-Caveat Lector-

http://www.discoveringarchaeology.com/articles/013101-15,000mistake.shtml


The  15,000-Year Mistake


The ancient city of Tiwanaku, high in the Bolivian Andes on the
extreme southern end of Lake Titicaca, is one of the world’s
most impressive archaeological sites. Pseudo-archaeologists
certainly agree.  With outlandish assumptions built on shaky
"science," they have made Tiwanaku a staple within their
fantastic world.

Many of today’s leading pseudo-archaeologists use Tiwanaku to
some degree in their tales of the strange and mysterious. Graham
Hancock, arguably the best known of the lot, is no exception.
Tiwanaku takes center stage in his Fingerprints of the Gods: The
Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization (1995).Hancock holds
Tiwanaku in great esteem because he believes it to be 17,000
years old. That’s a long way from what professional
archaeologists have documented for the royal city of the Tiwanaku
Empire: It was built sometime between 400 B.C. and A.D. 100.

How could Hancock make a 15,000-year mistake? For the answer, we
must look to Arthur Posnansky.Posnansky is a member of the
pseudo-archaeologists’ pantheon of heroes. A German by birth,
Posnansky spent much of his life in Bolivia, where he conducted
50 years of single-minded research on Tiwanaku. The book that
grew out of this research, Tihuanacu: The Cradle of American Man
(1945), is a pseudo-archaeology classic.

The question of Tiwanaku’s age troubled Posnansky, just as it
had Pedro de Cieza de León, who in 1549 was the first European
to see the ancient city. All who have since gazed upon its
terraced pyramids, sunken courtyards, and towering stone walls
have wondered: When had the ancients raised Tiwanaku?

The grandest of all the city’s monuments was the magisterial
Gateway of the Sun — a massive, square archway carved from a
single piece of stone.To "solve" the age dilemma, Posnansky
turned to archaeoastronomy, a field that, though relatively new
in the 1920s, had been anticipated in the eighteenth century by
English antiquarians who noticed that Stonehenge was aligned with
the summer solstice. Posnansky’s early twentieth-century use of
archaeoastronomy made sense because he viewed the Kalasasaya,
Tiwanaku’s large, rectangular central compound, as a South
American Stonehenge — a solar observatory located on the
astronomic meridian and a magnificent stone calendar.

Posnansky reasoned that during solstices, while standing at the
center gateway of the west wall of the Kalasasaya, the sun should
rise at the outer edges of the stone pillars that cap the north
and south ends of the opposite east wall. He considered such
astronomical precision logical since the architects of Tiwanaku
had been skilled enough to design the monumental city in the
first place. But when he measured the declination between the sun
and the pillars, he discovered that the sun was a striking 18
degrees off.

How was it possible for the venerable architects to have made
such a horrific error? The only way Posnansky could figure to
solve the riddle was to conclude that the architects of Tiwanaku
had, in fact, built the structure with complete accuracy — what
was wrong was the position of the sun. The way to discover the
true age of the Kalasasaya, therefore, was simply to calculate
when in the past the sun would have risen over the appropriate
stone pillars.

After completing a complicated set of calculations — and
salting his text with the technical jargon of astronomy —
Posnansky made a startling discovery: Tiwanaku was built in
15,000 B.C., when the sun rose directly over the corners of the
pillars. The discrepancy between the sun today and the remains of
the Kalasasaya can thus be explained by the movement of the sun
in a mathematically determined manner.

Hancock eagerly accepts Posnansky’s date, calculated in 1928 to
1930, and says in a sly aside with just a hint of conspiracy that
"not a single orthodox historian or archaeologist was prepared to
accept such an early origin" for the ancient city of Tiwanaku.

Posnansky’s calculations appear scientific and precise, but
like most pseudo-archaeology, the interpretation is a house of
cards.  Surprisingly, we learn this from Posnansky himself: "If,
at the solstices, one observes the sunrise without the aid of
instruments, it will be noted that it does indeed still come up
on the corners of these pillars." Thus, the only way his
interpretation makes sense is if we assume the architects of
Tiwanaku, working in 15,000 B.C., laid out the city with
precision surveying tools comparable to those used in the late
1920s.

Why does Hancock accept Posnansky’s interpretation with such
obvious gusto? Because he is intent on proving that a highly
advanced, though now lost, civilization built the world’s
greatest ancient monuments — from the Egyptian pyramids to
Machu Picchu. Fingerprints of the Gods is the story of his
globetrotting search to identify these mysterious people. But
Hancock’s plot only works if we are willing to picture our
forebears as learned mystics schooled in the secrets of the
universe, as men and women who were far superior in knowledge to
any of the indigenous peoples who inhabited the world in the
past. Without these underlying beliefs, Hancock’s and
Posnansky’s accounts are simply science fiction.

Fingerprints of the Gods makes interesting reading, but only if
not taken too seriously. The gullible investigator in this
detective story has been led down a blind alley by a clever
guide, and he has come up empty-handed. Rather than stumbling
upon an archaeological mystery, he has merely created one.
MCharles E. Orser, Jr. is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology
at Illinois State University and Adjunct Professor of Archaeology
at the National University of Ireland at Galway.


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                     *Michael Spitzer*  <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
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  The Best Way To Destroy Enemies Is To Change Them To Friends
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