Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Tunnels of Peru and Ecuador – Part II

What Gideon meant by a “back pass, through the back wall, on the back side of the city…through the secret pass” (Mosiah 22:6-7) in the City of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi), is not known. Whether he meant tunnels or just openings is also unknown. But it is interesting to note that tunnels exist in numerous places in the ancient area of Andean Peru and Ecuador.
Entrances to various tunnels in and around Sacsayhuaman overlooking Cuzco
After they conquered Peru, the Spaniards destroyed the temples in Cuzco and the church of Santo Domingo was erected on the site. There is an old legend in Cuzco that a treasure hunter slipped into the tunnels. In his search for riches, the man became lost and wandered through the maze of tunnels for several days. One morning, about a week after the adventurer had vanished, a priest was conducting mass in the church of Santo Domingo. Suddenly, there was a knocking beneath the floor and when some boards were removed, the adventurer emerged, half crazed, with gold bars in each hand.
Between the altar and the first and second columns, about four meters down, the GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar), with its 200 MHZ antenna, has detected the presence of a cavity that goes across the church in the direction of the Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuaman
According to news reports from Madrid quoting Pi Rambla, President of the Bohic Ruz Explorer Society, saying: “We have found important structues and evidence of galleries constructed underneath the Koricancha.” Many investigators over the past 400 years have reported the existence of these subterreanean galleries in the area of Sacsayhuaman that are connected to the Temple of the Sun by a tunnel just over a mile long. “These tunnels run throughout the city of Cusco and legends say that the lost gold of the Incas are hidden in these tunnels.”
Whether this is true or not, there are tunnels beneath Sacsayhuaman that, though they are now sealed by the Peruvian government, tourists can walk a short distance inside some of them for about 20 or 30 feet, before coming to the area where they are blocked. This is the area where the city of Lehi-Nephi (city of Nephi) would have been located.
On the other hand, the underground tunnels of the Chavin, a culture said to have occupied the northern Andean highlands of Peru from 900 B.C. to 200 B.C., in some areas can be entered today. The most well-known archaeological site of the Chavin era is Chavin de Huantar, located in the Andean highlands north of Lima, Peru, and was the religious and political center of the Chavin people. The tunnels of Chavin de Huantar in the heart of the Andes in the valley of the river Mosna, was discovered by Julio Cesar Tello, father of Peruvian archaeology, who started work there in 1919. The tunnel complexes beneath the site are forbidden to the public, though others are open--occasionally some brave (ill-advised?) souls find their way into the unknown labyrinth of these tunnels and photograph them for the rest of us to see.
The tunnels of Chavin de Huantar. Top Left: one of the entrances into a tunnel; Top Right: A vertical air vent leading straight down to the underground tunnel system; Bottom: One of the tunnels. Note the walls made of block, and the overhead rock cut to form the roof; Bottom: Within the tunnels are numerous stairwells that lead down further into the tunnel complexes and into deeper tunnels. These stairwells are small and narrow, allowing only one person at a time through them
When the conquistadors invaded ancient South America, they claim to have discovered immense underground tunnels in Ecuador and Peru. Garcilaso de la Vega, who wrote just after the conquest, also wrote about the tunnels beneath Sacsayhuaman: "An underground network of passages, which was as vast as the towers themselves connected them with one another. This was composed of a quantity of streets and alleyways which ran in every direction, and so many doors, all of them identical, that the most experienced men dared not venture into this labyrinth without a guide, consisting of a long thread tied to the first door, which unwound as they advanced. I often went up to the fortress with boys of my own age, when I was a child, and we did not dare to go farther than the sunlight itself, we were so afraid of getting lost, after all that the Indians had told us on the subject." Vega also wrote a familiar comment: "the roofs of these underground passages were composed of large flat stones resting on rafters jutting out from the walls"(see above pictures).
There are indeed tunnels that one may enter at Sacsayhuaman and nearby Qenqo. If one walks behind the Inca’s stone seat inside the fortress toward Qenqo, one will find all sorts of bizarre stone cuttings, upside-down staircases, and seemingly senseless rock carving on a grand scale. There are also tunnel entrances in this area. Various rock-cut tunnels lead down into the earth and at least one goes to another part of the mountain area of Qenqo. All of these tunnels have been blocked by the government at some point and this area of Sacsayhuaman is still being excavated by Peruvian archaeologists.
The entrance to the ancient Chincana Grande (big tunnel) which starts at Sacsayhuaman and ends at the Koricancha, in the center of Cuzco. Note the smoothness of the tunnel walls

The area is quite fascinating, but it seems quite clear that one cannot penetrate into the tunnels beneath Cuzco from these now-blocked tunnel entrances. The old chroniclers say the tunnels were connected with the Coricancha, a name given to the Sun Temple and its surrounds in old Cuzco. The Coricancha was originally larger than it is today and contained many ancient temples, including the Temples of the Sun and the Moon, and all of these buildings were believed to be connected with Sacsayhuaman by underground tunnels. The place where these tunnels started was known as the Chincana, or "the place where one gets lost." This entrance was known up until the mid-1800s, when it was walled up.
Sacsayhuaman was also equipped with a subterranean network of aqueducts. Water was brought down from the mountains into a valley, then had to ascend a hill before reaching Sacsayhuaman. This indicates that the engineers who built the intricate system knew that water rises to its own level. After they conquered Peru, the Spaniards destroyed the temples in Cuzco and the church of Santo Domingo was erected on the site. Dr. A.M. Renwick, Dean of the Anglo-Peruvian College in Lima, writes in his book Wanderings In the Peruvian Andes, of immense subterranean passages in ancient Peru, stating: “These subterranean corridors are in almost perfect condition The masonry is for the most part as solid as if built only a few years ago, and the passages are so extensive that we were able to spend the whole day exploring the recesses of this building which must have been reared 3,000 years ago. No such walls are built in that region today."
Whether these Andean tunnels were built between cities or buildings as legend has it, whether they were where the Inca hid tons of gold and treasure from the Spaniards as myth claims, or whether they are mostly figments of fertile imaginations, we cannot say; however, entrances to tunnels do exist and many people claim to have been inside of them. We hope this answers the many questions that have been asked about the Tunnels of Peru.

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