Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Remarkable Roads and Bridges of Peru - Part I

Continuing with the previous post regarding the Nephite roads and Mormon’s statement that the roads went “from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place” (3 Nephi 6:8), we need to consider the importance of those words. From city to city suggests a rather extensive system, since at least 40 cities are mentioned in the scriptural record that would have been within the area the Nephites controlled at the time of this statement. 
    It might also be assumed that during the 550 years that the Nephites occupied the Land of Nephi and the city of Nephi, as well as other lands in the area (Shilom and Shemlon, etc) that they would have built roads among their occupied area, but there is nothing in the scriptural record to verify this. It would seem just as likely that no road existed between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla, since Ammon and his group were lost trying to find the City of Nephi (Mosiah 7:4), and when the Nephites in that land were rescued, Ammon and his brethren did not return to Zarahemla on any road (Mosiah 22:12-13). Nor did Limhi’s 43-man expedition searching for Zarahemla evidently have any road or even path to follow in order to find it since they became lost (Mosiah 21:25), yet there was a highway that led into the city of Zarahemla and to the chief market (Helaman 7:10).
    This highway and road system of the Nephites, which led from land to land, obviously covered most, if not all of the area the Nephites occupied.  Consequently, today, we should see some remnant of the extensive Nephite road system in the area of the Land of Promise, since roads made at that time and two thousands years or more before Lehi, are still evidenced in the area from which Lehi came (see previous post for information and photos). So where do we find such a road system today?
Such a road system is found--the most extensive and formidable roads and highways of the entire Western Hemisphere--that date to Nephite times in the Andean area of Peru, Bolivia and Chile, that extends for 20,000 miles, including three north-south network highways with numerous eat-west branches. So fine were these roads when the Spanish arrived, that some were given the status of Camino Real (the King’s Highway). Extending "from Quito, Ecuador in the north, to Santiago, Chile in the south, and Mendoza, Argentina, in the east. The main highways were as wide as 66-feet, and were connected by populated areas, administrative centers, agricultural and mining zones, as well as ceremonial centers and sacred places." One main highway covered 3,700 miles along the spine of the Andes. A second main highway, which ran within the mountains at heights as great as 16,000 feet, covered 3,200 miles. The third highway, which ran along the coastal routes, covered 2,500 miles. These highways were connected like a spiderweb with numerous east-west roads covering more than 11,000 miles in length, that were from 3 ½ to 13 feet in width,.
    So it should be considered that in the time when mountains existed, prior to 34 A.D., for at that time “many mountains [were] laid low” (Helaman 14:23), showing the existence of a land of “many mountains,” these roads would have had to go over, around or through such topography. Typically, ancient roads followed the course of least resistance, somewhat like a river, however, in the Andean area of Peru, some of the roads were carved through mountains.
Where necessary, roads were cut through solid rock, some for great distances
    In addition, other exception engineering fetes of road construction was accomplished in negotiating the incisive topography of the landscape:
Roads were laid through dense forests and heavy jungle-like foliage
Roads were built in the high mountains, some along cliffs with steep drops
Roads were built in areas of sand and wind with curbings to keep the roads from being covered over
Roads were built over hills and up mountains by using steps
Where climbing up cliff sides was necessary, roads were connected with stairs of a unique design
    In all, these roads of some 20,000 miles or more covered the entire land, allowing both missionary travel by foot (Alma 4:19, 28-30-31; 5:1), as well as movement of troops from one location to another (as seen in Helaman 1:25). They also provided the quick movement of messages (Alma 15:4; 43:24; 47:11-12; 56:1; Mormon 3:4;  6:2).
    Again, only two places in the Western Hemisphere have evidence of paved roads dating to Nephite times, that of Mesoamerica and Andean Peru. However, we need to keep in mind that the roads in Andean Peru are dated older, are far more extensive, cover thousands of more miles, and were the ones the Spanish Conquistadors most admired.
(See the next post, “The Remarkable Roads and Bridges of Peru—Part II,” for more information on these Nephite roads and how they conquered the mountains “whose height is great” of which Samuel prophesied)


  1. Del, it seems to me that if the greater portion of these roads are really of Nephite origin, then we ought to be able to identify the most likely candidates for some major BOM cities. Bountiful and Zarahemla come to mind. Those two particular cities would naturally occupy prominent positions on the roadmap. I wonder if modem mapping and geographic principles could be used to determine the most important population centers through an analysis of road density and quality. Such a study combined with the knowledge of major "inca" ruins should yield a short list of candidates for both Zarahemla and Bountiful. What do you think?

  2. I agree with you in principal, though I have long felt it rather useless to try and pinpoint locations from their meager descriptions in the record. As I have written here in the past, I believe the area of Cuzco to be the City of Nephi (ancient roads move outward from here by the way), and that Pachacamac (just south of Lima) to be Zarahemla (to which all roads seem to lead by the way), but I have spent no time at all in looking for Bountiful since there seems to be an insufficient amount of description in the record to pinpoint it. However, perhaps the road system might be a clue that could lead one there. An interesting idea.

  3. For instance, the famous lost city, Ubar, was found by using satellite imagery to find the roads that led to/ran from it.

    "Using the (satellite) imagery, the team was able to pick out the ancient trade routes, which were packed down into hard surfaces by the passage of hundreds of thousands of camels. Junctions where the trade routes converged or branched seemed likely locations for the lost city."


    Maybe someday enough people will realize MesoAm is a dead end and resources will be refocused to looking in the right places.

  4. You would appreciate the second book in this series, "Who Really Settled Mesoamerica" since it traces Ubar as a stopover for the Jaredite movement to the Great Sea and talks about the satellite finding.