Friday, January 7, 2011

The Ancient Nephite City of Tiahuanacu – Part VI

Tiwanaku was designed with a temple and a fortress, a palace, and other buildings within a rock perimeter wall. The fortress stands to the southwest of the Temple, the sides of the two coinciding in their bearings, and is 64 feet distant from it. It is now a great mound of earth, originally rectangular in shape, 620 feet in length and 450 in width, and about 50 feet high. It is much disfigured by the operations of treasure-seekers, who have dug into its sides and made great excavations from the summit, so that it now resembles rather a huge, natural, shapeless heap of earth than a work of human hands.

The remaining stones that environed it, and which the destroyers have spared, enable archaeologists to make out its original shape and proportions. There are distinct evidences that the body of the mound was terraced, for there are still standing stones at different elevations, distant horizontally nine, eighteen, and thirty feet from the base. There may have been more terraces than these lines of stones would indicate, but it is certain that there were at least three before reaching the summit, which coincides with what Garcilasso wrote of the mound when first visited by the Spaniards. He said of these ruins, "Among them there is a mountain or hill raised by hand, which, on this account, is most admirable. In order that the piled-up earth should not be washed away and the hill leveled, it was supported by great walls of stone. No one knows for what purpose this edifice was raised." Cieza de Leon, who himself visited Tiahuanuco soon after the Conquest, gave substantially the same description of the so-called Fortress.

On the summit of this structure are sections of the foundations of rectangular buildings, partly undermined, and partly covered up by the earth from the great modern excavation in the centre, which is upwards of 300 feet in diameter, and more than 60 feet deep. All over the Fortress and on its slopes lie large and regular blocks of stone, sculptured with portions of elaborate designs, which would only appear when the blocks were fitted together.

To the southeast of the Fortress, and about two hundred and fifty paces distant, is a long line of wall in ruins, apparently a single wall, not connected with any other so as to form an enclosure. But beyond it are the remains of edifices of which it is now impossible to form more than approximate plans. One was measurably perfect when visited by D'Orbigny in 1833, who fortunately has left a plan of it, more carefully made than others he has given us of ruins here or elsewhere.

Since 1833, however, the builders of Catholic cathedrals and buildings, unable to remove the massive stones composing the base of what was called the Hall of Justice, mined them, and blew them up with gunpowder, removing many of the elaborately cut fragments to pave the cathedral of La Paz. Enough remains, however, to prove the accuracy of D'Orbigny's plan, and to verify what Cieza de Leon wrote concerning these particular remains three hundred years ago.

The structure called the Hall of Justice occupied one end of a court something like that discoverable in the Temple. It was in the form of a rectangle, 420 feet long by 370 broad, defined by a wall of cut stones, supporting on three sides an interior platform of earth 130 feet broad, itself enclosing a sunken area, or court, also defined by a wall of cut stones. This court, at the general level of the plain, is 240 feet long and 160 feet wide. At its eastern end was a massive edifice called the Hall of Justice, of which D'Orbigny said: "It is a kind of platform of well-cut blocks of stone, held together by copper clamps, of which only the traces remain. It presents a level surface elevated six feet above the ground, 131 feet long and 23 broad, formed of enormous stones, eight making the length and two the breadth.

“Some of these stones are 25 ½ feet long by 14 feet broad, and 6 ½ feet thick—probably the ones Oiego de Leon measured slightly larger. Some are rectangular in shape, others of irregular form. On the eastern side of the platform, and cut in the stones of which they form part, are three groups of alcoves, or seats. One group occupies the central part of the monument, covering an extent of fifty-three feet, and is divided into seven compartments. A group of three compartments occupies each extremity of the monument. Between the central and side groups were reared monolithic doorways, similar in some respects to the large one, only more simple, the one to the west alone having a sculptured frieze similar to that of the great gateway.

“In front of this structure, to the west, and about twenty feet distant, is a wall remarkable for the fine cutting of its stones, which are a blackish basalt and very hard. The stones are all of equal dimensions, having a groove running around them, and each has a niche cut in it with absolute precision. Everything goes to show that the variety of the forms of the niches was one of the great ornaments of the walls, for on all sides we find stones variously cut, and evidently intended to fit together so as to form architectural ornaments."

As Nephi said, “I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15)

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