Saturday, December 30, 2017

Baalbek and Tiahuanaco – Part I

Baalbek is a two-thousand-year-old temple to the Roman god Jupiter, son of Saturn, that sits atop three thousand-ton stone blocks in Lebanon. It is considered one of the most mysterious ruins of the Roman Empire period with stones about forty times heavier than the pillars of Stonehenge.
These blocks originated in a nearby limestone quarry, where a team from the German Archaeological Institute, in partnership with Jeanine Abdul Massih, of Lebanese University, recently discovered what they are calling the largest stone block from antiquity, weighing one thousand six hundred and fifty tons and matching those that support the temple.
First discovered in the early 20th century and shown in this photo from the Oregon State University archives

The history of this three-million-pound megalith is mostly unknown—nobody seems to know who cut the stone, or why it was cut, and what caused it to be abandoned. The site is named for Baal, the Phoenician deity, though it was known as Heliopolis to the Romans. Dell Upton, the UCLA architectural history department Chair, states that “Baalbek has become a very accommodating screen upon which to project strikingly varied stories,” and the site has become “a metaphor for the role of imaginative distortion in architectural history.”
    The parallel of Baalbek in the Old World has a striking resemblance to the historicity of a site in the Western Hemisphere, namely Tiahuanaco in Andean Peru, which has become known as the “Baalbek of the New World.”
    Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) is a prehistoric ruined city, complete with a harbor located in the Bolivian Andes along the Peruvian border about 15 miles from Lake Titicaca, which salt water lake once extended to the city. At 12,500 feet above sea level, it is often asked by archaeologists and historians alike, why would a seaport be built more than two miles above sea-level?
    When the Spanish conquistadors reached the south of a lake in the altiplano, they were amazed to see the ruins of an abandoned city completely built of great stone masses and strange sculptures. Immediately they called a native and the conquerors tried to ask him by signs what that city was called. Noting that the aborigine always said "Thia wañaku" they adopted the word "Tiawanaku,” however, the Indian was actually saying “it's the dry riverbank” in his Aymara language—“thia,” "ribera" and "wañaku," “seca,” was not naming the city in ruins.
Tiahuanaco entrance gate, today called the “Gate of the Sun.” Nobody knows who built it or exactly how long ago it was constructed, as well as the complex behind it, which the Inca told the Spanish had been built long ago, long before the Inca

The port area of Tiahuanaco (once thought to be a separate ruin) is known as Puma Punka ("Port of the Puma" or “Door of the Puma”). In fact, 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 once they must have been level. Although the lake averages between 460 and 600 feet in depth, the bottom tilts sharply toward the Bolivian shore, reaching its greatest recorded depth of 920 feet off Isla Soto in the lake's northeast corner. This, of course, gives rise to the belief that at one time this area was at sea level and was raised through an extreme cataclysmic event to its present height. 
    This also gives understanding to the Incan legend of antiquity regarding Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo rising from the sea in this region of Tiahuanaco. This also lends understanding to the discoveries in 1980 by Hugo Boero Rojo, Bolivian author and scholar of pre-Columbian cultures, regarding the finding of archaeological ruins beneath Lake Titicaca about 50 to 65 feet below the surface off the coast of Puerto Acosta, a Bolivian port village near the Peruvian frontier on the northeast edge of the lake. According to Boero Rojo, “We can now say that the existence of pre-Columbian constructions under the waters of Lake Titicaca is no longer a mere supposition or science-fiction, but a real fact. The remnants found show the existence of old civilizations that greatly antecede the Spanish colonization. We have found temples built of huge blocks of stone, with stone roads leading to unknown places and flights of steps whose bases were lost in the depths of the lake amid a thick vegetation of algae." Rojo went on to add that “these monumental ruins as being "of probable Tiahuanaco origin.”
    It might also be noted that in August 2000, England’s BBC announced the discovery of ancient ruins 100-feet beneath the lake, and confirmed that a temple had been discovered by following a submerged stone road. The discoveries are believed to date back 1,000 to 1,500 years ago, and are credited as pre-Incan confirming that the level of the lake fluctuates periodically. Support of this, of course, is found in the scriptural record, which states: “And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned” (3 Nephi 8:9).
    Today, the complex consists of an unwalled western court a central unwalled esplanade, a terraced platform mound faced with stone, and a walled eastern court. In this area, close to the marks of ancient shorelines, are buildings and wharfs constructed of enormous stone blocks, though today they are scattered here and there like so many matchsticks, except that these little items weigh variously between 100 and 150 tons—one block weighs an estimated 440 tons!
    The eastern edge of the Puma Punku is occupied by what is called the Plataforma Lítica, a structure consisting of a stone terrace that is 22 by 127 feet in dimension. This terrace is paved with multiple enormous stone blocks, containing the largest stone slab found in both the Puma Punku and Tiahuanaco site, measuring 25 ½  feet long, 17 feet wide and averages 3 ½ feet thick. Based upon the specific gravity of the red sandstone from which it was carved, this stone slab has been estimated by C. Ponce Sangines to weigh 131 tons (Acerca De La Procedencia Del Material Lítico De Los Monumentos De Tiwanaku [About the Origin of the Stone Monuments of Tiahuanaco]. Publication no. 21. Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Bolivia, 1970).
    Soon after the Spanish conquest, Garcilaso de la Vega noted that “We must now say something about the larger and most incredible buildings of Tiahuanaco. There is an artificial hill, of great height, built on stone foundations so that the earth will not slide. There are gigantic figures carved in stone…these are much worn which shows their great antiquity. There are walls, the stones of which are so enormous it is difficult to imagine what human force could have put them in place. And there are the remains of strange buildings, the most remarkable being stone portals, hewn out of solid rock; these stand on bases anything up to 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and six feet thick, base and portal being all of one piece…How, and with the use of what tools or implements, massive works of such size could be achieved are questions which we are unable to answer…nor can it be imagined how such enormous stones could have been brought here” (Royal commentaries of the Inca & General History of Peru, Part I, Harold Livermore trans from 1616 original, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1987). 
(See the next post, "Baalbek and Tiahuanaco - Part II," for more on these similarities of construction)

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