A taster of what's to come
Trip Start Oct 14, 2007
92Trip End Jul 25, 2008
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Where I stayed
Hotel diamante Azul
After an hour or so's drive from La Paz, we arrived at the archaeological site and toured around museums displaying the remnants of art and ceramics that were found here. The human remains and mummies found in the area were particularly interesting. The skulls of the Tiwanaco had elongated craniums, appearing very extra-terrestrial like and eerie. As children, the heads would be tied with a rock and pushed backwards to lengthen the head and emphasize the jaw and chin to indicate class and authority
Tiwanaco is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire. Located near Lake Titicaca, much of the architecture of the site is in a poor state of preservation, having been subjected to looting and amateur excavations attempting to locate valuables since shortly after Tiwanaco's fall. We were told that this destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period, during 19th century and the early 20th century, and has included quarrying stone for building, railroad construction and target practice by military personnel.
Not a lot is known about the people of Tiwanaco as they had no written language. Archaeologists are still trying to piece together the site. They believe that at its height it was a city of possibly 20,000 inhabitants, encompassing approximately 1.6 sq miles. During it's peak, Tiwanaco was said to be the largest city in the World and it is considered to be "the Cradle of the American Civilizations". Later on, their knowledge, style of architecture and science were inherited by the Inca Empire
Walking around the site, it is easy to let your imagination "fill in the blanks" and picture in your mind's eye the grand designs and structure of the ruins. A lot of the walls have been reconstructed but are not as well put together as the original walls built by the Tiwanaco. The geometry and lines of the original walls blend together in perfect symmetry making it easy to pick out the later work. Tiwanaco's most outstanding structure is the Akapana pyramid, which was built on an existing geological formation. At its base, this roughly square hill covers a surface area of about 200 sq m (2152 sq ft). Because much of the original "Akapana" stone went into the construction of nearby homes and churches, the pyramid is now in a rather sorry state.
Tiwanaku collapsed around AD 1000, possibly said to be due to environmental reasons, from an invasion of new people from the south, a loss of faith in the Tiwanaco religion, or a combination of all three. The area around Tiwanaco was not abandoned, but the city fell into decay and its characteristic art style vanished. They are still uncovering things all the time here and have only excavated such a small percentage of the site. Some of the monoliths are well preserved and beautiful carvings are etched into the rock showing their beliefs represented by animals in three levels of elements and existence; the puma to represent fire and earth, the serpent to represent water and the sea, and the condor to represent air and the sky.
Exploring and letting the mind wander, it felt like we were in the middle of an Indiana Jones film and we were convinced that one of the protruding stones would yield and produce a secret door or cave with some undiscovered ancient treasure! Well one can dream...It was a good warm up and promise of things to come of which are in better condition. Can't wait now for the trail! So it's back to La Paz where we leave tomorrow for Puno and Lake Titicaca.