Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nephite Highways and Roads – Part II

Continuing from the last post on the Nephite roadway system that not only covered nearly 25,000 miles, but connected what is now six countries and made the Nephite nation a commercial haven and provided the ability for a few Spanish invaders on horseback to conquer a population hundreds of times larger than their tiny force. 
The Andean roadway system (left) was the most extensive and advanced transportation system in the pre-Columbian Americas, estimated at 24,800 miles in total length; however, the true extent of the road network will likely never be known, since only about 25% of the original road network is visible and can be seen today. This, because the Spaniards after the conquest, both completely dug up entire sections of roadway, and allowed it to deteriorate under the metal hooves of horses and iron-bound wheels of carts and wagons. In fact, the ignorant, destructive nature of the conquerors in their wanton devastation of the Inca Empire, its people, magnificent buildings, artifacts and the ancient accomplishments of a civilization dating back two thousands years with histories of accomplishments the Spanish could never have achieved, let alone equaled, is appalling.
    Yet, this destruction of Lehi’s descendants had been foretold from the very beginning with Lehi’s prophecies and Nephi’s vision (2 Nephi 1:18; 1Nephi 1:13-14).
    When the Spanish arrived in what is now Peru, the Inca Empire, under Sapa Inca (the “Only Emperor”) Atahualpa, covered some 690,000 square miles, from the Patia River in southern Colombia to the Maule River in Chile, and eastward from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of the Amazon jungles. The Inca controlled upwards of 16,000,000 people at the time with Pizarro landing with only 168 Spanish soldiers and some indigenous auxiliary Indians (Indios amigos) who were friendly to the Spanish. At this time, two things enabled Pizarro to conquer such a vast Empire.
1. The Inca had just entered into a civil war of succession between two brothers: Atahualpa, an illegitimate son, and his brother, the rightful heir, Prince Túpac Cusi Hualpa, also known as Huáscar—the Spanish were very good at establishing such alliances that exploited ethnic and tribal antagonisms and enabled Pizarro to side with one and gain help in defeating the other;
2. A network of roads and highways that made movement throughout the Empire swift and easy, especially by horseback.
    This Andean Road System was an extensive communication, trade and defense network of roads and associated structures covering about 25,000 miles. Constructed over several centuries, the network reached its maximum expansion having spread across the length and breadth of the Andes.
    The network was based on four main routes, which originated from the central square of Cusco, the Nephite capital until Mosiah fled to Zarahemla around 200 B.C.
These main routes are connected to several other road networks of lower hierarchy, which created linkages and cross-connections. 273 component sites in 137 segments highlight the network, encompassing architectural and engineering achievement along with its associated infrastructure for trade, storage and accommodation as well as sites of religious significance. Many roads moved along cliffs, making it possible to move quickly from one area to another that would have otherwise taken days to cross.
    The road network was the outcome of an ongoing project that linked towns and centers of production and worship together under an economic, social and cultural system, which is an extraordinary road network through one of the world’s most extreme geographical terrains used over several centuries by caravans, traveler, messengers, armies and whole population groups.
    When the Inca came to power in 1438, these roads became the lifeline of the Tawantinsuyu, linking towns and centers of production and worship over long distances. Towns, villages and rural areas were thus integrated into a single road grid. Several local communities who remain traditional guardians and custodians of Qhapaq Ñan segments continue to safeguard associated intangible cultural traditions including languages. 
The magnificent roadway system, by its sheer scale and quality of the road, is a unique achievement of engineering skills in most varied geographical terrains, linking snow-capped mountain ranges of the Andes, at an altitude of more than 20,000-feet high, to the coast, running through hot rainforests, fertile valleys and absolute deserts. It demonstrates mastery in engineering technology used to resolve a myriad of problems posed by the Andes variable landscape by means of variable road construction technologies, bridges, stairs, ditches and cobblestone pavings. 
    The road system exhibits important processes of interchange of goods, communication and cultural traditions within a cultural area of the world, beginning during the Nephite times and expanding over nearly a 1000 year period—then later, into Inca times that served the Empire at its height in the 15th century. It is based on the integration of prior Andean ancestral knowledge and the specifics of Andean communities and cultures forming a national organizational system that enabled the exchange of social, political and economic values for a single governmental system under the Nephites. It was still in operation a thousand years after the Nephites, and enabled the Inca to quickly gain control and subjugate millions of people because of the Empire’s swift movement throughout their territory as they moved their troops from land to land, city to city and place to place.
    Several roadside structures provide lasting evidence of valuable resources and goods traded along the network, such as precious metals, muyu (spondylus shell), foodstuffs, military supplies, feathers, wood, coca and textiles transported from the areas where they were collected, produced or manufactured, to distant cities and lands. The Nephite construction of this vast network of roads and highways tied together their Land of Promise in a way no other system could have done. It enabled movement of settlements, missionary labors, and later military campaigns to stop and cut off Lamanite advances. The roads are a unique testimony to Nephite ingenuity and building capability. The road network was the life giving support to the Nephite Nation, integrated into the Andean landscape. As a testimony to the building legacy of Nephi, it illustrates a thousand years of cultural evolution and was an omnipresent symbol of the Nation’s strength and extension throughout the Andes.
The Andean Road System is an outstanding example of a type of technological ensemble which despite the most difficult geographical conditions created a continuous and functioning communication and trade system with exceptional technological and engineering skills in rural and remote settings. Several elements illustrate characteristic typologies in terms of walls, roads, steps, roadside ditches, sewage pipes, drains, etc., with construction methods unique to the Nephi roads while varying according to location and regional context. Many of these elements were standardized by the Nephites, which allowed for the control of equal conditions along the road network. 
    The roadway system played an essential role in the organization of space and society in a wide geographical area along the Andes, where the roads were used as a means to share cultural values with outstanding intangible significance.
    It was the highways and roads that enabled Moroni to move his troops quickly from west to east, and from south to north as he spent his lifetime defending his country against the Lamanites. It was the highways and roads that allowed Teancum to intercept Morianton in his flight toward the Land Northward (Alma 50:33-35). It was the highways and roads that enabled Coriantumr to march so swiftly to Zarahemla (Helaman 1:19), and believe he could march as fast to Bountiful (Helaman 1:24), and also allowed Lehi to cut Coriantumnr off on his march to the north (Helaman 1:28). It was over the highways and roads that Helaman moved  with his 2000 stripling warriors, and Antipus moved his forces against the Lamasnites, and it was along these highways and roads that Moroni moved his army to succor the cities in the east.

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