I am an architect, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that constructing a building takes tremendous amounts of precision. Of course, math and anything from computers to advanced rulers make it easy. So in the absence of modern convenient tools, how do you build anything so highly precise it appears extraterrestrial in origin? Impossible? Let Pumapunku prove you wrong.
Pumapunku (Puma Punku) is a city or temple complex located near Tiwanaku, Bolivia. Its megalithic structures are known for being a little too advanced for their time. You see, they look like they were hewn and set in place by today’s heavy machinery—except the complex was built nearly 2,000 years ago by a people who may not even have had a written language.
This is among what sets Pumapunku apart from older buildings like the Parthenon. The Greeks were among the developers of math as we know it, and communicated and planned with both a spoken and a written language. Pumapunku’s builders did not leave our archaeologists with any clue about their written or spoken language. For this reason, part of the site’s mystery is in how it was planned out.
What we do know is that Pumapunku was constructed by master builders. Its large, almost similarly sized blocks of sandstone were divided by very straight cuts. Using chisels and rulers, workers made very precise divisions and carvings. They also used sand to polish the stone’s surface almost to a mirror-like finish. Smaller blocks were also connected to each other using metal cramps almost similar to the ones we now use to fortify our buildings against earthquakes.
Like any megalithic structure, one of the first questions Pumapunku aroused involved the origin of the rocks and how they were transported there. Studies showed that the stones were mostly taken from a quarry 10 kilometers away, others from 90 kilometers away. They were most likely dragged on the ground or on logs, too, as there was no indication of the use of wheels at the time.
During its day, Pumapunku was said to be truly majestic, so much so that when the Incas later occupied the area, they thought they found the center of Creation. It has also attracted much attention especially from proponents of ancient astronomers. In fact, it was hailed by The History Channel’s Ancient Aliens as the ultimate proof of the existence of alien visitors.
Whatever the case, Pumapunku will remain a place of mystery, and one that I’d love to visit at least once before I die.