Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who Were They Afraid Of? – Part I

When we look at the two most advanced societal development regions of pre-history in the Western Hemisphere—Mesoamerica and Andean Peru—we find a most startling difference between them. A difference so huge, that it is surprising no one has ever mentioned it before. This difference lies in the way the early cities were constructed, one with an unprotected openness that belies the imagination for that time and era, and the other so fortified, so protected, so secured that one has to ask, “What were they afraid of?”
When we look at the ruins found throughout Mesoamerica, we see open communities, almost entirely without walls, protective towers, or defensive capability, typically built in very large, open areas, that were entirely defenseless much like cities and communities are built today.
Top Left: The ruins in southern Mexico of Palenque in the area of Chiapas; Right: Tulum in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, overlooking the Caribbean Sea; Bottom Left: Tikal in Guatemala; Right: Maya ruins of Caroco Altun Ha, Belize. Note the openness around each site, and the lack of any type of defense, walls, gates, guard towers or secure approaches
None of the hundreds of pre-historic sites in Mesoamerica show signs of being fortified—that is, there were no fortresses, forts, resorts, or places where early warning could be given, or where cities had been walled high enough for protect it from invasion. It was as though the builders of the various sites in Mesoamerica had no concern for protection against an enemy, or fear of attack.
Top Left: Maya ruins at Chichen Itza, Yucatan; Right: Tonina in Chiapas, Mexico; Bottom Left: Monte Alban Oaxaca Mexico; Right: El Tajin, Veracruz, Mexico. Again, there are no enclosures, no walls, no defensive towers, areas, etc., to safeguard the sites. They would be open to attack
On the other hand, when we look at the Peruvian Andes, we find an entirely different type of construction and city planning. Nearly every site found there had walls around it, frequently very high walls, or the entrances to the city were very restricted and easily guarded. Sometimes the sites had convoluted entrances, similar to those of castles in Europe in the dark ages. At times there were guard towers, turret structures, and walls that were very difficult to scale. In other locations, the entrances to the valleys where large cities were located were guarded with several forts and warning resorts or outposts.
There seems little question that these numerous sites in the Andean area of Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia and northern Chile, were built with defense in mind. Just about every archaeologist who has dug in the ground in the Andean area has commented about the defensive nature of the sites. In addition, there were also large storehouses for grain and food storage, typically in hard to reach areas for any enemy, and easily guarded. There were also huge defensive walls built that ran for many miles, always situated and built to protect the north from a southern attack. In some sites, there were special storage rooms for the obvious use of storing weapons and siege-type supplies.
Since almost all the sites in the Andean area were built in such a manner, it seems unlikely each of these cities were built to defend against an attack from a neighboring city, especially when we consider the huge walls built across the Andean valleys and mountains. There seems no question that whoever built these Andean city-fortresses were concerned about large-scale invasion, and almost always from the same quarter—from the south.
In an age without canon and gunfire, with only arrows and slings for distance assault, the walls around these cities were nearly impregnable, with some having only a single access, or very narrow entrances that could be easily guarded. And stone or brick walls so high, they were almost impossible to climb.
Take, for instance, the fortress of Kuelap. Like many of the Andean fortresses, it was built on a hilltop, not easily reached, with a commanding view for miles around. At Kuelap, there were only three entrances—each one so narrow, that only a single man, or maybe two abreast, could enter. And once inside, they had to maneuver through a narrow corridor with tall walls on each side from which defenders could shoot arrows, or throw rocks down upon the attackers. These corridors were a hundred yards long—almost impossible for an approaching army to pass, and the walls were so high, none could scale them.
The entrances to Kuelap. Note the narrow, uphill struggle for an invading attacker, and how exposed he would be to overhead assault. All three entrances are similarly narrow and protected by high walls
In other locations, there are hilltop fortresses that overlook valleys, where defenders can see an approaching army miles away. These fortresses have walls and difficult uphill approaches that could be easily guarded, as any field commander knows fighting downhill is far superior than trying to battle upward.
Left: The difficult approach to the hilltop fortress of Ollantaytambo; Right: Hilltop fortress of Pisac; Bottom Left: Hilltop fortress of Paramonga; Right: Hilltop fortress of Cajamarca. Not one of these fortresses could be easily reached by an attacking force
In addition, there were resorts, or small forts, that served as early warning outpost lookouts that were strategically placed in the hills overlooking the approaches to major population centers or the large fortresses. These resorts were not easily reached from below, where the attacking armies would be approaching, but provided easy traveled trails to the larger sites for runners bearing warnings.
Hilltop outpost forts that served as early warning stations that overlooked approaches along valleys and canyons that led to larger fortresses or cities--called resorts in the Book of Mormon
There were also well-protected cities, fortresses, and population centers protected by high stone walls, often carved and perfectly fit, which provided no hand- or footholds for climbing, and were not destructible. These walls took many long, man hours to build and have stood for at least two millennia.
Left: At one time this wall (background, note height of man behind it) was higher and surrounded the port city of Puma Punku outside Tiwanaku; Right: This wall stands 65 feet high; Bottom Left: Solid rock walls several feet thick and often 12-foot high or greater; Center: Note the height of this city wall; Right: Another carved rock wall
(See the next post, “Who Were They Afraid Of? – Part II,” for more on this difference between Mesoamerica and Andean Peru and the meaning and purpose behind this difference)


  1. Del.. this is awesome. Hate to ask this as it shows that I may not be the student I thought I was... but... did you bring this up in your book... LNSA?

  2. Thank you. But no,this was not included in the books, at least not directly. This blog is a continuing process of study and learning, or expanding on previous knowledge that did not make it into the books because of space and purpose. Hopefully, I will get around to another book which will include all the new ideas or expanded understanding over the years since the first books were written