Gateway to other Worlds from within the City of Spirits

The Gateway of Huayamarca (Aymara for ‘City of Spirits’) goes by many names. Huayamarca referred originally to the sandstone outcrop, known today as Bosque de las Piedras (The Forest of Stones). Although tourists may be told that the Gateway was made by the Incas, it is far older; once standing on the edge of a Pleistocene lake that shrank to become Lake Titikaka. (© Dave Truman). 

Tales from a Primordial Landscape

Some places attract fables, and even in a land of where folklore is so often garnished by the teller, this place excels in embellishment. The first time I came here a boy who sold me a piece of quartz told me that he knew of a couple of newly weds who had disappeared through the Gatewway, never to be seen again. I am just as guilty, my mind is compelled to enhance whatever may drift into my consciousness whenever I come here.  I need only pass by Bosque de las Piedras on the bus for my imagination to draw me into a chthonic realm of shadowy gods.

It’s hardly surprising, the very shapes jutting from this sandstone outcrop near to the shore of Lake Titikaka declare their hoariness.  The aeons have sculpted them into a phantasmagoria of forms, like the stuff of half-remembered dreams, or perhaps nightmares. I cannot help but think of Wiracocha’s first creation when I see this place; a world in which there was no sun, where its beings so angered their creator that he turned them to stone. Giants petrified in perpetuity.

Animal shaped stones
Bosque de las Piedras: a place where bestially shaped stones dominate the skyline. (© Dave Truman). 
Naturally formed bridge
A natural bridge, with the appearance of a mammoth’s struggling under a heavy burden. (© Dave Truman).
Obese giants
Rocks appear to waddle like obese giants lumbering down the incline towards the bed of the ancient lake. (© Dave Truman).

Unless you have actually been here it is hard to imagine, but the Gateway of transition between worlds could not be what it is – whatever that is –  if it were not part of this ancient City of Spirits. Its sandstone outcrops create a unique acoustic resonance. You can stand several hundred yards (metres) away from the Gateway and hear words spoken softly by those immediately in front of it. I am sure that those who constructed the Gateway knew this. They even may have added to the outcrops that face the Gateway so as to enhance its acoustics.

A naturally formed wall?
One of the sandstone outcrops that faces the Gateway and which contributes to the unusual acoustic properties of the place. Was this naturally formed, or was it constructed? (© Dave Truman).

There is a curious ambiguity about the place, as if the spirits of nature, or perhaps humans, had conspired to breathe artifice into its genius loci. Most probably the entire outcrop was once considered a sacred place for reasons that we hardly understand today.

Holes in the stone, are they natural or not?
Several of the many curiously formed holes in the sandstone at Bosque de las Piedras. Are these just the result of millennia of weathering, or were they formed by some unknown technology for softening stone? (© Dave Truman).
An ancient lakeside Gateway

The Gateway stands on the very edge of this arched  sandstone outcrop.  At some time in the distant past sediments from an ancient sea bed were compressed into stone here. Then they were up-ended by tectonic forces  shifting in the Earth’s crust so that they stood upright, as the Andes rose above the South American Plate. Later, glaciers rasped at their surface, making the first icy cuts to create what became these curious formations.

Beyond the bluff in which the Gateway sits, the terrain flattens out into a hollow so shallow it is barely perceptible, until your eyes notice the waters of Titikaka glistening in the mountain sunlight more than a mile (1.6 km) away.

View from the outcrop over the dried-up lake bed.
The outcrop from Bosque de las Piedras (right) that contains the Gateway at the bottom of the slope. It looks out over the dried bed of a Pleistocene (Ice Age) lake that is now the Altiplano. The shore of present-day Lake Tirikaka is in the far distance. (© Dave Truman).

It does not take a great leap of the imagination to realise that the waters of a lake, or inland sea, once lapped against the very foot of the Gateway. Although the level of Lake Titikaka is known to fluctuate considerably over short periods, it has grown steadily smaller since it was formed from the dregs of the much larger stretches of water that once covered the Altiplano during the Pleistocene.

Today the Gateway now stands at least 45 feet (15 metres) above Titikaka’s present level – and that is my rather conservative estimate. Geologists have calculated that the lakes on the Altiplano during the late Ice Age were between 15 and 45 feet (5 and 15 metres) higher than Titikaka is today. This raises the interesting proposition that the Gateway could be far older than the Inca construction it so often is assumed to be. The local traditions I have been told confirm this to be so.

Fables of refugees from sunken lands across the sea?

Since the 1950s and 60s an association has grown up in South American popular culture between the Gateway and the lost continent(s) of Lemuria and/or Mu. This centres on the arrival of a priest from the aforesaid sunken continent(s) called Aramu Muru (another name for the Gateway), his founding of the Brotherhood of the Seven Rays and the loss, or hiding, of a golden solar disc.

Whilst most of this can be attributed to the writings of George Hunt Williamson, it is surprising the extent to which versions of this story have taken root amongst people living in the Andes today. Such is their prevalence, I consider that they were probably grafted on to an indigenous folk memory, rather than simply having been introduced in the last century.  Indeed, I have heard the lost continent of Mu mentioned when people here speak of other megalithic sites and of their founders. Always these events take place in a past so distant that they are dismissed out of hand by the academics.

Map of Sundaland.
Map showing the sunken landmass of Sundaland, with the  outlines of present day Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia in bold. (CC BY 3.0).

Folk memory may have a way of adapting to the times in order to preserve its essence. Instead of Mu, we might think of another sunken landmass called Sundaland, where the population fled as sea levels rose sharply at the very end of the Pleistocene, inundating its savannah. Is it so ridiculous to suppose that some of these people took to the oceans and reached the Pacific coast of South America? At least some of the inhabitants of this now submerged landmass were probably capable of crossing water in boats long before the end of the Ice Age. Others – the Denisovans and their hybrid descendants – seem to have possessed highly sophisticated technologies, including high-speed drilling.

Geometry in the landscape

When the Peruvian researcher Ricardo González visited the Gateway, equipped with map and compass, he made a surprising discovery. The Gateway’s threshold pointed directly towards the Island of the Sun on Lake Titikaka.

Intrigued by González’s discovery, I decided to investigate further using Marble® mapping software. I found that the Gateway does not just point to anywhere on the Island of the Sun, which is nearly 6 miles (9,6 km) long. Rather, it points to what is arguably the most important sacred site in the whole of the Andes: the Foundation Stone, or Sacred Rock, known as Titi Q’ala. TheTiti Q’ala is the Pacarina, or point from which the whole of Andean civilisation unfolded. This is the place where Wiracocha is said to have created the Sun and Moon after the frozen age of darkness. The Titi Qala was also where the progenitors of the Incas, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, arose from the waters of Titikaka to restore civilisation to an Andes that had been reduced to barbarism.

Titi Qala Rock, Island of the Sun.
The sacred rock Titi Q’ala, which lies at the north end of the Island of the Sun on Lake Titikaka. The rock was also known as the Lion Cliff, because tradition said that it was once the site of a statue of a puma, or other feline. Its association with cats may also stem from the rock’s natural morphology as seen from this angle. (© Dave Truman).

I began to look for other ancient and sacred sites on and around this part of Lake Titikaka. There is, to be sure, no shortage of such places here, but one location on the map seemed to draw my attention more than any other.

In the centre of the peninsula that divides Titikaka’s Great Lake from its Little Lake, there sits an enormous volcano called Khapia. It is considered an apu (tutelary deity) by local people. Modern day shamans visit Khapia’s plateau to seek advice on the future and it is home a number of huacas, or sacred objects. One of these is a stone representation of a toad, which almost certainly dates back to the time when the Uru people occupied this part of the Altiplano.

When I joined these three sacred places together on the map using a spherical map projection, the result was an equilateral triangle:

Three sacred sites form an equilateral triangle.
The three most ancient and most sacred sites on Lake Titikaka form an equilateral triangle when they are joined together using a spherical map projection. (© Dave Truman).

This is not the only example of triangles that can be plotted between sacred mountains and other such places in the Andes. Perhaps the best known is the Pythagorean triangle that joins the peaks of Illimani, Illampu (both considered to be apus) and Tiwanaku in Bolivia. Anyone familiar with the work of British researcher Mark Vidler will know that triangles formed between the highest peaks of mountain ranges are surprisingly common throughout the world.

It seems that early people possessed an ability to recognise these geometries, which in the above example included an innate appreciation of spherical trigonometry. What was more, they incorporated this innate understanding within their sense of the sacred. There may be rather more to the concept of the apu, or the spirit teacher who is the mountain, than our modern world-view recognises.

The human factor
Gateway picture taken with an Oldfield Filter.
Picture taken with an Oldfield Filter of the Gateway just after I had arrived on a visit. Notice the predominance of red and yellow colours, which experience has taught me are associated with natural fluxes in telluric energy. They follow the diagonal strata of the sandstone. (© Dave Truman).

The Gateway goes by many names, including Wilka Uta, Aramu Muru, Amaru Muru and Amaru Punku amongst others. This alone is testimony to its great antiquity. One thing has struck me about the Gateway, having witnessed two shamanistic ceremonies there. It is the extent to which it interacts with the human presence. In particular, it seems to be energised by the human will and emotions. I have come to this conclusion with the help of photographs I have taken with an Oldfield Filter®. There is a marked difference between pictures taken before and after such ceremonies have occurred.

The Gateway after the ceremony.
Photograph taken with the Filter after the shamanistic ceremony. (© Dave Truman).

Admittedly, the sun was shining brightly when I took the second picture after a ceremony, but the camera was recording more here than simply glare of sunlight. The full spectrum has been captured through the lens. This is something I have found happens often when human emotions and intentions are being expressed at the time the shutter opens. What is different in this case though, is that I took this picture about half an hour after a ceremony had finished.  It is as if a three dimensional arc of some sort surrounds the area immediately in front of the Gateway. Contrast this with the previous picture in which the orientation of the colours simply seems to mirror the diagonal strata of the sandstone in the bluff.

In far-off times, Huayamarca stood on the edge of a vast inland sea. Its Gateway welcomed visitors from across the water; from the Lion Cliff of Titi Q’ala, which itself had risen from those same waters. It welcomed the Wise Ones (amautas) who consulted the Apu of the volcano Khapia. More than all of this, the Gateway beckoned those who came to its shore to traverse its rocky portal and journey onwards and inwards – toward the innermost sanctum of the City of Spirits.

Photograph taken with an Oldfield Filter shortly after a shamanistic ceremony had been conducted in front the Gateway in 2011. (© Dave Truman).

© Dave Truman 2018

 

 

 

Cutimbo Peru: Legacy from the Past of a Thousand and One Questions

The Cutimbo (Kutimpu – giant armadillo) archaeological site is located on the top of an immense meseta (table plateau) about 1,000 feet (300 metres) above the Altiplano in southern Peru. Just to the left of centre can be seen the forms of two of the site’s chullpas; massive megalithic structures that are dwarfed by the geological feature on which they stand. (© Dave Truman)

A Landacape Formed by Recent Catastrophes

The Altiplano never ceases to surprise me. I thought I had it all worked out, ancient cataclysms and all. Then, one morning, I decided to visit Cutimbo. The micro picked up speed as we cleared the suburbs of Puno and headed towards the South-west. The road cut a straight line across the plateau, the only deviation being a slight vertical one, as it accommodated the banks of mud that had settled on its floor thousands of years ago. This was once the bed of Lake Tauca; a vast salt lake that had engulfed this part of the Altiplano, – as well as present-day Lake Titikaka – during the Ice Age.

A geological conundrum 

Geologists still really do not know where all of Tauca’s salt came from. Today, there is salt in profusion further south in the Andes. In Bolivia, Lakes Uru Uru and Poopo are all heavily saline. Then there are the salt flats at Uyuni and Coipasa, which are evaporated lakes. Even as far south as Argentina, the Salinas Grandes glisten blindingly in the Andean sun and there is the salty Mar Chiquita; a vast lake in the Province of Cordoba, thousands of miles (kilometres) from any ocean. How did all this salt get here? Was it just what was left from some very ancient ocean bed, or did it arrive here more recently from catastrophic earth changes?

Most of the salt was probably washed out of this part of the Altiplano, and from what became Titikaka, by the sudden melting of the glaciers at the very end of the last Ice Age – about eleven and a half thousand years ago. The ensuing freshwater floods would have swept it southwards into what is today Bolivia and Argentina.

A walk to the table mountain

Lost in my geological reverie, I barely noticed that the micro had pulled up and that the driver was calling out ‘Cutimbo’. I fumbled in my pocket for change, handed him the required two and a half soles and got out. Then, I looked up. Before me stood what seemed to be an immense citadel formed from the very Earth herself. From the plateau on which I was standing, there rose another one, perhaps a thousand feet (300m) higher. Just beneath its culmination was a sheer wall of of rock, a rampart fashioned by nature to defy all but the most earnest of seekers.

The next meseta
From the top of Cutimbo can be seen another meseta in the distance. Notice the fallen megaliths in the foreground. (© Dave Truman).

I glanced about me at the wider landscape. The daunting prospect before me did not stand alone. There were similar massive protrusions from the Altiplano all around me, suggesting that the plateau here had once been about 1,000 feet (300m) higher than it is today. I thought of the mesas of Arizona, except that where I was standing was already two and a half miles (4.5 km) above the sea. Was this extraordinary phenomenon really the result of tiny streams gently nibbling away at the rocks over millions of years, or had something far more sudden and dramatic happened here to create these curious formations?  My mind drifted back to the immense floods that I believe took place when the Ice Age came to abrupt end – perhaps in a matter of days

Small streams on the Altoplano.
Barely visible in this picture, several streams wind across the Altiplano between the mesetas, as seen from the plateau of Cutimbo’s summit. Did these tiny trickles of water strip out the original surface of the Altiplano by about 1,000 ft (300 m) over millions of years? Or is this curious landscape really the result of catastrophic and immense flooding much more recently – at the end of the last Ice Age? (© Dave Truman).

I started to cross the road. A local man, who lived in Cutimbo – the modern village clustered around the foot of the meseta – had alighted at the same stop. He helpfully pointed me in the direction of the archaeological site, which was at the summit. We walked along the pathway chatting, until he reached his smallholding. I took the opportunity to ask him about any legends concerning the ruins. His rather evasive reply was along the lines of, ‘Oh yes, there are many legends concerning this place’, and then left it at that. Although intrigued, I did not press him on the matter. I’ve learned that trust has to be earned from the country peoples of the Andes. They guard their lore and customs ardently. I made a remark about the presence of the chullpas at the top of the meseta, but again he remained largely taciturn.

Towards the beckoning chullpas

We  parted by shaking hands and I pressed on alone, up the ever increasing slope, towards the top of the meseta and the chullpas. I took my time during the ascent. At this altitude it is very easy to lose one’s breath, even when accustomed to the dearth of oxygen. At about a third of the way up, I was surprised that another chullpa came into view, because it was not visible from the road.

Lower chullpa Cutimbo
The chullpa situated about a third of the way up is rectangular in cross-section and has a shaman’s ‘doorway’ facing a few degrees off due East (© Dave Truman). 

At first sight it appeared unremarkable, but it was only on closer inspection that I noticed some of its striking features. In my article on Sillustani, I described some of the Andean cosmology that underpinned the design of the chullpas there. The cosmology employed here at Cutimbo was essentially the same. Here was the familiar ‘doorway’ facing almost due east at the bottom of the tower; an orifice that would allow the first rays of the solstice sun into the chullpa during the ceremony in which the shaman sought guidance from the ancestors. Chullpas, however, have two entrances. Whilst shamans enter from the material world at the bottom of the tower, the souls of the ancestors enter at the top, as they complete their journeys from the celestial realm.

'Doorway' of the chullpa taken with an Oldfield Filter.
Photograph of the Chullpa’s doorway taken with and Oldfield Filter. Notice the red colouration directly above the lintel. (© Dave Truman).

It was only when this rather obvious thought impressed itself upon me that some of the features of this chullpa started to make sense. I checked the stonework for magnetic anomalies. There were none, except for the lintel that supported the stones above the ‘doorway’ at the bottom of the tower. When I moved the compass towards this stone, the needle spun from magnetic north to west. Interestingly, the only photograph I took with the Oldfield Filter at the whole site that showed any colour variation was the one I took of the lintel in the wall of this chullpa.  As at Tiwanaku, it seemed, the boundaries between different realms were deliberately marked with devices that changed the orientation of the magnetic field.

Relief carvings

I turned my attention to the chullpa’s celestial entrance and was amazed to find several very worn carvings around the top of the tower. A little later, I will discuss the relief carvings  in more detail, with respect to the two large chullpas at Cutimbo’s summit. For now, here are details of the carvings I noticed on this chullpa:

Serpent relief carving at the top of the chullpa.
Relief carving of a serpent, near to the ‘spirit entrance’ towards the top of the chullpa. (© Dave Truman).
Three relief carvings on two adjacent stones at the top of the chullpa. To the left is another serpent. On the stone to its right is a carving of what looks to be a dinosaur and on the far-right of the same stone, a lizard. (© Dave Truman).
Serpent relief carving.
Unusually, this relief carving of serpents appears towards the bottom of the tower. (© Dave Truman). 
Cave paintings

Keen to find out how this example compared to the massive chullpas sitting on the meseta’s summit, I returned to my slow climb upwards. More surprises were in store for me, however. I had climbed but a short way when I came across a sign that diverted me from my upward path towards some cave paintings. I scrambled along a rocky trail that jutted out over a sheer drop on one side to reach a covered recess set in from the craggy wall on the other.’ ‘Hardly a cave at all’, I thought. These places provided spartan refuges in the most difficult of times: when the skies went dark, when the floods laden with debris and boulders swept over the Altiplano and when flares from the sky seared into the flesh. They were shelters born of necessity, not primitivism.

Cave paintings of camelids.
Charcoal drawings of herds of camelids on the wall of the cave at Cutimbo. Were these simply ‘stick drawings’ made by primitive people, or did they actually function as instructional diagrams? (© Dave Truman).

The French researcher and writer Simone Waisbard spent many years collecting the oral traditions of Andean peoples. They told her of an epoch in which the people were forced to leave the Altiplano and take refuge in the caves of the cordilleras, when a succession  of devastating floods plagued their homelands. As the waters started to recede, the amautas  (wise ones) used to draw instructional diagrams on the walls of the caves in order to teach large bands of survivors strategies for hunting the remaining game. Was this, I wondered, what was depicted here?

Towards the table top

I resumed my slow climb to the flat summit of this mountain laden with secrets. As I rose, I could see further and further across the Altiplano towards the jagged grey peaks of the cordilleras beyond, highlighted with snow.  Finally, the path levelled out and curved as I reached the plateau. I looked across the plane that now revealed itself in front of me. I was confronted by the prospect of an immense megalithic tower, rectangular in shape, that made the chullpa I had just inspected lower down seem miniature in comparison. It was not just that the tower itself dwarfed the one lower down the slope, but it was that the stones that comprised this immense chullpa’s walls were so much larger.

The rectangular chullpa at Cutimbo’s summit is built mostly from andesite megaliths. Notice that part of the structure is missing on the right-hand side. There are also fissures in the walls. This damage may be the result of earthquakes. (© Dave Truman).

It was as if, like  Gulliver, I had found myself washed up on the shore of a land of giants. All around the tower, strewn across the summit’s surface, lay large stone blocks, their straight cuts and regular angles jutting out from the tall grass of the pampa. My eyes wandered to the left and a second enormous tower confronted me. About as tall as its companion, this was round and it seemed to have suffered rather less structural damage. It was built from enormous interlocking blocks of stone.

Megalithic chullpa.
The large megalithic circular chullpa at the summit of Cutimbo. (© Dave Truman).

In many ways, this tower resembled the ones I had seen at Sillustani, but I could not help thinking that it was much older. Its andesite blocks, although equally finely worked as those at Sillustani, seemed to have been much more weather-worn.

The sacred geometry of the chullpas

Both Cutimbo and Sillustani are sites where there are rectangular and circular chullpas. The combination of styles may not be because of invasions by different peoples, who brought with them distinct building technologies, as is often supposed. Rather, it could be an expression of complementary principles of geometry at work in the universe, which was reflected by the builders of the chullpas.

The Peruvian researcher, Javier Lajo has observed that the geometries of different pre-Columbian temples in the Andes varied according to whether a male or a female deity, or spiritual presence, was worshipped there. Put simply, those buildings intended for the worship of the male tend to be square or rectangular, whereas those intended for the female are circular.

Base of rectangular chullpa at Sillustani.
The base stones of what was probably an incomplete rectangular chullpa at Sillustani, showing the ‘doorway’ through which the shaman would have entered for the solstice ceremony. (© Dave Truman).

Might it just be that this principle also accounts for the different geometries of the chullpas? In my article on Sillustani, I argued that these towers were where the shamans of the Kollas communed with the souls of their dead ancestors during the southern winter solstice. Could the rectangular chullpas have been built to house the souls of returning male ancestors and the circular towers those of female ancestors?

Enigmatic relief carvings

Curiously, only the large round chullpa at Cutimbo’s summit sports any relief carvings. Its rectangular companion possesses none. Whereas most of the carvings on the chullpa on the mountain’s slope are grouped around the ‘spirit entrance’ at the top of the tower, here they are grouped around the shaman’s ‘doorway’, which faces due east at the bottom. To say the least, they present a mystery:

An unknown mammal relief carving.
An unknown mammal stands to the right of the shaman’s ‘doorway’ of the round chullpa, which has been blocked with a stone to deter vandalism to the interior. Note that these massive stones have been placed on top of foundation stones. (© Dave Truman).
Two heads relief carving.
Two heads appear to emerge from the megalith immediately above the ‘doorway’. To the left can be seen the extremely worn head of an unidentified mammal. (© Dave Truman).

In his book Magicians of the Gods, Graham Hancock draws certain parallels between these relief carvings and those at Golbekle Tepe in eastern Turkey. There are certainly stylistic similarities, but the Golbekle Tepe carvings have enjoyed the benefit of having been buried for many thousands of years before they were unearthed. These carvings have not been so fortunate. The extreme weathering of the hard andesite rock from which they have been formed is testimony that they may be as old as their Turkish counterparts.

There is another difference between these carvings and those at Golbekle  Tepe. Several of those who have studied the Turkish carvings have been able to identify the animal figures depicted there. Here, the figures seem to defy any identification. When I first studied them, I searched the internet for pictures of South American mammals, both modern and from the Ice Age, both small and large. I could find nothing that matched the Cutimbo creatures. The carving of the two heads is equally puzzling. Are the heads human, or are they apes? Bearing in mind that the chullpas enabled contact with the spirits of ancestors, are they some sort of tacit acknowledgement of hominid ancestors, of which we are no longer aware? There are many questions to be asked.

Perhaps, as with the relief carvings at Tiwanaku, these may be representations of chimera, therianthropes and other shifting shamanistic spirit forms. If so, then they are stylistically very different from the Tiwanaku sculptures. Yet, conventional archaeology tells us that the builders of these stone chullpas were supposed to have been culturally linked to those who built Tiwanaku. Could it be that conventional archaeology’s map of South America’s past, before the arrival of the Spanish, is completely wrong?

As I turned to leave this most baffling of sites, my attention was drawn to one of  the many megaliths lying on the ground close to the rectangular chullpa. There, carved on to one of the large stones that was probably shaken from the tower during an earthquake, was one of the most unfathomable figures I have ever set eyes on:

Enigmatic relief carving
This puzzling relief carving lies amongst the rubble of large worked stones at Cutimbo. (© Dave Truman).

Was the head intended to be human, or had the thousands of years of wind, rain and hail deceptively worn its features that way? Why did it have no hind legs, or were millennia of rain and hail responsible for erasing those too? Why were the hands, which appeared to cling to the stone so desperately, that large? As I stated earlier, Cutimbo has left me with so many questions, but with hardly any answers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiwanaku, Bolivia: City of the Empyrean Reaches that Defies all our Conventions

The semi-subterrainian Temple, Tiwanaku. In his ‘History of the Incas’, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa tells us that after having created the Sun and the Moon, Wiracocha travelled to Tiwanaku, where he fashioned statues of all the races that were to inhabit the Andes in the age to come.  

A Strange Fascination

I cannot define what has drawn me here, but whatever it most certainly has exerted a force on me. It all began in England in 2004, when I knew I had to come here. The last stage of my trip, an overnight journey from the Chilean border to the Peruvian city of Puno – at 12,556 ft (3,827m) above sea level – left me bed-ridden with altitude sickness for several days. It was during that nauseous and breathless sojourn that something re-asserted itself in me about the nature of reality. The world most certainly was not what I had comfortably come to believe in, neither was it what I been told it was constantly. I eventually became acclimatised to the rarefied atmosphere and pressed on with my journey to Tiwanaku.

It was not as if Tiwakanu provided any clear-cut answers to my new-found revelation; it just deepened my sense of perplexity. It defied all of the rationale inculcated into me over years of teaching and of working Civil Servant. Here before me was this vast city, mostly built from immense blocks of precisely-cut stone, on a mountainous plateau that is elevated some two and a half miles (3.85 km) above the level of the sea. There are no luscious tropical fruits here, neither are there plentiful sources of game. The unforgiving mountain climate makes it a struggle to breathe, let alone grow crops.  What was it that drew people to settle here and to build this great metropolis?

The Andean metropolis

Yet people were drawn here, perhaps even in their tens of thousands. An aerial survey carried out in the 1980s identified some 420 hectares (1,038 acres) of Altiplano that displayed crop markings, indicating that the fields surrounding the present archaeological site were once part of a vast complex. Recent drone surveys have confirmed those earlier findings. What visitors see when they visit Tiwanaku today may give a very false impression of the living metropolis that Tiwanaku once was, for It is very much a twentieth-century creation.

The Tiwanku that visitors see today is but a small part of what was once a vast complex. Much of it has been reconstructed according to the ideas of Bolivian archaeologist Carlos Ponce Sanguines. (© Dave Truman).

With very few exceptions, most modern cities have grown up piecemeal, with streets and suburbs having been added in an ad-hoc manner as their populations grew. Tiwanku was not like that. Earlier aerial surveys carried out in the 1950s by the Bolivian organisation CIAT (Centro de Investigaciónes de Tiwanaku) suggested that the site was planned as a whole and that it adhered to a rigorous astronomical orientation. The metropolis’ principal thoroughfares converged on a structure known as the Akapana. Today it resembles nothing more than a rather large amorphous mound, but in its heyday it was a seven-stepped pyramid which would have looked complex when seen from above, because it appeared ‘stepped’ in plan view.

Akapana Pyramid
Today, the Akapana Pyramid appears as a rather amorphous mound within the Tiwanaku complex. When it was fully functional it was a seven-stepped truncated pyramid that had a complex geometry. The picture shows its partial reconstruction following recent excavations. Originally these adobe terraces comprised andesite blocks joined together by bronze inserts. (© Dave Truman).
How old is Tiwanaku?
Toxodon
The toxodon was one of about 80% of large South American mammal species that died out at the end of the last Ice Age. (Picture, Robert Bruce Horsfall).

Interestingly, when the Austro-Bolivian researcher Arthur Posnansky excavated the Akapana in the first half of the twentieth century, he found it to have been built directly over what he believed was a natural hillock. His excavations also revealed fossilised human remains, including an elongated skull. Posnansky noted that the stratum in which the find lay was the same as one in which toxodons had been found in a place not far away. This would date these very strange human remains to at least 11,700 years ago, if not even earlier. It would seem that the nucleus of Tiwanaku has a very old pedigree indeed.

Conventional archaeology cannot provide answers to any of these questions. Evidence that does not fit the relatively recent inception of the site (c. 3,500 BP) is conveniently forgotten, or is swept under the proverbial carpet.  Although Posnansky photographed the skull, it is nowhere to be found today, despite having been sent off to a museum in La Paz. Similarly, conventional wisdom relies almost exclusively on carbon 14 dating and related methods to draw the picture of Tiwanaku’s chronology. Conveniently, this reinforces the idea that Tiwanaku’s past can be but a comparatively recent one.

I have discussed some of the technicalities of Tiwanaku’s dating elsewhere, but it is worth emphasising here how so much evidence has been brushed aside simply because it raises awkward questions. Even though Posnasnky’s astronomical dating of 17,000 years BP has been shown to be too old, subsequent studies at the site using the same methodology have continued to yield dates that are nearly as early. Curiously, they all agree on a dating of between 11,300 and 12,000 years ago – a period that corresponds to the end of the last Ice Age.

Is astronomical dating valid?

I need to point out here that this method of astronomical dating was originally developed by Sir Norman Lockyer. It is now largely, if reluctantly, accepted as valid for the dating of certain Egyptian and Greek temples and for Phase III of Stonehenge. Yet somehow, the astronomical alignments producing the above dates of all four cornerstones of the Kalasasaya Temple at Tiwanaku are dismissed as mere ‘coincidences’.

Kalasasaya corner stone
One of the four corner megaliths of the Kalasasaya Temple at Tiwanaku that has been used to establish the date of its erection of between 12,000 and 11,300 BP. The adjoining walls are a 20th century reconstruction. Note the extreme weathering of the stone, which was most probably rectangular originally. (© Dave Truman).

Ultimately, whether we  interpret evidence in terms of a larger pattern, or as a result of a random ‘coincidence’ depends upon  our values. Even so, I think many people would be hard put to to repudiate Maria Sholten D’Ebneth’s rediscovery that Tiwanaku sits on an alignment of Andean ancient and sacred sites, stretching all the way to northern Peru. 

If this is indeed no mere ‘coincidence’, then consider the feat of surveying required,  not to mention the knowledge of the Earth’s dimensions and of its curvature.

Mystery of the megaliths
The ‘Lintel’ sits in a part of Tiwanaku called the Kantatalita, where geophysical surveys have recently identified a pyramid buried deep in the mud. Like many pieces of worked andesite at Tiwanaku and Puma Punku, it displays recesses that once housed metal inserts, which were probably bronze. Were these just for securing the stones, or did they function electromagnetically? (© Dave Truman).

The massive worked  stones that lie scattered across the Altiplano are perhaps what raise the most questions in people’s minds, if they think about Tiwanaku and neighbouring Puma Punku at all. How were they moved? Why are some of them cut so precisely? Were they just for buildings, or are they the scattered fragments of machines? There are hundreds of more questions that have been asked, but very few who ask have considered the nature of the stones themselves. By far most of the megaliths at Tiwanku are either red (sometimes striped) sandstone, or grey andesite. (Incidentally the same combination of stones was used at Puma Punku). My research has focused on the andesite, but I also think that the great sandstone blocks need further consideration. The two types of stone may well have complementary properties that were understood by the paleo-engineers who constructed both sites.

Magnetic anomalies

Some of the andesite blocks here on the Altiplano have very unusual properties indeed. They contain lumps of a mineral called magnetite, which as its name suggests, is highly magnetic. Sometimes you can see the black lumps of magnetite near to the surface of an andesite megalith. When this is so, the megalith’s surface is often stained an orange colour, because the air oxidises the magnetite into haematite – common rust.

Andesite block Puma Punku
Andesite block showing a relief carving of a chakana (Andean Cross) exposed during the recent excavations at Puma Punku. It was not possible to test whether this stone created a magnetic anomaly, but other blocks marked with the chkana at both Tiwanaku and the Puma Punku Pyramid certainly do. (© Dave Truman).

Those who built Tiwanaku and Puma Punku knew about the presence of magnetite in these rocks, Indeed, they chose these stones deliberately for their unusual magnetic properties. This is evident  because those megaliths that change the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field most acutely are nearly always marked with a chakana, or Andean Cross. In other words, the builders were quite consciously engineering changes in the Earth’s magnetic field in this locality.

Energetic Tiwanaku

This raises the question of why they would want to engineer the magnetic field. My previous article on Pukara Grande mentioned the work of John Burke in relation to telluric currents. Burke conducted a series of experiments at Tiwanaku’s Akapana Pyramid, where he placed seeds inside its chambers as thunderstorms approached. He found that the seeds grew much more vigorously, and produced much higher yields, than control specimens.

Storm approaching the Akapana Pyramid.
A storm approaches from the South, what was once the truncated summit of the Akapana Pyramid. (© Dave Truman).
Picture of the same storm approaching the Akapana taken with an Oldfield Filter. Notice the accumulation of colours in the cloud above the Pyramid’s summit and on the side away from the approaching storm. Does this indicate fluctuations in the Earth’s electromagnetic field generated by the storm? Compare this photograph with those of a storm approaching Pukara Grande. (© Dave Truman).

Natural electromagnetic fluctuations at Tiwanaku are certainly affected by the presence of thunderstorms there. I have found that the distortions in the magnetic field around these andesite blocks become accentuated as storms approach. On one occasion the compass needle even started to spin in an anti-clockwise direction! More productive harvests would have obvious benefits, especially in this difficult growing environment, but was it the only reason the builders sought to engineer the Earth’s magnetic field here?

Bird manA shamanistic citadelBird man

Another feature of the Tiwanaku complex that conventional archaeology treats inconclusively is shamanism. True, it acknowledges that shamanism was practised here – at least during the the relatively late period when it recognises it was occupied – but it leaves the subject at that.

On the other hand,  I consider that shamanism was a central feature of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku, perhaps especially during the very early dates discussed above. Could it really be that the engineering of the Earth’s magnetic field was intended to facilitate shamanistic practices there?

Certainly, shamans might be asked to produce greater crops, but there were  other reasons as well. One curious fact about magnetite is that we actually manufacture it in our bodies. In humans, most of it can be found at the top of the nasal passage and around the centre of our foreheads. This is very close to the pineal gland, which has been associated with the ´third eye´ in many spiritual traditions.. Could it be that we are sensitive to these natural fluctuations in electromagnetic fields and that the magnetite our bodies produce can sense these?  Many researchers think that we are. Perhaps the engineering of the magnetic field at Tiwanaku was also intended to induce altered states of consciousness in the shamans who practised there.

The more I have studied Tiwanaku, the more I have realised that shamanism was central to the very being of the place. Its strange relief carvings have been the cause of many theories. Some, including myself, think that several of them may even hint at large mammals that became excinct at the end of the Ice Age. One thing they are not, however, are realistic representations of any animals – from whatever era.  Invariably, they are exotic combinations of birds, serpents, mammals and humans in what can sometimes seem a baffling mixture of features.

Feline heads at Tiwanaku
Feline heads are abundant in the relief carvings at Tiwanaku. Sometimes they adjoin serpentine bodies, as well as sporting avian hads. This is in addition to as the feline-human therianthrope the chachpuma. (Public domain).

One of the most striking amongst all of these is a creature called the  chachapuma. In a sense, it would be wrong to think of the chachapuma as a cobination of man and puma, because it is really a dynamic transformation from human to feline. Even the most conventional archaeologists recognise this to be a shamanistic motif, which seems to be associated with journeys into the spirit-world.

Here, it is worth understanding the meaning of the name Puma Punku in English: it means ´Gateway of the Puma´. Is it just coincidence (that word again) that doorway and gateway imagery abounds at both Tiwanaku and Puma Punku, including the famous Gateway of the Sun? Perhaps these ´doorways´ were not simply the constructional devices we so often assume them to be.    

The Gate of the Sun
The Gate of the Sun as it was in the early 20th century, before its repair and when much of it was still buried under the Altiplano mud. Local traditions of the Aymara people asserted that this was a gateway where the souls of the dead gathered in order to meet the god Wiracoha and to gain entry to a realm known as Alax Pacha. (Public domain).

I don´t think I shall ever solve all of the mysteries of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku, but it is the fascination of what´s difficult that keeps me returning to this ruined city on the Altiplano.