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Once on the coast of sacred Lake Titicaca, but now twelve miles inland, the enigmatic site of Tiahuanaco was 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 Tiahuanaco is 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 Tiahuanaco for 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 Tiahuanaco 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 twelve thousand years ago. Mixed in with the deepest layers of flood alluvia at Tiahuanaco 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 Tiahuanaco 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, Tiahuanaco may have existed during a vastly older period, some 15,000 years ago. The implications of this are truly stunning. Tiahuanaco may be, along with Teotihuacan in Mexico, Baalbek in Lebanon, and the Great Pyramid in Egypt, a surviving fragment of a long lost civilization.

Photo: Entrance to the Kalasasaya Temple, Tiahuanaco

Puma Punku ruins, Tiahuanaco

More Information about Tiahuanaco from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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