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Tiwanaku - Tiahuanaco
(photo: ruins of Tiwanaku in Bolivia, South America - see more photos)
The ruins of Tiwanaku (also called Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in Bolivia, South America. The ruins are located in western Bolivia near Lake Titicaca, about 75 Kilometers (45 miles) west of La Paz. The archelogical site of Tiwanaku is near a small village town also called Tiwanku.
Tiwanaku was once the cradel of Andean civilization, its cultural had an enormous impact throughout the region and though the society that built it disappeared many centuries before the first Europeans arrived, the civilization provided the fundamental inspiration for the better-known Inca empire.
The ruins are open daily from 9:30am - 4pm and is about 90 minute bus ride from La Paz along paved roads. A ticket costs 80 bolivianos ($10) to enter. The museum, which is next to the site is also included in the ticket price. (see below)
Since much of the site has still not been excavated and the the ruins are over 1,000 years old, it may not look very impressive to some. But, if you have an open mind about this site you will enjoy yourself here. You can easily get lost in thought from the energy and mystery that this place holds.
HistoryLittle is actually known about the ancient ruined city of Tiahuanaco and much of the site has still not been excavated. Archaeologists believe that the civilization first rose around 1000 BC as a small agriculturally-based village.
However, it wasn't until around 600 BC that the Tiwanaku developed into a bustling city. And many centuries later it continued to grow significantly in power. Where the city was constructed with many terraced platform pyramids, courts and urban centers dispersed over 2 square miles.
Some archeologist believe that the Tiwanaku empire, during its peak, controlled the whole Titicaca basin and extended into parts of Peru, Chile and northeast Argentina. It is also believed that as many as 50,000 people lived in the city itself and another 150,000 people resided in the surrounding countryside, farming grains and herded llamas.
The decline of the Tiahuanaco empire was believed to have been caused by drought around 900 AD and became another 'lost' civilization. Evidence of its influence has been found throughout the vast area that later became the Inca empire.
Though much of what has been uncovered at the site has been looted or been scattered around the world to other museums, the museum in Tiahuanaco still has plenty on display to give you a good idea of the culture of the Tiahuanacu people.
The city of Tiwanaku originally covered several square kilometers only a fraction of the site has been excavated, and the main ruins cover a small area which can be visited in half a day.
When you enter the ruins, you will see the Akapana pyramid, with seven terraced platforms faced with stone. It is roughly square in shape and covers 16 square meters at its base & about 18 meters (60ft) tall. Since the pyramid is over 1,000 years old it looks like a big hill, it was most likely very impressive structure back in its time.
Akapana is thought to have been storage for water because it contains a system of internal and external water channels & chambers inside the pyramid. Others believe the complex was used for religious purposes.
Next to Akapana to the north is Kalasasaya, a walled temple, that's thought to have been the sacred center of Tiwanaku and where the leaders were buried. The walls are made of huge blocks of red sandstone and andesite and are among the most impressive masonry still standing at the site.
Some of the stone slabs around the site weigh as much as 100 tons and the nearest quarries that could have produced the andesite stones are near Copacabana, about 40 km away. The sandstone used here came from 10km (6 miles) away.
At the far northwest corner of the Kalasasaya temple is the iconic Puerta del Sol (Gateway of the Sun), which is about 3 meters high (10ft) andcut from a single block of stone. There is a figure carved above the doorway, that many believe is the sun god figure.
During the spring and fall equinox, the sun shines through the gate onto the figure. Archaeologists believe Puerta del Sol was used to worship the sun god and was used as a calendar.
Archaeologists have speculated what the faces represent. Some think they are gods of different groups or once were symbols of the human sacrifices. Some even think the faces strongly resemble aliens, which has led to some interesting speculations.
West of Kalasasaya Temple is a large rectangular area known as Putuni. Many believe it was probably a residential area for the city's top leaders or it could have been a burial area. But the area is still being excavated, so the use of the complex is still yet to be determined.
Getting ThereThere are numerous minibuses to Tiwanaku that leave from the corner of Aliaga & Eyzaguirre in La Paz's cemetery district daily every 30 minutes between 7am - 7pm. The trip takes about 90 minutes and cost about 10 bolivianoes one-way. When going back to La Paz, buses depart from the main square in the village of Tiahuanaco each day at different times between 7am - 6pm.
There are also tour agencies along Calle Sagarnaga in La Paz that will sell you a day trip to Tiwanaku for about $20 per person that includes transportation, lunch, entrance fee and a guided tour of the ruins. If you are going without a tour agency, you can also hire a guide outside the museum to show you around the ruins for about $2 an hour.
Another option is a rental car.
If a one-day visit to Tiwanaku is not long enough for you and you want to stay overnight, there are hotels available in the town of Tiwanaku.
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