The trade network of Tiwanaku operated differently.
People did not buy and sell freely as they do today.
All transactions were controlled by the kings of Tiwanaku
in a kind of State monopoly.
But many of the products, food, textiles and ceramics,
would have been the same.
The immense trading activity around Tiwanaku was made possible
by a very special form of transport.
Cousins of the camel, llamas are still invaluable today
in the rough Andean terrain.
Experts believe that in the time of Tiwanaku,
huge llama trains would have been
continuously crisscrossing the Altiplano,
carrying goods to and from the great metropolis.
We know that upwards of two, three,
perhaps even as many as five thousand animals
were loaded up with a wide range of commodities,
from brilliant textiles, to gold, to silver, to more ordinary goods,
such as blocks of salt and foodstuffs.
A staggering quantity of goods came into and flowed out of Tiwanaku.
We know that Tiwanaku was the major trading center
for the southern Andes.
So the discoveries at Tiwanaku show it was, indeed,
a vastly wealthy city and a center of trade.
But Atlantis was also a great military power,
with a huge standing army.
Did the rulers of Tiwanaku, like the Atlantians,
have the power to invade, conquer and dominate?
Here, a warrior, depicted with a puma's face,
holds a trophy, the severed head of his enemy.
Piecing together evidence from art such as this,
it has become apparent that Tiwanaku was, indeed,
a military force to be reckoned with.
Tiwanaku's kings were war lords.
We know that at some point in its history,
the city's kings conquered the entire Titicaca
basin of Peru and Bolivia
and then began to set up garrisons on the coast of Peru and Chile
and as far south as northern Argentina.
They also began to colonize this vast territory.
So, in fact, Tiwanaku was a great military power.
But military might was not the only reason
the kings of Atlantis were able to rule over a large area.
They were also divine and born of gods.
Did the kings of Tiwanaku have such god-like status?
The answer is yes.
The power of the kings of Tiwanaku was not only military.
They also were divine and born of religion,
traces of which still remain in the Aymara culture.
The Gateway of the Sun
is a potent symbol of the city's religious importance,
and it is thought to be a calendar.
With the secret knowledge of
what to reap and sow that the calendar gave them,
the kings of Tiwanaku became a divine link
between the gods and humans.
Armed with this magical power,
they were able to export their religion throughout the region.
What, in fact, the kings of Tiwanaku
were exporting with their religious ideas
was an immensely powerful and influential State ideology.
This ideology dominated a broad region
of the southern and central Andes.
And it was the power of religious ideas,
in fact, rather than military force or coercion
that permitted the kings of Tiwanaku
to extend their dynasty for over five hundred years.
Just like the kings of Atlantis, with their god-like status,
the ruling dynasty of Tiwanaku was able to pass its sacred power
from generation to generation.
Tiwanaku is not far from the shores of Lake Titicaca,
and the area around the Lake was its main sphere of influence.
But its religious imagery and evidence of colonies
have been found as far away
as coastal Chile, Peru and northern Argentina.
Tiwanaku was not merely a collection of temples,
or even simply a large city.
It was an immensely powerful empire that dominated the Andean region.
There were many great cities
on the scale of Plato's description of Atlantis
in the New World,
although Tiwanaku could not have been Atlantis because of its age.
But what if it was born from the ashes
of an earlier civilization based nearby?
Then the theory that Atlantis could be in the New World
might be more credible.
In the tropical jungle area of Mexico,
a people called the Olmec
once undertook an immense effort of human endeavor.
With a labor force of eighty thousand people
working for an estimated eleven-million man-hours,
they beat back the foliage to create a great settlement
razed out of the jungle on earthworks.
Today, it is archeologists like Ann Cyphers
at the University of Mexico
who are again digging and clearing at the San Lorenzo site
in order to undertake
the biggest-ever excavation of Olmec culture.
It is an enormous task,
because the area that the Olmec made into their settlement
is a mound spread over several miles,
most of which is hidden beneath dense vegetation.
But one thing is already clear, the great age of the site.
The Olmec culture at San Lorenzo dates to three thousand years ago,
maybe a bit earlier.
Prior to that fluorescence
that occurred about three thousand years ago,
there were pre-existing cultures here.
And out of those native cultures, the Olmec developed.
The Olmec flourished over a thousand years
before Plato wrote down the Atlantis story.
And as well as being of great antiquity,
the Olmec clearly represent evidence of civilization.
Although the tropical climate has destroyed much of what they built,
research is revealing that
the Olmec undoubtedly deserve that description.
They created a striking and complex art style,
building these colossal six and a half foot-high statues.
The Olmec rulers had all the trappings of major civilization:
a massive, organized labor force,
proto-cities, a complex class system
and a wide sphere of influence in the region.
I think as time goes on and research continues,
each day it becomes more and more surprising
how sophisticated the Olmec culture really was.
So we know now that
civilization had begun in the Americas
by the time of the proposed dates for Atlantis.
But still, the mystery is not yet solved, nor the story finished.
For there is a simple and obvious objection to the Americas' theory.
How could the Egyptians or the Greeks
have known about America?
It was not until the age of Columbus,
two thousand years later,
that contacts between Europe and America became commonplace,
making it an apparently impossible location for the lost city.
But there are those who argue that
we have been blinded by our ideas of history.
They claim the Olmec left a clue,
a clue about visitors from across the Atlantic long before Columbus.
Why, they ask,
do the faces of the Olmec colossal heads
apparently not resemble natives of Central America?
Professor Genoves is an anthropologist
who believes that the Olmec colossal heads
look like portraits of Africans.
Some of these facial features certainly show evidence of a link,
with Negroid groups or at least, what we associate with such groups.
Looking at characteristics, like those we see here,
we can see they are not typical of South America.
Just as white people are not native to most of Africa,
there were no black people in South America.
It seems strange to ask when we see them,
and so we have to ask what is going on?
Could the Olmec heads depict African visitors
from across the Atlantic?
Other archeologists think
it is more likely the statues are actually of Olmec kings,
but they are heavily stylized.
There are a number of theories regarding the colossal heads.
I think that the most significant interpretation
regarding them is that they are the portraits of rulers.
But what of the appearance on Olmec art of bearded figures
another oddity since natives in this region
genetically do not have beards.
Perhaps these are also depictions of foreigners
or perhaps Olmec did have beards in the past?
Again there is disagreement.
The beards that we see on figures in Olmec art are interesting
because in general the native populations here in mesoamerica,
do not have a lot of facial hair.
But that's talking about the people today.
We don't know if that applies in the past.
When we see a bearded figure or one with negroid features,
it is difficult to accept that
it could be a pure invention yet be so accurate.
So if these features don't belong on this side of the Atlantic
where could they possibly have come from?
Well the answer is from the other side of the Atlantic.
Whatever the truth behind the mystery of the Olmec statues,
it has been shown that
early transatlantic travel was at least technically possible.
Professor Genoves proved it himself some twenty years ago
when he crossed the ocean on a primitive reed boat,
as one of the crew accompanying anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl,