Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nephite Defensive Wall—The Great Wall of Peru

From the very beginning of the Nephites in the Land of Promise, they were always situated to the north of the Lamanites. After Lehi died, Nephi, and those who would go with him, left the area of their First Landing, or Land of First Inheritance, and traveled northward to an area they called the Land of Nephi and founded a city, which they called the City of Nephi.

From that moment on, the Lamanites were always situated to their south. Consequently, all the Lamanite attacks came from the south, and Moroni, a master strategist and planner, set about planning for future Lamanite attacks.

In Alma, we find that in 72 B.C., Moroni altered the management of affairs among the Nephites (Alma 49:11) and fortified every city in all the land (Alma 49:13). While the Nephite defector Amalickiah was maneuvering his way into being crowned the Lamanite king, Moroni was erecting small forts and building walls of stone round about their cities and the borders of their lands (Alma 48:8).  He built forts (Alma 49:13), and piled dirt so high in ramparts that Lamanite weapons had little effect (Alma 49:4). These fortifications of walls and ramparts had never been built before (Alma 49:8), and the Lamanites were unable to get past the height of the banks, nor could they climb up without exposing themselves to rocks and missiles from above (Alma 49:18, 22-23). When they tried to tear down the walls, the Nephites hurled stones and shot arrows down on them (Alma 49:19).

Thirty-six years after this astounding success, other Nephite dissenters joined the Lamanites and stirred them up to war (Halaman 4:4). When the Nephites were driven out of the Land of Zarahemla toward Bountiful (Helaman 4:6) by overwhelming numbers, Moronihah, having learned from his father's achievements, fortified a line "from the west sea unto the east," a distance of a day's journey for a Nephite (Helaman 4:7). Along this fortified line, the Nephites stationed their armies to defend their north country since the Lamanites then occupied all the land to the south (Helaman 4:8). This fortification must have been successful in turning back the Lamanites because we find that the Nephites were driven no further north, and from there Moronihah fought his way south and obtained many parts of the land and many cities which the Lamanites had captured (Helaman 4:9). Moronihah eventually recaptured half of the Nephite's original lost territory (Helaman 4:10).

Thus, in the Land of Promise there should be a fortification that runs along a line from the west sea to the east for quite some distance--a fortification that is so constructed as to keep an invading army from the south at bay; a fortification that can be defended by an army of smaller size strung out along its length; a fortification that is intertwined with the landscape that would be a strong deterrent; a fortification that starts on the west coast and moves along a straight line to the east; and a fortification of such magnitude that it would protect not only the homeland, but keep an invading army from breaching its walls and getting behind and into the north country.

And such a fortification is found in South America.

In northern Peru, north of Huambacho, along the seacoast, stands a large settlement, and just north of there is the bay of Samanco, which provides one of the few really protected harbors on the Peruvian coast. There, just beyond Chimbote, is a magnificent wall, called The Great Wall of Peru, which snakes up from the Pacific sea coast—the first five or six miles inland the Wall is now mostly missing, with the rocks carried off by locals for other buildings, though the foundation is still visible—and continuing into the interior for about 100 miles. This is so impressive, that von Hagen wrote about it extensively in his book, The Royal Road of the Inca (Gordon & Cremonesi, London, 1976).

The wall now begins at a demolished village, itself all but lost beneath centuries of drifting sand, and leads away up the north side of the Santa and, according to Deuel in Conquistadors Without Swords (1967), across the level sandy plain of the river's delta, then up over the bordering foothills where the valley narrows.  As the foothill ridges become sharper and steeper, the Wall rises and dips and in places is turned slightly from its generally straight course.  Its distance from the river is about a mile and a half, though in one place it dips down close to the edge of the riverbed.  In places the wall blends in so well with the background as to be almost indistinguishable .

This wall was built by the ancestors of the pre-Inca Chimu, and was obviously intended for defense, that is to stop incursions into the north by southern tribes. Along its length there were circular and rectangular forts at irregular intervals on both sides of the wall (often referred to as resorts in the scriptural record), and most were inset on the top of small hills so as to be quite invisible from the valley floor.  Of the fourteen forts overall, the larger ones were located on the south side of the river opposite the wall, with the largest fort being about 300 feet by 200 feet with walls fifteen feet high and five feet thick.  Some were of piled stone construction while others were adobe.

The greater part of the actual wall is of pirca rock and over ten feet tall, with most rocks broken and set together in adobe cement creating an outer surface so smooth it was practically impossible to scale without ladders.  In occasional places the Wall is twenty to thirty feet high where it crosses gullies, and about twelve to fifteen feet wide at its base, tapering upward to an average height of between twelve and fifteen feet.

The Wall winds its way from the sea, over the low mountain-spurs parallel to the Santa river, and up into the sierra 90 miles away.  In the higher areas, where rain does occasionally fall, terraces were fashioned from the near-perpendicular mountainsides, and earth and fertilizer transported there over considerable distances.  The terraces were then used for a readily-available source of food supply for the wall's defenders, who occupied the many lookout posts and strategically placed, enormous fortresses, which were built of stone blocks carefully fitted together without mortar.  To the south is another wall, which was part of the outer defenses of the Great Wall.

This wall was not discovered until 1931 when, quite by accident, Robert Shippee and Lt. George R. Johnson saw and photographed it from the air. Some of their 2470 aerial photographs taken were shown in the 1932 Geographical Review under the title “The Great Wall of Peru; Lost Valleys of Peru, and Other Aerial Photographic Studies by the Shippee-Johnson Peruvian Expedition."

In short, this Wall qualifies in every way for the wall built by Moronihah and stands as mute evidence of the enormous effort made by the Nephites and the battles they fought there where they successfully turned back the Lamanite armies and later recaptured much of the lands earlier lost.  

1 comment:

  1. Del, I'm curious. You quote Helaman 4:7 as it being a Days journey for a nephite but then later indicate the wall is 100 miles which would be more than a days journey. Am I reading it wrong? By the way I've looked at the wall on Google earth and it's quite impressive.