by Dan Eden
"Ask most people who are the oldest civilization or where the oldest civilization lived and you'll here answers like Mesopotamia (Iraq), Egypt or Iran. While these cultures can be traced back to 4000 B.C., the mysterious ruins of Tiahuanaco, in Bolivia, could be 14,000 years old! If you think the Great Pyramid in Egypt is a technological marvel, wait until you see what artists and engineers were doing in Tiahuanaco. This culture thrived at the breathless, oxygen deprived elevation of 13,000 feet. They managed to somehow move stones weighing up to 200 tons and invented modular building techniques that would even today, be cutting edge.
Analysis of this culture has shown that ancient Tiahuanacan scientists knew that the earth was a globe which rotated on its axis and they calculated exactly the times of eclipses - even those not visible at Tiahuanaco but visible in the opposite hemisphere. Scientists have also ascertained that the Tiahuanacans divided the circle mathematically into 264 degrees (rather than 360 as was initiated by the Babylonians); they determined the correct ratio of pi (22/7), and they could calculate squares (and hence, square roots).
The fact that the culture of Tiahuanaco appeared fully developed in this high altitude, arid and inhospitable land is a real puzzle. Almost immediately they seem to have used advanced building techniques like modular construction. Huge blocks were carved from single stones and designed to fit together on the site with exact precision and artistic style. These techniques were only developed by modern builders in the last century. The massive blocks are extremely stable, resisting both time and earthquakes. But how were they made, transported and positioned, apparently by hand?
The region was believed to have been populated by about 100,000 people at its peak. This estimate is based on the amount of pottery and other artifacts that remain and the total land area (more than 400 acres). Because this large population would require a significant food source, many scientists doubted that this was possible, especially at 13,000 feet. Thin air drops the ambient temperature to below freezing at night causing a frost that kills most plants. Recently, however, an aerial survey of the site revealed the solution. Multiple grid and maze like structures throughout Tiahuanaco, visible only because of the discoloration of the underlying soil, were discovered to be an ancient network of gardens and canals, capable of growing potatoes and other crops.
The plan was ingenious. Canals were placed in grids that surrounded the narrow gardens. The depth of these canals was kept to from 24 to 30 inches so that the strong daytime sunlight could easily warm the water. In the evening, when the frigid air caused frost, the canals vented their stored heat in the form of a fog. This kept the temperature around the plants elevated above freezing and also helped irrigate them. It is interesting to note that the canals were constructed in a well planned and artistic pattern. This further indicated the intellect and aesthetic appreciation of this culture.
How old is this site? The age of Tiahuanaco is difficult to assess and very controversial. Polish-born Bolivian archaeologist Arturo Posnansky has concluded that the Tiahuanaco culture began in the region at about 1600 B.C. and flourished until at least 1200 A.D. His disciple, Professor Hans Schindler-Bellamy, believed Tiahuanaco to have reached back 12,000 years before the present era, although a more conservative Peruvian archaeologist. More recently, other archaeologists have pushed back the date to an amazing 14,000 years ago.
The controversy arises because most of the datable artifacts are from the more recent past, while the stone megaliths and other structures do not lend themselves to dating techniques like Carbon 14. Many stone pieces have been uncovered from more than six feet of earth. The mountain ranges which surround the area are not high enough to permit sufficient runoff of water or wind erosion to have covered the ruins to such a depth. This suggests a very old date as the accumulation of sediment is slow in this arid land. There is also evidence that architectural structures exist at the bottom of Lake Titicaca, suggesting that the civilization existed before the lake was formed. Many scientists believe that the lake formed during some great flood and find similar legends around the world of a flood dating back thousands of years. The local legend contains reference to this flood in their creation myth.
The religion of Tiahuanaco centered around the cult of a sky and thunder god Viracocha. The deity was generally depicted as having staves in both of his hands and an aureole around his head. The aureole suggests the qualities of a sun god, represented on the bas-relief in the upper part of the famous Sun Gate in Tiahuanaco. According to legend, the world was created by Viracocha near Lake Titicaca. After the great deluge or the receding of chaotic floodwaters Viracocha descended to earth and created plants, animals and men to the empty land; he built the city of Tiahuanaco and appointed 4 world rulers of whom Manco Capak became the superior of the Ursa Major world, i.e. the north horizon (Busto II 1981: 7).
The lake appears to lack a source, such as a river or stream, and there is proof that it is slowly evaporating and its shoreline receding with the passage of time. To date, there has been no satisfactory explanation of how the lake was formed in the first place. This is just one of many mysteries of the region and ranks Tiahuanaco as one of the top ten mysterious places on Earth."