BY Oscar L. Orias
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE TRAVEL OPERATOR LATE BOLIVIA, THE HEART BEAT OF SOUTH AMERICA
Tiwanaku: The Gateway to The Sun
In the dry and arid flatlands of Bolivia an advanced and ancient civilization flourished in the seemly windy and harsh Andean environment. Relatively little is known about the civilization since they left no written records and more than 50% of the ruins still lay underground. All there is at the site is a desert littered with mostly petrified piece of the civilization. As a tourist it was an awe yet eerie experience. It is almost like some sudden yet cataclysmic event wiped out the civilization in one swoop. As I soon learned through my guide and research on the internet, the collapse of the civilization was slow with several factors contributing it’s the down fall.
Much of the daily activities of the Tiwanaku and their engineering greatness has been lost to time and colonization of the Spanish. This void of information has left people to come up with numerous theories, many of them absurd like the History Channel’s segment on how aliens Created Tiwanaku. I went to Tiwanaku and spoke to several guides and researchers at the site, I can tell you it was created through hundreds of years of technological advances and blending of different technologies by different tribes in South America.
The Rise and fall of Tiwanaku
Unlike what the history channel implies, Tiwanaku didn’t flourish all of a sudden by Aliens, it was civilization that came into being through centuries of innovation and blending of different cultures and tribes. This blending and assimilating of different cultures brought out new innovation and form the culture of the civilization. The Weather was also much better, in fact during that time in the Altiplanos of Bolivia supported Pumas and other temperate climate fluana. There was also more rain and access to water during that time period. These factors allowed for a large number of people to live in one place and develop their society.
Tiwanaku started to peak from 300 AD. During this time many of the great pyramids and structures seen today were created. Huge monoliths honoring the Gods and keeping track with the lunar calendar were also created. This period lasted several hundred years and the empire expanded greatly (evidence of Tiwanaku are seen in the Yungas region of Bolivia). Around 700 AD the empire started to decline and fall apart little by little. There are several theories and factors that attributed to this decline:
1) Change in climate of the Altiplano region of Bolivia. There is evidence of a great drop of precipitation in the Altiplano region for an extended period of time. A great drought would have seriously cut the crop yield and weaken the empire. Much of its power was based on the control of resources and how it distributed them among the different cities and people of the region.
2) A possible civil war between the holy and elite people of Tiwanaku the rest of the diverse population. The Elite and holy clergy of the State Cult controlled the resources and had access to the holy pyramid, they were referred to the People of the Sun. The theory says that the other ethnic group rose up against the People of the Sun (the elite). This would explain why the Door of the Sun (Puerta del Sol) was found nearly broken in half by Spanish explorers.
3) The arrival and creation of rival tribes and people. This didn’t probably didn’t bring down the Tiwanaku single handedly but might have a symptom of what was going on or they might have outright contributed to the fall. There is a strong correlation between the arrival of the Aymara People to Tiwanaku and the start of the collapse. Many expertise debate whether they came to conqueror the Tiwanaku or just came to settle in a land that was in turmoil. Whatever the case may be, the Aymara people ended up absorbing many of the people of Tiwanaku. Modern Aymaras consider Tiwanaku a very sacred site. It is believed much of their culture and customs derived from the original people of the ruins.
Some of What I Saw
Like I said earlier, it is a beautiful place that leaves tourists in awe and wonder. Everywhere you go you it feels like you are stepping in land before Latin American revolution, Spanish Colonization, and Incan Empire. The Incas described it as a place where there God and creator Viracocha had risen from Lake Titicaca to create mankind and a city for them. The thing that really stood out to me and most tourists was the artwork and sheer accuracy of the stone masonry. In Puma Punku it seems like the Tiwanaku used modern day machines to drill precisely in into Diorite (a very tough stone).
Another remarkable design and feature of Tiwanaku the left me stun was the climate control methods they used for their structures. Certain stones in the Temple of Kalassaya have the ability to absorb energy from the sun and emit the heat throughout the temple. When you are near the stone it feels warmer and harsh winds of the Andes subside. Honestly the longer I felt the more urge I had in taking off my gear since it felt so nice and cozy.
Coming back to Puma Punku; it is a marvel of artistry and engineering. Many of these blocks seemed to be carved from modern machines. Many believe based on how accurate the circles and blocks were edged, that they may have known complex mathematical concepts like Pi and Zero. There is evidence in the pyramids and structures of complex and accurate system of measurement. If you look at some of those blocks, there are physical markers of measurements. The surfaces and carvings of many of these blocks are smooth and accurately flat.
The Monoliths are also another wonder that left many tourists and me in awe and wonder. Many of those Monoliths are actually used for the lunar calendar and other astrological events
Tiwanaku: A Kingdom Immortalized in Stone
Tiwanaku as seen in the pictures and explained by me wasn’t creating by aliens; it was created by the imagination and man’s aspiration in trying to copy the work of nature. They drew their inspiration from the mountains, rivers, and animals of the Andes. Mix that with the assimilated cultures of the regions and you get a civilization that is unique to the existence of mankind.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Late Bolivia for providing the informational tour guide and expert on the Trip
“Field Notes 2004.” Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2004. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .
Hirst, Kris. “Tiwanaku Empire.” About.com Archaeology. About.com, n.d. Web. 08/16/2011. .
“Tiwanaku Q&A.” Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2005. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .
“Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture.” World Heritage Convention. UNESCO, n.d. Web. 08/16/2011. .
Vranich, Alexei. “Revealing Ancient Bolivia.”Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2004. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .
Vranich, Alexei. “Tiwanaku: History & Context.”Archaeology’s Interactive Dig. ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine, 2004. Web. 15 Aug 2011.
Photographs by Oscar L. Orias