We humans are hopelessly obsessed with death. We expend an incredible amount of time and energy wondering about, worrying about, and preparing for that inevitable end to each of our lives. All of our religions are founded upon the idea that there is an afterlife, an existence beyond our corporeal selves. It’s been that way for a long time, too.
One of the primary indicators of early human culture is whether or not the people in question undertook to bury their dead. This happened as far back as 100,000 years ago, but the mindset that lead to it is likely much older than that. As a species, our preoccupation with death and its attendant features is likely as old as our ability to comprehend what it means to be dead.
But, for as long as we’ve believed that there is a place, or several places even, that our loved ones travel to in their long, dark sleep, we’ve also tried to find ways to reach that place without the mess of dying. This has been done in a number of ways; from mediation and chanting, to psychedelically induced spirit journeys, and to the physical embodiment of portals between this world and the next. Those portals offer an interesting look at the impact of afterlife belief on our cultures.
In March 2013, a team of archaeologists from the University of Salento (Italy) stumbled across what has been dubbed ‘the gate to hell’ in southwestern Turkey. It is believed that this portal to the afterlife, in this case the Greek Underworld, is a temple used to worship the Greek god Pluto. Its traditional name is Pluto’s Gate or the Plutonium, and it was used by priests to demonstrate the power of Pluto and Kore – the lords of the underworld – to steal the life of whomever entered the portal.
A part of the World Heritage site of Hierapolis (now called Pamukkale), the Plutonium (which is Latin for Pluto) consisted of a shallow pool in which priests would sit to prepare themselves for rituals, a series of steps which served as an observatory for congregants, and a crude doorway into a natural underground chamber, from which deadly poisonous gases emanated. The ceremonies at this site often included animal sacrifices, such as bulls, wherein they would lead the animals into the cave and then drag them back out once the fumes had overtaken them.
There are other, less morbid examples of portals to the afterlife in our history though.
Long have we known that the ancient people of what is now Bolivia and Peru in South America, had a penchant for elaborate temple construction and ritual, all in an effort to please and sometimes to communicate with their gods.
One spectacular example of ancient architecture dedicated to the transition between the here-and-now and the hereafter is the Gate of the Sun in what is now called Tiwanaku (also Tiahuanaco) in Bolivia. The peoples who built and occupied Tiwanaku are largely unknown, as the settlement is dated to the pre-Incan era of 300-1000 AD, and the culture responsible apparently had no written language. The Gate of the Sun is a 4 meter wide by 3 meter high stone archway that stands on an open terrace. The arch is adorned with 48 carved squares, each with an effigy or winged figure looking toward a central character whose identity is unknown. That central character is a carved figure of a man, with 24 radial lines surrounding its head, which may represent sunlight. This figure also holds two staffs, which some believe represent lightning and thunder.
As mentioned, we know next to nothing about the Gate of the Sun, but some have presented theories about its use. From an astrological observation post and primitive calendar, to a portal to the realm of the sky gods. Author and famed ancient alien proponent David Childress points to similarities between Tiwanaku’s Gate of the Sun and the legendary H-blocks at Pumapunku and claims that these sites are evidence of lost fund-knowledge from unknown prehistoric civilizations, such as Atlantis or Lemuria. He and others proclaim that the archway of the gate may have been, and perhaps still is, an actual portal to another realm. The precision of the carvings and block cuts at Pumapunku are widely held to be much too advanced to have been the product of a culture as primitive as the Incas or those before them. Childress also draws parallels between the Gate of the Sun and the Gate of the Gods.
The ruins of the ancient city state of Tiwanaku, where the Gate of the Sun stands prominently, is situated near the southern shore of Lake Titicaca, which is where the Aramu Muru portal is located.
Aramu Muru is actually found on the outskirts of a small town called Juli in the Hayu Marca hill. It and Tiwanaku are within the province of Chucuito, which is commonly known as The Rome of America. Aramu Muru is actually a rock face in the high-altitude mountains of Lake Titicaca that has been smoothed to a nearly flat surface with a roughly six foot high T-shaped alcove cut out of its centre at ground level.
That alcove is called Puerta de Hayu Marca, or in English, the portal of Hayu Marca, or more popularly, the Gate of the Gods. Most in mainstream archaeology view Puerta de Hayu Marca to be an unfinished construction project, as it consists only of the single rock face and alcove, and has no obvious purpose. There are traditional stories about the Gate, however, that show it to be quite important in Peruvian/Bolivian culture.
It’s said that the Gate of the Gods is a portal to the underground, and that it was used by a priest to travel to the underworld in order to hide the great golden disc of Coricancha away from the invading warriors of other lands. Locals have long told stories of strange looking beings – tall, slender and not of this Earth – coming through the portal. Some think, namely Childress and other ancient alien proponents, that the disc of Coricancha was actually some sort of alien technology used to activate and control the portal, which they believe is some kind of star-gate. In fact, paranormal writer Jerry Willis claims to have travelled through the gateway himself during his own investigation of the area, though that should be taken with a grain of salt.
Lake Titicaca itself, being the highest altitude freshwater lake on the planet, is the subject of a great many stories involving strange lights, UFO’s and other odd phenomenon. In fact the whole area of Chucuito holds a wealth of strange stories and archaeological mysteries, and when you add in the various theories about this culture being a remnant of lost cultures the world over, it’s hard not to romanticise the findings and the people of the area.
Did ancient human cultures not only hold a belief in other realms of existence but also find a way to access those realms through some sort of lost knowledge, or perhaps knowledge offered by ancient visitors to Earth? Mainstream science says, probably not, and that’s based on the lack of evidence for the existence of such knowledge and/or visitors, but there are learned men and women who disagree.