This nOde last updated September 3rd, 2001 and is permanently morphing...
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A site of pre-Incan ruins in western Bolivia near the southern end of Lake Titicaca. The ruins, including statues, monoliths, and a temple of the sun, are evidence of a civilization that flourished here from c. 1000 to 1300.
ancient ruin in W Bolivia, near Lake TITICACA. Perhaps the work of the
AYMARA, it was probably the center of a pre-Incan empire. Building, never
completed, began before A.D. 500. Stone blocks weighing up to 100 tons
were brought from several miles off, fitted, notched, and dressed with
a precision unequaled even by the INCA. Tiahuanaco painted pottery is one
of the great achievements of PRE-COLUMBIAN ART.
It shows signs of having produced blocks weighing up to 400 tons. The other supplied andesite and was located 50 miles away, raising the question of how the enormous blocks were transported in an age before the horse was domesticated in South America.
Close examination of the structures shows an unusual technique behind their building. The stone blocks were notched, then fitted together so that they interlocked in three dimensions. The result was buildings strong enough to withstand earthquakes.
Until very recently, orthodox archaeologists labelled Tiahuanaco a ritual site. The reason was that it was built as a port. It has docks, it has quays, it has harbours. But they are docks, quays and harbours that can't be used by any ship. Tiahuanaco is situated 13,000 feet above sea level and is miles from the nearest water. Faced with this mystery, the historians solved it by deciding Tiahuanaco was never lived in. It was, rather, a massive monument to ancient gods, built as a port, presumably, so souls could sail to heaven.
This idea, like the Tiahuanaco harbours, no longer holds water. By 1995, new archaeological discoveries clearly showed it was once not only a bustling metropolis, but also the capital of an ancient empire extending across large portions of eastern and southern Bolivia, northwestern Argentina, northern Chile and southern Peru.
One of its most extraordinary accomplishments was a unique system of agriculture that involved the creation of raised planting surfaces separated by small irrigation ditches. These ditches absorbed sunlight and prevented crops from freezing, even on the high Altiplano. Algae collected from the ditches was used as fertiliser. The discovery of this ancient system has proven a godsend for modern Bolivian farmers who have found it gives greatly increased yields over modern methods.
The excitement of the recent archaeological finds has diverted attention from the original mystery why would the Tiahuanacans build a working port 13,000 feet above sea level? One answer may be that they didn't.
There is considerable controversy about the age of Tiahuanaco. Some scholars argue that building started around 150 BC and the city continued to grow until the latter part of the first millennium AD.
Others insist it's much older and was probably in place by the second millennium BC. Firmly in the latter camp are Arthur Posnansky, an archaeologist whose findings were endorsed by the Bolivian government, and Rolf Muller, a German astronomer with an interest in the site. Posnansky was the first to suggest the Kalasasaya enclosure functioned as an astronomical observatory, a thesis that is now widely accepted by his peers. But Posnansky also used this insight to date the complex and came up with the astonishing figure of 15,000 BC. Dr Muller checked his calculations and cautioned that while 15,000 BC was certainly a possibility, the astronomical findings could also point to 9300 BC.
Although both these dates have proven too much for the archaeological consensus to swallow, they would certainly solve the puzzle of why Tiahuanaco was built as a port. There is clear evidence that the Altiplano on which the city is built only rose above sea level with the ending of the Ice Age, around 8000 BC. If Tiahuanaco existed before then , it would have functioned as a port.
But if Tiahuanaco existed before then, it would
have been a sophisticated maritime city, more or less contemporary with
Plato's lost Atlantis.