“And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16).
Nowhere upon the North American continent, and specifically nowhere in the Great Lakes, eastern U.S., heartland or Mississippi area can any structure be found that could be compared to, or even similar to, the Temple of Solomon, one of the wonders of the ancient world that drew visitors from far and wide. Nowhere on the Baja California Peninsula, on the Malay Peninsula, in northeast Africa, or any of the other locations that Book of Mormon theorists claim to be the Land of Promise, can any structure reminiscent of Nephi’s description be found.
“But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (2 Nephi 5:16).
Only two places in the entire Western Hemisphere can such construction be found, and of those two, only one area fits the complete description of the scriptural record relating to this city, temple, and surrounding structures. And that is found in the Andean area of Peru in South America.
All that is left of the once magnificent temple built by the Nephites. When the Spanish arrived, they were awed by the superlative construction, opulent interiors, and the labrynth of rooms, niches, and tunnels within its walls. Thinking the Devil had his hand in building it, the Spanish took it apart, stone by stone, and used the material to build their own cathedrals
This area is referred to today by archaeologists and anthropologists as Sacsayhuamán (also known as Saksaq Waman, Sacsahuaman), which sits upon a ridge overlooking the valley of Cuzco. The name is Quechua, and given the site by the Inca who occupied it during the late 14th and early 15th centuries, and means “satisfied falcon,” that is, it overlooks the city of Cuzco and thus the Inca Empire as the honored falcon in Incan lore. However, the fabulous structures, walls, and temple, were built long before the Inca, with a precision no indigenous Indian culture could possibly have achieved, nor even duplicated.
Aerial view of Sacsayhuaman perched on the hill overlooking Cuzco; Top Left: Temple site is in the middle of the image just above the dark area; Right: Circle is the tower base next to the temple complex. Bottom: The tower base foundation sits next to the temple foundation complex (to the left), with numerous other structures, steps and elevations in the complex area. The zig-zag walls can be seen at the top of the image. At the bottom, the complex ends behind walls at the edge of the cliff
The location is a walled complex at an altitude of 12,142 feet, and today is part of the City of Cuzco, but was built by the prehistoric indigenous people unknown to the historian, and to the Inca as well.
It is attributed to the Inca mostly because of Garcilaso de la Vega (El Inca), the half-Spanish (father) and half-Inca (mother) historian who wrote with much favor toward his mother’s people. Determined to elevate the Inca beyond their achievements in order to make his Inca heritage of value and overcome the degradation he felt and the pure Spanish heaped upon his half-breed miscegenation, his writing is full of Inca accomplishments. Of Sacsayhuaman, he wrote: "This is the greatest and most wondrous Work that the Incas built as a demonstration of their majesty and power. Its grandeur is impossible to imagine for those who have never seen it.“ He also wrote of Sacsayhuaman, “This fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world. For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were executed...how, by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year, they overcame all difficulties by employing human effort over a long period. But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand how these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places. For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment."
It is also interesting to note that of the 20,000 to 30,000 Inca Garcilaso attributes to building the massive structure, certainly some of them would have been around some 30 to 40 years later when Garcilaso was alive, yet not one of the Inca of his time knew how Sacsayhuaman was built, how the huge stones were quaried and brought to the site, nor how they were chiseled and fitted perfectly in place. As one modern scholar, not taken by the so-called Incan mystique, has said, “Surely a few of those 20,000 laborers were still around when Garcilaso was young. Was everyone struck with amnesia? Or is Sacsayhuaman much older than we've been led to believe?”
Archaeologists claim that the walls of Sacsayhuaman rose ten feet higher than what is now seen, that the additional ten feet of stones supplied the building materials for the cathedrals and casas of the conquistadors. Ten additional feet on the outside walls would make them originally from their present 29 ½ feet height to approximately 40 feet. In addition, from the inside of the structure nothing has been left. There is no doubt that the stones from the old labyrinth with its large number of entrances and niches were removed by the Spanish in order to build their churches, the columns in the cathedral and as foundations of the colonial houses.
Reports by the first Spanish who entered Cuzco tell that ceremonies were conducted around the clock at the Coricancha (Qoricancha ) and that its opulence was fabulous beyond belief. The wonderfully carved granite walls of the temple were covered with more than 700 sheets of pure gold, weighing around two kilograms each (4.5 pounds); the spacious courtyard was filled with life-size sculptures of animals and a field of corn, all fashioned from pure gold; the floors of the temple were themselves covered in solid gold; and facing the rising sun was a massive golden image of the sun encrusted with emeralds and other precious stones. (All of this golden artwork was quickly stolen and melted down by the Spaniards, who then built a church of Santo Domingo on foundations of the temple.)
Left: The Sun Stone, built under Joseph Smith’s design, adorned the Nauvoo Temple. It was salvaged from the ruined temple and preserved by a local historical society since 1913, and was offered to the Smithsonian in 1989; Right: Model of the Sun Stone located in a park near the Nauvoo temple site
The interesting thing about the walls at Sacsayhuaman, is that there simply are no other walls like these anywhere outside of Andean Peru. They are different from Stonehenge, different from the Pyramids of the Egyptians and the Maya, different from any of the other ancient monolithic stone-works. The stones fit so perfectly that no blade of grass or steel can slide between them. There is no mortar. They often join in complex and irregular surfaces that would appear to be a nightmare for the stonemason.
(See the next post, “Nephi’s Temple Like Solomons – Part II,” for more on the temple built by Nephi and the modern ruins of Sacsayhuaman)