Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ancient Bible and Book of Mormon Cities – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, in discussing the types of construction that was known in Jerusalem and Israel in the centuries between David and Lehi, to show what type of construction that Nephi, Sam and Zoram would have known and lived around, an interesting defensive wall design called “casemate” was being used more than two-and-a-half centuries before Nephi was born. 
    First of all, before the monarchy (earlier than 1000 B.C.), walls were made of unbaked bricks on a stone foundation. In the early days of the monarchy, casemate walls were constructed. These were made of two parallel walls, the outer one thicker than the inner, connected by a series of cross walls about 6 feet long which gave the whole system the appearance of a series of rooms.
Around the time of David and especially Solomon (the Monarchy), casemate walls were built some 400 years before Lehi’s time. These were double walls cross-wise strengthened every six feet or so for added strength. This very advanced and aggressive building technique would have been known to Nephi
    The sections of the wall (these interior rooms between the walls) were filled with earth so that in times of siege, the walls were very strong and defeated attempts with battering rams and similar siege engines to break through them. They also formed an inner ring road circling the town, for in several Palestinian cities houses were built up along it close to the inner wall. Later on, the casemate walls of a "royal city" like those built in the 9th century B.C., more than 250 years before Lehi (1 Kings 16:24), supported imposing superstructures, shops and a palace overlooking a paved courtyard. No attempt appears to have been made to add buttresses to the these walls.
Yellow Arrows show the area between the walls that was filled with dirt. When compacted, a battering ram would have no effect upon the wall—an ingenious defense that also worked centuries later against cannon fire
    Types of fortification were improved during the monarchy and another very popular form of city wall developed, made up of a massive "broken line" of alternating recesses and salient, which meant that attackers approaching the inside of the recess were exposed to the defenders standing on the salients on either side. 
    In the early days, walls of this kind were built without towers. The form was used in the Megiddo of Jehu's dynasty, more than 200 years before Lehi left Jerusalem. Recesses in the wall built by Solomon were blocked on the inside and strengthened and the flanking salients enlarged to serve as the basis for a tower. This made for more effective defense and also a simpler construction of the massive gateway.
Top: Egypt was building “broken line” walls as early as the 2nd millennium B.C., like this one at Memphis built by Ineb-Hedj, which means “White Wall”; Bottom: It is interesting that when the Nephites built Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco around 500 B.C., they used this same type of “broken line” construction on their walls
    When Mormon wrote of a Nephite defense, “But behold, how great was their disappointment; for behold, the Nephites had dug up a ridge of earth round about them, which was so high that the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them that they might take effect, neither could they come upon them save it was by their place of entrance” (Alma 49:4), and “the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it were by the entrance” (Alma 49:18).
    The gate, of course, was the key to a fortress or city's defense and potentially its weakest point. Walls were broken for gateways only very reluctantly and then great care was given to their situation. As an example, Jerusalem had a number of gates, all mentioned by name in the Bible, but most Israelite cities had only two, one for wheeled traffic and the other, on the opposite side, for pedestrians only. 
    The road that led to the main gate was planned, wherever possible, with wartime exigencies as well as peaceful uses in mind. An army marched to the attack with the soldiers holding their weapons in their right hands and their shields in the left. Wherever possible, accordingly, a city gate was placed so that anyone coming up the road had the wall and its defenders on the vulnerable right-hand side. 
    Where this was physically impossible, a second outer gate would be built to protect the entrance to the city. This bastion, guarding the approaches to the city, helped to overcome the intrinsic weakness of a system which allowed enemy soldiers to come up close to the walls, protected by their shields.
    In the Israelite period, city gates were part of a strong, massive tower, through which the road ran, narrowed by two or three embrasures and closed during the night or in time of war.
City and fortress of Megiddo. Blue Arrow: Outside entrance or main gate; Yellow Arrow: Inside entrance, part of main gate; White Arrows: Guardhouses where defenders of the main gate were housed; Red Arrow: Inner gate leading into the city
    Unlike Hollywood movies, the gate was securely attached and nearly impregnable, with the door itself guarded by two or more pairs of massive piers, forming the guardrooms between them. Behind the first set of piers hung the door, with a huge vertical beam at each side, strengthened by strips of bronze. It moved on hinges fitted into hollowed out stone door sockets on either side of the piers, i.e. at each end of this doorsill of the Lachish gate.

The friction between the hinge and the socket (dotted line) naturally wore out the stone so door sockets might be protected by bronze covers. The sockets for city gates and the doors to other important buildings had to be replaced frequently. For this reason, many more worn-out door sockets than city gates have been unearthed in Israelite cities. Sometimes the socket stones were used in later buildings.
    Walls and large buildings in the Israelite cities were made of hewn stone, with the stone used for house building varied from common field stones or bigger roughly shaped quarry stones held together with plenty of clay mortar, to carefully wrought dressed quarry stone. A typical Israelite wall was made of a mixture of hewn wrought and unhewn stones, the wrought stones being used for corners (cornerstones) and as headers and stretchers at fixed intervals; the space between them was filled by rough stones embedded in mortar. This was a quick and cheap method of building.
Rough hewn stone used in two areas of ancient Israel before the time of Lehi. Long before Lehi left Jerusalem, stones were also cut and dressed, making them smooth and evenly joined
    Another interesting stone monument in the area of Palestine is the ancient massive foundation platform of Baal Hadad, which is like no other structure in the world, with trilithon composed of three stones each measuring 62 by 14 by 12 feet, weighing 870 tons each. They have been raised to a height of 33 feet and have been so accurately cut and placed that a razor's edge cannot be placed between them.
    The point of all this, o coure, is to show that before Lehi left Jerusalem, not only that major city, but all Israelite cities around were built of hewn stone, sometimes of huge proportions, and perfectly fitted. Nephi, Sam, Zoram, and their wives would have been well familiar with such stonework and accepted it as the way to build. When Nephi said, “I did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (2 Nephi 5:17), it is doubtful that such labor would have been of a lesser quality and material than what he had known throughout his life at Jerusalem. Nor would massive, dressed and well-fitted stones have been unusual to them.
Top: The massive foundation platform of Baal Hadad is 300 feet long and 200 feet wide and made of smooth hewn stone; Bottom: The Baalbek foundation stone shown here is the largest piece of hewn rock on the face of the Earth

No comments:

Post a Comment