Chapter 2 Part 2

Architecnographical Introduction

After having discussed the inscriptions of the Sun Door in great detail in Chapter I, we repeat that all that is nothing more than the description of the calendigraphic functions of the building of Kalasasaya. Since we treated this very briefly in Vol. I, we shall begin in the present chapter to discuss extensively this magnificent solar observatory called by the present inhabitant of Tihuanacu “Kalasasaya”, which as has been explained before, means nothing more than “standing stones.”

Its geographic location is 16° 34′ 54″ latitude south and 4 hours 35′ 18″ west of Greenwich.

The ancient and true name of this “solar temple” is unknown at the present time. However, not only in Peru but also in Bolivia, there are many locations which without doubt, served as solar observatories and which now still preserve the name of “Inti-huatana” in Keshua and “Inti-tshintaña” in Aymara, the translation of which would be: “Hitching Post of the Sun”. Also there is the name “Lukurmata”, (57) which is also that of a place indisputably that of a solar observatory located south of Titicaca.

Even after the Conquest, the aborigines concerned themselves with observing the celestial movements, as we shall see farther on, especially the solstices, which they called “Willakuti” (58) and the equinoxes. It is very possible that in the epoch of the apogee of Tihuanacu, when the sacerdotal caste was made up of the noble tribe of the Khollas, who spoke Aymara, the solar temples had some significant name and especially this building, the most important of Tihuanacu.

In this monument, which like everything in that city is incomplete, there can be noted unquestionably the existence of two periods in which it was erected. These periods, of course, are separated by a considerable chronological space of time. Before considering the details of the matter, it is necessary to present a brief architecnographical introduction, even though the maps intercalated in this chapter are so clear that they scarcely need any further comment.

As is seen in the first volume (Pg. 66), there are various levels in the ground of Tihuanacu, or rather it is built on terraces of different heights, as was demanded by the whole of this great city of temples and gardens and the architectonic purpose and arrangement of each building. In the above drawing, one can note that the external floor of Kalasasaya was that from which arose the perron which gives access on the east to that great Temple of the Sun. As the main floor of the interior of the temple, it can be considered the level of the superior platform of the perron. However, in that same interior of the observatory there exists another small temple or “sanctum sanctorum”, though it belongs to a later period, the period of glory (the Third Period of Tihuanacu). There are still other levels, some higher than that of the platform of the perron, and others lower, as we shall see farther on.

It is thus that the Temple of the Sun was built on an artificial terrace supported by two other exterior ones, giving Kalasasaya in its time an appearance in its base something like that of a step-like pyramid. I repeat, that there were apparently two exterior terraces both supported by walls, as is shown by their remains, especially outside the east and north walls. To the west, it seems that they had not planned the construction of terraces, because the building was joined intimately with what is called the “Palace of the Sarcophaguses” and various subterranean rooms which we shall discuss in due course. Neither were there terraces to the south, or at least there are no traces of them at this time.

Certainly, the building communicated by means of a platform with the “Pukara Akapana”. It would not be at all impossible, by means of a serious excavation on this site, to discover indications of a communication between both monuments, about which mention is made in a tradition among the oldest inhabitants of the village. With regard to the north wall, the terraces are in evidence with the ruined remains of the walls.

All of the work of investigation was seriously hampered by a lack of the elements of a superstructure and to some extent of an infrastructure, in the different buildings, as well as by a lack of architectonic elements. Like all the other buildings of Tihuanacu, it was destroyed at the beginning of the seventeenth century by the zealous priest of the locality, Pedro de Castillo.

Guided by a blind faith, commendable from his point of view, he destroyed the most noteworthy and precious part of the magnificent city, and constructed the enormous temple to the new faith on the same spot where this city rose.

Perhaps a portion equal to that destroyed by this cleric and his follower, the truly responsible agent in the destruction, the Indian chief Paxi-pati, (59) has been that devastated by the builders of the railroad to Guaqui, and as we pointed out in the first volume, they were not even strangers ! (60) Such destruction continues until the present time at the hands of irresponsible inhabitants of the place, in spite of our continual complaints before the national government.

On the basis of surveyings—the most careful that it was possible to make—without official or any other sort of aid, we have perhaps succeeded in giving an approximate idea of what Tihuanacu was in the period of its greatest glory. In the various maps which accompany these lines, not only scholars, but those who some day may make serious excavations in those places, will find a moderate basis for their labors. If indeed there is still considerable to be described in Tihuanacu, the principal part of it lies on the surface. This is the documentation to be extracted from the enormous amount of material employed in the construction of churches, country houses and city dwellings near the ruins, nearby villages and even in the city of La Paz itself. Let us cease lamenting what happened, for which there is now no remedy, but let us not cease recommending to the Bolivian people a greater respect and regard for these magnificent remains of past American splendor. This should be implemented by the creation of a great National Park, the center of which would be these extremely old testimonies to the labor and science of American Man, the most important, perhaps, for the study of human civilization.


(57) “Lukurmata” is an agglutination of “Loka-Uru-Ymata” which translated would be “Measure-Day-Observed”, or a calendar; it may well be that the stone calendar “Kalasasaya” had this name.

(58) Cf. Vocabulario of Ludovico Bertonio, Juli Pueblo, 1612.

(59) In gratitude for the accomplishment of having destroyed the most magnificent monuments of his forebears, the cleric (the painter of the pictures in the church of Tihuanacu) placed at the end of one of these, the picture of the Indian chief with the face of a noble Kholla, beside his wife, who has the somatic appearance of a half-breed. (Chromo, Fig. 12).

(60) In the construction of this railroad, carried out by the government, there participated only national technicians and workers. The chief of construction operations was the Peruvian engineer, Mariano Bustamante.


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