Tiwanaku (Spanish: ”Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu”) is a Pre-Colombian archaeological site in western Bolivia, South America. It was the capital of a civilization that extended into present day Peru and Chile, flourishing from AD 300 to AD 1000. It’s demise is believed to have been the result of local climate change.
The famous Sun Gate at Tiwanaku
A significant drop in precipitation occurred in the Titicaca Basin, and some archaeologists suggest a great drought occurred. As the rain was reduced, many of the cities furthest away from Lake Titicaca began to produce fewer crops to give to the elites, and then, finally, Tiwanaku itself was abandoned.
The Kalasasaya prior to reconstruction in the 20th century
But the real mystery concerns the size and precision of the stone work at Tiwanaku and Puma Punku. Tiwanaku monumental architecture is characterized by large stones of exceptional workmanship. In contrast to the masonry style of the later Inca, Tiwanaku stone work usually employs rectangular ashlar blocks laid in regular courses, some connected with I shaped bronze clasps that were poured into place. A tough feat at 13,000 feet elevation by a presumed technologically primitive people.
One of the largest andesite blocks at Puma Punku
The red sandstone used in this site’s structures came from a quarry 10 kilometers away; a remarkable distance considering that the largest of these stones weighs 131 metric tons. The grey andesite stones that were used to create the most elaborate carvings and monoliths originate from across Lake Titicaca. One theory is that these giant andesite stones, which weigh over 40 tons, were transported some 90 kilometers across Lake Titicaca on reed boats, then laboriously dragged another 10 kilometers to the city. Probably a nonsensical notion.
One of many subterranean structures found, and later filled in
As the site has suffered from looting and amateur excavations since shortly after Tiwanaku’s fall, archeologists must try to interpret it knowing that materials have been jumbled and destroyed. This destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period, and during 19th century and the early 20th century. Other damage was committed by people quarrying stone for building and railroad construction, and target practice by military personnel.
Precision blocks from Puma Punku recycled to make a farmer’s house entrance
In 1945, Arthur Posnansky estimated that Tiwanaku dated to 15,000 BC, based on his archaeoastronomical techniques. Posnansky’s final and most important book, Tihuanacu, the Cradle of American Man, was published, also in 1945. In it, he argued that Tiwanaku was constructed approximately 17,000 years ago by American peoples, although not by the ancestors of those then living in the area, the Aymara. Posnansky also saw Tiwanaku as the origin point of civilization throughout the Americas, including the Inca, the Maya, and others.
A massive monolithic sculpture Posnansky found buried underground
Though he spent many decades studying and excavating the area, most modern archaeologists scoff at his claims of such great antiquity. However, they, as far as I can tell still can not answer how the megalithic site was first made, and by whom.
One of many enigmatic skulls found at Puma Punku and Tiwanaku
Numerous elongated skulls, some showing signs of brain surgery have been found in the area. So far, to my knowledge, none have been radiocarbon or DNA tested, so their age is unknown. Cranial deformation was not a common practice among the Tiwanaku culture that lived in the area from 300 to 1000 AD.
It is possible, or even probable that Tiwanaku and Puma Punku predate the Tiwanaku civilization, and were originally constructed by people with far more advanced technological prowess than the Tiwanakans had. I go into great detail about the possibilities in the following book:
Available in e-book and paper back format HERE
Our two great 2014 tours that thoroughly explore Puma Punku and Tiwanaku are the following; some spaces are still available:
Tour details HERE
Tour details HERE