Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Ancient Nephite City of Tiahuanacu – Part I

Tiahuanacu (Tiwanaku) is in the Bolivian Andes lying over two miles above sea level at 12,500 feet. It is located a few miles from the shores of Lake Titicaca. Archeology in general dates the city to. 200 A.D., but far too many indications of it being much older have arisen in recent years and caused other archaeologists and anthropologists to reconsider, some dating the complex a thousand years earlier or more.

Strangely, though inland from any sea, Tiahuanacu was considered a seaport as early as 1945 by archaeologists. On the rock cliffs near the piers and wharfs of the port area are yellow-white calcareous deposits forming long, straight lines indicating pre-historic water levels. These ancient shorelines are strangely tilted, although they must have once been level. The surrounding area is covered with millions of fossilized seashells. It appears, from the tilting of the ancient shoreline striations and the abundant presence of fossilized oceanic flora and fauna, that a tremendous uplift of land has taken place sometime in the not-too-ancient past.

In fact, oceanic creatures live to this day in abundance in the salty waters of the lake, indicating that it was once a part of the ocean, although it is now over 2 miles above sea-level. What appears to be the original seashore shows signs of a tremendous geological upheaval that once took place. The port of Tiahuanacu, called Puma Punku or "Door of the Puma," is an area filled with enormous stone blocks scattered hither and yon like matchsticks, and weighing between 100 and 150 tons!

One block still in place weighs an estimated 440 tons! One wonders, how were these blocks quarried, how were they transported from the quarries to the building site, and how did the builders manage to place these huge blocks so skillfully to form this massive complex of megalithic buildings? And above all, what tremendous forces of nature tumbled these gigantic stones over one another as if they were light as driftwood? Archeologists have no answers for these questions.

However, the disciple Nephi did: “Behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land” (3 Nephi 8:18).

Some of the docks and piers in this area are so large that hundreds of ships could dock comfortably; yet there is nothing "oceanic" near these docks except a prehistoric coastline indicated by chalky deposits of ancient salt water fossils. Lake Titicaca, languishing miles away, is nearly 100 feet lower than the ruined docks. What tremendous geological upheaval has occurred in the land in the last two thousand years that could have tumbled these huge stones while heaving the entire altiplano region two miles into the sky?

Scientists know of nothing, however, the Book of Mormon makes it perfectly clear: After describing the destruction of several cities, from being sunk into the sea to having mountains carried up over them (3 Nephi 8:8-11), the record goes on to say: “There was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for the whole face of the land was changed” and the “exceeding great quaking of the whole earth” which lasted “for about the space of three hours” (3 Nephi 8:12,19).

Coming from Southern California and weathering more than a dozen major earthquakes in my time, which generally lasted under 2 minutes, a 3 our earthquake that exacted such destruction as described in the Land of Promise, would be extremely and unbelievably destructive.

It was the Lord himself who spoke of “all these cities have I sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof” (3 Nephi 9:7), and “many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people” (3 Nephi 9:12), and “that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depth of the sea” (3 Nephi 9:4), and “that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth” and “the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk” (3 Nephi 8:5-6).

When cities are sunk into the sea, when mountains cover cities, when cities are buried beneath valleys and hills, one might want to consider the enormous and wide-spread cataclysmic event this three hour earthquake caused. No wonder that Lake Titicaca was raised nearly two miles into the air from sea level, and the city of Tiwanaku, once a great seaport city, now sits high in the Andes, and all the tumultulous damage done to huge slabs of rock weighing hundreds of tons.

Science may not have the answer, but the Book of Mormon certainly does.

(See next post, “The Ancient Nephite City of Tiahuanacu – Part II“)

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