Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ancient Nephite City of Tiahuanacu – Part III

In 1934 Peruvianist Wendell C. Bennett carried out several excavations at Tiahuanacu. Excavating in the Subterranean Temple, he found two large stone images. One was a bearded statue with large round eyes, a straight narrow nose and oval mouth. Rays of lightning are carved on the forehead. The statue stands over 7 feet tall with arms crossed over an ankle-length tunic, which is decorated with pumas around the hem. Serpents ascend the figure on each side, reminding one of the Feathered Serpent culture-hero known as Quetzalcoatl in Central America. Strange animals resembling elephants are carved up around the head. In addition a 24-foot tall statue was also uncovered, which was sculpted out of red sandstone and was covered with images of various kinds.

A view (above) of the semi-subterranean temple where the largest statue was found. In the center are three stelae. This monolithic work has a number of designs scattered over its surface, many of which resemble the running winged-figures found on the Gate of the Sun, only with curled tails. Also the "Weeping god" is depicted on the sides of the head of the statue. This is in addition to the tears already depicted on the cheeks of the monolith's face. The Weeping god seems to be a major theme at Tiwanaku, but no one knows why this ancient diety was depicted as sad. However, according to Moses, writing about Enoch, the Lord wept (Moses 7:28) because his creations “are without affection, and they hate their own blood” (Moses 7:33). An image of a weeping God at Tiwanaku is certainly in keeping with the scriptures.

Other designs, although very artistic, are difficult for archaeologists to describe. Another large stone statue, usually called simply "the idol," stands in the southwest corner of the Kalasasaya Temple. With the exception of the Sun Gate, it is the most picturesque of the sculptures at Tiwanaku, since its 7-foot height is almost covered with hieroglyphic-like carvings. No one knows if these carvings represent a form of writing or are merely decorative—much like the carvings found in Mesoamerica until they were deciphered as writing. Should these carvings prove to be a form of symbolic writing, what a story they might tell!

It would also show why writing survived in Tiwanaku and not elsewhere because at the time of the Lamanite conquest of the Nephites, Tiwanaku, which before the destruction described in 3 Nephi when the city was on the coastal area of the East Sea, it was now at 12,500 feet up in the risen Andes and undoubtedly inaccessible and unknown to the Lamanites. Still another statue popularly known as “El Fraile” is almost devoid of carvings. There are numerous other statues, which have been found at Tiwanaku, several of which have found their way into various museums.

Most of these statues have the incomprehensible stiff designs scattered about on their surfaces in the typical Tiwanaku style. Some are rather large, and others are small. Depictions of elephants and several other creatures are shown on their surfaces. Images of these animals are understandably reproduced on pottery and textiles. Obviously, living animals were used as a guide for the carvings, thus such animals, as elephants, were alive and known to the artisans.

In addition, the traces of an ancient shoreline have convinced those who have studied Tiwanaku to realize that it was once at sea level, and the seaport wharfs verify this fact. There is also traces that the ruins were covered by a thin layer of lime deposits, indicating they had been underwater for a period of time. Also, certain parts of the ruins were deeply buried in sediments, which indicated that a stupendous wave of water had washed over the entire area (the altiplano where the ruins now rest is almost totally devoid of rain).

(See next post, “The Ancient Nephite City of Tiahuanacu – Part IV,” for further information of this Nephite city built in the Land of Nephi during the 400 years between Nephi founding the area, and when Mosiah I left it)

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