The Mystery of Pumapunku Part 1
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We’ve all heard of the mystical and wondrous ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica and South America: The Maya, Olmecs, Aztecs, and the Inca.  But one culture that developed on the southern end of Lake Titicaca in present-day western Bolivia near the border with Peru left behind ruins so monumental they continue to intrigue archaeologists and spark hypotheses of anachronistic, advanced technologies.  The Inca referred to Lake Titicaca as their origin place.  The culture that evolved in the region became known as Yaya-Mama, or “Father-Mother,” for the sculptures depicting dualistic Male-Female opposites.  The remains of the capital city for this society are now known as Tiwanaku, one of the most significant archaeological sites in South America.  Beginning as a small village in the BCE period, Tiwanaku grew to an enormous metropolis for its time.  Peaking around 700 to 1000 CE, with a population near 40,000 and as many as 500,000 people settling in the high plains valley, what remains is a little over one and a half square miles of artifacts such as impressively carved stone gates and monolith statues, artisan ceramics, and quality metalwork.  But perhaps the most awe-inspiring remnants are found at a particular spot within Tiwanaku called Pumapunku.  Translating as “Gate of the Puma,” archaeologists define Pumapunku as a ceremonial and elite residential complex constructed in the typical fashion of a sunken court surrounded by plazas and ramps, sitting on a terraced platform mound.  Yet what makes Pumapunku stand out from other similarly designed sites is the sophisticated masonry of its massive stone blocks ranging in size from 30 to 130 tons.  Baffling as it is to imagine how these stones may have been quarried and moved great distances, it’s even more unaccountable how the Tiwanaku were able to cut the blocks so precisely they fit like interlocking puzzle pieces.  This feat has some guessing the lost techniques were known only to them or even guided by otherworldly visitors.  With construction beginning between 500 and 600 CE and rebuilt over the following centuries, the city would fall just as mysteriously, sometime around 1000 CE.  Whether from natural disaster, withering from internal strife, or some violent end, Pumapunku and Tiwanaku leave us with one of the world’s great archaeological enigmas.  Tonight, we unearth the artifacts and culture of a city once known by the Aymara people of the Bolivian Andes as “stone in the center,” meaning the center of the world. Visit our website for a lot more information on this episode!
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