Tiwanaku, Bolivia 2019

     After exploring Lake Titicaca near Puno, Peru; I drove back to La Paz, Bolivia with my Toyota, Rental on July 22nd, 2019.  On my way, I stopped by Tiwanaku, Bolivia to explorer the archeological Inca-Ruins found there.

Northern Bolivia area map

     Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco) is located near the southern (Bolivian) shores of the sacred Lake Titicaca (15 km) and it would become the center of one of the most important of all Andean cultures. Its monuments and statures have excited speculation from archeologists and historians for many years.

Tiwanaku Map; (image taken from a public domain sign at the site).

Nestling in the Bolivian Andes, Tiwanaku was built at a height of approximately 3.5 km above sea level, making construction of these massive stone monuments even more of a challenge because the stone had to be transported some distance. The first building work has been dated back to 500 B.C. with later additions having been added 5-6 centuries later. The stones used in the construction of the temples, monoliths, and statures were cut in a specific manner to “lock” them together without the use of any kind of mortar. The heaviest stones weigh around 100 tons. By the time of the Inca arrival in the mid-fifteenth century, the original inhabitants had disappeared or moved on.

     Surface remains of Tiwanaku, covers around 4 square kilometers and includes decorated ceramics, monumental structures, and megalithic blocks. The site’s population probably peaked around AD 800 with 10,000 to 20,000 people.

Tiwanaku timeline, taken from a sign at the site (public domain).

          Tiwanaku features stunning sculptures, monoliths and religious artifacts. It is an incredibly important site in both archaeological and religious terms, as the Inca heralded the area as ‘the birthplace of mankind’. The site contains evidence of some staggering engineering with advanced technologies for its time, such as precision cut stone and evidence of an understanding of descriptive geometry. Archaeologists still do not know some important facts about the site, thus shrouding Tiwanaku in mystery.

The view of the eastern side of the Akapana Pyramid

     The first and most impressive site at Tiwanaku is the Akapana pyramid, (pictured above).  The Akapana pyramid (built at different times) is composed of seven platforms.  The wall of the first platform is covered with finely carved pilasters and has its main access to the west, where a chachapuma was recovered. The pyramid has a 194 x 194 meter quadrangular floor and is 15.70 m high.  It was intensively used in the 600 AD and was gradually abandoned.  The summit houses double walled enclosures, made of small sandstone blocks, arranged around an enameled yard. 

Templete Semisubterraneo of Tiwanacu, Bolivia

               A semi-underground structure with a 28.5 m x 26 m rectangular floor that is 2.2 m deep.  A seven-step staircase carved in sandstone serves to go down.  Its retaining walls consist of large monolithic pillars arranged in irregular intervals, interspersed in brickworks of coarse ahlars, mainly red sandstone.  57 pillars of the same material stand out, as well as 15 carved heads embedded in volcanic material, ignimbrite.  In the interior, there are open canals made of stone that go along the base of the four walls and converge at the slight slope towards the entrance of a collector located in the northeast corner.  This enclosure was built 500-600 AD.

Barbado Monoliths at Tiwanaku in the Templete Semisubterraneo

     Pictured above, the Barbado Monolith is carved in red sandstone.  It shows its crossed hands and open fingers, with serpents (Kataris) adorning its sides and pair of felines on the skirt.  Two smaller anthropomorphic monoliths stand beside it.

Kantatallita; east of the Templete Semisubterraneo at Tiwanaku

     In Aymara, this name means “Light of Dawn”.  It has a rectangular floor 29 m x 35 m.  It is composed of rectangular andesite and sandstones ashlars, placed along the perimeter on artificial platforms made of compacted clay.  Pictured above is a lintel with Iconographic details.  The arch-shaped lintel is made of grey andesite stone.  This is a 1.86 m long and 0.30 m thick.  Its façade exhibits a bas-relief with eight stylized anthropomorphic figures.  Various segments of the friezes may ave been covered with thin layers of gold fastened by gold nails.

Andasite block close-up

     Pictured above, a block carved from Andesite that is considered to be a mockup from another ceremonial complex that has not been yet discovered.

The eastern wall of the Kalasasaya in Tiwanaku

     In Aymara, Kalasasaya means “Temple of the Standing Stones”. It is composed of gigantic pillars of red sandstone and andesite, filled with cut ashlars. The structure is 119 m wide by 128 m long and more than 4 m high. Its access to the east consist of 7 sandstone steps that give way to the interior of the structure through the main portal (pictured below).

The entrance to the Kalasasaya at Tiwanaku, Bolivia 2019 

       The Kalasasya was built around 500-600 AD, later remodeled.  From its layout and orientation, it is believed that it served to monitor the stars’ movement, the agricultural calender, and the ceremonies to their deities, who remain until today.

Looking south through the main entrance of the Kalasasya and looking at the Barbado Monoliths in the Templete Semisubterraneo.

     Pictured below is the Puerta del Sol.  “The Sun Door”, is one of the largest and most enigmatic representations of the Tiwanaku Culture.  It is a block chiseled andesite.  Found in the north end of the Kalasasya, it is 2.88 m high, 3.84 m long, and about 0.50 m thick.  It weighs 10 tons.  the stone would have been brought from the Kapia volcanic hill (Peru) as part of the Tiwanaku sacred geography.  It is dated at 800 – 1000 AD.

El Puerto del Sol in the Kalasasya at Tiwanaku 2019

     Pictured below, the Estela Ponce.  Found in the middle of the Kalasasya, this monolith ws discovered by Julia Elena Fortun in 1957.  It is 3.15 m high and is made of andesite, a high relief decorative technique.  It has several figures carved in the body.  It has a headband, mask, and earrings on the head, a girdle and bracelets on the wrists and ankles, and a skirt adorned with circles.  It holds a snuff tablet in its right hand, and a keru (traditional vessel) in the left one.

The Estela Pence found in the Center of the Kalasasaya at Tiwanacu

     Pictured below, are the “Cuartos Ceremoniales Kalasasaya. The remains of 14 semi-subterranean structures can be observed within the Kalasasaya. 7 of them located in the north part, and 7 in the south.  They may have served as mausoleums to house the mummified bodies of deceased leaders or the Tiwanaku society.   

      Pictured below, the Estela Fraile.  Found in the western part of the Kalasasaya, it is a 2.45 m high monolith carved in red sandstone, with a high relief decorative technique.  Its arms are on its chest, carrying a walking stick and a deru (traditional vessel).  The Estela Fraile carries a belly band with representations of crabs.  due to the skirt carrying representations of fish and the bulging abdomen, it is possible to believe that it is a female idol dedicated to the lacustrine cult.

The Estela Fraile in the Kalasasaya of Tiwanaku 

Just east of the Kalasasaya wall is the Estela Descabezado.  Discovered by Gregorio Cordero Miranda, it shows anthropomorphic features, is headless, and presents its hands on its abdomen and chests, (pictured below).  It has a belt with representations of snakes, feline ears, and faces with appendages on the lower part.  It is presumed to have been carved and worshiped between 100 BC to 400 AD.

The Estela Descabezado east of Kalasasay at Tiwanaka

     Northeast of Kalasasay,  is the Puerta de la Luna. It is carved in andesite, 2.23 m high and 0.26 m thick.  The upper part (lintel) bears a frieze with decorations engraved in high relief, with representations similar to the other frieze of the Puerto del Sol: radiating or solar faces.  Its original location could be around Pumapunku, since it was used as a cemetery door during the Colony.

The Puerta de la Luna at Tiwanaku 2019

Pictured below, is the Ducto subterraneo Putuni found north of the Kalasasaya.  The presence of a duct, which is oriented from south to north, extends 60 m, is 0.45 m wide and 0.75 m high.  It is built with stone ashlars joined with clay mortar that waterproofs the duct as well.  Secondary ducts of the adjacent constructions are also connected to it.   

The Ducto subterraneo Putuni next to the Kalasasaya

     Pictured below, the “Kerikala”.  In Aymara, this name means “stones of fire” or “burning stones”.  This area extends approximately 74 m long by 50 m wide.  It is made up of small structures that are arranged around a central patio.  These rooms feature stone foundations and adobe walls, forming double walls. The floor is made up of carved stones arranged as flagstones. 

The “Kerikala” at Tiwanaku

     Pictured below is the Templo Putuni. Also called Sarcophagus Palace, it is an enclosure with a rectangular floor that forms a set of rooms around a patio. The outer wall built with andesite stone ashlars is approximately 68 m by 52 m.  The interior patio is 52 m by 40 m. In its walls, burial chambers are found with sliding stone doors and a monolith in the middle of the patio.  The main entrance is located on the eastern side, next to the Kalasasaya temple.  The occupation from 600-800 AD.

The Templo Putuni at the Tiwanaku

After exploring  Tiwanaku,  I continued to the Pumapunku ruins 2 km away.  In Aymara, Pumapunku means “The Puma’s Door”.  The enormous proportions of the structures, the fine details of the platforms, facades, and lintels standout. 

The Pumapunku Pyramide
The Pumapunku Pyramide

     The sophisticated technology of the masonry as well as the ingenious drainage system are also emphasized, (pictured below).  Pumapunku in Bolivia is one of the world’s most mysterious ancient sites. This remains true for both academic archaeologists and historians as well as rogue historians who investigate the hypothesis of advanced prehistoric civilizations or ancient assistance from extraterrestrials

Sophisticated technology of the masonry at Pumapunku

Sophisticated technology of the masonry at Pumapunku
Sophisticated technology of the masonry at Pumapunku
Sophisticated technology of the masonry at Pumapunku

     The mystery lies in the precision and complexity of the structures that pervade the ruin. The finely cut doorways and remaining stone blocks bear no chisel marks and many interlock with very fine precision.

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