Puma punku is the name of a large temple complex located near Tiwanaku, in Bolivia, and is part of a larger archaeological site known as Tiahuanacu. The temple’s origin is a mystery, but based on carbon dating of organic material found on site, archeologists believe the complex may have been built by the Tiwanaku empire - one of the most important civilization prior to the Inca Empire – that flourished between 300 and 1000 AD.
The most intriguing thing about Puma punku is the stonework. Puma punku was a terraced earthen mound originally faced with megalithic blocks, each weighing several tens of tons. The red sandstone and andesite stones were cut in such a precise way that they fit perfectly into and lock with each other without using mortar. The technical finesse and precision displayed in these stone blocks is astounding. Not even a razor blade can slide between the rocks. Some of these blocks are finished to 'machine' quality and the holes drilled to perfection. This is supposed to have been achieved by a civilization that had no writing system and was ignorant of the existence of the wheel. Something doesn’t add up.
Extraordinary craftsmanship is displayed in the stones. Photo credit
An article from Wikipedia describes the fantastic engineering involved in the temple’s construction.
In assembling the walls of Puma punku, each stone was finely cut to interlock with the surrounding stones and the blocks fit together like a puzzle, forming load-bearing joints without the use of mortar. One common engineering technique involves cutting the top of the lower stone at a certain angle, and placing another stone on top of it which was cut at the same angle. The precision with which these angles have been utilized to create flush joints is indicative of a highly sophisticated knowledge of stone-cutting and a thorough understanding of descriptive geometry. Many of the joints are so precise that not even a razor blade will fit between the stones. Much of the masonry is characterized by accurately cut rectilinear blocks of such uniformity that they could be interchanged for one another while maintaining a level surface and even joints. The blocks were so precisely cut as to suggest the possibility of prefabrication and mass production, technologies far in advance of the Tiwanaku’s Inca successors hundreds of years later.
Some of the stones are in an unfinished state, showing some of the techniques used to shape them. They were initially pounded by stone hammers—which can still be found in numbers on local andesite quarries—, creating depressions, and then slowly ground and polished with flat stones and sand
The stones are of mammoth proportion. The largest of these blocks is 25.6 feet long, 17 feet wide and 3.5 feet thick, and is estimated to weigh 131 metric tons. Due to their size, the method by which they were transported to Puma punku has been another topic of interest since the temple's discovery. Chemical analysis reveal the red sandstone blocks were transported up a steep incline from a quarry near Lake Titicaca roughly 10 kilometers away. The smaller andesite blocks that were used for stone facing and carvings came from quarries within the Copacabana Peninsula about 90 kilometers away from across Lake Titicaca.
An example of high-precision small holes. Photo credit
Based on circumstantial evidences, it can be argued that Puma punku was never built by the Tiwanaku, but by a civilization that was more advanced. Perhaps the carbon dating results were wrong due to contamination of the samples, or that Puma punku was built by another civilization that came across the ocean, built the complex and left. Some believe that Puma punku couldn’t have been built without help from alien beings.
The complex is in complete ruins today with huge blocks of granite lying around on top of each other. The site appears to have been destroyed by an earthquake, perhaps accompanied by a tidal wave from Lake Titicaca.
This block seems to get the most attention, as there is a perfect groove with identically spaced precision-cut 6mm holes drilled along the cut. Photo credit
More drill holes in what was once a lintel, with extraordinary detail that is just still visible. Photo credit
Stone block with a set of blind holes of complex shape. Photo credit
The numerous H-shaped blocks all match each other with extreme precision and fit into each other like Lego blocks. Photo credit
The Plataforma Lítica, or stone platform on the east side has the largest blocks, the heaviest being 131 tons made from red sandstone and quarried 10 km away. Photo credit
How Puma punku might have looked. Photo credit
Satellite picture of Puma punku.
Subscribe to our Newsletter and get articles like this delivered straight to your inbox