Since the beginning of mankind, we have all struggled to make sense of the world around us. It is in our human nature to try and make order out of the chaos that is our world. It is as true today as it was during the dawn of time, although the source of the chaos might be different. In the beginning, it was the struggle to make sense of the natural world, such as the rotation of the heavens and the changing of the seasons. Today’s world is as complex and seemingly uncontrollable as at any time during our history, but that doesn’t stop our rational minds from trying to preserve a sense of normalcy in our daily lives. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is about Order. From the ancient Pueblo people who created Mesa Verde here in western United States, to the ancestors of the Incas in South America, to the middle ages of Europe, there are plenty of examples of people trying to make sense of and create order out of our complex and ever changing world.
The ancient Pueblo people built kivas and painted stories of their creation as they believed that they came from the center of the earth. They held rituals and celebrated around a ceremonial hole in the kiva that symbolized their access to the world of their ancestors.
In the middle ages, we were able to create more sophisticated devices to measure time and understand the movements of the heavens. The astronomical clock in Prague is an excellent example of man trying to gain control and predictability over their natural world.
Long before there were clocks and timepieces, the ancient people of South America had been observing the movements of the starts and had created calendars that predicted the seasons and the days of the year.
We have had an amazing time over the past eleven days. Prague was an magical place to spend Christmas and Athens was equally special for New Year’s weekend. One of the things that we didn’t expect was that the entire city of Athens would shut down for New Year’s Day, including all of the temples and monuments. Luck would have it that our last full day would have the most beautiful weather of our trip and we made the most of it by seeing everything on our list in a single day. It was exhausting and we will definitely sleep well tonight. We feel like a broken record for stating that we will provide greater detail about the sights that we have seen and the history behind these wonderful places, but it seems that as soon as we get back home, to Frankfurt, we are one foot out of the door to our next location. When the opportunity arises, we will put out endless posts with all of the information that we wish we could share, but for now you will just have to view a few pictures and join us for this wild and crazy ride 😉.
Walking through the ruins of Tiwanaku brings both a sense of fascination and yearning for more. This once great capital fills you with a sense of mystery, both because of the seemingly impossible building methods used by the inhabitants over two-thousand years ago as well as the lack of knowledge that we’ll ever have because of the condition of the ruins. This site could have been as impressive as Machu Picchu had it been taken care of and preserved over time, but lack of care and serious excavation has left it in a state that leaves you wanting to see more. Unfortunately, many of the stones that originally made up Tiwanaku are now used in the walls of the homes in the surrounding villages. It has also suffered from a lack of preservation by the Bolivian government, which doesn’t seem to have the same sense of history, despite the fact that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As with pretty much everything that we visited while in Bolivia, when we walked through the ruins of Tiwanaku, we were virtually by ourselves. Other than the small market outside of the site, hoping to sell trinkets to whatever tourists made their way to visit this important piece of history, we walked the trails along the walls of the ancient city alone. Our guide, Ricky, told us of the history of Tiwanaku, which dates back to about 200 B.C. or possibly even earlier. Most of the remaining ruins are those of the three temples that celebrated the three worlds revered by the inhabitants of Tiwanaku, Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld. It isn’t the Heaven and Hell of the Judeo-Christian beliefs, but simply the belief that there were three different worlds that their gods inhabited. Our understanding is that the pre-Incan people that inhabited Tiwanaku believed that all life on earth came from the depths of Lake Titicaca, which was much larger back when Tiwanaku was a bustling metropolis and its shores probably extended to the site of the ruins.
One of the greatest questions about the buildings, which pre-date Machu Picchu, was the skill in which the stones of the walls were carved to fit perfectly, without any gaps and without any kind of mortar. Scientists have tried to recreate building the walls without the use of modern equipment and have not been able to replicate the work done by those ancient people so long ago. And, as with other ancient sites such as the pyramids of Egypt, large stones were quarried miles away and somehow carried to build these temples, a feat that is seemingly impossible. That has led some people to speculate that perhaps the ancient people of Tiwanaku had help from some sort of extra-terrestrial beings, but it is far more likely that they just had skills and techniques that have been lost over time.
The fact that some people believe in the myth was not lost on our guide. Inside one of the temples, all along the walls were stone carvings of faces. Ricky told us that ancient people of Tiwanaku would carve the faces of the important people who helped build the empire, perhaps the same way that the early Presidents of the United States were immortalized at Mount Rushmore. Then he pointed to a face that didn’t look much like the other faces and intimated that they even included the face of an alien being. Ricky’s smile let us know that it was just his usual joke to play with any naïve tourists.
We enjoyed seeing some of the amazing things that still remained though, including the “Gate of the Sun”, which we were told contained an ancient calendar. One could easily imagine the ancestors of the Amarya people using the different stone structures as a celestial calendar to determine the seasons. The site itself is very vast and there apparently has been some recent attempts to use ground penetrating radar to determine if there are more ruins to be found in the surrounding area, perhaps buried just below the surface. As we stood at the site where the priests would recite prayers and give speeches to the people, Ricky explained that there were other stone platforms every few hundred yards where lower priests would repeat the words of the head priest so that all of the people in the large city could hear what was being said. It takes a little imagination, standing there pretty much alone in these ruins, to envision it filled with thousands of ancient people.
It isn’t our intention to provide a history lesson on Tiwanaku or any place else that we visit, we just want to describe what it was like to be there, tell a little about what we learned, and share our passion for seeing unique and interesting places. Tiwanaku, despite its condition, was still definitely awe inspiring. Walking amongst temples that were built in South America long before Europeans would make their way to the shores of these lands and eventually conquer its people, provides a brief glimpse into where the distinct pride displayed by every Bolivian we met must come from. There once was a vast empire long before the Inca empire that most people are aware of. We would see many more temples from the Inca empire during our trip, but the history of Tiwanaku made it a very special part of our trip.