The aliens of Tiwanaku (Bolivia)

Categories Travels

Tiwanaku lies close to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, divided between Perú and Bolivia (the joke goes that Perú got the Titi and Bolivia the caca — OK: hey, I just work here). I found the site  underwhelming. The “reconstruction” and archeology feels contrived and inaccurate.


From this courtyard, the very large “Bennett” monolith was excavated, displayed in La Paz for 70 years, then “returned” to a museum hall nearby where it would be safe from pollution and pigeon crap. When I descended the metal stairs with Antonio Portugal, there were very few people present (unlike this picture I took a few minutes later).

Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

Jutting out from all sides are facial representations, each is carved on a piece of rock a meter or so long, he told me, based on other excavations. Caraclavos, I think he called them: face nails.


They supposedly represent every different race. In some cases, clearly, better than others.


When I spotted the one below, I turned to Antonio and gestured toward it. He simply pointed upwards. Yes, aliens.


And I thought of the “Starchild” skull we had seen in Paracas.


Then there’s another that seems just a little out of place.


This made me think of the Andayhuaylillas Museum and its enigmatic Huayqui skeleton, which some (and clearly the people who created the display) believe to be a hybrid human.


This was typical of the experiences on this trip: walk into a place with absolutely no prior knowledge, notice something with no prodding, ask a question without speaking, to be answered by an expert* with a single silent gesture.

* he has been researching Tiwanaku for decades. He showed us the site map done with ground-penetrating radar, which reveals large subterranean chambers. Alas, permission for excavation unlikely any time soon, he says, because the locals (and current political leadership) don’t want to know that the builders weren’t their ancestors. Who knows?

2 thoughts on “The aliens of Tiwanaku (Bolivia)

  1. Thanks very much Doug,
    following my wish and showing more pics and info.
    Great – I like it.

    1. I’m glad you mentioned it — sometimes it’s almost a chore going through all of the photos after a trip!

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