Location: Part of
the Tiahuanaco Complex, Bolivia.
|| Grid Reference:
16° 29' 11" S. 68° 33' 47" W
(Puma Puncu, Puma Pumku).
Puma Punku is a
single part of the greater Tiahuanaco complex.
The Puma Punku temple
offers one of the best examples of masonry skills in the whole of the
pre-Columbian Americas. Other incredibly carved temple complexes
such as the Peruvian Inca walls of Sacsayhuaman, or the Inca masonry
at Machu Pichu and Ollantaytambo pale to insignificance when compared
with the sheer skill, accuracy and perfection achieved at Puma Punku.
Today the site
appears 'broken', and has been reduced to piles of scattered geometric
blocks. These immense quartzite blocks were designed so as to
interlock with each other, creating an architecturally unique temple
without precedent in the America's. Puma Punku appears to have been
destroyed by an earthquake, perhaps accompanied by a tidal wave from
Lake Titicaca. Some of the structures on higher ground were once
covered with 2 metres or so of earth.
According to Anthropology
Professor W. H. Isbell, a radiocarbon date obtained
from mound fill forming the Puma punku deposited during the oldest of
three construction epochs dates the earliest construction epoch of the
Puma punku at 1510 ±25 B.P. (A.D. 440; calibrated, A.D. 536–600). (6)
This would place the building of the temple at the beginning of the
third great Tiwanakan cultural expansion.
Puma Punku: (The Door of the Puma)
Puma punku was an terraced earthen mound originally faced with megalithic
blocks. It is 167.36 m wide along its north-south axis and 116.7 m
long along its east-west axis. On the northeast and southeast corners
of the Puma punku it has 20-meter wide projections that extend 27.6
meters north and south from the rectangular mound.
The eastern edge of
the Puma punku is occupied by what is called the “Plataforma Lítica.”
The Plataforma Lítica consists of a stone terrace that is 6.75 by
38.72 meters in dimension. This terrace is paved with multiple
enormous stone blocks. The Plataforma Lítica contains the largest
stone slab found in both the Pumapunku and Tiwanaku Site.
The largest of these stone blocks is 7.81 meters
long, 5.17 meters wide, averages 1.07 meters thick, and is estimated
to weigh about 131 metric tons. The second largest stone block found
within the Puma punka is 7.90 meters long, 2.50 meters wide, and
averages 1.86 meters thick. Its weight has been estimated to be 85.21
The quarry for these
blocks was on the western shore of Titicaca, ten miles distant.
(The Top-50 Stones of all
Puma Punku was an emblem of the sacred
mountain. A complex system of channels conducted rainwater from
a sunken court on the summit into the interior of the pyramid,
threading it from one terrace to the next. The water ultimately
cascaded out from tunnels driven horizontally into the
The side walls of the water channels
in the Akapana and at Puma Punku are built with upright stone slabs
held together with I-shaped clamps.
Protzen thinks this was to hold the slabs in the proper
alignment. Clamps also once pieced together the enormous
sandstone slabs used in the construction of the four platforms
at Puma Punku. A unique feature at Puma Punku is the use of
recessed clamping. The clamps used had a wide range of shapes
and sizes, and the fact that the clamps are level even when the
channel walls and the clamp sockets are at a slope of about 12°
is usually interpreted to mean that they were cast directly into
the sockets. A spectrographic
analysis of a surviving clamp showed that it was made of an
unusual alloy – 95.15% copper, 2.05% arsenic, 1.70% nickel,
0.84% silicon and 0.26% iron.
Other examples of 'Brick
Ties' can be seen in the floor at Puma-punka. It is now believed that
theses 'Ties' were made by pouring molten metal into the prepared
portable smelter operating at extremely high temperatures would
have been required for this purpose.
architectural cramps, which are composed of a unique
copper-arsenic-nickel bronze alloy were
used on a section of canal found at the base of the Akapana pyramid at
Tiwanaku. These cramps were used to hold the blocks comprising the
walls and bottom of stone-line canals that drain sunken courts.
I-cramps of unknown composition were used to hold together the massive
slabs that formed Puma punku's four large platforms. In the south canal
of the Puma punku, the I-shaped cramps were cast in place. In sharp
contrast, the cramps used at the Akapana canal were fashioned by the
cold hammering of copper-arsenic-nickel bronze ingots.
copper-arsenic-nickel bronze alloy is also found in metal artifacts
within the region between Tiwanaku and San Pedro de Atacama during the
Middle Horizon around A.D. 600-900.
Who Built Puma Punka.?
The Inca themselves
denied building the Tiahuanacan complex. We now know that the
Tiwanakan culture existed independently of the Inca, and from slightly
before. A fact that is stored into their traditions and myths. The
Inca origin myth records neary Lake Titicaca as the origin point of
humanity. They record that Viracocha began his journey from this place,
until following much wandering, Cuzco became chosen as the birthplace
of the Inca nation.
'A story was
told by the local Aymara indians to a Spanish traveller who visited
Tiahuanaco shortly after the conquest spoke of the city's original
foundation in the age of Chamac Pacha, or First Creation, long
before the coming of the Incas. Its earliest inhabitants, they
said, possessed supernatural powers, for which they were able
miraculously to lift stones of off the ground, which "...were
carried [from the mountain quarries] through the air to the sound of
It is theorised that the Puma Punku complex as well
as its surrounding temples, the Akapana pyramid, Kalasasaya,
Putuni and Kerikala functioned as spiritual and ritual centres
for the Tiwanaku people. This area might have been viewed as the centre
of the Andean world, attracting pilgrims from far away to marvel
in its beauty. These structures transformed the local landscape;
Puma Punku was purposely integrated with Illimani mountain, a
sacred peak that the Tiwanaku possibly believed to be home to
the spirits of their dead. This area was believed to have
existed between heaven and Earth. The spiritual significance and
the sense of wonder would have been amplified into a
"mind-altering and life-changing experience"
through the use of hallucinogenic plants. Examinations of hair
samples exhibit remnants of psychoactive substances in many
mummies found in Tiwanaku culture mummies from Northern Chile,
even those of babies as young as 1 year of age, demonstrating
the importance of these substances to the Tiwanaku.
NEWS: Indiegogo.com (Dec, 2013) Cosmogenic Dating of Megaliths at Puma Punku
to take place.
'Andesite megaliths in Puma Punku,
will be evaluated by beryllium-10 cosmogenic dating to
determine the prehistory date when the stone was
quarried and machined'.
to Full Article)
Sophisticated Masonry Skills at Puma Punku:
The largest of the
puma punku stone blocks is 7.81 meters long, 5.17 meters
wide, averages 1.07 meters thick, and is estimated to weigh about 131
metric tons. The second largest stone block found within the Puma punku
is 7.90 meters long, 2.50 meters wide, and averages 1.86 meters thick.
Its weight has been estimated to be 85.21 metric tons. Both of these
stone blocks are part of the Plataforma Lítica and composed of red
sandstone (5). Based upon detailed petrographic and chemical
analyses of samples from both individual stones and known quarry
sites, archaeologists concluded that these and other red sandstone
blocks were transported up a steep incline from a quarry near Lake
Titicaca roughly 10 km away. Smaller
andesite blocks that were used for stone facing and carvings came
from quarries within the Copacabana Peninsula about 90 km away from
and across Lake Titicaca from the Pumapunka and the rest of the
Tiwanaku Site. (5)
Even though the site
is two miles above sea level, the Tiwanakan builders managed to move
stones, some weighing over 100 tons, for ten miles to get them into
place. There is no evidence of the wheel in Tiwanakan culture, and
there are no trees in the area to use as rollers. The feat of moving
the stones for ten miles (let alone 90), is an incredible achievement
in its own right.
It has been seriously suggested
that there is evidence of basic machining at Puma-punka, as the
following photo demonstrates:
A close inspection of the
stone above reveals that there are regularly spaced drill marks
along the precision-cut 6mm groove.
In the photo above, the same small drill holes can
be seen in several areas where they appear to have been used as
miniature 'pilot-holes', - perhaps in order to assist splitting the stone.
The internal angles and faces of this stone
were finished to 'machine' quality.
One of the most interesting
things to have transpired about the site is that many of the immense
blocks were built as if from a template, and amazingly appear to
interlock as the picture below illustrates. Such a discovery flies
directly in the face of all our concepts of the construction skills of
the ancients. With no previous examples of masonry at such a
sophisticated level, nor on such great scale leaves one to wonder at
the confidence and skills of the designers and masons.
(Left) Illustrating the
sophisticated way in which the Puma-punka stones fit together. (Right)
A stone gateway from the Akapana pyramid shows the same modular feature.
H-shaped blocks have approximately 80 faces on each. They all match
each other with extreme precision suggesting that the architects used
a system of preferred measurements and proportions.
Puma Punku Gallery of Images:
Fallen Stone Gateway. Similar in style to the
'Gateway of the Sun' at nearby
Drawing from 1877
(left), and recent photo (Right), of the same stone - although
slightly more broken.
The 'Before' photo (pre-restoration)....
The 'After' photo
(post-restoration)... (nudge nudge academia)...!
Construction Techniques - Extreme