Ancient Americans Used Geopolymers to Build Monuments

Machu Picchu is a must-visit place in Peru. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)
Machu Picchu is a must-visit place in Peru. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Conventional history tells us that ancient Tiwanakans, the people who lived around Tiahuanaco on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, never knew any advanced science. However, the site of Pumapunku in the region throws doubts at such claims. Pumapunku is a part of a huge temple complex that is dated to around 536 CE. A recent scientific study of a few sandstone terraces and blocks of andesite, an extremely hard volcanic stone, has shown that the Tiwanakans may have used geopolymer technology to manufacture the stones for their temple.

Geopolymer buildings

Researchers studied samples from the red sandstone and andesite under an electron microscope. They discovered that the stones used in the monuments were different from the geological resources in the region. For instance, andesite rock is a volcanic stone created out of magma. During the study, the researchers surprisingly found that these stones had carbon-based organic matter in them.

“Carbon-based organic matter does not exist in a volcanic rock formed at high temperatures because they are vaporized. It is impossible to find it in andesite rock. And because we found organic matter inside the volcanic andesitic stone, scientists will have the opportunity to carry out a Carbon-14 dating analysis and provide the exact age of the monuments,” Luis Huaman, a geologist at Universidad Catolica San Pablo, Arequipa, Peru, said in a statement (Geopolymer Institute).

Some of the stones used in the monuments at Pumapunku show the use of geopolymers. (Image: Brattarb via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Researchers speculate that the organic material is some kind of extract from local plants that were added by Tiwanakan builders into andesite sand to form a type of cement. An analysis of the red sandstone also proved it to be artificially created, possibly using a ferro-sialate geopolymer. Cement for the andesite and sandstone is believed to have been put in molds and hardened for a few months before being used in building the monuments.

This essentially proves that Tiwanakans had a mastery over geopolymer technology since only a deep knowledge of the subject could enable them to create such stones. Plus, the discovery also explains one of the local legends about the monuments regarding plant extracts used to soften the stone. Archeologists had previously rejected such claims as some “voodoo” talk. But now we know that the local legends were actually true.

Terraced fields in the upper agricultural sector. (Image: Christophe Meneboeuf via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Terraced fields in the upper agricultural sector. (Image: Christophe Meneboeuf via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Archeological marvels in South America

Pumapunku is not the only site that displays the architectural mastery of ancient South Americans. There are numerous jaw-dropping monuments strewn all across the continent that points to the fact that civilizations with a high level of skill have existed in the region for several centuries. The most famous among them is Machu Picchu in Peru.

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century citadel built by the Inca civilization. The site is located about 2,500 meters above sea level in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru. It is considered as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The place is believed to have been used as a royal estate and was once adorned with numerous temples and palaces. It was apparently abandoned during the period of the Spanish conquest.

Chichen Itza was a large Mayan city that existed around 600 CE to 1500 CE in what is now the Yucatan State in Mexico. It is the most visited archeological sites in the country, with about 2.6 million tourists recorded in 2017. There is a good reason for this — the place is littered with numerous ancient monuments like the majestic Kukulcan pyramid, the Temple of the Warriors, and the El Caracol observatory. 

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