The ruins of Tiahuanuco have been regarded by all students of American antiquities as in many respects the most interesting and important, and at the same time most enigmatical, of any on the continent. They have excited the admiration and wonder alike of the earliest and latest travelers, most of whom, vanquished in their attempts to penetrate the mystery of their origin, have been content to assign them an antiquity beyond that of the other monuments of America, and to regard them as the solitary remains of a civilization that disappeared long before that of the Incas began, and contemporaneous with that of Egypt and the East.
The ruins of all they left behind are unique, yet perfect in type and harmonious in style, they appear to be the work of a people who were thorough masters of an architecture which had no infancy, passed through no period of growth, and of which we find no other examples. Tradition, which mumbles more or less intelligibly of the origin of many other American monuments, is dumb concerning these.
Tiwanaku is located near the southern shores of Lake Titicaca on the Altiplano, at an altitude of 13,300 feet, in the Province of Ingavi, Department of La Paz. Most of the ancient city, which was largely built from adobe, has been overlaid by the modern town. However, the monumental stone buildings of the ceremonial center survive in the protected archaeological zones.
When the Spaniards first arrived and saw the magnificent ruins of Tiahuanaco, they marveled at such achievements and asked the Indians who had built it and were told that "the ruins were so old that they existed before the sun shone in the heavens.”
One of the dichotomies this discovery presents is that it was obviously a seaport town, with docks and wharves that could handle hundreds, if not thousands, of ships. Yet, it lies several miles from the shore of Lake Titicaca. Now, if, over the past many hundreds of years Lake Titicaca has slowly receded, as appears to be the case according to all scientists who had studied the site, then how can we explain the existence of stone temples, stairways, and roads still under water'? The only answer is that they were built before the lake materialized.
This sends us back in time to the remnants of Tiahuanaco in re-examining the more than 400 acres of ruins, only ten percent of which have been excavated. It has been pointed out that dirt now covers the ancient civilization to a depth of at least six feet. The only explanation for this accumulation is the coverage of water. That is, a large amount of water had to have inundated the city at some point in the ancient past; then when the water receded it left the silt covering all evidence of an advanced civilization, leaving only the largest statues and monoliths still exposed. It is logical to conclude, therefore, that Tiahuanaco was built before the lake was created, and not as a port on its shore.
As the waters today continue to recede, we should be able to find more evidence of the city's remote peoples. Scientists theorize that the area of Lake Titicaca was one time at sea level, because of the profusion of fossilized marine life which can be found in the area, which then lifted with the Andean upheaval and a basin between the rapidly rising peaks was created which filled in to form the lake.
As already mentioned, 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. One can only wonder at what tremendous geological upheaval has occurred in the land in the last two thousand years or so that could have tumbled these huge stones while heaving the entire altiplano region two miles into the sky?
If, at the same time, the city was inundated in a flood, that would also explain the existence of Tiahuanaco's ruins under six feet of earth at an elevation of 13,300 feet. The presence of stone structures still under the lake's waters and the existence of marine life at an impossible altitude would also make sense.
The nearby structure known today as Puma Punka is still littered with giant, precisely shaped blocks, many of which appear machine made. The so-called 'port' of Tiahuanaco, called Puma Punku or "Door of the Puma," which is often quoted to have once been a wharf with a massive four-part building, is an area filled with enormous stone blocks scattered around on the ground as though the result of a catastrophic event. Several of the blocks are estimated to weigh between 100 and 150 tons.
The Puma Punku temple offers one of the best examples of masonry skills in the whole of the pre-Columbian Americas. Other incredibly carved temple complexes such as the Peruvian Inca walls of Sacsayhuaman, or the outstanding masonry at Machu Pichu and Ollantaytambo pale to insignificance when compared with the sheer skill, accuracy and perfection achieved at Puma Punku.
Today the site appears 'broken', and has been reduced to piles of scattered geometric blocks. These immense quartzite blocks were designed so as to interlock with each other, creating an architecturally unique temple without precedent in the America's. Puma Punku appears to have been destroyed by an earthquake, perhaps accompanied by a tidal wave from the ocean when the area was at sea level.
The Puma Punku was a terraced earthen mound originally faced with megalithic blocks. It is 549 feet wide along its north-south axis and 383 feet long along its east-west axis. On the northeast and southeast corners of the Puma Punku it has 66-feet wide projections that extend 91-feet north and south from the rectangular mound.
An artist’s rendition of one area of Tiahuanaco reconstructed. The sheer size of the site and complex that once stood there is massive
The largest of these stone blocks is 26-feet long, 17-feet wide, and averages 3½-feet thick, and estimated to weigh about 131 metric tons. The second largest stone block found within the Puma Punka is 26-feet long, 8-feet wide, and averages 6-feet thick, and weighs an estimated 85 metric tons.
In order to understand these events, one has to place an emphasis on 3 Nephi 8 and 9. When John L. Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists write that the destruction during the crucifixion that took place in the Land of Promise was merely cosmetic in order to justify their own models and beliefs, they do a grave misjustice to the study of the Book of Mormon and what really took place during that excruciating three hours and following three days. When the extensive damage done, the changes in the earth that took place, and the resulting alteration to the entire continent is more fully understood, then we can better appreciate the existence of the Land of Promise being along the western Andean shelf of South America (For a better understanding of this, see the previous posts of November 26 and 27, 2016 entitled The Problem With Time—Part II and III, "And the Earth Did Cleave Together Again”).
The amazing thing is that all of Andean Peru is a treasure-trove of Jaredite-Nephite era building using stone and skills known to the ancient world, such as in building the Ziggurats and Tower of Babel of the Jaredite era, and the stone buildings from nearly 500 years before the time of Lehi in Jerusalem, but lost to most of the modern world. This is a remarkable area where Book of Mormon archaeology should be conducted but has never been done—the skills and abilities displayed anciently in these ruins far overshadow anything yet found in Mesoamerica or elsewhere in the Americas. Yet, thanks to FARMS who pushed Mesoamerica for decades, no work has ever been done in Andean South America by BYU or other LDS projects to show the remarkable ties in to the Book of Mormon. One can only wonder when this “blackout” of South America will be lifted by LDS archaeologists and anthropologists and work begun there--the result will be a remarkable find of proofs of the Nephite Land of Promise.