Thursday, November 03, 2005

Double walls

I forgot to mention in my first post that I didn’t even know who Mollie was, but in any case I finally had a sit-down meeting today with my teammate Mollie and with Dr. Alexei Vranich, Director of the Tiwanaku Archaeological Project in Bolivia. There seems to be a lot of disagreement in the literature about particular features of the Akapana (which, as it turns out, is a temple, a pyramid, and a mound of dirt all in one), and I hoped meeting with Alexei would help clear up some of the confusion. I quickly realized that he was raising a lot more questions in my mind than he was answering. I obviously have some fun research excursions ahead of me.

One particularly interesting point that Alexei brought up was the perceived misalignment and variation in the walls of the Akapana. Some archeologists have alleged that the walls of the Akapana do not align in any obvious fashion, and that the stonework shows signs of hastiness in places, departing from its well-polished, perfectly-interlocked appearance in particular regions. However, Alexei pointed out that these assumptions came about as a result of an incorrect understanding of the structure. The Akapana has a stepped-pyramid structure. Alexei pointed out that the archeological evidence indicates that each of its walls are in fact doubled. That is, on any given layer of the Akapana, there are two walls running parallel to each other, one roughly-constructed wall for structural support, and the other more refined wall directly in front of it and obscuring it for aesthetic value. Aside from the archeological evidence, this also makes sense from an engineering perspective, so I’m pretty convinced. The fact that extremely experienced archeologists had apparently misinterpreted the site definitely goes to show that published research reports need to be taken with a grain of salt, and returning to the actual data to draw one’s own conclusions is important rather than exclusively relying on secondary data sources. Perhaps something to consider in our own model; I will be taking the topographical data pretty seriously.


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