Friday, March 20, 2015

The Earliest Americans—Pucará

Continuing with our series on the ancient peoples of Andean South America—the Land of Promise—and showing how the findings of archaeology of these “earliest Americans" fits so well into the Book of Mormon and describe the Nephite people in their various settlement areas. 
In this area, the ancient site of Pucará (Pukara), meaning “fortress” in both Aymara and Quechua, is located in the southern highlands of present-day Peru in the northern basin of Lake Titicaca—in the area first settled by Nephi after leaving his brothers and fleeing northward. during the period between about 587 B.C. and when Mosiah left, aroudn 300 B.C., the Nephites spread out and build numerous citiesthis being one of them. The Early Intermediate Period site, believed to be 300 B.C. to 300 A.D., is known for its unusual horseshoe-shaped temple or sanctuary of stone masonry.
    Situated at an altitude of 12,700 feet, the site overlooks the Pucará River about 37 miles northwest of Lake Titicaca. Scattered mounds and a series of sunken structures known as the Qalasaya are visible some dis­tance west of the present course of the Pucará River, to the southwest of the present village of Pucará. The site shows a downtown area with monumental structures, temple complexes and administrative buildings, then expands out close to a square mile with residential areas, production areas and other spaces that developed as people grew more interdependent (spread out into separatle settlements). 
Left: The Pucará site with the Lagunita Mound in the background (yellow arrow); Right: the central sunken enclosure on the main temple complex, the Qalasaya
    Excavations at the site have re­vealed a discontinuous sequence of occupations beginning about 1300 B.C., with the major buildings belonging to the Pucará culture and date about 1700 years before the Inca (200 B.C. to 200 A.D, at which time Pucará was a major religious center with an extensive residential zone, and may have been the adminis­trative center of the Pucará culture as well. The complex polychrome painted and incised pottery of this period belongs to what is known as the Pucará style, which shows stone sculptures and Pucará pottery resembling those of Tiwanaku, in the southern Titicaca basin. And since the earlier levels at Tiwanaku show Pucará-type pottery, it is apparent that the Pucará culture was a forerunner of the Classic Tiwanaku styles.
    After the Pucará occupants aban­doned the site, it was not inhabited again until some time in the Late Intermediate Period, when Collao-style pottery was being used. Eventually, even the Inca settled in this area and occupied the site in later periods.
Top: The Pucará site with the town in the background; Bottom: the sunken Qalasaya
    The Pucará is considered one of the refined branches of the Chavin culture and seems to have been a foundation of the later Wari Empire and Tiwanaku culture.  It is also obvious from the site that it was occupied after the Pucará by several “chiefdoms” or “kingdoms,” with the Inca the last occupantsanother match to the development of the Nephite people over a long period of time.
    The writings of 16th-century Spanish chroniclers Pedro de Cieza de Leon (1553) and Garci Diez de San Miguel (1567) frequently mention the Collao and the Lupaca, centered on the western shores of Lake Titicaca, as being rivals and per­haps the most powerful of all the other political groups during the Inca domination of the area. Archae­ologists have proposed that these same political groupings, although perhaps with different boundaries, also existed in immediately late pre-Inca timesshowing the period when the Lamanites moved in and occupied the area after Mosiah left with those Nephites who would go with him.
Top: The La Raya Pass with the Andes beyond, a natural barrier between Titicaca and Cuzco; Bottom: Today, at the top of the Pass, vendors sell a avariety of arts and crafts made by local people to the tourists who come through on buses
    Between Cuzco and the Titicaca regions is the famous pass at La Raya, several days walk north from Lake Arapa (the northern extension of Lake Titicaca), along the Vilcanota River (about 115 miles as the crow flies, and about 100 miles north of Pucará)—along this route the Lamanites coming from the south would have passed to get to the Nephite location around Cuzco, the City of Nephi, of which numerous references in the scriptural record mention the many wars between the two during this time
    At 14,232 feet elevation, the Pass is the conjunction of the cordillera and the origin of the Vilcanota knot, where two lofty and narrow chains of mountains emerge northward, the Cordilleras de Carabaya and Vilcanota, separated by a deep gorge, where the Andes enter Peru with the Cordillera Occidental (western) runs parallel to the coast and the Cordillera Real from Bolivia ends in the rough mountain mass of the Knot. This area is also the watershed between the valley that drains into Lake Titicaca and the valley that leads down to Cusco and to the Sacred Valley. It was a natural geographical and cultural boundarythe perfect spot to separate the Nephties from the Lamanites when Nephi came northward.
To the south of the Pass, on the Collao Plateau, were the Collao (Colla), the ancient roads passing Lake Titicaca joined on the north and served as the southern boundary of that culture along the Meseta del Collao or Altiplano (high plain in the Andes Mountains), while the plateau itself extended far to the south, where also the Tiahuanaco flourished.
    According to Pedro de Cieza de Leon, the Spanish conquistador and chronicler of Peru, the story was told him by the indigenous natives around Lake Titicaca, who claimed they heard them from their ancestors, who in like manner heard them in the old songs they received from very ancient times, that there came from a southern direction a white man of great stature who, by his aspect and presence, called forth great veneration and obedience. He had great power and could change plains into mountains, and great hills into valleys, and make water flow out of stones (see the outline of events preceding the advent of the Savior as described in 3 Nephi and the destruction outlined, of mountains becoming valleys and valleys becoming mountains)
    People called him the Maker of created things, the Prince of all things, Father of the Sun, who performed other wonders, giving life to men and by his hand marvelous great benefits were conferred on the people. He gave orders to men how they should live, and he spoke lovingly to them with much gentleness, admonishing them that they should do good and no evil or injury one to another and charitable to all. In most parts he is generally called Ticiviracocha, but in the province of the Collao they call him Tuapaca, and in other places Arnanan. People built temples and put blocks of stone for a likeness of him, and offered up sacrifices before them. It is held that the great blocks at Tiahuanacu were from that time. They said that the man went toward the north working marvels along the way of the mountains and that he never more returned.
One can only wonder at the account found in 3 Nephi of the destruction and the appearance of the Savior to the Nephites: 
    The Maker of created things…“I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are” (3 Nephi 9:15);
    A white man of great stature who, by his aspect and presence, called forth great veneration and obedience…” they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them” (3 Nephi 11:8);
    Change plains into mountains, and great hills into valleys…”many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23);
    Father of the Sun…“both of the Father and of the Son” (3 Nephi 1”14);
    By his hand marvelous great benefits were conferred on the people…”his disciples bare record that he gave them power” (3 Nephi 18:37);
    Admonishing them that they should do good and no evil or injury one to another and charitable to all…”ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not “ (3 Nephi 18:22); “And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you” (3 Nephi 18:34);
    He spoke lovingly to them with much gentleness…”And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them” (3 Nephi 17:21);
    He gave orders to men how they should live…”Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.“ (3 Nephi 18:21); “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world” (3 Nephi 18:24).
    What a marvelous confirmation of the Book of Mormon found in the old stories the Indians passed down for generations that were told to the Spanish conquistadors and recorded by their chroniclers.


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  2. Thank you Del. another excellent post. One thing I've been a bit confused about. The ancient stories of the Savior's appearance seem to be centered around Lake Titicaca. The scriptures say that occurred in the land Bountiful. You have the land bountiful placed much further north (for many good reasons). How do I reconcile the two?