Was Pumapunku Built by Ancient Astronauts?
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Pumapunku boggles the mind, but is it really as old as some people think?
Pumapunku, a temple at the ancient Bolivian site of Tiwanaku (also known as Tiahuanaco) is a wondrous place that definitely evokes questions of all sorts. Stones blocks, some of which weighing as much as 130 tons, were used to construct the temple, and no mortar was used to join these megaliths, which had to be carried, pushed or dragged from a quarry some 20 miles away near Lake Titicaca.
The artistry and engineering at Pumapunku, essentially that of what is known as the Tiwanaku culture, also rivals that of any other ruins in South America, as well as some of the most famous and impressive Old World ruins found in places such as Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in Pakistan.
None of these facts are in dispute, but the age of Pumapunku and the encompassing city of Tiwanaku certainly is, as well as the possibility that ancient astronauts helped build these marvelous structures.
Beginning in the early 1900s and then later in 1930s, some astronomers, based on apparent astronomical alignments of Pumapunku, concluded that it was constructed as long ago as 17,000 years ago. However, since that time no physical evidence has been found at the site that substantiates such great antiquity. Please keep in mind that most scientists believe that humans – either crossing a land bridge over what is now the Bering Sea or perhaps moving over the ice sheet covering the North Atlantic - didn’t come to the Americas until about 13,000 to 15,000 years ago. Clearly somebody is wrong.
The Atlas of Ancient America by Michael Coe, Dean Snow and Elizabeth Benson, lists the construction of Tiwanaku at about 1500 B.C.E (or about 3,500 years ago). Wikipedia also shows this date for the founding of Tiwanaku and a date of 200 B.C.E. for the temple complex known as Pumapunku. It seems probable that most reputable, scientific texts also show this approximate date.
Moreover, some of the artistic motifs and architectural techniques used at Tiwanaku also show the influence of other contemporaneous cultures such as that of the Chavín and Wari of nearby Peru, though these cultures aren’t near as old as Tiwanaku, coming into existence around 900 B.C.E for the Chavín and 500 C.E for the Wari. This influence would not be apparent if Tiwanaku had been built more than 14,000 years before these cultures came into existence!
It appears those astronomers added a zero to the date for the building of Tiwanaku! Why would they do such a thing? Did they have in mind the production of a future television show?
These days, some people still insist that Tiwanaku and Pumapunku are many thousands of years older than they really are. The History Channel’s program, Ancient Aliens, expressed the viewpoint of authors such as Erich von Daniken who think ancient astronauts either built Tiwanaku or at least helped build it. Their logic is that if the place is “really” old, and we don’t quite know how it was constructed, then aliens must be responsible! Other scholars such as Graham Hancock (author of the impressive book, Fingerprints of the Gods, but not shown on the program) think a lost super race of humans, perhaps the Atlanteans, built or helped build most – if not all – the great monuments of antiquity, including, of course, Tiwanaku and Pumapunku.
Did the Tiwanaku people need ancient astronauts?
Tiwanaku was built on the Altiplano of Bolivia, a high, arid plateau southeast of Lake Titicaca. The people of Tiwanaku took advantage of the abundant resources in the area, using a technique known as the “flooded-raised field,” utilizing ditches and canals that would soak up solar radiation by day and thereby protect crops such as potatoes and yams from freezing during the frosty nights at high altitude. In general, these people mastered the natural resources of the area, presaging the spectacular feats of the Inca culture that arose in the 1200s.
Interestingly, the city of Tiwanaku may have been built as a cultural or ceremonial center, housing perhaps 400,000 people at its height, though over a million people could have lived in the area at one time. The city may have been similar to Chavín de Huántar in Peru, where people came to watch and engage in rituals, perhaps of a curative nature, utilizing the hallucinatory drug peyote derived from the San Pedro cactus. Traces of the drug have been found in the hair of mummies discovered in and around Tiwanaku.
Around 400 C.E., Tiwanaku expanded its hegemony to neighboring states, but since Tiwanaku was a religious center, force rarely had to be applied to subjugate others, who usually agreed to pay tribute to the elites of Tiwanaku. At times, however, human sacrifice was practiced at the temples of Tiwanaku, a violent rite practiced by many cultures in the area, particularly the Moche (or Mochica) in Peru.
Along the way, Tiwanaku developed an architectural style that utilized the use of large, precisely cut stone blocks set in place without the use of mortar, though bronze cramps were often used to join some elements, particularly at Pumapunku. Astonishingly, some stone blocks at Tiwanaku weight over 400 tons! Of course, this use of mortarless masonry is not unique to the Tiwanaku culture, as anyone can attest who has seen the ruins of Inca monuments, buildings and walls, particularly those at Sacsayhuamán.
Much attention has also been paid to the modular building blocks used at Pumapunku. Comprised of very hard rock such as granite or diorite, many show precision-drilled grooves (6 mm wide) and small, deep holes, which, some people think must have been incised with the use of diamond-tipped drills, almost certainly unavailable at the time Pumapunku was built. On a related note, throughout the Americas, tiny beads have been found with very narrow, seemingly drilled holes, and nobody knows how this was done, though few people have suggested they were put there by extraterrestrials!
Keep in mind, the people of Tiwanaku did all this without a written language and without the advent of the wheel, which didn’t exist until Europeans arrived in the early 1500s.
Then about 950 C.E. the climate in the area changed dramatically, reducing rainfall and, like many cultures in antiquity, Tiwanaku was slowly abandoned to the elements, until the Inca arrived in the 1400s and revived the culture in the area, but not Tiwanaku, which lay in ruins when the Conquistadors arrived in the 1500s, looting and destroying as they usually did. Of course, the numerous earthquakes in the area must have taken their toll on the site as well.
So, does it sound like the people of ancient Tiwanaku needed any help from ancient astronauts? In fact, these people were just as smart, capable and organized as we are; their science and technology simply wasn’t at the same advanced level. Nevertheless, their structures certainly lasted a long, long time, didn’t they? Perhaps we ought to return to making buildings of mortarless stone. Simply stated, the Egyptians, Inca and people of Tiwanaku certainly knew what they were doing and didn’t need help from anyone or anything.
As for that program, Ancient Aliens, I watched at least parts of it three times, even though its science is skewed somewhat. The truth is, if I could possibly pull it off, I’d inject archaeology/ancient history into my veins on a daily basis!
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