Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where Are the Highways? Part II

While there is no indication, ruins, or evidence of a magnificent ancient highway system existing in all of North America, there is one in the Andean area of South America—specifically in Peru.

And there in South America an imperial highway ran from Cuzco to Ecuador, and was built by a race less fearful of the lofty places and mighty canyons of the Andes, and anciently it was more direct than the modern haphazard route. This well-built and highly acclaimed system of roads has long been considered the most remarkable road and highway system in the Western hemisphere.

These roads, which the Spaniards called "the longest and grandest in the world," can still be clearly seen today.  And though partly destroyed, there are numerous references to them recorded in diaries and journals of the early conquistadors that ravaged this land.  They found roads from Chile to Ecuador that were paved and had steps up inclines with rest places, suggesting they were built for human beings and pack animals.

Hernando Pizarro said of these roads:  "The mountain roads are really something worth seeing.  Such magnificent roads can be seen nowhere in Christendom in country as rough as this. Almost all of them are paved."

Rope bridges that stretched across numerous canyons and rivers. Note in the left image the yellow arrows point to the two original rock stanchions that secured the ropes in B.C. times and still existed when the Spaniards arrived, and still used today

Considering the mountainous regions of the Andes, the highway system built encompassed some of the most magnificent bridge systems ever devised. According to the ancient chronicler of the Spaniards who saw all this first hand, where the road crossed the Vilcas River (Pampas), one side of the river to the other there were two rows of stone piles, stout and deeply buried, on which lay the bridge, which was made of twisted withes, like well ropes for drawing up water with a pulley. The bridges made in this way are so strong that horses can gallop over them as though they were crossing the bridge of Alcantara or Cordoba. Pedro Sancho, the conquistador scrivener, crossed this bridge in 1534 and claimed it was 360 Spanish feet long, and wide enough for two horses to pass abreast. E. G. Squier crossed this bridge in 1864 and said it was 125-feet above the roaring river and stretched 250 feet across, mounted on cabyua cables as thick as a man's body, which were renewed every two years.

Andean Roads: Left: A paved, stepped road built in the second century B.C. and still in good condition today though it has never been repaired; Right: Road down into a deep Peruvian valley. Note the switchback design of the road. Also note that the top of the road is paved with stones as are the switchbacks

The main arteries of these roads went from Quito, in Ecuador, to Cuzco, in Peru, to Chuquisaca, in Bolivia, then deep into Chile and back along the coast of Ecuador for a total distance of over 5,000 miles. This route followed by the road was in use over a thousand years before the advent of the Incas and were used by the army, travelers, by llama transport herds, and by relay messenger runners. This network of runners, called chasquis, were provided by each community, which was responsible to place runners along the road to await for dispatches. There were post houses at regular intervals called tambos, each consisting of a few enclosures, and each man ran a short distance at breakneck speed to deliver the dispatch over his brief area of responsibility.  Though early explorers only covered about 2,500 miles of the roads, it is claimed they measured close to 10,000 miles in length.

Left: Ancient chasquis runners; Right: Engineering capabilities of the early Peruvians

No obstacle was too great in building these roads. Some were built along the side of steep mountain cliffs by building up an outer rock wall and creating a level road (today we cut away the cliff with huge machinery to provide a similar level road), and river spans were sometimes bridged with wood (as shown above).

One of the ancient longitudenal highways, later called the capac-nam (Royal Road) by the Incas, extended from 1º north latitude to 35º south latitude, some 3,200 miles in length from Ecuador to Chile. The coastal road, which runs from northern Peru to central Chile, where it joins the Andes road, has at least eleven lateral roads connecting the two main highways. It is said that the world's two great early road systems were those of Peru and Rome. The Peruvian roads, like those of Rome, had mile markers and an average width of thirty-five feet though they were only used for foot traffic (a modern U.S. two-lane highway is 35-feet across).

Pedro Ciega de Leon in 1548 said of these highways:  "I believe since the history of man, there has been no other account of such grandeur as to be seen on this road.  The road is well constructed, on the inclining mountains well terraced, through the living rock cut along the river-banks by retaining walls, in the snowy heights built with steps and resting places and along its entire length swept cleanly and cleared of debris...with post stations and storehouses at intervals along its length.

Baron Alexander von Humboldt, of whom the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current is named, said these roads were "the most useful and stupendous works ever executed by man." And William Prescott said, "the road was conducted over pathless sierras buried in snow; galleries cut for leagues through living rock; rivers were crossed by means of bridges that swung suspended in the air; precipices were scaled by stairways hewn out of the native bed-rock, all difficulties which might appall the most courageous engineer of modern times." The Royal road of the Chincha-suyu, when seen by Europeans, was thought to be the longest continuous road in the world, and of which Pedro de Cieza de Leon said:  "I doubt there is record of another highway comparable to this running through deep valleys, over high mountains, through piles of snow, quagmires, living rock, and across turbulent rivers.

Left: Roads were cut through dense forests, and Right: along  hillsides and into a tunnels cut in the bare rock

So where are the roads of an ancient, highly advanced, civilization that settled in the United States in B.C. times? There are none. You have to go to the Andean area of South America to find such evidence, as well as Mesoamerica later on, which also had ancient paved roads, to see where the Nephite roads were built.

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