Tiwanaku - The legacy of an ancient civilization

Vanesa Zegada | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Tiwanaku was one of the greatest civilizations of South America, long before the Inca Empire even existed. At more than 3800 meters above the sea level, what used to be Tiwanaku’s capital is located in the current territory of Bolivia, 80 km away from La Paz city, near Titicaca Lake. As the real name of the capital is unknown, it is simply called Tiwanaku, as the civilization itself. Nowadays, it is an archaeological complex and one of the most important legacies of this civilization.

The mystery of the Tiwanaku's capital construction

The erection of this site made specialists rack their brains. It is hard to understand how, in a period with no traces of the wheel’s existence in the region, the enormous stones that make part of the constructions were transported.

Further than that, archaeologists from all over the world came to verify the precision of Tiwanaku’s constructions. The perfectly flat carving of the stones and their exact right angles are something practically impossible to be achieved without modern machinery.

© iStock/DmitriyBurlakov

That is not all. The uplifts of the complex were not randomly placed. Every construction in Tiwanaku was made based on planetary movements. An example is the Kalasasaya Temple. During the spring equinox’s sunset, the sun crosses the middle pillar of its main wall, while during the winter and summer solstices, the sun crosses the left and right extremes of the wall. There are theories stating that each one of the remaining pillars of the wall, was used to indicate specific moments of the year.

© iStock/diegograndi

The disappearance of the civilization

Another mystery is why the Tiwanaku civilization suddenly vanished. At some point in the 11th century, all traces of this civilization stopped and, even if there are many theories about its disappearance, we still do not know the exact reason why. When Spanish people arrived in South America in the 15th century, they met only Inca people but not a single Tiwanaku person.

© iStock/Byelikova Oksana

We might wonder how the knowledge and technology that gave rise to a city with that level of engineering perfection suddenly got lost, together with a whole civilization. Yet, if we think about it, we cannot be completely surprised; after all, on the other side of the world, during the middle ages, invaluable knowledge from the ancient times also got lost.

Tiwanaku nowadays

Currently, the Tiwanaku complex and, right next to it, the Puma Punku complex can be visited. Both were part of the same city, even though today they are two separate archaeological sites.

© iStock/Adrian Wojcik

While some constructions and pieces remain intact, some buildings were restored. Unfortunately, in the restorations, some stones that didn't belong to the structures were misused. Still, the place is admirable. Anyhow, believe it or not, there is much more to discover in Tiwanaku. What we can see is just a fraction of the whole ancient city, while most of it remains untouched underground. Hopefully someday, with more exploration and study, this place will keep revealing valuable information about our past.

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