Obelisks can be found throughout the world, many of them originally coming from Egypt. Almost always, you will find them as a single obelisk that stands out on its own. The obelisks at Karnak Temple in Luxor is an example of having multiple obelisks at the same site. There are two remaining obelisks of the four that originally existed at the site. We took many different photographs of the obelisks during our time touring the temple and the pair of obelisks provides some interesting symmetry in the pictures that we took. There were also time when they could be seen framed between different columns and doors, which was probably the intention of the ancient Egyptians when the obelisks were erected.
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. Unfortunately, many of the stones that originally made up Tiwanaku are now used in the walls of the homes in the surrounding villages.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 building 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.
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.
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 provides a brief glimpse into the pride displayed by every Bolivian that we met. There was such a vast civilization with cities and buildings that have withstood the ravages of time that is truly fascinating to see. If you visit La Paz, Bolivia, taking time to go to Tiwanaku is certainly worth taking the time to visit.
There are many sights to see when visiting a city with a history as rich as Rome’s and one of those is certainly the Pantheon. There are many fascinating things about the Pantheon, including the fact that it was originally created as a temple to worship all of the Roman gods. Unlike most other temples that were built to specifically honor a single god, this temple was meant to be a place where one could visit to gain favor from all of the gods. Even more interesting is that it was converted to a church in the 7th century and has been in continual use throughout its history.
Walking the exterior of the building provides you with the true sense of how old the Pantheon really is as the walls are worn with age and ruins of an ancient wall are preserved at its base. The shape of the Pantheon has been an inspiration to generations of architects that were fascinated by its dome that opens to the heavens. Once you step through the threshold of the Pantheon and enter the basilica, you are greeted with a sense of juxtaposition. Unlike the worn exterior, the interior is adorned with beautiful art as well as marble walls and floor.
You should certainly expect there to be plenty of crowds as you visit the Pantheon as it is likely on every tourist’s itinerary, as it should be. It is still a church called the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres and the altar is quite notable as you enter the Pantheon. You should certainly go to the center of the large, circular room and look up at the dome with its hole to allow light and suggesting access to the heavens. You should also take time to look at all of the statues that are in the niches of the portico as well as the reliefs and paintings as they are all incredible to see.
With so many places to see in Rome, such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, etc., the Pantheon is definitely an important location to visit. Unlike the Acropolis of Athens where the temples are isolated on a hill that overlooks the city, seeing the Pantheon in the winding, narrow streets of the city is quite a unique experience.