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Puno, Peru

Sillustani

These ruined Incan mausoleum towers still bear carvings of sacred animals on their blocks. 

Rising up around the shore of Peru’s Lake Titicaca, the archeological site known as Sillustani are the fascinating ruins of what may have once been a cylindrical necropolis.

Created by the pre-Incan Culla civilization that thrived in the area surrounding the lake until around the 1500s, when the Inca destabilized their hold on the area, the ruins at Sillustani are most strikingly comprised of circular towers. These spires, known as “chullpas” were built out of large stacked blocks. Each tower was built to hold an extended (usually noble) family within its rounded walls. 

Some of the towers are squat or partially toppled, but the tallest reaches as tall as 40 feet in the air, looking like a sandstone keep from some lost civilization. 

The stones reflect the precise stonework later perfected by the Inca (although the Colla used symmetrical rectangles while the Inca often built with stones having irregular corners). Many of the blocks in the towers still bear the crude animal symbols that were added to the towers centuries ago.

People are buried in all manner of ways in this day and age, but it isn’t likely that many will survive in such a monumental fashion.