May 14, 2012

Peruvian Pyramids Part 2

Peruvian Pyramids Part Two
The people of the Moche civilization erected many massive and impressive temples, the most famous of which are the gigantic twin pyramids at Moche, close by the modem city of Trujillo. These twin pyramids are known today as “La Huaca del Sol” (The Temple of the Sun) and “La Huaca de la Luna” (The Temple of the Moon). Each consists of a massive terraced platform of adobe. The temple of the sun even has a terraced pyramid on its platform.

Peruvian Pyramids
The Temple of the Sun is the most immense structure on the coast of Peru. The platform rises in five terraces to a height of 60 feet; its base measures 450 feet by 750 feet. On the top of the fifth terrace is a causeway nearly 20 feet wide and 300 feet long which leads to the north end of the pyramid. A 340 foot square and 75 foot high stepped pyramid surmounts the platform at the southern end. The entire Huaca del Sol is estimated to contain at least 130 million adobe bricks.

Although the platform of the Temple of the Moon is much smaller at the base than that of the Temple of the Sun it measures only 195 feet by 260 feet it is approximately 10 feet higher than the Temple of the Sun. On the top of the platform of the Huaca de la Luna some rooms with frescoed walls in typical Moche design and colors still remain.

Just south of Lima, Peru, another Moche pyramid stands. This is the great pyramidal temple of Pachacamac, which overshadows the city in the Lurin Valley. The Pachacamac temple covers approximately 12 acres of ground and rises nearly 75 feet high. So famous was this shrine in Inca and pre- Inca days that at the time of the Spanish conquest, it was considered the mecca of Peru.

Mystery shrouds the ruins of Tiahuanaco, the last vestiges of a culture which, even at its nascence rivaled the culture of the Moche. There are some who claim that Tiahuanaco is the birthplace of the Americas; and possibly even the world’s civilization. One theory suggests that Tiahuanaco was originally an island which first sank into the Pacific Ocean and was then uplifted with the Andes Mountain Range to its present height. Another hypothesis holds that Tiahuanaco was the seat of a powerful and megalithic empire ruling the entire world.

Tiahuanaco is situated at an altitude of 13,000 feet, a dozen miles south-east of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. With its extremely thin atmosphere, cold climate and nearly treeless surroundings, Tiahuanaco hardly seems a likely candidate for the birthplace of a civilization. Yet despite the uninviting surroundings (most people have trouble breathing in this rarified atmosphere) or perhaps because of them, many mystics the world over consider Tiahuanaco to be a truly holy site.

It is interesting to note at this point, a story about the Creator god worshipped at Tiahuanaco who was called Viracocha and in many respects resembles the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl.

Ancient lore states that after travelling through the country instructing his people, Viracocha set off across the Pacific, from the shores of Ecuador, walking on the waves!

The masonry found in the ruins at Tiahuanaco is the best and most monumental in the Andean region. There are four large buildings and a number of smaller ones on the site, altogether occupying approximately 1,475 feet by 3,275 feet, or one-sixth of a square mile.

The largest building at Tiahuanaco is the Acapana, a 50 foot high terraced pyramid which was originally faced with stone. The irregular ground plan of the Acapana measures approximately 690 square feet.

The best known structure at Tiahuanaco is the world famous Gateway of the Sun. This is a great monolithic gateway sculpted from a single, enormous block of andesite. Unquestionably one of the archaeological wonders of the Americas, the Gateway is 10 feet high, 12 Vi feet wide, and weighs an estimated 10 to 15 tons.

It is believed that the Tiahuanacoans also built the great wall at Sacsayhuaman, near the city of Cuzco. Actually consisting of three terraced walls, the structure reaches a total height of 60 feet and stretches for more than 1,800 feet (nearly half a mile). The walls are built of monolithic blocks of stone and traverse a zig-zagged route rather than a straight line. It is extremely interesting to note that the masonry of these walls is extremely reminiscent of that of the walls of the Egyptian pyramids. One of the points of similarity is in the fact that the stones in the walls, like those in the pyramids, have been fitted so precisely that a razor or other thin-edged blade cannot be slipped between the blocks. Another similarity is that the stones in both the wall and the pyramids were jig-sawed into place without the use of mortar. Also in the construction of both the pyramids and the wall, massive stones were used; one of the largest stones in the wall is reported to be 10 feet wide, 17 feet high, 9 feet thick, and well over 100 tons in weight. One difference in the construction of the two structures is that the workmen who built the wall beveled the edges of all the blocks of stone, apparently for ardstic effect. One of the stones in the wall is so exquisitely chiseled that it has become world- famous as the “Stone of Twelve Angles.”

Another mysterious site is Nazca, situated on the southern coast of Peru. At one time a densely occupied area whose actual dimensions are not on record, the Nazca site contains a unique area called La Estaqueria, or the place of stakes, which is best described as a wooden Stonehenge. It is a level sandy area with large quantities of tree trunks planted in orderly rows and masses. The greatest number of twelve rows of twenty trunks each is arranged into a quadrangle. Most of the single posts seemed to have been used as columns. They have forked tops and possibly supported a roof. Amazingly, the wood is still firm and hard, although it has been exposed to the elements for thousands of years.

The Moche and Tiahuanaco civilizations, like the Chavin civilization before it, seems to have come to an abrupt halt. Again, there was a long culturally stagnant period in Peru and again, a new culture burst forth, almost full-blown, as if it had been developed elsewhere and been transported, in its maturity, to Peru. This new empire was that of the Inca. In a period of little over 300 years, from ca. A.D. 1200 to 1534, thirteen Incan emperors were to extend the domination of their civilization over an estimated 350,000 square miles; this empire covered nearly 3,000 miles from what is known today as central Chile to northern Ecuador.

Upon the death of an Incan emperor, elaborate funeral ceremonies were observed throughout the empire. Like those of the Egyptian pharoahs, the emperor’s body was preserved in the palace by an unknown process of mummification. His innards were removed and preserved in special containers and his body was wrapped in the finest textiles. The mummy was thereafter waited upon as during life.

The Incan commoner was entombed much like the Egyptian, in a bee-hive-shaped tomb above ground. The body wrapped in textiles or skins, was placed inside in natal posture, seated with knees to chin. These tombs were made of rude stone masonry and clay and mud and the bodies dried without decomposition.

The Incas did not build pyramids. Rather, they apparently rebuilt the existing pyramids in every important Inca town, just as they enlarged the great ceremonial centers in the major cities to accommodate the religious requirements of the Inca empire. Today, the best built, and preserved, as well as the largest and most impressive buildings surviving from the ancient Peruvian civilizations are those public edifices built by Incan government labor and planned by state architects.

The structures described in this chapter are virtually the only keys which Peruvianists have to the history of this ancient country. It is generally assumed that with the Spanish conquest of the Incan empire, any records of pre-Incan civilizations were destroyed. All extant records of the Incan empire and of the fables of its genesis, are those compiled by Spanish historians at the time of the conquest. If there were ever any written histories of the Chavin and other pre-Incan civilizations, these are now lost forever. All that remains are the great pyramids tantalizing relics of great and glorious civilizations inexplicably cut down in their prime.

Peruvian Pyramids :

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