Tiahuanacu (also called Tiwanaku) is a mystery because of its age (estimated to be 17,000 years) and the peculiar stone technology.
Today there is little doubt that Tiahuanaco was a major sacred ceremonial centre and focal point of a culture that spread across much of the region. The ancient people built a stone pyramid known as the Akapana
When first discovered the pyramid was largely covered with soil. After several decades of excavation some of the walls have been uncovered and treasure hunters opened a depression in the top. This was built originally to open towards the east. The dark line across the lower part of the picture is the railway line from a lakeside port to La Paz, the Bolivian capital. The rectangular outline just 'above and to the left ' of the Akapana is a terreplein. known as the Kalasasaya. The lighter patch with an indistinct outline 'above' the Akapana is where an excavated semi-subterranean 'temple' has been discovered. Other features are visible but most of the 'patches' are fields. The upper part of the picture is crossed by the road from the the village of Tiwanaku leading eastwards to La Paz. (taken from 'Pathways to the Gods' by Tony Morrison 1978).
Pumapunku (Puma Punka)
There is another 'temple area' with many finely cut stones some weighing over 100 tonnes. Its position to the south of the Akapana may have been important because it gave a good view to a sacred mountain far to the east. Of course there is no certainty that this was the reason as the ancient builders left no written records.
Puma Punku, truly startles the imagination. It seems to be the remains of a great wharf (for Lake Titicaca long ago lapped upon the shores of Tiahuanaco) and a massive, four-part, now collapsed building. One of the construction blocks from which the pier was fashioned weighs an estimated 440 tons (equal to nearly 600 full-size cars) and several other blocks laying about are between 100 and 150 tons. The quarry for these giant blocks was on the western shore of Titicaca, some ten miles away. There is no known technology in all the ancient world that could have transported stones of such massive weight and size. The Andean people of 500 AD, with their simple reed boats, could certainly not have moved them. Even today, with all the modern advances in engineering and mathematics, we could not fashion such a structure.
How were these monstrous stones moved and what was their purpose?
Posnansky suggested an answer, based upon his studies of the astronomical alignments of Tiahuanaco, but that answer is considered so controversial, even impossible, that it has been ignored and censured by the scientific community for fifty years.
Puma Punku doesn’t look impressive: a hill as remains of an old pyramid and a large number of megalithic block of stone on the ground, evidently smashed by a devastating earthquake. However, closer inspection shows that these stone blocks have been fabricated with a very advanced technology. Even more surprising is the technical design of these blocks. All blocks fit together like interlocking building blocks.
Anthropologist and photographer Martin Gray specializes in the study of sacred sites and power places around the world, having visited more than 1000 of these magical sites in 80 countries. Each year he also guides group pilgrimages to different countries and this year is offering magical journeys to Peru/Bolivia in June and Greece in October.
Early in January of 1998, I bought an old Volkswagen van and began a long drive to the lower reaches of South America. Over the next year, rambling 22,000 miles on rough mountain roads and muddy jungle tracks, I visited and photographed more than 150 sacred sites and power places in fourteen different countries. Along the way, I had fascinating experiences, ranging from the scary to the sublime. There were five robberies (three by the police), dramatic encounters with Columbian guerilla fighters, meetings with authentic shamans, nights of wild dancing at Latin discos, and splendid days exploration and meditation at the sacred places.
Eight months into the journey, I ascended the altiplano region of Peru and Bolivia to spend ten weeks criss-crossing the Andean mountains. The Andes birthed several great cultures, including the Inca and that of Tiahuanaco. While the Inca empire is better known and its sites more numerous and visually remarkable, Tiahuanaco is the true sacred center of Andean region. Now almost entirely in ruins, it is to South America what the Great Pyramid is to Egypt and Avebury stone ring is to England. Twelve miles from the coast of sacred Lake Titicaca, Tiahuanaco was the source of the creation myths, the social order, and the extraordinary preoccupation with astronomy that underwrote thousands of years of Andean culture. Yet, for all its importance, Tiahuanaco remains an enigma. This is not because the ruins have not been excavated or studied. Rather, the reason for the enduring mystery of Tiahuanaco derives from some of its structures - and the astronomical alignments of those structures - that indicate a probable construction period far more ancient than any other monumental archaeological site in all of South America.
Driving to Tiahuanaco from Lake Titicaca (where I had spent several days camping on the islands of the Sun and Moon), I found myself again thinking about several questions that had been with me during my long travels from Sedona. Was South America originally inhabited by Paleo-Indians walking across the Bering land bridge during past ages of polar glaciation (the orthodox assumption) or had there been pre-existing sophisticated cultures that had mysteriously disappeared (the alternative theory)? Was there any factual reality behind the many Andean myths of great cataclysms and enormous floods in archaic times? Who was the legendary hero/savior Viracocha that supposedly re-seeded civilization into the Andean regions following the cataclysm? And what is the meaning behind the astonishing stories of contact, indeed settlement, from the mythic land of Atlantis?
Here is one variant of the myth of Viracocha. Long ago in a forgotten time the world experienced a terrible storm with tremendous floods. The lands were plunged into a period of absolute darkness and frigid cold, and humankind was nearly eradicated. Some time after the deluge, the creator god Viracocha arose from the depths of Lake Titicaca. Journeying first to the island of Titicaca (now called Isla del Sol or the Island of the Sun), Viracocha commanded the sun, moon, and stars to rise. Next going to Tiahuanaco (whose original name, taypicala, meant ‘the rock in the center’), Viracocha fashioned new men and women out of stones and, sending them to the four quarters, began the repopulation of the world. With various helpers, Viracocha then traveled from Tiahuanaco (also written as Tiwanaku), bringing civilization and peace wherever he went. Known by other names including Kon Tiki and Tunupa, he was said to have been a bearded, blue-eyed, white man of large stature. A teacher and a healer, a miracle worker and an astronomer, Viracocha is also credited with introducing agriculture, writing, and metallurgy.
I had been reading about Viracocha’s pilgrimage to Tiahuanaco for twenty years and was enchanted to have finally arrived myself. The first thing I noticed is that Tiahuanaco is not a grand visual spectacle such as the ruins of Machu Picchu, Palenque or Teotihuacan. The excavated central part of the city is relatively small and one can walk across it in fifteen minutes. Additionally, there are not a large number of structures to be seen, because so much has been stolen and carted away over the centuries. The next thing I noticed was that the site appeared to be much, much older than the primary construction and habitation period postulated in orthodox archaeology theory. This conventional interpretation theory assumes that the civilization that spawned Tiahuanaco rose around 600 BC and fell into decline sometime soon after 1000 AD. Yet, something about this relatively recent dating didn’t fit with my impression of the place. With more than thirty years of experience exploring and photographing many hundreds of archaeology ruins I have developed something of a sense for gauging the antiquity of these places, and the remains of Tiahuanaco felt very much older than just 2500 years. The orientation of the site was different too; it had a most unusual style. It seemed to have been designed and crafted by a people with artistic, scientific and philosophic sensibilities distinctly different than that of other pre-Columbian cultures.
This same sort of feeling is what motivated Arthur Posnansky, a German-Bolivian scholar, to exhaustively study Tiahuanaco for almost fifty years. Living at the ruins and intimately familiar with them, Posnansky noticed dozens of things that could not be explained by the conventional archeological theory nor slotted into its chronological framework. For example, all over the site were enormous blocks of stone that no known pre-Columbian culture had the technology to fashion or transport. Even more astonishing, the spatial arrangement of these structures - relative to one another and to the stars above - indicated that the initial site engineers had a highly sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, geomancy and mathematics. Let us take a brief tour of some of these structures and reflect on their remarkable qualities.
Tiahuanaco has four (surviving) primary structures, called the Akapana pyramid, the Kalasasaya platform, the Subterranean temple, and the Puma Punku. The ceremonial core of Tiahuanaco was surrounded by an immense artificial moat that archaeologist Alan Kolata believes was “not to provide the Tiwanaku elite with a defensive structure…but rather evoked the image of the city core as an island, not a common, generic island, but the sacred island of Titicaca, the mythic site of world creation and human emergence.” Further commenting on this idea of the mythic centrality of Tiahuanaco, Kolata explains that, “the true name of Tiwanaku was Taypikhala, ‘the stone in the center.’ Such a name had a geocentric and ethnocentric meaning signifying that the city was conceived not only as the political capital of the state but also as the central point of the universe.”
The Akapana pyramid, sometimes called the sacred mountain of Tiahuanaco, is a much eroded, seven-level pyramid measuring some 200 meters on a side and nearly 17 meters tall. Like the nearby Subterranean Temple and the Kalasasaya, the Akapana is precisely oriented to the cardinal directions. Each of the seven levels is constructed with beautifully cut and precisely joined blocks that were faced with panels once covered with metal plaques, carvings, and paintings. In the center of the Akapana’s flat summit is a small, sunken courtyard laid out in the form of a square superimposed over a perfect cross; this courtyard is also oriented to the cardinal directions. Recent excavations of this courtyard, the interior of the pyramid, and the grounds beneath it have revealed an unexpected, sophisticated, and monumental system of interlinked surface and subterranean channels. These channels brought water collected upon the summit down and through the seven levels, where it exited below ground level, merged into a major subterranean drain system underneath the civic/ceremonial core of Tiwanaku, and ultimately flowed into Lake Titicaca.
Commenting on this magnificent engineering, Kolata states, “It is apparent that the complex system of draining the Akapana was not a structural imperative. A much simpler and smaller set of canals could have drained the accumulated water from the summit. In fact the system installed by the architects of Akapana, although superbly functional, is over-engineered, a piece of technical stone-cutting and joinery that is pure virtuosity.” Kolata goes on to wonder about why all this work was done and concludes that, “the Akapana was conceived by the people of Tiwanaku as their principal emblem of the sacred mountain, a simulacrum of the highly visible, natural mountain huacas (sacred places) in the Quimsachata range....The Akapana was Tiwanaku’s principal earth shrine, an icon of fertility and agricultural abundance. It was the mountain at the center of the island-world and may even have evoked the specific image of sacred mountains on Lake Titicaca’s Island of the Sun. In this context, the Akapana was the principal huaca of cosmogenic myth, the mountain of human origins and emergence, which took on specific mytho-historic significance.”
The structure known as the Puma Punka also startles the imagination. It seems to be the remains of a great wharf and a massive, four-part, now collapsed building, and this makes eminent sense for Lake Titicaca long ago lapped upon the shores of Tiahuanaco city, now inland from the lake twelve miles. One of the construction blocks from which the pier was fashioned weighs an estimated 440 tons (equal to nearly 600 full-size cars) and several other blocks are between 100 and 150 tons. The quarry for these giant blocks was on the western shore of Titicaca, some ten miles away. There is no known technology in the ancient Andean world that could have transported stones of such massive weight and size. The Andean people of 500 AD, with their simple reed boats, could certainly not have moved them. Even today, with modern advances in engineering and mathematics, we could not fashion such a structure. How were these monstrous stones moved and what was their purpose? Posnansky suggested an answer, based upon his studies of the astronomical alignments of Tiahuanaco, but that answer is considered so controversial, even impossible, that it has been ignored and censured by the scientific community for fifty years. As such it hasn’t made in into the mainstream history books and therefore hardly anyone knows of the astonishing implications of Posnansky’s findings.
Nearby the Puma Punka and the Akapana pyramid are the Kalasasaya compound and the so-called subterranean temple. It was in these structures that Posnansky made the discoveries that led him to suggest both a great antiquity for Tiahuanaco and an extraordinary use. As part of his studies, Posnansky had conducted precise surveys of all the principal structures of Tiahuanaco. The Kalasasaya structure, a rectangular enclosure measuring about 450 feet by 400 feet, was delineated by a series of vertical stone pillars (the name Kalasasaya means “the standing pillars”) and had an east-west orientation. Utilizing his measurements of the lines of sight along these stone pillars, the orientation of the Kalasasaya, and the purposely-intended deviations from the cardinal points, Posnansky was able to show that the alignment of the structure was based upon an astronomical principle called the obliquity of the ecliptic.
This term, the obliquity of the ecliptic, refers to the angle between the plane of the earth’s orbit and that of the celestial equator, equal to approximately 23 degrees and 27 minutes at the present. The tilt of the obliquity, however, changes very slowly over great periods of time. Its cyclic variation ranges between 22 degrees, 1 minute and 24 degrees, 5 minutes over a period of 41,000 years or 1 degree in 7000 years (this cycle is not to be confused with the better known precessional cycle of 25,920 years or 1 degree of movement every 72 years). The figure that Posnansky determined for the obliquity of the ecliptic at the time of the building of the Kalasasaya was 23 degrees, 8 minutes, and 48 seconds. Based on these calculations, Posnansky was thereby able to date the initial construction of the Kalasasaya and Tiahuanaco to 15,000 BC. This date was later confirmed by a team of four leading astronomers from various prestigious universities in Germany.
This initial construction date, being vastly older than that deemed possible by the prevailing paradigm of history, was (and still is) ridiculed by mainstream archaeologists and prehistorians. But it is not so easy to dismiss Posnansky’s findings as there are other mysteries concerning Tiahuanaco that seem to confirm the great antiquity of the site. Among these are the ancient myths of Tiahuanaco (from throughout the Andean region) that tell of its founding and use in a pre-flood time; the scientific studies that prove a cataclysmic flood did indeed occur some twelve thousand years ago; the utensils, tools, and the fragments of human skeletons that are mixed in with the deepest layers of the flood alluvia (indicating human use of the site prior to the great flood); and the strange carvings of bearded, non-Andean people that are found around the site (replete with sculptural and iconographic details that are completely unique in the western hemisphere).
Posnansky, and other writers such as Graham Hancock, Zecharia Sitchin and Ivar Zapp, have suggested that these findings and the astronomical alignments of the site, strongly point to the likelihood that the original Tiahuanaco civilization flourished many thousands of years before the period assumed by conventional archaeologists. Rather than rising and falling during the two millennia around the time of Christ, Tiahuanaco may have existed during the vastly older time of the last Ice Age, some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. The implications of this are truly stunning. Tiahuanaco may be (along with Teotihuacan in Mexico, Baalbeck in Lebanon, and the Great Pyramid in Egypt) a surviving fragment of a long lost civilization.
Who were the people of this lost civilization, and where was it located? Readers interested in exploring these mysteries will enjoy Hancock’s fascinating book, Fingerprints of the Gods. In support of his radical ideas concerning the great antiquity of Tiahuanaco, Hancock gives startling proof that the coastline of South America was mapped in extraordinarily accurate detail long before that continent was “discovered” by Europeans. Maps such as Piri Reis map of 1513 and the Oronteus Finaeus map of 1531, depict the coastline of southern South America and - on the same map - accurately show the sub glacial topography of nearby Antarctica beneath its great layer of ice. (Both these maps have notes on their borders saying they were copied from much earlier sources.) Simply stated, this means that some unknown civilization had explored and precisely mapped the then ice-free continent of Antarctica thousands of years before Europeans first sighted it in 1818.
Did these same shadowy people construct and use the enigmatic city of Tiahuanaco? And, if so, what became of them? Is it not highly significant that both ancient myths and modern day geological studies tell of great floods that swept the high Andean altiplano some twelve thousand years ago? There are parallel myths of civilization-destroying floods found in nearly all the ancient cultures of the world, from the same time period. What was the nature of these floods? What caused them? Using the calendrical mathematics of archaeoastronomy to decode the myths, we can discern specific times of comets and continent-shifting earthquakes that impacted human civilization in prehistoric times.
Velikovsky has theorized that an enormous chunk of rock was spun off from the planet Jupiter and that it rampaged as a comet through the inner solar system, nearly colliding with the earth and causing catastrophes spoken about in numerous ancient mythologies. More recently, other scientists have suggested possible causes for the great cataclysms such as the three major periods of glacial melting inundation between 13,000 and 8000 BC, the phenomena of crustal displacement in 9600 BC, and the seven cometary impacts of 7460 BC. In a future issue of Four Corners magazine, I will examine each of these fascinating matters in more detail. As the following quote from Plato reminds us, great catastrophes have visited the earth many times in ages past and will surely do so again.
Anthropologist and photographer Martin Gray specializes in the study of sacred sites and power places around the world, having visited more than 1000 of these magical sites in 80 countries. Each year he also guides group pilgrimages to different countries and this year is offering magical journeys to Peru/Bolivia in June and Greece in October. More articles by Martin Gray on our web site. For more information, see Martin’s web site at www.sacredsites.com
MYTHOLOGY - HISTORY
The ruins of Tiahuanaco city and centre of worship are located on the Altiplano in today's Bolivia, ca 4000 m from water level, and 21 km north-east from Lake Titicaca. Tiahuanaco was a capital of a theocratic state governed by priest kings. The state exerted its influence on the development of the whole southern part of Peru in the closing centuries of the last millennium, expanding its influence in a peaceful manner on the vast highland as well as coastal territory.
Tiahuanaco, therefore, carried out a pacifistic cultural mission quite different from that of its contemporary militant country of Huari (Wari) in the Peruvian Andes. The religious sources of this period are first and foremost archaeological findings, but to a great extent also the recordings of the 16th century chroniclers.
The religion of Tiahuanaco centred around the cult of a sky and thunder god Viracocha. The deity was generally depicted as having staves in both of his hands and an aureole around his head. The aureole suggests the qualities of a sun god, represented on the bas-relief in the upper part of the famous Sun Gate in Tiahuanaco as well as on ceramic.
The staves, on the other hand, suggest Viracocha's distant ancestry from the nearly thousand years older Chavín sky god in North Peru. His attendants were ranking deities in the shapes of cougar, condor, falcon and snake. Viracocha was worshipped as the main god in Huari as well; there his characteristics were apparently more militant. A head of Tiahuanaco state functioned both as a king and the arch-priest and he was revered as Viracocha's embodiment on earth (Kelm 1990: 524-528).
The chronicle records describe the citizens of Tiahuanaco as «the Viracochas», who were fair-skinned and wore white long robes. Viracocha is also described as a man with fair skin and white beard, attired in a long robe and sandals, wearing a staff, with a cougar lying at his feet. He was a kind and peace-loving god who had also subjected the dreadful jaguar-god to his power.
The idea might refer to the Tiahuanaco's peaceful mission among the distant warrior cultures of Peru. According to the legend, however, evil people in short clothes came to the sacred lake and forced Viracocha to leave to north. On his departure they mocked and taunted him for his long robe and lenient disposition. Eventually, he had descended from the highlands to the coast and left over the ocean, promising to return some day
In 1921 one of the leading researchers of Peruvian cultures from the first part of this century José de la Riva Agüero y Osma, who had also studied the chronicle records as well as linguistic and archaeological data for nearly 25 years, published his «theory of the paleo-Quechuan empire».
The theory focused on the hypothesis that Tiahuanaco was originally the cradle and home of the Inca Empire, and the Inca themselves the upper class of the once emigrated Tiahuanaco people. He also argued that the Quechuans, Aymarans and Araucanians had to originate from the same ancient and anthropologically close ancestral nation who spoke a language related to theirs, and was developed to a degree that could influence them, the younger peoples. Riva-Agüero's term for such ancestors was 'paleo-Quechuans' (Busto I s.a.: 186-194).
Even today the Aymarans inhabit the surroundings of Lake Titicaca. They have preserved heritage on their ancient migration and the subjugation of the town people who were driven from the city. Also, the archaeological data supports the idea of the late arrival of the Aymarans. Riva-Agüero speculates that the paleo-Quechuans were now forced to leave among other places for the Cuzco Valley, the later settlement of the Inca.
A chronicler informs us that the first king of the Inca Manco Capac came from Tiahuanaco (Vega 1988: 34-37). We also know that the relationship between the Quechuans and the Aymarans could be characterised by a constant feud which might have been caused by the fugitives' anger towards the invaders.
Agüero also argues that the affinity of the Quechuan and Aymaran languages is due to the existence of a common primal language, possibly the paleo-Quechuan. The archaeological data also confirms the Aymaran immigration.
The chullpa's, or the burial towers around Titicaca belonged supposedly to the Aymarans; still, the earliest settlers of Tiahuanaco mummified their dead similarly to the Inca, similarities could be found also between the pottery from the golden age of Tiahuanaco and that of the Inca - the ceramic ware of Aymarans is considerably different.
The clothing of the Aymarans differed as well, being shorter than the Quechuan dress, which once again supports the legend about the departure of the long-robed Tiahuanacos.
Montesinos, the chronicler, informs us that the priest kings of Tiahuanaco, or los amautas as they were called, fled the country trying to save the cult of their own gods (Busto I s.a.: 191). This is another evidence proving that the Inca originated from the upper class who were forced to leave Tiahuanaco by the militant Aymarans, or los piruas.
The idea of the Inca having been militant aroused from the new circumstances.
The Inca regarded the surroundings of Titicaca as their former home and revered Viracocha as a god who had told them to build the city of Cuzco. Later, the mythology related to Viracocha acquired an important role in the Inca religion.
Thus, we might reason that the founders of the Tiahuanaco culture were the common ancestors of the Quechuans and Aymarans, i.e. the paleo-Quechuans. Presumably, the militant Aymarans crushed Tiahuanaco in the 10th-11th century and forced the majority of the upper class flee northward to the mountain valleys inhabited by other Quechuan kin tribes.
The Aymarans could not destroy the powerful civilisation all at once and founded the kingdom of Colla, which in the 15th century was incorporated into the state of the same Inca who were once driven from their homeland by the Collas. Thus, the hypothesis of Riva-Agüero expanded to a theory which is acknowledged by most of the historians in Peru.
Consequently, the Inca were the genetic and cultural successors of the Tiahuanaco people. According to the archaeological data these Quechuan emigrants arrived at their kin tribes in the Cuzco Valley at the beginning of the 12th century and founded their city-state on the spot.
Since 1538 the Inca ruler Pachacutek Yupanqui employed the necessity of defeating the militant Chancas, subjugated other Quechuan city-states and merged them into the empire that reigned the whole of Peru, northern Chile, northern Bolivia and southern Ecuador until the invasion of Spanish conquistadors.
The archaeological material for the religion of this period is abundant, and can be compared to the detailed accounts of the 16th-17th century Spanish chronicles (Kauffmann Doig 1991: 78).
The highest ranking deity of the Inca was a celestial supreme being who was first known under the name Viracocha, later also as Pachacamak. Originally, Pachacamak was a sky god of the Lurín Valley in central Peru whose name was later given to the sky god of the Inca.
The main god of the Inca state religion was the sun god Inti, who might have been a nature totem of the Quechua or a god of a certain tribe. Another significant deity in the Inca pantheon was the thunder god Illapu who was apparently distinctive from the Tiahuanaco sky god, but was named after a thunder god of the central Peruvian tribes.
Viracocha became the culture hero of the Inca who was said to have brought culture to people, then set off to the Pacific and promised to return. (Kulmar 1999: 101-109).
The Inca myths can be divided in two groups:
the creation myths
the origin myths
The world was created by Viracocha near Lake Titicaca. After the great deluge or the receding of chaotic floodwaters Viracocha descended to earth and created plants, animals and men to the empty land; he built the city of Tiahuanaco and appointed 4 world rulers of whom Manco Capak became the superior of the Ursa Major world, i.e. the north horizon (Busto II 1981: 7).
Myths about the Ayar brothers
Four pairs of brothers-sisters created by Viracocha to rule the world left the cave of Mountain Pacaritambo. The whole world was living in an uncivilised and ignorant manner. The newcomers began with organising the mankind and divided people into ten large communities.
Leading the tribes the brothers set off in search of enough fertile land to sustain themselves. They carried Sunturpaucar, a long staff adorned with colourful feathers, a cage with a sun-bird who could give good advice and other sacred objects in front of them.
Making shorter and longer stops they moved towards Cuzco. In the course of the long journey the group became smaller: the rivalling brothers confined one of their companions to a cave, two others wished to break away but were turned into stones. The only surviving brother Ayar Manco a.k.a. Manco Capak accompanied by his sister and wife Mama Ocllo and his brothers' wives, founded the city of World Pole in the name of Viracocha the Creator and Inti the Sun God, and settled there with his people.
A myth of Manco Capak and Mama Ocllo
A long time ago when the world was filled with savages, misery and poverty, a brother and a sister, a married couple Manco Capak and Mama Ocllo left Lake Titicaca. Inti, the sun god had sent them to refine the surrounding peoples, and gave them a golden stick for testing the land for cultivation and then settling in the suitable place.
Having found such a place they had to found the state, teach the people how to live proper lives and advocate the worship of the sun god. The journey took a long time. Eventually, in the Cuzco Valley the golden stick disappeared into the ground, and they could start with their mission.
Manco Capak taught his people the cultivation and irrigation of land and handicraft, Mama Ocllo taught women spinning, weaving and sewing. The tribe of Manco Capak became to be called by the name of Hanan Cuzco (High Cuzco) and the relatives of Mama Ocllo by the name of Hurin Cuzco (Lower Cuzco).
How to interpret the myths?
María Rostworowski de Díez Canseco argues that the creation of the Inca state is introduced already in the creation myths (Rostworowski 1988: 31-34). Although originally they seemed to function as creation stories about Tiahuanaco culture, they were later apparently customised by the Inca for ideological purposes. The origin of the Inca from the cultural centre around Lake Titicaca has been supported by archaeological data. Editing seems most apparent in accounts of introducing the first legendary ruler Manco Capak, on the one hand, and in dividing the world in four parts, on the other. The Inca state Tahuantinsuyu was also divided into four large provinces ruled by governors.
Recent customisation is even more apparent in the origin myths. Today's scholars argue that both the myth of the Ayar brothers as well as the myth about Manco Capak comes from the same source, whereas the former is older and less edited, the latter more recent and also more edited.
Both versions say that the main character Ayar Manco or Manco Capak had arrived from south and settled in the Cuzco Valley. The part of the story suggests the Tiahuanaco origin of the Inca as well as the flight of the Quechuan elite from the Aymaran invaders.
Leaving Lake Titicaca could serve as a hypothesis that the home of the Inca was located on the Isle of Sun (La Isla del Sol) in Lake Titicaca - according to archaeologists it might have been one of the residences of the upper class Tiahuanaco people. The hypothesis would also explain why Manco Capak was sent by the sun god, as the island became to be called the Isle of Sun only after the sun worship had become the Inca state religion.
In the original version the brothers are sent to refine people by Viracocha, which suggests even the earlier modification of the story from the time when Viracocha was revered as the main god.
The four pairs of brothers-sisters in the original version refers to the four Quechuan tribes who left Tiahuanaco. The married couple consisting of a brother and a sister, in its turn, could be explained by the fact that the Quechuan tribe was exogamous and consisted of two fraterias: in exogamous societies men belong to one frateria and women to another. This could be inferred also from the myth version concerning the division of Cuzco in two - the High and Lower fraterias.
The disposing of all the other Ayar brothers on the journey in the original version refers either to their settling to different places or the feud between the tribes of Manco and the rest of his brothers.
Different accounts confirm that the Inca led to the Cuzco Valley by Manco Capak had to drive local tribes from the land in order to establish themselves there. People from the droughty Altiplano had to search for humid soils necessary for cultivating corn. Therefore, Manco's golden stick was supposed to point to the land where corn could be grown. For settling in the new place a fight was put up, and we all know the outcome of the attack. In fact, chronicler Sarmiento do Gamboa's expression «gloomy and fertile» might refer to the gory battles fought for the fertile valley.
Both versions end with the account of building the city by Manco in the name of Viracocha the Creator and Inti the sun god. The former was originally the sky god of the ancient Tiahuanaco people, whose cult was later abandoned. Inti, on the other hand, was the tribal deity of the Inca who later became the highest ranking god in the pantheon.
The fact that in the later version the instigator of refining people was Inti, and also that a temple to the sun god was first erected in Cuzco suggests that the journey from Altiplano to the Cuzco Valley must have taken a long time, at least a couple of centuries (archaeological data supports the fact that Tiachuanaco was destroyed by the Aymarans in the 10th century, and the Inca reached the Cuzco Valley at the end of the 12th century).
Thus, during this period one deity was substituted for another: Viracocha became deus otiosus, Inti, on the other hand became so popular that the first temple was built for him.
As I mentioned before, the supreme god was given a new name - Pachacamak. From then on, Viracocha was associated with the myth of a culture hero, because:
the fact that the Tiachuanaco people had spread the cult of Viracocha widely in Peru was never forgotten;
the sc. civilisational emigration of the Inca really did take place;
the abandoning of the sky god's cult is reflected by the account of Viracocha's set-off to the ocean;
Viracocha's promise to return refers to the fact that the sky god's cult never really disappeared, and in greatest troubles the Inca still addressed their sky god, as is common for deus otiosus (Kulmar 1999: 101-109).
Thus, Manco Capak who supposedly ruled the Inca at the time of their arrival at the Cuzco Valley, became the first half-legendary ruler of the country and started the official Inca dynasty. Certainly, he was nothing more than a tribal chief - it took another two centuries for the Inca civilisation to reach its golden era under the rule of the first emperor Pachacutek Yupanqui (Busto II 1981: 22).
The founding of city in the name of two gods could be interpreted in a manner uniquely provident and theocratic for the history of the Andean state Tahuantinsuyu: the supreme god Viracocha had provided that Manco's tribe will rule the world, and Manco started to carry it out at the will and guidance of Inti, the sun god. Thus, the civilisational mission of the Inca found a theological explanation as well (see also Soriano 1990: 483-499).
Finally, these origin myths also reveal the ethnocentric world-view of the Quechuans: the Inca believed in the inherent superiority and wisdom of their own people, thinking they were destined to refine the mankind whether other peoples accepted it or not. That could be inferred also from the names of the country and its capital. The name of the Inca empire Tahuantinsuyu stands for «the country of four points of compass» (Vega 1988: 17). Most chroniclers (except for Sarmiento) argue that Cuzco means «pole» (Busto II 1981: 8), i.e. the centre of the world or the world pole.
The analysis of the history and society of the Inca state has confirmed that it was the first and only totalitarian state on the American continent and Pre-Columbian America (Kulmar 1989: 74-76; Soriano 1990: 483-499). The ethnocentric and imperialist origin myth formed the ideological foundation for establishing such a scheme of society, determining also the mentality of its nation by education and in everyday life.
Thus, the Inca built their historical studies and regulations on the ancient Tiahuanaco myths, having customised them according to their own need.