First Ancient Civilisation that come to mind when you think of Latin America would be the Incas. But there is a civilisation which pre-dated the Incas, one which was technologically advanced for its time and more mysterious – The Tiwanaku Civilisation. I first came across the same in the National Geographic Series Ancient Astronauts based on Chariots of The Gods by Erich von Däniken. It is based on the belief that Ancient Civilisations were in contact with Extraterrestrial Civilisations and worshipped them as Gods! Being a Science Fiction fan, that got locked in the back of my mind and hence Tiwanaku became a must see destination!
Tiwanaku is 2 hours outside of La Paz and best visited as a day trip from there with a knowledgable guide. The visit starts in the Museum (where no photos are allowed) and continues on to the Archaeological site.
Next is the Kalasasaya Mound, surrounded by huge stone wall on all sides.
On top of the mound are two notable structures. First, and the most famous – The Sun Gate. It is made from single stone, with intricate carvings. In an attempt to move it last century, it broke in half. But still, a very impressive structure. It is said that this gateway was once adorned with gold. The holes had golden statues inlaid.
The most interesting section is the top. A closer look reveals that there are three rows, one for each world in Tiwanaku Mythology – Condor for Heavens or Sky, Puma for Earth and Snake for underworld. At the centre is the Creator diety – Viracocha, isolated from all three worlds by a barrier. Those who believe in Ancient Aliens believe that Viracocha was one of them.
Near the Sun gate is the second interesting structure – a 7 foot tall idol. Notice the fingers – something unusual about them right ?
Outside the mound you find a strange subterranean or sunk temple. Symbolic of the underworld, this sunken pit is surrounded by stone walls with hundreds of faces jutting out.
Each face is unique. The design evolved over the centuries. Some of them doesn’t look human!
Around this area there are more ancient sites, but spark the interest of Archaeologists rather than tourists as they are either not excavated or unrestored.
Post our visit we enjoyed lunch at a nearby restaurant and returned to La Paz.