orders, and the sophisticated preoccupation with astronomy that informed thousands of years of Andean culture. The mystery of Tiwanakuis that the construction geometry of some of its structures - and the astronomical alignments of those structures in relationship to each other - indicate a possible erection period far more ancient than any other monumental archaeological site in South America.

Tiahuanaco, whose original name is Taypicala or 'Rock in the Center,' has four surviving primary structures, called the Akapana pyramid, the Kalasasaya platform, the Subterranean temple, and the Puma Punku. The Akapana pyramid, sometimes called the sacred mountain of Tiahuanaco, is precisely oriented to the cardinal directions and has an extremely sophisticated system of interlinked surface and subterranean channels. The structure known as the Puma Punka appears to be the remains of a great pier and this makes sense for Lake Titicaca long ago lapped upon the shores of Tiahuanaco. One of the construction blocks from which the pier was fashioned weighs an estimated 440 tons (equal to nearly 600 full-size cars) and several other blocks are between 100 and 150 tons. The quarry for these giant blocks was on the western shore of Titicaca, some ten miles away. There is no known technology in the ancient Andean world that could have transported stones of such massive weight and size. The Andean people of 500 AD, with their simple reed boats, could certainly not have moved them.

Nearby the Akapana pyramid is the Kalasasaya compound, a structure whose design and celestial alignment suggests a great antiquity for Tiahuanaco. Arthur Posnansky, a German-Bolivian scholar, exhaustively studied Tiwanakufor almost fifty years. Posnansky conducted precise surveys of all the principal structures of Tiahuanaco, including the Kalasasaya compound, which is delineated by a series of vertical stone pillars. Utilizing his measurements of sight lines along these pillars, the celestial orientation of the Kalasasaya, and its purposely-intended deviations from the cardinal points, Posnansky was able to show the alignment of the structure was based upon an astronomical principle called the obliquity of the ecliptic. His findings strongly suggest that its initial construction was around 15,000 BC, and this date was later confirmed by a team of four astronomers from various universities in Germany. Equally astonishing, the spatial arrangement of Tiahuanaco's four main structures -- relative to one another and to the stars above -- indicates that the initial site engineers had an advanced knowledge of astronomy, geomancy and mathematics.

Adding to this mystery are the ancient myths of Tiwanaku which tell of its founding and use in a time before great floods. Scientific research has proved that a cataclysmic flood did indeed occur some 12,000 years ago. Mixed in with the deepest layers of flood alluvia at Tiwanaku are human bones, utensils and tools, showing human use of the site prior to the great flood. There is also the intriguing enigma of the strange carvings of bearded, non-Andean people that are found around the site, replete with sculptural and iconographic details which are unique in the western hemisphere.

All of this evidence seems to indicate that the original Tiwanaku civilization flourished many thousands of years before the period assumed by conventional archaeologists. Rather than rising and falling during the two millennia around the time of Christ, Tiwanaku may have existed during a vastly older period, some 17,000 years ago. The implications of this are truly stunning. Tiwanaku may be, along with Teotihuacan in Mexico, Baalbek in Lebanon, and the Great Pyramid in Egypt, a surviving fragment of a long lost civilization. [Perhaps the oldest city on Earth.]

The Bennett Monolith

The largest Stelae at Tiahuanaco (above) is 24 feet high (20 ton), known as the Bennett Monolith or Pachamama monolith, stood for several years in front of La Paz stadium when it was taken from the original site at Tiwanaku in 1932. The monolith was ceremoniously returned in March 2002. The Bennett Stela was contemporaneous with Kalasasaya. Found resting in the semi-subterranean courtyard at Tiwanaku. The monolith depicts a rigidly frontal figure holding a kero (beaker) in one hand and a knife in the other. Its legs bear relief designs suggesting metal disks; over the rest of its body are incised birds, anthropomorphic jaguars, human beings, and geometric patterns. The kero held by the Bennett Stela is identical in form to one of the major ceramic types manufactured at Tiahuanaco. The lower half of its body is covered with fish-heads, reminds one of the Mesopotamian deity, Oannes, the half-man, half-fish, amphibious being who conveyed special knowledge to ancient mankind. Oannes is often associated with the the Andean creator god, Viracocha.

Crying Viracochas:
Ancient Engravings from a Lost Culture

Solar Disc Lake Titicaca

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