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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Ancient temple found under Lake Titicaca
Divers in the lake
Divers went as deep as 30m in their exploration
The ruins of an ancient temple have been found by international archaeologists under Lake Titicaca, the world's highest lake.

A terrace for crops, a long road and an 800-metre (2,600 feet) long wall was also found under the waters of the lake, sited in the Andes mountains between Bolivia and Peru.

Dating back 1,000 to 1,500 years ago, the ruins are pre-Incan.

They have been attributed to the indigenous Tiwanaku or Tiahuanaco people, said Lorenzo Epis, the Italian scientist leading the Atahuallpa 2000 scientific expedition.

The holy temple measures 200m by 50m (660ft by 160ft) almost twice the size of an average football pitch.

More than 200 dives were made into the lake, to depths of as much as 30m (100ft), to record the ruins on film.

Machu Picchu
The Incas, who built Machu Picchu, believed they originated from the lake
The explorers found the temple after following a submerged road, in an area of the lake not far from Copacabana town.

The complete findings of the 30-member team, backed by the scientific group Akakor Geographical Exploring, are to be published in November.

The team also hopes to eventually raise the archaeological remains to the surface.

Legends of lost city

The lake has long drawn fascination with various legends around it, including one of an underwater city called Wanaku and another of Inca gold lost by the Spanish.

The temple exists, but there is no submerged city

Lorenzo Epis
The Incas also regarded the lake as the birthplace of their civilisation, and in their myth, the Children of The Sun emerged out of the waters.

Stories of the lost treasure were enough to draw the famous French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau to explore the lake. However, he discovered only ancient pottery.

Akakor diver Lorenzo Epis in the lake
Akakor diver Lorenzo Epis in the lake
National Geographic also launched an expedition in 1988.

The Tiahuanaco culture lived on the shores of the lake before becoming part of the Incan empire, based in Cusco, Peru.

The Bolivian Government has said it will provide financial and technical support to preserve the ruins.

"This means our civilisations have left more footprints than we had thought," said Antonio Eguino, Bolivia's vice-minister of culture.

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See also:

04 Jun 00 | Americas
Explorer finds lost city
11 May 00 | Americas
Inca Trail restricted
01 Jan 00 | Americas
Ancient Inca celebrations in Peru
02 Feb 00 | Americas
Mud threatens Peru's mystical lines
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