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Ponce Monolith, Tiwanaku

Ponce Monolith, Tiwanaku


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Tiwanacu

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia is home to remains of the pre-Columbian Civilization of Tiwanacu. Tiwanacu, prior to the Inka empire, dominated east and southern Bolivia, northwestern Argentina, northern Chile and southern Peru. Previous conceptions of Tiwanacu were it being the place of religious ceremonies yet in the 20 th century it was finally discovered as a civilization or metropolis. The civilization shows origins from 200 BC-AD 200, yet some growth of major buildings occurred from AD 600- 1000.

The Tiwanacu civilization shows an efficient agricultural system known as the raised field systems. The system allowed for the maintenance of crops during Bolivia’s cold nights. This was done through the use of canals that retained the heat of the sunlight. Within the heat retaining canals, algae and aquatic plants were added to organically fertilize the fields. Despite Tiwanacu not solely being a religious center, there are plentiful monuments that demonstrate the beliefs of the Tiwanacu people. Large stone sculptures represent the Tiwanaku rulers, priest, and even the first race of giants, from which pan-Andean mythology believed the human race originates. The photograph posted is Ponce Monolith which has elements of that explained the worshipped creator god Viracocha, due to the staff, , mask like face, and tunic kilt and belt. .

All in all, the remains of Tiwanacu are not only significant for the understanding of Bolivian origins but also it opens up the understanding of the influential elements of the widespread Andean cultures and the predecessors of the Titicaca basin, who include the notable Chavin.


Destruction at Tiwanaku and Puma Punku

Both sites look like they have been hit with a tidal wave or some other kind of cataclysm. The stones, some weighing up to 80 tons, are scattered around both sites, and often embedded within the mud. Some excavation has been done there, most recently at the Kantatalita Temple at Tiwanaku, and Puma Punku , where they have now revealed that it is a great platform pyramid, similar, but much larger than Tiwanaku’s Akapana Pyramid. The massive pyramid would have once touched the edge of Lake Titicaca . However, the legendary lake is now about 20 miles away.

Puma Punku from the air (Author provided)


The History of Andean Art

Art in South America, particularly in the Andean region, has existed since the Stone Age. The very first pieces of Peruvian artwork which have managed to stay preserved all this time are stone carvings and pottery. There is evidence of artistic ceramic work in the area from 1850 BC, almost 4,000 years ago. Even further back, there are preserved rock paintings in the Andes Mountains from nearly 12,000 years ago. If you are interested in cave paintings, click here to read our blog post about their meanings and history.

From roughly 2000 to 1000 BC, peoples in the Andean region, particularly the Chavin, were making colorful patterned textiles. Some of these patterns are actually optical illusions. These people, like many others across the world, were also making play figurines of women at this time. Some of the surviving buildings from this era are also decorated with carvings, with some artwork being more abstract and some capturing the likeness of the human form. Around 500 BC, the Chavin shifted from focusing on humans and began to create artwork based on animals instead. Snakes and jaguars were popular subjects. When the Chavin culture began to dwindle, in the few centuries preceding and following the year 0, another culture took their place. The Paracas created highly detailed work on carvings and textiles. At this time, the Nazca people also emerged. While they are most well known for creating the Nazca Lines, large drawings etched across miles of open ground which likely served ceremonial purposes, they were also skilled metalworkers and created intricate artworks which also had practical purposes.

Somewhere between 600 and 1000 AD, the Tiwanaku people near Lake Titicaca created great monoliths. One surviving example of their artwork is the Ponce Monolith, cultures continued to rise and fall in the Andean region, with trends in tapestry and textile work coming and going and the creation of portable, practical art on the rise, such as decorated drinking vessels. In the 15th century, the Inca Empire was on the rise and they assimilated the technical skills and artistic tastes of the smaller cultures they dominated. For 100 years, the Inca Empire flourished until their conquest by the Spanish. The arrival of the Spanish merged traditional Andean symbols with Christianity.

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Tiwanaku Ruins: an Unsatisfying Conclusion?

Once we circled the Gateway of the Old Gods and entered the upper temple, we found the second-most impressive statue of Tiwanaku: The Ponce Monolith. Also, in this area we can marvel at the crown jewel of the Tiwanaku Ruins: The Gate of the Sun.

The reliefs and mathematical perfection of this monument is the testament of the high-level of advancement that the Tiwanaku civilization had hundreds of years ago.

At the center of the gate lies the image of Viracocha, the Sun God and one of the most important deities of the Bolivian civilization, he is surrounded by 24 rays of light, each one representing an hour of the day.

When the conquistadores first found the gate, it was already broken and split in two parts, many hypothesis have tried (and failed) to solve the mystery of how did it happen with the most popular one being that it was the result of a precise and severe thunderbolt.

Me? I blame the Aliens as usual.

Local legend has it that this door holds a secret that the ancient Bolivian civilization left hidden in the Titicaca Lake and that it will resurface and help humanity in a time of crisis.

Legend, myth or reality? Probably a mixture of the three.

The Ponce Monolith in Tiwanaku Ruins, Bolivia

At the end of the day, the guide took us to a nearby local restaurant where I tried to eat alpaca meat (a close relative of the llamas), needlessly to say, I was totally grossed out after a few bites and ended up just having a lentil soup instead.

At the table, I reflected about what this day has taught me and shared my experiences with the fellow travelers that also took the tour.

It was a consensus that we all ended up with more questions than answers about the Bolivian civilization of Tiwanaku and yet, this is what made this trip so special in my mind.

This sense of the unknown, this feeling that in this vast world there are still some mysteries waiting to be solved&hellipI just hope to still be alive by the time that they are finally revealed.

The details of the face of the Fraile Monolith in Tiwanaku Ruins


The recent appearance of unexplained monoliths offer connections to the ancient past

IN November, news outlets reported the puzzling appearance of several peculiar, highly polished metal monoliths in remote landscapes around the world.

Some, naturally, blamed aliens. Others saw similarities with Stanley Kubrick’s iconic metal monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

As archeologists, we watched these events with some amusement. Imposing, isolated standing stones have been important in many historical cultures of the world, from Mongolia to the British Isles.

Our expertise lies in the monoliths of the South American Andes: monumental, human-like figures carved of single blocks of stone that are remarkable not only in their form and style, but also in the stories they tell.

The monoliths of highland Bolivia served as the focal point of public religious rituals as far back as 800 BCE and have remained a source of fascination ever since. When Inca armies conquered this area in the 15 th century, they saw them as leftovers from the world’s creation.

In the 16 th century, the next set of invaders — Spanish conquistadors — were told that they were the work of giants. Over the next centuries, they were dynamited to build railroads, stolen by foreign collectors and even used as target practice by the Bolivian army.

Since the early 20 th century, however, a number of new monoliths have come to light during excavations by Bolivian and foreign archeologists, and by local residents during the course of everyday activities such as farming fields and building houses. Many dating to over 2,000 years ago, some quite elaborately carved, have been found throughout the region.

The best known monoliths are those of the UNESCO site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, a place that was famous in its heyday (400-1000) for attracting pilgrims from across the Andes despite its lung-crushing setting at 3,800 meters above sea level. Many of these volcanic stone monoliths are intricately carved. The largest of these, the Bennett Monolith — recently returned to its original site — stands a staggering seven meters high. Other smaller monoliths are found scattered around the site, but also in house patios in the modern town.

The opportunity to interact with monoliths may have been the main attraction of Tiwanaku for its religious devotees. For many Indigenous Peoples of the Andes, stones and mountains are understood as powerful beings that can intervene in human lives.

And like the mysterious metal monoliths, the importance of the monoliths is associated with their natural environments. Chemical analyses confirm that the stone for Tiwanaku monoliths comes from mountains that the Aymara people see as sacred, living beings with distinct personalities. In the past, devotees likely sought to interact with these beings in their form as monoliths under altered states of consciousness through drugs, alcohol or musically induced trance.

The principal monoliths of Tiwanaku hold in one hand a drinking vessel — similar to a modern pilsner glass — and in the other a flat tablet for inhaling hallucinogenic snuff. Archeologists have found both types of artifacts, and even psychotropic drugs, at Tiwanaku and other sites in Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

When Tiwanaku’s government collapsed around 1000, monoliths appear to have borne the brunt of people’s anger. Many were decapitated, defaced, or broken apart. One broken monolith was united in the late 1970s with its other half: the 998-kilogram upper portion was found 220 kilometers away, across Lake Titicaca, and identified via microscopic analysis. Other monoliths survived, only to suffer under later Spanish invaders, who pried off gold plating and, in some cases, inscribed them with crosses and dates, and ceremoniously buried them.

For many Bolivian Aymara, stone monoliths continue to live in the present. Current residents of the town near Tiwanaku have told our collaborators of monoliths coming to life at night, wandering the streets. In 2006, Evo Morales — Bolivia’s first Indigenous president — was sworn in at Tiwanaku under the watchful eye of the Ponce Monolith.

Elsewhere, new monoliths are still being born.

In 2007, sculptor Ruben Herrera signed a contract with the municipality of Guaqui to chisel a replica of the Bennett Monolith. He extracted a 20-ton rock from a nearby hill using traditional techniques. Despite working for 20 months, he was never paid. The monolith remains in its place of production, but is now incorporated into a property wall.

Villagers told the press that Mr. Herrera had a sickness caused by the stone entering his body, and he could only be healed by local shamans (or yatiris). Today, people place candles and flowers at the foot of the replica, and yatiris pour grain alcohol on his work.

In our current moment, we are becoming ever more reliant on new and remote technologies. It seems incredible that we still find ourselves entranced by monoliths of metal and stone and the qualities of objects that seem to emerge magically out of the earth.

As archeologists, however, we don’t find this mystifying at all. Artifacts and art like the animate Andean monoliths possess an extraordinary power to capture our attention even as civilizations rise and fall, and remind us of our connections to the places we inhabit. — Reuters

Andrew Roddick is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at McMaster University while Anna Guengerich is an Assistant professor at Eckerd College.


The archeology of Bolivia’s monoliths

The monoliths of highland Bolivia served as the focal point of public religious rituals as far back as 800 BCE and have remained a source of fascination ever since. When Inca armies conquered this area in the 15th century, they saw them as leftovers from the world’s creation.

In the 16th century, the next set of invaders — Spanish conquistadors — were told that they were the work of giants. Over the next centuries, they were dynamited to build railroads, stolen by foreign collectors and even used as target practice by the Bolivian army.

Since the early 20th century, however, a number of new monoliths have come to light during excavations by Bolivian and foreign archeologists, and by local residents during the course of everyday activities such as farming fields and building houses. Many dating to over 2,000 years ago, some quite elaborately carved, have been found throughout the region.

This red sandstone monolith dates to the 7th century BCE, but was poking its head out of the soil before being excavated from a hilltop in 2003. (Taraco Archaeology Project)

The best known monoliths are those of the UNESCO site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, a place that was famous in its heyday (400-1000) for attracting pilgrims from across the Andes despite its lung-crushing setting at 3,800 metres above sea level.

Many of these volcanic stone monoliths are intricately carved. The largest of these, the Bennett Monolith — recently returned to its original site — stands a staggering seven metres high. Other smaller monoliths are found scattered around the site, but also in house patios in the modern town.


Animate stones

The opportunity to interact with monoliths may have been the main attraction of Tiwanaku for its religious devotees. For many Indigenous Peoples of the Andes, stones and mountains are understood as powerful beings that can intervene in human lives.

And like the mysterious metal monoliths, the importance of the monoliths is associated with their natural environments. Chemical analyses confirm that the stone for Tiwanaku monoliths comes from mountains that the Aymara people see as sacred, living beings with distinct personalities. In the past, devotees likely sought to interact with these beings in their form as monoliths under altered states of consciousness through drugs, alcohol or musically induced trance.

The principal monoliths of Tiwanaku hold in one hand a drinking vessel — similar to a modern pilsner glass — and in the other a flat tablet for inhaling hallucinogenic snuff. Archeologists have found both types of artifacts, and even psychotropic drugs, at Tiwanaku and other sites in Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

When Tiwanaku’s government collapsed around 1000, monoliths appear to have borne the brunt of people’s anger. Many were decapitated, defaced or broken apart. One broken monolith was united in the late 1970s with its other half: the 998-kilogram upper portion was found 220 kilometres away, across Lake Titicaca, and identified via microscopic analysis. Other monoliths survived, only to suffer under later Spanish invaders, who pried off gold plating and, in some cases, inscribed them with crosses and dates, and ceremoniously buried them.

For many Bolivian Aymara, stone monoliths continue to live in the present. Current residents of the town near Tiwanaku have told our collaborators of monoliths coming to life at night, wandering the streets. In 2006, Evo Morales — Bolivia’s first Indigenous president — was sworn in at Tiwanaku under the watchful eye of the Ponce Monolith.


Exploration

The Kalasasaya complex was used as a ceremonial center and for astronomical observations, allowing users to observe and define certain astronomical activities on any day of the 365-day year. This indicates that the Tiwanaku civilization understood earth/sun cycles (calendar) and astronomy well enough to incorporate them into their construction and agricultural projects.

Throughout their imperial reign, the Tiwanaku shared domination of the Middle Horizon Period with the Wari. The Wari culture rose and fell around the same time and was centered 500 miles north in the southern highlands of Peru. The relationship between the two empires is unknown. Definite interaction between the two is proved by their shared iconography in art. Significant elements of both of these styles (the split eye, trophy heads, and staff-bearing profile figures, for example) seem to have been derived from that of the earlier Pukara culture in the northern Titicaca Basin. This may indicate the people of the Pukara culture were related to the people of Tiwanaku too. The people of Tiwanaku created a powerful ideology, using previous Andean icons that spread throughout their sphere of influence using extensive trade routes and shamanistic art.
Tiwanaku sculpture is comprised typically of blocky column-like figures with huge, flat square eyes, and detailed with shallow relief carving. They are often holding ritual objects like the Ponce Stella or the Bennett Monolith.

The largest Stella at Tiwanaku (above) is 24 feet high (20 tons), known as the Bennett monolith, or 'Pachamama' monolith. The lower half of its body, which is covered with fish-heads, reminds one of the Mesopotamian legendary deity, Oannes, the half-man, half-fish, amphibious being who conveyed special knowledge to ancient humankind. Oannes is often associated with the Andean creator god, Viracocha. It is said that Viracocha came from the sea too. Some statues have been found holding severed heads such as the figure on the Akapana Pyramid, possibly a puma-shaman.

These images suggest ritual human beheading, which correlate with the discovery of headless skeletons found under the Akapana Pyramid. Therefore, this civilization was quite bloodthirsty in its religion. The Nazca also beheaded people and practiced the use of Trophy Heads. The Nazca took the trophy head hunting as far as they could and that may be one of the reasons for that civilization’s downfall. They practiced a fertility rite that also went to extremes. Tiwanaku probably had a similar religion. It is possible that during a rite of Pachamama some sort of fertility ritual was conducted atop their high altars.


Ponce Monolith, Tiwanaku - History

Experimental Archaeology

One of the most puzzling aspects of the Tiwanaku pyramids is the lack of nearby quarries. Analysis of the red sandstone places one quarry 10 kilometers away, an incredible distance considering that one of the stones alone weighs over 130 tons. The source of the green andesite stones, the material from which the most elaborate carvings and monoliths are made, is on the Copacabana peninsula, across Lake Titicaca. One theory is that these giant andesite stones (the largest weighing 40 tons) were transported some 90 kilometers across Lake Titicaca on reed boats, then laboriously dragged another 10 kilometers to the city. Using only traditional techniques and locally available materials, we'll be testing this theory by recreating the Tiwanaku building process with a group of leading Aymara experts in totora reed boat building.

Reed boat manufacturing in this region includes gathering and joining bundles of totora reeds and fastening them with rope made from dried out prairie grass or ichu. The reed bundles are connected with more ichu to build the spine of the boat. Finally the row of bundles are pounded into a crescent shape. If we emulate the ancient design successfully, the raft's porous nature should filter out water from the waves kicked up by the high winds of the Altiplano. If not, they could be swamped and lose the stone or worse.

Once the stone is dragged to Tiwanaku, local masons will carve it into a reproduction of one of the statues on site, the Ponce monolith. The original will be taken to the newly constructed museum to protect it from erosion, and the reproduction will be put in its place with great fanfare and celebrations from the indigenous communities.

  • Locate an andesite stone on Lake Titicaca weighing nearly eight tons that can later be carved by artisans to match the Ponce monolith at the Kalisasaya complex.
  • Build a totora reed boat that is capable of carrying the stone from the quarry across Lake Titicaca.
  • Identify the means by which we will transport the stone to the boat, load it on the boat, unload the stone at our destination, and transport it to the location where it will be carved.

We've formulated a plan for loading the eight-ton stone onto the boat. Click on the image above for the full diagram and explanation. (Design by Paul Harmon)

Over the last three weeks we have worked with Aymara boat builder Paulino Esteban and his team on a design that would be capable of carrying such a stone. They have built extremely large boats of totora before, but never one that could carry the amount weight we need. Our boat will be roughly 14 meters long, five meters wide, and two meters high, and use 3,000 bundles of totora reeds. Each bundle is five to six feet high and requires an adult to wrap both arms around it. The boat will have two or three sails, also made of totora reeds, and it will have two to four very large oars on each side for traveling capabilities in all wind conditions.

The totora reeds have been cut and dried and are about ready for construction. We have searched for andesite quarries--Copacabana being the best candidate for now--and have researched ancient methods for moving large stones. We have explored possible sailing routes on the lake and tested various totora reed boats. All of this will continue over the next few weeks as final decisions are being made.

One of the critical elements in building our totora reed boat is allowing the reeds to properly dry for about two to three weeks. Unfortunately this past week we had quite a few days of rain that has put us about a week behind schedule. The wind was blowing extremely hard for days, and the lake resembled an ocean with whitecaps of around five feet. It's easy to see how treacherous this lake can be!

Cross section view of a tortora reed boat (Courtesy Paul Harmon)

Each of the circles in the diagram above is a bundle of totora reeds connected together, varying in size depending on the size of the boat. In our boat, each roll within the body is about 24 inches in diameter made by bundling thousands of totora reeds together. There will be about 25 of these bundles in each of the two bodies all lashed together by rope. Then the two bodies will be lashed together with the heart, which is three rolls of bundled reeds. Finally, the rails--also totora bundles--will be attached to the bodies with rope. The heart will not be visible in the final project. Click here for detailed image.

Our boat is very close to being finished. It is truly amazing! We plan to launch it on Sunday, August 25. We'll sail for about two days from Huatahata to Copacabana, where our stone is located.

The stone we've selected is about nine tons and rests on a slope above relatively deep water on the shore of Copacabana. We plan to move the stone with levers, ropes, lubrication (fish or vegetable oil), and as many people as are required. This part of the project will be a greater feat than building the boat. We are in the process of building a stone ramp from the shore into the water where the boat will sail up. Click here for an example of such a ramp.

We are going to attempt to move this nine-ton stone and transport it across the lake. (Drawing by Paul Harmon)

We think it will take one day to load the stone on the boat, then we will sail for about three days to a point on Lake Titicaca close to Tiwanaku where we will unload the stone. Once we transport the stone to Tiwanaku, we will have local artist carve the stone into a new monolith that celebrates both old and new cultures alike. It will be displayed at the new museum in Tiwanku, telling its story for all to see.

The boat set sail yesterday! Follow its daily progress through photos and video at reedboat.freeshell.org.

The Qala Yampu project was a success! Please read the logs above for the full story.


Monoliths for this century

Elsewhere, new monoliths are still being born.

In 2007, sculptor Ruben Herrera signed a contract with the municipality of Guaqui to chisel a replica of the Bennett Monolith. He extracted a 20-tonne rock from a nearby hill using traditional techniques. Despite working for 20 months, he was never paid. The monolith remains in its place of production, but is now incorporated into a property wall.

Villagers told the press that Herrera had a sickness caused by the stone entering his body, and he could only be healed by local shamans (or yatiris). Today, people place candles and flowers at the foot of the replica, and yatiris pour grain alcohol on his work.

A replica of the famous Bennett Monolith now sits in a house wall. (Andrew Roddick) Author provided.

In our current moment, we are becoming ever more reliant on new and remote technologies. It seems incredible that we still find ourselves entranced by monoliths of metal and stone and the qualities of objects that seem to emerge magically out of the earth.

As archeologists, however, we don’t find this mystifying at all. Artifacts and art like the animate Andean monoliths possess an extraordinary power to capture our attention even as civilizations rise and fall, and remind us of our connections to the places we inhabit.


Watch the video: 1030#37 Akapana Pyramid Makeover Stirs Debate (May 2022).