Ancestor worship and kinship were integral parts of Aymara culture, and the huge chullpas or "chupa" at Sillustani were built for the house of the Aymara elite of the immediate pre-Inca and Inca period. The name for was first used in the 19th century by Ludovico Bertonio. Bertonio referred to the basket burials of the semi-nomadic pastoralists as "chullpas" and actually referred to the stone towers as "uta Aymara" "houses of the soul". However, the term "chullpa" is still used today for the towers.
Close-up of a Chullpa
Many of the chullpas at Sillustani show pre-Inca characteristics that were later redressed with Inca stone blocks. Similar chullpas are found throughout the entire south Central Andes with the above ground burial styles going back at least to mature Tiwanaku (ca. AD 500-950).
Tomb at Tiwanaku
The insides of the tombs were built to hold entire groups of people, most likely extended families of the Aymara elite. Corpses were not intentionally mummified, but in the dry environment created by the closed tomb, they survived for centuries. Most mummy bundles indicate burial in a fetal position. Some of the tombs also have various animal shapes carved into the stone. The only openings to the buildings face east, where it was believed the Sun was reborn by Mother Earth each day.
Stone Pillars atop the Akapana Pyramid
At Tiwanaku, we seem to have an interesting situation where the city's previous infrastructure was razed and completely redone just before the civilization-entered decline. It seems that around 700 A.D., after Tiwanaku had become a monumental and powerful city, there was a sudden change to direct all construction efforts toward building what was the largest structure in the Andes. The previous monuments of the city were torn down and their stones reused to build the Akapana Pyramid. The effort was too great, and the pyramid lay unfinished when the civilization ended.
Steps of the Akapana Pyramid and a moat
The 59-foot-tall Akapana Pyramid resembles a large natural hill more than a pyramid. Closer inspection shows walls and columns sticking out from the base, carved stones on its summit, and tumbling down the sides. The somewhat amorphous shape of this tremendous pyramid is the result of centuries of looting and quarrying of its stones for colonial churches and even for a railway built in the 1900s.
The Akapana Pyramid was made with stone blocks
The Akapana is an approximately cross-shaped pyramidal structure that is 257 m wide, 197 m broad at its maximum, and 16.5 m tall. At its center, there is what appears to have been a sunken court that has been destroyed by a deep looters excavation that extends from the center of this structure to its eastern side. Material from the looters excavation was dumped off the eastern side of the Akapana. A staircase with sculptures is present on its western side. Possible residential complexes might have occupied both the northeast and southeast corners of this structure. Originally, the Akapana was thought to have been made from a modified hill. However, recent studies have shown that it is a manmade earthen mound. That is faced with a mixture of large and small stone blocks. However, the Akapana Pyramid seems to have been surrounded by a moat.
Akapana Pyramid hydraulic water system
The largest stone block within the Akapana, which consists of Andesite, is estimated to weigh 65.70 metric tons. The structure was possibly for the shaman-puma relationship or transformation. Tenon puma and human heads stud the upper terraces. The remains of human sacrifices were found under and around the Akapana Pyramid. Just what did the Ancient Astronauts think of human sacrifice? They probably did not oppose it, because anything that promoted the gods of Tiwanaku promoted them. Besides the number sacrificed in comparison to the total population was small and thus of no consequence as far as they were concerned.
“I” Shaped clamps or hammered Ingots
The drainage systems of the Akapana Pyramid and Pumapunku include conduits composed of red sandstone blocks held together by ternary (copper/arsenic/nickel) bronze architectural clamps. Cold hammering of ingots created the I-shaped architectural clamps of the Akapana.
Wall with Tenon puma and human heads on Akapana Pyramid
Tenon puma and human heads stud the upper terraces of the Akapana Pyramid. The east side of the Akapana Pyramid was built on the eastern side of early Tiwanaku, that later became a boundary for the ceremonial center and the urban area. It was made of a thick prepared floor of sand and clay and supported a group of buildings. Yellow and red clay were used in different areas for what seems like aesthetic purposes indicating its importance to their culture.
Aerial View - Akapana Pyramid