By the time I arrive in La Paz, it is 7.30pm and darkness is beginning to fall. The traffic is manic. I think I have hit rush hour traffic – but in La Paz it turns out this is the norm. Hundreds of cars fill the network of main roads like schools of fish swimming into a roundabout from all sides. Car horns blare constantly. A high level of energy pulses through the night sky. I am already shaken with excitement and I haven´t even got out the taxi yet. This place is electric!
The following day I would find out what La Paz is really like. She is two-faced. On the surface she is tiring and dirty, yet underneath there is a forgiving softness and passion waiting to be unleashed. During the day she is humid, hot and bothered, yet at night, cool and easy going. Roam the bustling streets in broad daylight and beggars cup their hands in your face and men openly urinate in the gutter. A thick stench of poverty weighs heavily in the thin air; the high altitude makes it hard to breathe. Steep hills don’t help. Narrow streets are chaotic. It’s every man, woman and minibus for themselves.
Bumper to bumper traffic shuffles along narrow roads. Young men and women hang out the open slide doors of colour-fading collectivos (small local buses) calling out their destination. Experienced locals cross the road without looking – meandering through the traffic without a care in the world. There is no system to speak of, but wise locals know how the roads work. Pedestrians don’t have any automatic right of way, but then neither do drivers. It’s simply a matter of who gets the space first. La Paz is not for the procrastinator or the faint of heart. The key is when you see a gap go for it and don’t stop!
Yet despite the manic atmosphere, La Paz brims with positive energy that literally soaks into my skin. I feel it most walking through the Downtown streets and round the Plaza Alonso de Mendoza. In the evenings from Thursday to Sunday, bars, cafes and restaurants are full of life. It’s easy to talk to people here. Waiters and bar staff can’t do enough for you.
La Paz is Bolivia´s administrative capital and has more governmental departments than anywhere else in Bolivia – which may explain why the street graffiti is so politically motivated and thought-provoking. Most murals tell the story of how the natives were suppressed by the invading Spanish Conquistadors and still continues today. Although the reminder of Inca traditions is painted on the city walls, the majority of young Chocos, (indigenous natives with western values) are ignorant of their ancient past and the knowledge handed down by their ancestors is mostly forgotten. In modern-day Bolivia, young people of indigenous descent are lured by the influence of western society and their parents are labelled as mad or drunks.
In the main, it is the older generation that still remember their roots and continue historical traditions. The women in particular, wear brightly woven ponchos and bowler hats that appear to balance on top of their heads. Men generally wear jeans and western style suits. The women also keep ancient traditions alive in the infamous Witches Market located on Calle Jiminez and Linares. Surprised travellers are shocked to find magic potions for sale alongside the foetuses of baby llamas.
To the casual observer the Witches Market is nothing more than a tourist trap, but to the ancients, the llama was a sacred animal that was sacrificed and offered to Pachamama – Mother Earth – in return for food from the land. Llama foetuses were buried in the foundation of homes with the hope that the house would be rewarded with food for their generous gift.
Once darkness falls and workers go home for the night, the pace in La Paz grinds to a virtual halt. The narrow backstreets mellow, yet packed bars are vibrant and cheery. Many have live music. Everyone is relaxed. Even the weather chills out. The winter nights in La Paz are so cold even the dogs are wrapped up in knitted jumpers.
I walk Downtown to the romantic Plaza del Vincente Mario and relax on the benches. The streets are livelier here, mostly young lovers and families with children. A couple of indigenous infant children dressed in traditional clothes beat on a tambourine and perform a dance for passersby. The girl is no older than six, her brother even younger. This is how many indigenous families make money. I hand the girl a 10BOB note, about 1 Euro. She chases after me wanting more, but it is all I have with me.
Later that night I go to The English Pub in the hope I will be able to get the skinny on the city. The atmosphere is pleasant and attracts locals who want to meet foreign travellers to practice their English. I was fortunate enough to meet Eduardo, an IT technician in his early forties. He is polite and mild-mannered with a tanned, fleshy face and a permanent smile. We talk for a while and he asks me what I am doing in La Paz. I tell Eduardo about my quest to discover what modern man can learn from ancient civilisations and that I was in La Paz specifically to visit Tiwanaku.
Eduardo tells me of an Australian archaeologist that runs a bar in La Paz five minutes’ walk from where we are sitting. I couldn´t believe my luck! Before I left London, I had read as much as I could about Tiwanaku, but good quality information is difficult to come by and I am not convinced the details that are available come from reliable sources. And here I am with the opportunity to meet a qualified scholar that has researched the Tiwanaku settlement and culture. I finish my beer, thank Eduardo and set off up the hill.
Lindsay Hasluck is an archaeologist, anthropologist and historian and has performed extensive research into the ancient past of Bolivia and neighbouring Peru. His findings are detailed in his book, ´Urban Continuity of the Andes.´ He is tall with dark hair greying at the temples and speaks softly, but with certainty. He tells me about his work with sincerity and pride, and appears to have an open-minded view about the ancient past.
The official view of Tiwanaku – given on UNESCO´s website – is that the pre-Hispanic Empire “reached its apogee between 500 and 900 AD” although it is widely acknowledged village life began around 1200BCE. It became a “small town” in the first century which “may be attributable to the introduction of copper metallurgy, to the consequent availability of superior tools and implements.”
UNESCO do not explain what other implements the Tiwanakans may have used, nor is there any mention of how they were able to cut stones to precise 90 degree angles. All they reveal is that excavations at the site found “exceptional examples of the ceremonial and public architecture and art of one of the most important manifestations of the civilizations of the Andean region.”
The fact of the matter is that UNESCO does not provide sufficient information or show any evidence that precision engineering even exists. The have simply swept the amazing feats of the ancients back under the dirt. Ultimately, the reader does not feel inclined to visit or ask how the Tiwanakans achieved seemingly impossible tasks. You would need other sources to do that. But curiously, top-ranking websites in Google (at the time of writing at least) written or contributed to by scholars, do not wax lyrical about the achievements at Tiwanaku either.
Hasluck on the other hand has tackled the subject of the ancient Andes with an open mind and believes Tiwanaku was built by three or four different cultures over a number of years.
“Welsh monks led an expedition to Tiwanaku around 200-300AD,” he tells me. That alone was more information than anything UNESCO has to say. And it fits with the ancient myths of the region.
Andean legends quote the arrival of a “White God” who showed the natives how to be civilised and taught them mathematics, geometry and architecture. He is known as Wiracocha and is depicted as the Sun God or Creator God. He is described as a bearded white man with fair hair and blue eyes. He wore a long gown and arrived in a ship with other white men. Could this be the Welsh monks Lindsay was referring to? At Tiwanaku, we also find megalithic rocks strewn on the ground, just as we find at the famous stone circle of Stonehenge in England and many other site in Western Europe.
“How did the ancients get 40 and 50 ton stones from the quarry up the mountain?” I ask.
“They were floated along the lake using rafts then transported to the building site on wooden rollers.”
This is the standard industry answer and is a plausible solution. Wally Wallington, a retired construction worker from Michigan, USA, built a replica of Stonehenge in his back garden using nothing but wooden rollers, stones weights and gravity. His techniques show how one man alone can move and stand a 90 ton rock in an upright position. The mysterious Coral Castle in Florida, said to have been built single-handedly by the slim-built Latvian, Edward Leedskalnin, is another example of how the ancients could have had a technique that moved huge megalithic stones without much fuss.
Although primitive methods of transporting great weights is proven to be possible, there is no account for how the ancient builders at Tiwanaku were able to cut such hefty stones from the quarry walls and remove them from the pit. Nor is there any explanation of how masons were able to carve stones to such precise degrees of accuracy. To perform these kinds of tasks today, we use heavy machinery and CNC technology.
Lindsay didn´t have a definitive answer either, but did steer me in another direction.
“Look up Colonel Percy Fawcett,” he told me. “There’s a strong possibility the builders knew of a plant found in the Amazon that can soften rocks and mould them together. This would have enabled them to cut and shape the rocks into whatever dimensions they wanted.”
Percy Fawcett was an English explorer in the earlier 20th Century and spent many years exploring the Amazon Forests of Peru. During one such visit, Fawcett is said to have observed a species of bird that pecked holes into the sides of solid granite rocks in which they built their nests. He said the Amerindians who lived in the forest explained that the birds softened the rock by mixing a “red leaf plant” with the saliva in their beaks.
At the time of writing, the name and identity of the plant or the bird is not known, although the theory is being entertained by the renowned professor of Anthropology, Clark Erickson who investigated the Peruvian Amazon in search of the plant.
If the theory is correct, it is likely the ancient Andean tribes knew of such plants and learned about its ability to soften rock from the birds. Should that have been the case the answer to the outstanding feats of architectural technology found at Tiwanaku and other archaeological sites throughout the Andes may simply be the product of nature and the force of gravity.
Alternative researchers have a different idea. Arthur Posnansky, an archaeologist of some distinction, conducted extensive research in Bolivia for over forty years. He deduced the structural layout of Tiwanaku is orientated with the astronomical alignments of the constellation Pleiades – as it would have looked in the ancient sky around 15,000 BCE.
In his book, Tiwanaku: The Cradle of American Man, Posnansky, eludes to the possibility that Tiwanaku is the oldest city in the western world. He writes the city “was the pre-eminent and most ancient metropolis of the Americas… ultimately responsible for every sophisticated civilization that appeared in the Western Hemisphere.”
Posnansky may have got this idea from Inca mythology which identifies Tiwanaku as the birthplace of mankind. To back up his theory, the archaeologist concluded that a section of the Tiwanakan settlement, known as Puma Punku was a port. Thousands of years ago Lake Titicaca was much higher than it is today and possibly formed the shore of the city.
Posnansky’s theory is widely regarded as wild, and in modern day scholarly circles, is dismissed completely. Despite his distinguished career, Posnansky is still criticised to this day for his theory on Tiwanaku. The Bolivian believed the settlement is much older than it is dated, but this controversial idea is met with contempt. Scholars will actually go as far to say that his ideas were a blemish on his career. A comment on the Yale University website described Posnansky´s theory as “a shame.”
But not everybody disagrees with Posnansky.
Other researchers, including astronomers, Professor Arnold Kohlschutter and Rolf Muller, produced compelling evidence that suggest Tiwanaku was built between 10,000 and 23,000 BCE. Using today’s technology, they were able to determine that the position of Pleaides would have been seen in the night sky from the positions the Tiwanakans positioned their buildings.
Whoever the builders of Tiwanaku were, there is no doubt their knowledge of the cosmos and highly developed engineering techniques was more advanced than they are given credit for. Archaeo-astronomers investigating the site show evidence that the walls of the impressive Kalasasaya serves as an astronomical calendar and pinpoints the movements of the sun. Researchers at Tiwanaku have yet to offer any explanation of how our ancient ancestors were able to do this.
Yet there is evidence all over the world that indicates people had knowledge of technologically, mathematics, geometry, agriculture, astrology and astronomy which is was more advanced than orthodox history records. According to historians our primitive brethren were not capable of engineering skills beyond pounding rocks with basic tools made from bronze and copper. The evidence at Tiwanaku proves otherwise – they were using T-shaped clamps made from iron and mixed with arsenic to make interlocking stones. Even by today’s standards, that is advanced engineering!
Archaeological digs in Ethiopia, Africa in 2010 discovered stone tools that dated back to around 2.6 million years, over one million years than originally thought. The discovery was reported by archaeology magazines and several other science publications, but nothing has been mentioned in mainstream newspapers. It has also been discovered that early man had developed a systematic method of hunting and had learned how to cook using fire millions of years ago. Scientists believe eating meat helped speed up human evolution.
Evidence like this can be found all over the world, but is very rarely reported. A stone cutting tool found in London has a handle that has partly turned to coal. It takes millions of years for wood to turn to coal. The Antikythera Mechanism found in the Mediterranean Sea is believed to be more than 2000-years old, and is capable of recording precise astronomical events including solar and lunar eclipses. The ancient settlement of Gobekli Tepi in Turkey is thought to have been built around 20,000BCE provides evidence of a complex network of underground tunnels and carving way ahead of its time.
It seems quite plausible that if early man was making such sophisticated tools hundreds of thousands of years before we originally thought, and had a profound understanding of art, astronomy and engineering, it is not a far stretch to believe civilisations existed with tools and knowledge sophisticated enough to build Tiwanaku in the fifth century – if not before.
However, evidence that causes such anomalies with the official version of mankind´s history is often hidden and ignored for years. Tiwanaku is a prime example. Between 2000 and 2008, Tiwanaku was the focus of a group of delegates that met in Cuba. The committee describe Tiwanaku as “an icon of a larger pre-Columbian culture.” No further explanation is given to clarify their findings, nor has further investigations or reports been published. This iconic enigma of history is obviously not important enough for the authorities to investigate despite the profits that can be made from tourism.
Or do the rule makers have a different agenda?
During my conversation with Lindsay Hasluck, he advised me to go and see the Fuente Magna bowl which is on display in the Precious Metals museum in La Paz. The bowl is yet another anomaly that cannot be explained by orthodox history. The bowl was discovered in Chua Hacienda near Lake Titicaca and is inscribed with ancient writing. Scholars examining the artefact say the writing has Proto-Sumerian origins spoken in the Sahara and Indus Valley some 5000 years ago. The bowl was discovered in 1960, but was not displayed in public until 2000 because the artefact was believed to be a hoax. However, experts have declared the Fuente Magna is genuine. Although it is impossible to say how and when the bowl found its way from the Middle-East to South America, there is a strong possibility that it arrived much earlier than Christopher Columbus.
The Fuente Magna is another classic example of how important information is kept away from mainstream news sources. If people do not know about these anomalies, they don’t ask questions. As the French lawmaker and politician, Maximilien Robespierre once said, “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”
And so it goes. The majority of travellers I meet in South America have never heard of Tiwanaku. So why is this potential money pot for Bolivian tourism being kept so low key? It should be on a par with Machu Picchu in neighbouring Peru.
In a conversation between Graham Hancock, author of ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ (together with several other brilliant investigative books relating to ancient history), and Robert Bauval, an expert engineer and author of ‘Keys of Genesis,’ the latter remarked that the Great Pyramids of Egypt were: “a machine designed to provoke questions. The minute you ask a question about engineering, you ask a question about geometry, you ask a question about astronomy…which [in turn] forces you to ask questions about mankind, about human history; and eventually about yourself.”
This poignant remark could not be truer, but it is not just the Great Pyramids of Egypt that raise questions about humankind; there are many artefacts, monuments and temples around the planet that might act as a catalyst for any one of us to become curious about the past and ultimately the truth about our origins. For me that place is Tiwanaku and tomorrow I get to witness it with my own eyes.