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Pumapunku Temple: Ellis Island of the Tiwanaku

The Pumapunku temple at Tiwanaku’s western edge is considered one of the best examples of Tiwanaku architecture. The Tiwanaku paid attention to detail, accounting for the precise fit of the temple’s sandstone slabs, which weighed up to 130 tons. Archaeologist Alexei Vranich believes the Pumapunku served as Tiwanaku’s Ellis Island, indoctrinating pilgrims from remote parts of the empire into the state religion with chicha (a fermented drink), hallucinogens, and rituals. When the rituals were over, the converts could proceed to other temples in the city’s ceremonial core, like the 56-foot-high Akapana pyramid.

Text Source: Morell, Virginia, and Kenneth Garrett. "Empires Across the Andes." National Geographic Magazine June 2002: 106+. National Geographic Virtual Library.
Photograph by:
  • Martin Gray/National Geographic Creative