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Tiahuanaco Sun Gate in Bolivia. Source: Adwo / Adobe Stock

The Mysterious Monolithic Tiahuanaco Sun Gate in Bolivia

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On the southern shore of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, at an altitude of 3,825 meters (12,549 ft), lies the ancient city of Tiahuanaco. Also known as Tiwanaku, this was once the capital of an empire that extended into present-day Peru and Chile, home to a pre-Colombian culture which flourished from 300 to 1000 AD and believed to have been one of the most important cities of ancient America. Within the ruins of its enormous courtyard, archaeologists discovered a mysterious megalithic structure which is known known as the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate.

The archaeological site at Tiahuanaco, where the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate was discovered. (Public domain)

The archaeological site at Tiahuanaco, where the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate was discovered. ( Public domain )

Putting Tiahuanaco into Context

Andean legends claim the area around Lake Titicaca was the cradle of the first humans on Earth. According to these myths, Lord  Viracocha, the creator of all things, chose Tiahuanaco as the place of creation. The archaeological site covers as much as 4 square kilometers (1.54 sq mi). This planned city was once home to as many as 20,000 people at its peak around 500 to 900 AD.

The city was made of impressive carved stones and there was a complex underground drainage system. Nevertheless, because they left no written records, Tiahuanaco continues to perplex archaeologists who try to unravel its mysteries from the monolithic remains and scant artifacts.

These days, Tiahuanaco is located about 250 meters (800 ft) above the level of Lake Titicaca, but most archaeologists agree that it was once a port. Structures have been found in Lake Titicaca which show that the sea levels have changed dramatically throughout history. The site at Tiahuanaco is made up of stone structures and blocks, as well as large carved stone figures. Of these, one of the most impressive is the Pyramid of Akapana which rose to over 18 meters (59 ft).

The age of the ruins is also up for debate. Originally researchers suggested that the Tiahuanaco ruins dated back to 14,000 BC, but more recent methods have led them to believe that it was founded some time between 300 BC and 110 AD. The many unknowns at Tiahuanaco have opened the gates to pseudo archaeologists and their varied theories, claiming that Tiahuanaco and its monoliths were created by giants or even extraterrestrials.

The Monolithic Gate of the Sun at Tiahuanaco in Bolivia, drawn by Ephraim Squier in 1877. (Public domain)

The Monolithic Gate of the Sun at Tiahuanaco in Bolivia, drawn by Ephraim Squier in 1877. ( Public domain )

The Discovery of the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate

The site of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia was first recorded in 1549 by Pedro Cieza de León. When rediscovered by European explorers in the mid-19th century, the monolithic Tiahuanaco Sun Gate was lying horizontally on the ground with a large crack running through it within what is now known as the Kalasasaya Complex, a ceremonial palace.

Measuring 3 meters (9.8 ft) tall by 4 meters (13 ft) wide, the Gate of the Sun is a gigantic arch carved into one single block of andesite volcanic stone. Said to weigh at least 10 tons (9072 kg), it can be viewed today where it was found, although it is believed that this is not its original location, which remains uncertain.

1877 image of the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate in Bolivia. (Public domain)

1877 image of the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate in Bolivia. ( Public domain )

What Was the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate Monument Used for?

In truth, the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate has baffled experts since it was first discovered. The figures that decorate the stone are believed to have astronomical connotations and resemble human-like beings with wings and curled-up tails, and appear to be wearing rectangular helmets, although interpretations differ.

The god, possibly the Incan god Viracocha or a sun god of some kind, is located in the center and is sculpted with rays emitting from his face in all directions. He also appears to be holding a staff in each hand. This sun god figure is also known as the “Weeping God” because things similar to tears are carved on its face.

Some have argued that the Tiahuanaco Gate of the Sun was used as a calendar, causing them to call it the Calendar Gate. Indeed, it appears to reflect a solar year, however, it cannot be made to fit into the solar year as we divide it at present. The calendar has 290 days, divided into twelve months of 24 days each. Other radical theories suggest it was a portal to another dimension, perhaps to the land of the gods, and some even believe that it was created by aliens!

Detail of the so-called Sun God on the monolithic Tiahuanaco Gate of the Sun in Bolivia. (Public domain)

Detail of the so-called Sun God on the monolithic Tiahuanaco Gate of the Sun in Bolivia. ( Public domain )

Visiting Tiahuanaco Sun Gate in Bolivia

Taking into account that Andes myths point to Tiahuanaco as the place of creation, it is certainly an important place to visit. Located 70 km from La Paz in Bolivia, about an hour by car, the archaeological site is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there is a fee to enter. There are two museums within the enclosure.

Located at such a high altitude, the climate can change suddenly. Wear comfortable clothing, take warm clothes, and make sure to bring lots of water and sun cream. The best time to visit the Tiahuanaco Sun Gate is early in the morning. While you can visit alone, we'd recommend a guide to really get the most out of your visit.

Top image: Tiahuanaco Sun Gate in Bolivia. Source: Adwo / Adobe Stock

By Cecilia Bogaard

Comments

sorry, I am dealing with a very shaky screen and voice recognition software which is switching my words and posting a lot of nonsense in my post above, and my text corrections were auto corrected and reversed. /let's try that again.
the little guy represented on the gate is Viracocha, the Sun God. He is holding two thunderbolts that have heads like a snake. Also, he is often depicted dangling human heads from his arms. He is a Peruvian mythological god, the most powerful god of the Incas., Though rich in fascinating and interesting culture, the Incas were a very violent people. They had a lot of human sacrifices and their religious sites such as the Machu Picchu were where they performed human sacrifice. It is strange that this gate is in Bolivia and not Peru, though the country's boarders might have changed through the years.at any rate, a beautiful piece of Peruvian history. I wonder, since it was found down on the ground if it was moved from Peru altogether.

the little guy we presented on the gate is viracocha the Sun God. He is holding two Thunderbolts that have heads like a snake. Also, he is often depicted dangling human heads from his arms. He is Peruvian mythological God. Though rich in fascinating and interesting culture, the Incans were a very violent people. They had a lot of human sacrifices and their religious sites such as the Machu Picchu were where they performed human sacrifice. It is strange that this gate is in Bolivia not true, though the country's limits might have changed through the years.at any rate, a beautiful piece of Peruvian history. I wonder, since ot was found down on the ground if it was moved from Peru altogether.

Grant Steffy you have done your homework. The bowl you mentioned with cuneiform writing is called the Fuente Magna Bowl and can be seen at the Gold Museum in La Paz.

I wish the picture of the gate had a bit more detail. Of course I wish that I had my books, which are in storage. I say this because I came across information, (from Ancient Aliens), which said that there were 50 of those winged lions(?) on this structure - But I can only count 48. Are the other two underneath the Sun God?
I mention this because 50 is the number used by the Sumerians to denote the Sun God, and I have found this same count on a petroglyph on a canyon wall near Green River, Utah - In this case the Sun God has 50 ribs.
As for the two staffs - Only one of them has the heads two birds looking skyward - And it is my opinion that they represent two streams of consciousness. Sometimes these streams are shown as streams like those found on page 76 of the Dresden Codex, the aforementioned petroglyph, and some Sumerian cylinder seals. And sometimes these streams are portrayed as serpents, such as found on a Paracas woven textile. Most of the time, (if you place yourself in the image), the stream or serpent being held in the left hand is either devoid of life or contains less water, whereas the stream or serpent in the right hand possesses life or more water. I could go on, but then I'd be writing an article. I will leave you with however - There is a Sumerian or One People connection - And this can be seen in a bowl which was found in Puma Punka containing Sumerian cuneiform writing.

This reminds me of something out of the Epic of Giglamesh and other similar stories. I doubt it is the birth site of mankind or civilixstion, but perhaps it is the original place of that group of people, that would make more sense. I doubt mankind all came from one place on this planet.

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