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 Location: 12 Miles from lake Titicaca, Bolivia.  Grid Reference: 16.55˚ S  68.67˚ W


      Tiahuanaco: (Tiwanaku).

Tiahuanaco sits in the Bolivian Andes at a height of over 12,500 ft. It was once one of the most significant complexes in the pre Columbian Americas.

Inca tradition spoke of the founding Inca male and female coming to Cuzco from the 'Island of the Sun' on Lake Titicaca, nearby. (1)

When the Spanish first encountered Tiahuanaco in the sixteenth century, they went to great efforts to destroy it. Early in the 20th century, Bolivian railway workers broke up many of the blocks as ballast for the railway beds. The remains of the site are now finally being restored. (1)

(1877 Description of Site)

(Click here for interactive map of the site)



   Tiahuanaco: General Overview of the Site.

Tiahuanaco sits high in the Andes at an altitude of around 2 miles above sea level. The location is curious as a lake nearby to lake Titicaca, with which the site is associated, is a sea-water lake, apparently with sea-fauna still present. Indications of man-made structures below the level of lake Titicaca (which is slowly drying up over time), suggests that our understanding of the site is far from complete.

In addition, the style, size and skill demonstrated by the vast number of precision-cut cyclopean stones at Tiahuanaco (and nearby Puma-punka) reminds us that cutting and moving 100+ ton stones was common-place for the highly skilled builders of the complex, who also managed to move the stones over tens of miles from distant quarries to Tiahuanaco, which at such a high altitude is in itself, a remarkable physical feat.

The mythology of the Incas relates that Titicaca was the birthplace of the Inca nation, further adding to its importance.



   Chronology of Tiahuanaco:

Although a date of extreme antiquity is often suggested, carbon-14 dates from the site place the construction at no earlier that 1,700 BC. A date which was greatly contested by the Archaeologist Posnansky who spent 50 years researching the site, and who became determined through archaeo-astronomy that it was either built at an earlier time, or built over pre-existing constructions (also from an earlier time).

Prof. Posnansky summed up his 50 year study in a 4 volume work entitled Tiahuanaco, The cradle of American Man first published in 1945. He based his theories on the astronomical phenomena known as "obliqueness of the ecliptic" (not to be confused with the other astronomical phenomenon known as "Precession". Since the Earth is tilted on its axis in respect to the plane of the solar system, the resulting angle when viewed from earth causes the planets of our solar system to travel across the sky in a line called the plane of the ecliptic.

At present our earth is tilted at an angle of around 23˚ 27' 00", but this is not constant. The earth's axis oscillates slowly between 22˚ 01' 00" to an extreme of 24˚ 05' 00". This cycle (repeating itself from one extreme to the other and back) takes roughly 41,000 years to complete. The alignments at the Kalassaya temple suggest a tilt of the earth's axis amounting to 23˚ 8' 48", indicating a date of 15,000 B.C.

This date is generally not accepted by archaeologists, and indeed conflicts with another strong theory on the table at the moment; that of Crust-shift-displacement. For example, on one hand Posnasky says that Tiahuanaco dates back to 15,000 BC, and on the other, Hapgood (and Einstein) talk of crust-shift-displacement, which would have the effect of displacing any cardinally orientated structures. Should this theory ever become realised as fact, it will have to be accepted that structures such as Tiahuanaco and the Sphinx etc, were built after the last displacement (suggested as 10,500 BC), which means that either the earth-crust-displacement theory is wrong or Posnasky is... figure it out for yourself..

Carbon-14 Dating puts the first period of Tiahuanaco back to 1,700 BC, the second period to 360 BC, and the third era from 133-374 AD to 1,200 AD (1).

The city was the administrative and religious heart of a pre-Incan civilisation that began in the year 237 BC and endured for over 1400 years. During its peak (724- 1172 AD) the Tiahuanacan Empire covered nearly all of Bolivia, Northern Chile and Southern Peru, ruling over more than three million subjects. (2)




   Tiahuanaco Constructions:


The Akapana:

The Akapana pyramid was once a seven-step pyramid measuring some 200 meters on each side and standing nearly 17 meters tall. Like the nearby Subterranean Temple and the Kalasasaya, the Akapana was precisely oriented to the cardinal directions. Each of the seven levels was constructed with beautifully cut and precisely joined andesite blocks (of which 90% are now missing), that were faced with panels once covered with metal plaques, carvings, and paintings. In the centre of the Akapana�s flat summit is a small, sunken courtyard laid out in the form of a square superimposed over a perfect cross; this courtyard was also oriented to the cardinal directions. Recent excavations of this courtyard, the interior of the pyramid, and the grounds beneath it have revealed an unexpectedly sophisticated, and monumental system of interlinked surface and subterranean channels. These channels brought water collected upon the summit down and through the seven levels, where it exited below ground level, merged into a major subterranean drain system underneath the civic/ceremonial core of Tiwanaku, and ultimately flowed into Lake Titicaca

A drainage hole at the base of the destroyed pyramid.


The Kalasasaya:  ('The Standing Pillars', 'Place of the vertical stones')

The Kalasaya is a raised rectangular enclosure measuring about 450 feet by 400 feet, built like a stockade with 12 foot high columns jutting upward at intervals, each of these being carved into human figures.

 The grand entrance of the Kalasasaya.

The entrance as it was when it was first discovered.


The walls of the Kalasasaya are built in the same style as the semi-submerged temple, which opens out before it. Unlike the semi-submerged temple, the Kalasasaya is a semi-raised edifice, with the space inside the walls being filled in.

As part of Posnansky`s studies, he conducted precise surveys of all the principal structures of Tiahuanaco. The Kalasasaya structure,  was delineated by a series of vertical stone pillars (the name Kalasasaya means "the standing pillars") and had an east-west orientation. Utilizing his measurements of the lines of sight along these stone pillars, the orientation of the Kalasasaya, and the purposely intended deviations from the cardinal points, Posnansky was able to show that the alignment of the structure was based upon an astronomical principle called the obliquity of the ecliptic.


The Monoliths (Stelae):



The largest Stelae at Tiahuanaco (Right) is 7.3m high (20 ton), Bennett monolith, or 'Pachamama', which stood for several years in front of Le Paz stadium was taken in 1932 and returned 2002. The lower half of its body, which is covered with fish-scales (which upon close inspection are actually fish-heads), immediately reminds one of the Mesopotamian deity called Oannes, the man-fish amphibious being who conveyed special knowledge to ancient mankind.








  (left) - The red andesite monolith ('El Fraile, 'The Friar'),  was found there as was the remaining smaller monolith of a bearded figure






The Ponce monolith (Right), named after its discoverer Wendell Bennett, was found in the centre of the semi-submerged temple (see below).






Three more in the semi-subterranean temple...

"Photo credit Destination360 Tiahuanaco"


The Semi-subterranean Temple:

The Subterranean Temple, was studded with sculptured stone heads set into cut-stone facing walls and in the middle of the court was located a now-famous monolithic 'Bennett' stela, Named for archaeologist Wendell C. Bennett who conducted the first archaeological research at Tiahuanaco in the 1930's, the Bennett Stela represents a human figure wearing elaborate clothes and a crown.


It is noticeable that all the stones are of different colours and sizes.

Note: The lower heads seem to be considerably more worn than the upper ones?

Similar building techniques can be seen at both Serro Sechin and Chavin Du Huantar in Peru.


The Gateway of the sun - (Puerta del Sol):

The 10 ton Gateway of the Sun is monolithic, carved from a single block of Andesite granite, now broken right down the center. It now stands in the NW corner of the Kalasasaya, although it was found fallen and completely covered in mud elsewhere on the site.

A close-up of the crying sun-god symbol...




   Tiahuanaco - Other Points of Interest:

Roughly fifteen miles from Tiahuanaco, this lake is believed to have once extended to the city. The highest navigable water in the world. Its present fauna (including a species of sea horse),  a nearby salt-water lake, and the angle of an ancient shore-line have led scientists to consider that the lake may have once been attached to the sea, following which it was raised to its present height.

On the rock cliffs near the piers and wharfs of the port area are yellow-white calcareous deposits forming long, straight lines indicating pre-historic water levels. These ancient shorelines are strangely tilted, although once they must have been level. Athough the lake averages between 460 and 600 feet (140 and 180 m) in depth, but the bottom tilts sharply toward the Bolivian shore, reaching its greatest recorded depth of 920 feet (280 m) off Isla Soto in the lake's northeast corner.

On Titicaca Island the ruins of a temple mark the spot where, according to the tradition of the Incas the founders of the Inca dynasty, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, depending on which variation one hears, were either sent down to Earth by the Sun or emerged from the depths to found their empire.

(Click here for map of Titicaca)


Discoveries in the Lake. In November 1980, the Bolivian author and scholar of pre-Columbian cultures, Hugo Boero Rojo, announced the finding of archaeological ruins beneath Lake Titicaca about 15 to 20 meters below the surface off the coast of Puerto Acosta, a Bolivian port village near the Peruvian frontier on the northeast edge of the lake. At a press conference the Bolivian author stated that:

"we can now say that the existence of pre-Columbian constructions under the waters of Lake Titicaca is no longer a mere supposition or science-fiction, but a real fact. Further," he added, 'the remnants found show the existence of old civilizations that greatly antecede the Spanish colonization. We have found temples built of huge blocks of stone, with stone roads leading to unknown places and flights of steps whose bases were lost in the depths of the lake amid a thick vegetation of algae." Boero Rojo described these monumental ruins as being "of probable Tiahuanaco origin.

In August 2000, the BBC announced the discovery of ancient ruins 30m beneath the lake, and confirmed that a temple had been discovered by following a submerged stone road. The discoveries are believed to date back 1,000 to 1,500 years ago, and are credited as pre-Incan confirming that the level of the lake fluctuates periodically.


It has been observed in relation to this that soil covers the ancient Tiahuanacan plateau to a depth of at least 6 feet, under which relics and artefacts of the ancient culture have been found.


The 'Fuenta Magna'.

This 'libation' bowl, with cuneiform hieroglyphs on it was discovered in the 1950's near Tiahuanaco.

The authenticity of the bowl is challenged by sceptics who claim it to be fabricated by archaeologists. It now resides in the Museo De Oro, La Paz.


The Puma Punku (Door of the Puma):

The nearby structure known as the Puma Punka is still littered with giant, precisely shaped blocks, many of which appear machine made. The  so-called 'port' of Tiahuanaco, called Puma Punku or "Door of the Puma," which is often quoted to have once been a wharf with a massive four-part building, is an area filled with enormous stone blocks scattered around on the ground as though the result of a catastrophic event. Several of the bocks are estimated to weigh between 100 and 150 tons.  

The means and purpose of transporting such large stones is still a mystery.

(More about Puma Punku)

(Bolivia Homepage)

(Pre-Columbian Americas Homepage)

(Additional Information on Tiahuanaco at SacredSites.com)



1). David Zink. The Ancient Stones Speak. 1979. Musson Books.
2). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1878905.stm
3). Source: Jean-Pierre Protzen & Stella E.Nair, �On Reconstructing Tiwanaku Architecture�, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 59, Nr.3, 2000,


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