The Bolivian Atlantis   Part Two
The Dawn of Time
Dawn over Lake Titicaca set among  Andean mountain peaks at 3,809m .
The bleak high Andean plains of Bolivia have long driven speculation about the origin of mankind. Legends of the local Aymara people have stirred the imagination of investigators who believe a gigantic flood girdled the planet about 10,000 years ago.

Questions  The curious pyramid of Tiwanaku and the deep layers of mud hiding the treasures of its builders have left many questions still to be answered. How did so much earth come to be covering this stone built pyramid and the ruined terreplein the Kalasasaya when a mile away huge blocks lay uncovered? At the Pumapunku site the blocks, some weighing more than 100 tonnes are scattered as if strewn by a giant's hand.The huge stones of the Pumapunku

For an aerial picture of the sites . Click  click  

Early in 1998, British explorer John Blashford-Snell, a retired army colonel, led a team to this inhospitable region . But did they find new evidence? This story opens a dossier closed more than thirty years ago and takes a sharp look at the reality behind the myths. Blashford-Snell was following the hallowed foosteps of another British colonel, Percy Harrison Fawcett who travelled in Bolivia for several years between 1906 and 1913. Fawcett was the archetypal explorer. He combined the qualities of being a brilliant surveyor with his love of discovery. Eventually he began to look for Atlantis.
More about Fawcett will appear on this site but here we will add that Fawcett entered the Mato Grosso of Brazil in May 1925 and physically disappeared to become a legend. Others who believed that something  extraordinary happened in the Andes within the memory of humankind include Arturo Posnansky and Hans Hoerbiger, bothmentioned in Part One.
Mud covers the Akapana

Then in1963 tales from the local people and the enigma of Tiwanakau attracted film-maker Tony Morrison and writer, Mark Howell. Together they created a dossier from on-the-spot interviews and experiences. This dossier answers some of the questions 



Who built Tiwanaku, when and why.

Where did the people come from and who were they?

One of the first illustrations of  the Tiwanaku ruins was made in the early 19th century when the site was largely mud-covered. By the 1960's when reconstruction began little had changed since the  Europeans arrived 
The Tiwanaku plain in 1833. The  mound is the Akapana
In 1961, just a row f standing stones marked the edge of the Kalasasaya
19th century - engraving of the largely mud covered site In 1961 the walls of the Kalasasaya were simple piles of stones
The reconstruction began in the 1960's
Much of the present-day Kalasasaya is a reconstruction
By the mid 1970's some restoration work had begun By 1980 the main walls of the Kalasasaya were restored
Before the reconstruction massive stones steps marked the entrance to the Kalasasaya
The steps have been included in the reconstruction
The megalithic steps to the Kalasasaya in 1960 The restoration in 2000 and the semi subterranean temple

The great stone structures of Tiwanaku date from about AD 100 and were being developed and enlarged by an ancient race for almost six hundred years before they finally declined sometime around the year 1000AD' 

Curious llama-like images were discovered So runs the archaeological story drawn from evidence such as RadioCarbon dating, analysis of gravesite materials and detailed comparisons with other central Andean cultures. The styles of designs on the pottery have been especially important in determining a sequence of events through recent history.

A great flood? True or false? Although the deep covering of earth over the Akapana and the Kalasasaya has never been clearly explained, the geological history is understood. Long before the arrival of the people who built Tiwanaku the altiplano or high plain of the central  Andes was covered by two huge lakes. Over the years these lakes have  evaporated leaving traces of ancient beaches in the surrounding mountains. The decline of the great lakes was gradual and their remnants can be seen today as shallow salt lakes or enormous saltpans or salares such as those of Uyuni or Coipasa.

The modern Lake Titicaca is the most northerly of the present day lakes and it drains gently southward by a  shallow river, the Desaguadero, which  in Spanish means quite literally a 'drain' .The shallow River Desaguadero meanders across a high plain This river meanders for 450kms through a near featureless plain at an altitude of approximately 3750 meters until it reaches the lake system of Poopo.
Within living memory Lake Poopo was a significant wetlands area where many species of waterbirds congregated. The past forty years have seen changes and Poopo has been drying. One reason has been the silting of the Desaguadero as the water flow from Lake Titicaca diminishes. Silt has accumulated naturally in the outlet of the Desaguadero river where it enters Lake Poopo holding back the water to create a totally new lake known as Uru-Uru. Today even that is drying and Poopo itself has become a large mudflat with just a few pools of brackish water
'Land Above the Clouds'  by Tony Morrison and published in 1974  ISBN 233 95737 5 has a full account of the lakes, climate and wildlife.


To see a simple map of the lakes and rivers  
  click the winged figure 

Do the people hold the clues?    Tales handed down through the generations are still told around  firesides on the altiplano. A rich folklore contains elements of a past great flood, angry gods, the arrival of white gods from over the oceans and so on. These tales were recorded as long ago as the sixteenth century so there are no doubts about their origin. But the stories seem to conflict with the science.Arrow heads For example tiny arrow heads of basalt and quartz have been found along the edge of some of the old beaches. These are not seen on the highest beaches and neither on the lowest or around the present day shoreline.  One conclusion seems certain. People were there at some time during the age of the great lakes, perhaps as long as ten thousand years ago.  Anthropologists have traced the course of the migration of the first tribes along an overland route from north America revealing how tribes arriving in the Andes lived nomadically, hunting and gathering wild food as they travelled.  Tiwanaku came much later as the nomads began to settle, to cultivate and domesticate some of the wild animals.

Who were 'The Tiwanakans'? The early farmers lived simply but gradually drew together as communities, possibly for protection from surrounding tribes and in a predictible way some of these communities advanced more quickly. Around Tiwanaku the land was good for agriculure and hand in hand with massive crop production the ceremonial centre was built. Eventually Tiwanaku became a dominant culture in the south-central Andes and its influence can be traced far and wide. Mud built chullpas to the west of the Desaguadero RiverThen quite suddenly it began to decline and the ceremonial centre was virtually abandoned. No one knows why but perhaps it was no more than squabbles among the leaders. Later history is a much clearer picture with accounts of two powerful kinggdoms the Lupaca and Colla on the northwest and southwest corners of Lake Titicaca with others of lesser importance scattered in the highlands. Names such as Pacaje, Umasuyu, Charca and Canchi 'live on' as present-day political divisions in the Bolivian highlands. Remains of these smaller groups exist in many places and have been studied, largely by Bolivian archaeologists. Because the area is vast and until recently has been largely inacccesible research has been limited. But times are changing quickly and several good roads cross the Desagadero river into the old land of the Pacajes. Burial sites and fortifiications can be spotted from the road. Stone chullpas
Chullpas Tombs locally known as chullpas dominate ridges and high places seen by the ancient people as people as being closer to the sky and their hilltop gods. Some chullpas were built of mud-sods or adobe, others were of stone. Some were elaborate and other simple. Bodies of the deceased were placed inside, usually knees to chin in beautifully made baskets.

In many ways these various tribes are regarded as the ancestor of the Aymara speaking people who dominate the region today.The specialists in folklore have long known of small differencess in customs and the legends handed down which are rapidly being lost or simply becoming a single homogeneous 'altiplano culture'. Languages and dress are changing too, and only old photographs serve to remind us of what existed, even at the turn of the 19th century.
People-Past and Present
A basket burialRight -The Chipaya of Carangas have long been known to their neighbours as 'the people of the chullpas'. Their origin is obscure and both their language and dress is unique among the people of the central AndesA Chipaya hunter
Long ago the people were buried in baskets housed in the chullpa tombs
Aymara musiciansRight - Even in the early 20th century other languages were still used on the altiplano. The Urus (right) lived in swamps on the southern edge of Lake Titicaca and along the Desaguadero river. The last of the tribe died in the late 1950's 
The last Uru died in the 1950's
Aymara is the dominant language today  
Dates and evidence on the ground hardly add up to Atlantis being set in the ancient Andes.   So what can account for the myths of 'The Flood'? Many questions about Tiwanaku have yet to be answered and Part Three of this series will take a look at the world and universe known to the ancient people. 
With special thanks to the late Alicia Posnansky and the late Brian Fawcett

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