Samaipata, Bolivia: Located in the remote mountains of central Bolivia, 120 kilometers from the town of Santa Cruz, the ruins of Samaipata are one of the most enigmatic ancient sites in all of South America. Perched at 6500 feet above sea level (1949 meters), the site was first discovered by the early Spanish and named El Fuerte as it was believed to have military significance. The ruins of Samaipata consist of: the stone hill with many fascinating carvings of jaguars, snakes, other zoomorphic and geometrical figures, a water tank with conduits, and a curious seating arrangement: and an area to the south of the stone hill that seems to have been the administrative and residential district. The seating arrangement at the top of the stone hill was designed with 12 seats carved into the hilltop facing toward each other in a circle. Within this circle of 12 seats is another set of three seats facing outward toward the 12 seats. These three seats are back-to-back, so that each seat faces 4 of the seats of the 12.
Lake Titicaca, the Island of the Moon, and the holy mountains of Ancohuma and Illampu, Bolivia: Soaring majestically above sacred Lake Titicaca and often cloaked by ethereal mists, stand the mystic mountains of Ancohuma and Illampu. Far below these resplendent mountains is the lake of Titicaca. Situated at 12,506 feet and covering 3200 square miles, Lake Titicaca is over 1000 feet deep and has more than thirty (mostly uninhabited) islands. Three of its main islands; Amantani, Isla de la Luna (the island of the moon), and Isla del Sol (the island of the sun) figure richly in archaic Andean myths, and ruins of enigmatic temples are scattered throughout the hilly islands.
Tiahuanaco, Bolivia: Tiahuanaco is to South America what the Great Pyramid is to Egypt and Avebury stone ring is to England. Twelve miles from the coast of sacred Lake Titicaca, Tiahuanaco was the source of the creation myths, the social order, and the extraordinary preoccupation with astronomy that underwrote thousands of years of Andean culture. The enduring mystery of Tiahuanaco derives from some of its structures - and the astronomical alignments of those structures - that indicate a probable construction period far more ancient than any other monumental archaeological site in all of South America.
Salar de Uyuni and Mt. Tunupa, Bolivia: The great salt lake of southern Bolivia. named Salar de Uyuni. The Salar is only an actual lake, with water, for a few weeks or months each year. For it is not water that makes it a lake but a sea of salt. Slightly over twelve thousand square kilometers in size and perched high in the Altiplano at 3720 meters, Salar de Tunupa is a vast expanse of the whitest white on earth. In the middle, piercing the blazing white, is the small island of Isla Inkahuasi; its sharp crags of volcanic rock as black as the darkest ink. The only evidence of island life are a profusion of tall and furry green cacti and a few dozen shy rabbits with long, cartoon-like ears. se together. Nine, seventeen and sixteen stones respectively survive; they were carefully erected so that they all appear the same height. The name "The Hurlers" refers to an old tradition that the circles are men turned to stone (presumably by the wrath of God) for "hurling the ball" on the Sabbath. 4m in length and 1m wide, was subdivided by sillstones into three compartments each containing cremated remains. Long after the megalithic mound was constructed Tara became the seat of the High Kings of Celtic Ireland.
Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico: The earliest archaeological artifacts thus far found at Chichen Itza date from AD 1 to 250, it is probable that the site was settled at a far earlier time. Proto-Mayan tribes had inhabited the flat limestone plateau that makes up much of the Yucatan peninsula for at least 8000 years.Chichen Itza began its rise to prominence with the arrival of a seafaring people in the eighth century. The Itza merchant warriors first colonized the northern coastal areas of the Yucatan peninsula and then ventured inland. After their conquest of the holy city of Izamal, the Itza settled at the great cenote, then known as Wuk Yabnal, meaning "Abundance Place". Their city became known as Chichen Itza, which means "Mouth of the Well of the Itza". From this site, the Itza Maya rapidly became the rulers of much of the Yucatan peninsula.On the night of 21 July 356 BC, a man named Herostratus burned the temple to ground in an attempt to immortalize his name. The temple was again destroyed by the Goths in AD 262, the Ephesians vowed to rebuild. By the fourth century AD, most Ephesians had converted to Christianity. The final chapter came when in AD 401 the Temple of Artemis was torn down by St John Chrysostom. Ephesus was later deserted.
Machu Picchu, Peru: While the Inca people certainly used the Andean mountain top (9060 feet elevation), erecting many hundreds of stone structures from the early 1400's, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning 'Old Peak' in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. Machu Picchu seems to have been utilized by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city. Two thousand feet above the rumbling Urubamba river, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses. These structures, carved from the gray granite of the mountain top are wonders of both architectural and aesthetic genius. Many of the building blocks weigh 50 tons or more yet are so precisely sculpted and fitted together with such exactitude that the mortarless joints will not permit the insertion of even a thin knife blade. One of Machu Picchu's primary functions was that of astronomical observatory. The Intihuatana stone (meaning 'Hitching Post of the Sun') has been shown to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other significant celestial periods. The Intihuatana (also called the Saywa or Sukhanka stone) is designed to hitch the sun at the two equinoxes, not at the solstice. At midday on March 21st and September 21st, the sun stands almost directly above the pillar, creating no shadow at all. At this precise moment the sun "sits with all his might upon the pillar" and is for a moment "tied" to the rock.
Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico: Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills of Yucatan during the late Classical period, flourishing between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. Uxmal translates as 'thrice built' and, whatever the actual number, the numerous building phases are reflected in a variety of architectural styles. The city was abandoned in the 10th century after apparently coming under Toltec influence. The Pyramid of the Magician, at 100 feet the tallest structure in Uxmal, is more accurately named. According to an ancient legend, of various different tellings, a magician-god named Itzamna was single handedly supposed to have constructed the pyramid in one night. From archaeological excavation however, we know that the pyramid was constructed in five superimposed phases.