Mysteries of the Stone City

Nobody knows the origins of Tiwanacu, the fabulous stone city next to Lake Titicaca. Ancient legends say that the human race was born in the arid plains nearby. The men who built it disappeared in the mystery a while ago and only remnants of its art and techniques remained.

Some eighty kilometers from La Paz, in the Bolivian highlands, there is a stone city whose origin nobody knows. It is Tiwanacu, urban center of a race that disappeared mysteriously in very remote times, leaving in the arid surrounding plain amazing testimonies of a remarkable level of development.

It is not known who built it or how old it is. When the great expansion of the Incas took place more than six centuries ago, the warriors of Cuzco found Tiwanacu in ruins. They did not know how to explain the secrets enclosed by the enormous carved stones, just as hundreds of scholars can’t do so today, who walk the silent precincts every day.

The mystery deepens when it is discovered that the Collaria tribes, the predecessors of the Aymaras who finally inhabited the altiplano, had no cultural kinship with the enigmatic builders. The collanas supposed that those stones had been worked by a race of giants, who would have submerged in the waters of the Titicaca when finishing their work. But this legend, which is still valid among today’s Aymaras, is not the only or the most picturesque.

The priest Baltazar de Salas, for example, assured that Adam and Eve had been born in Tiwanacu. The religious toured the area with Juan Intiwara, an indigenous healer married to Candelaria Coyllur Llu, an Aymara princess who claimed to know the secret of writing with quipus, who led him to Hyo Coati, the island of the Moon in Titicaca, where Salas He found strange idols sculpted in stone.

Thanks to his observations, the wandering friar wrote “Aymaru-Aymaru”, a book he published in Madrid in 1625, where he moved the Old Testament to the Bolivian altiplano. He maintained in that text that the human race was born in that region, adding that the earthly paradise was in the foothills of the nearby Illampu, mountain of eternal snow that is part of the royal mountain range.


In this place, right now, is the town of Sorata, a beautiful town that nevertheless is far from being the paradise that the priest Salas wanted. Is that the fantasy, of course, is not the exclusive property of the laity.

As a corollary to this theory, the Bolivian linguist Emeterio Villamil de Rada, who published a book entitled “The language of Adam” in 1875, affirmed that Aymara would become the first language on Earth, as well as Tiwanacu the first city. Several years after Father Salas, Antonio de León Pinelo wrote “Paradise in the New World”, a work that repeated, with some variations, the thesis of the priest.

Inti Wawan Hake

But Salas, León Pinelo and Villamil de Rada were not inventing anything new. They were only spreading the Inca mythology, which gave rise to the first human couple of Lake Titicaca. They were Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, children of the Sun, brothers as well as husbands, who located the capital of their kingdom in the vicinity of Cuzco.

Tiwanacu, according to the less far-fetched versions, owes its name to the union of the noun “thia”, which means edge or bank, with the word “huanacu”, participle of the verb desiccate. I would like to say “desiccated edge”, from which it is inferred that the city was primitively on the shores of the great lake. Another current of opinion assures that the real name was “Inti wawan hake”, which means “town of the sons of the sun”, which ended in Tiwanacu due to corruption.


As there is no record of the name given to it by its founders, there is no alternative but to apply the designation adopted by the Congress of Archaeologists gathered in La Paz in 1957, whose participants agreed to call it Tiwanacu. Precisely in this lack of history – because nobody has been able to decipher until now the hieroglyphics engraved on many stones of the old city – which gave rise to so many legends.

However, the imagination of the Inca curacas, like the fantasies of the Spanish chroniclers, were dwarfed by the contemporary contributions of writers who consider Tiwanacu as an airport for extraterrestrial ships.
Louis Pawells and Jacques Bergier, authors of “The return of the sorcerers”, while retaking the myth of Viracocha, the white god of the Aymaras, affirm that there is an unquestionable analogy between the monoliths of the altiplano and the mohairs of Easter Island .

They argue that the idols of both sites were made by the same hands, that is, by individuals from another planet, who came sailing through space in very modern ships. According to that, the viracocha astronauts would have used all their science and technology to start sculpting pedigrees like any vernacular troglodyte.

But Pawells and Bergier did not notice such minutiae. They affirmed, with the greatest aplomb, “the possibility of a visit by inhabitants of outer space – beings of atomic civilizations that disappeared without leaving traces – that left those vestiges now encompassed in the various forms of what we call esotericism”. That is to say, without entering into greater considerations, which left no traces, but which did leave them.

For his part, Erich Von Daniken, author of “Recuerdos del futuro”, says that “secrets are raging in Tiwanacu, a city located four thousand meters high, in a place that is practically the end of the world.” And then he asks: “What messages from other orbs await in the Bolivian altiplano?” This writer also believes in a culture transmitted by navigators of the cosmos, who, therefore, would be a bunch of blessed souls engaged in teaching among collans , Aymaras and Pascuences. Perhaps it happened, in one of those, that the astronauts who came to Earth received an extra remuneration for practicing in an inhospitable area. But Von Daniken does not clarify it.

From afar they would come

Many other people were interested in Tiwanacu, including our Bartolomé Miter, who wrote a pamphlet in 1879. But the most important were Arturo Posnasky and Carlos Ponce Sanginés. The first, a naval engineer of Austrian origin, published more than a hundred books on the subject. He said that in America there had been two fundamental races, the Collas and the Arawaks, whose mestization begot the Incas. Posnasky believed that Tiwanacu was built by the Collas and attributed to him an antiquity of fifteen thousand years.

Ponce Sanginés created the Centro de Investigaciones Arqueológicas de Tiwanacu in 1957, establishing on a scientific basis the study of the Andean past. From that date on, he carried out an extraordinary task of cleaning and recovering the site. The members of that Center have restored the Kerikala, Lakakollu, Putuni and Kalasasaya campuses, carrying out a work that makes Bolivians proud. The current splendor of Tiwanacu is largely due to the La Paz researcher.

There are no answers

The most important monument exhumed in that city is “Puerta del Sol”, carved in a single block of andesite weighing more than ten tons. It is almost four meters wide by three high and more than one meter thick, with 48 figures carved in bas-relief.

Disseminated by the contour there are several other carved stones that also exceed ten tons. And nobody explains what tools builders used to drag such weights. That’s why, perhaps, it was comfortable to stop looking for answers and make things easier by introducing extraterrestrial cosmonauts in Tiwanacu.

The inhabitants of the city also dominated copper metallurgy.

The excavations offered many objects of that metal, as well as gold, silver and bronze, but the melting furnaces never appeared anywhere. That is another of the mysteries. And also: what was the point of the pyramids built in the middle of the mysterious city?

Until recently, Egyptian pyramids were attributed to mausoleums, while Mexican pyramids were said to be shrines to the sun where human sacrifices were carried out. Is it possible that the Egyptians mobilized 25 million tons of stones for the sole purpose of burying their pharaohs? And is it possible that Mayans and Aztecs performed similar feats with the sole purpose of placating their gods by shedding human blood? It is evident that you do not need so much architecture to open your heart to a neighbor.

Especially when there are no bulldozers and hydraulic cranes. Then what? Why the pyramids? What functions did the pyramids of Akapana and Puma Punku fulfill in Tiwanacu? Perhaps they served to officiate religious rites, but there was undoubtedly something else.

Archaeologist Kurt Mendelhsson, a world authority on the subject, says that beyond their use as tombs or shrines, the pyramids do not represent an end in themselves, but the means to achieve that end. “These immense blocks of stones,” notes the German researcher, “mark the place where man invented the State.”

Indeed, in order to build these gigantic monuments in an effort that required great discipline, widespread consensus and remarkable technical capacity, the people had to put aside their tribal quarrels to organize themselves into a higher society.

That is the most consistent thing that was said so far, but it may have been like that and maybe not. Nobody has the answers yet. But the answers are there, in plain sight, painstakingly carved with bronze burins. They only await the genial spark of a man who deciphers their secrets. Someday it will be, to no doubt.

Credit: Wikipedia: Tiwanaku, Ancient, Unesco

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