To give it the full UNESCO title, this world heritage site is Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture, located about 70km from La Paz near Lake Titicaca. I had planned to take public transport there but was warned that the buses left from an unsavoury part of the city and were infrequent, so I gritted my teeth and went on a minibus tour instead. I really hate being in a tour group (even a small eight person one such as this) – I like to go at my own pace, and contemplate things without being talked at. So I shadowed this group just to be sure I didn’t miss the bus back, but did my best to not be a sheep.
The site is located in a bleak valley and is not massively impressive to look at, no towering pyramids for instance. It does have the remains of a pyramidal structure but that is mostly a mound of mud with some stonework round the edges.
Tiwanaku was the capital of a powerful southern Andean empire that was at its height between 500 and 900AD although the settlement was originally founded around 1200BC and the empire lasted until the 12th century.
Along with the pyramid, the two other main structures to see are a temple enclosure, with a finely carved statue and a stone doorway referred to as the Gate of the Sun, and a sunken open sacred space with stone heads set into the walls. The remains of the residential areas, which would have been primarily adobe rather than stone, are now under the adjacent modern town.
The site has a couple of shabby museums to visit. The stone museum appeared to have just three exhibits available but one of them is a terrific monumental statue which sadly we were not allowed to photograph. Nor were photographs allowed in the ceramics museum which despite having remarkably grubby showcase interiors was nevertheless worth seeing for some wonderful pots, particularly a group with beautifully modelled animal and bird faces on them.
Both the sandstone for the masonry and the harder green stone for the intricate sculptures were brought from quarries some distance away, leading to the site being called the “Stonehenge of Bolivia”, we were told. Our guide, when I caught his spiel at one point, was getting a bit carried away with how startlingly good the Tiwanaku people were at their stone carving. When he mentioned Erich von Daniken I thought it time to move out of earshot before I caused a diplomatic incident.
For my Lego model, I decided to go with the entrance to the temple enclosure, as seen from next to the sunken enclosure.
I do hope you like that I included the statue as seen through the gateway and will forgive my inability to get the model in focus.