Monday, March 28, 2016

Amulon – No Fortress City

There are two particular mountain peaks in the vicinity of the famed Pikchu range (where the highest peaks allow the gods to touch the earth), called Huayna Picchu (in Quechuan “New Peak/Mountain”) and Machu Picchu (“Old Peak/Mountain”), although there is some belief that in this case “macho” should be interpreted as “age,” or “Aged Peak or Mountain” because of its legendary sacred nature. Situated at about 7,700 feet above the Urubamba Valley, lying in a topographical saddle between the two peaks, it is well protected from view below.  
The two cities of Picchu were built along a saddle on adjacent mountain peaks
Today, the stone-built hanging city rests in an almost perfect state of preservation atop the verdue-crowned mountain amidst the tangled Montana east of Cuzco past the fortress of Pisac. Below is the Urubamba gorge through which the Urubamba River flows, one of the myriad of headwaters of the amazon that over the centuries has cut through the heartland of this Vilcabamba Range.
    In seeing Machu Picchu from the adjacent peak of Hyayna Picchu, which is reached by an unusual series of steps cut into the solid rock up the mountain for about a thousand feet, it is obvious that Machu Picchu could not have been an inaccessible fortress for a determined enemy who could have found its conquest no great problem. It’s major defensive drawback is its fresh water supply is in the canyon gorge 2000 feet below. Anciently, the site had a three-inch flume used to bring water down from its higher mountain sources, but the size would not have supplied more than a hundred people—which would have sufficed the priests and their wives and about twice their number of children during the dry season.
    According to Victor W. Von Hagen, Machu Picchu was not the “Lost City of the Incas” as it has been called, that Hiram Bingham claimed was the fortress of Vilcabamba where thousands of fierce Inca warriors had for years eluded the Spanish and forged a new empire (Highway of the Sun, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1955, pp110-111).
    As late as 1955 when visited by Von Hagen the area north and beyond Machu Picchu, and immense empty land in a remote, wild region of cold high uplands and hot tropical valleys known as the Vilcabamba where steep mountains of extreme relief that served as a jungle border, was still considered “The vast Geographical Unknown, covered with mountains, foliage and clouds."
    This steep mountainous region of extreme relief that served as a jungle border with altitudes varying from tropical river bottom canyons below 6560 feet to mountain heights on up to almost 19,685 feet, where a thick cloud forest vegetation covers much of the area up to around 13,123 feet.  
Even today it is considered one of the most mysterious places on Earth—located on the spine of a jungle cloaked granite peak towering some 2000 feet above the entrenched meandering of a roaring river below, it is frequently shrouded in misty clouds pierced by the powerful equatorial sun. Constructed from precisely sculptured granite blocks carefully joined with the projecting exposed stone of the surrounding mountain without mortar, and so precisely cut and wedged so closely together, that a credit card cannot be inserted between them, much like the construction of Sacsahuaman and the older buildings of Cuzco. However, the small houses that are joined together like a large ground-level apartment complex, is far less accomplished and made of smaller, rounded rocks with far less expertise in their construction, though still impressive in their overall design and purpose.
    It is interesting that in all the ancient Peruvian buildings where no mortar was used and the stones cut and fitted so precisely together, it is claimed that when an earthquake occurs, the stones are said to “dance”—they bounce through the tremors and then fall back into place. Without this building method, many of the best known buildings would have collapsed long ago.
    The point being, Machu Picchu, though called a Citadel today, was never built to be a fortress, it has not defensive walls, though heavily terraced, and its main buildings are not walled. There are no ditches, no ramparts, no towers, nothing at all that would be considered a citadel or fortress in the true sense of the word. It is, however, built high on a peak, but as indicated earlier, never could have withstood any type of siege, or even an attack with much effect.
    Its main reason for being where it is seems to be for remaining unseen in an out-of-the-way, hard-to-get-to area. A perfect fit for the City of Amulon. The apartment-like complex of houses, built by different hands, it would seem, than the rest of the stonework structures, or at least for a different purpose with "hurry" an apparent requisite, seems to bear testament that they were more hurriedly built, and done so strictly for a place to house several independent families.
Even today there are areas all over Andean Peru that are completely isolated because of the terrain where there are no settlements, villas or cities, miles upon miles in between occupied areas
    It is sometimes hard to think in today’s world that a place could be so isolated as to provide protection for a fairly large group of people that would have been sorely hunted by two very large military forces, yet one needs to continually keep in mind about the difficulty of travel in the land 2000 years ago before roads, trails, or even paths, in an isolated, unpopulated area. As we have mentioned several times, no matter the location, most of the time ancient man was limited to his direction of travel based upon the topography and terrain of his environment.
    As an example, when Friar Gabriel de Oviedo of Cuzco was trying to reach the mysterious Vilcabamba to offer peace overtures to the new Inca king Tupac Amaru, the Inca cut the suspension bridge over the Apurimac River at Huampu, 60 miles northeast of Cuzco. Unable to get across the swift-current to the other side of the river, and having no other passes or routes available to him, friar Gabriel returned the 60 miles to Cuzco to approach the region to the northeast by the only other route known by way of the Urubamba, which led via the fortress of Ollantaytambo lying a few miles downstream from Yucay. There he took the pass of Panti-calla, where he crossed the great suspension bridge that hung across the Urubamba Range and came to the headwaters of the Pampaconas River were he made contact with the Inca. It took him nearly a 200-mile trip to get the 60 miles to the Inca stronghold.
    Again, the point is, that the city of Amulon did not need to be a fortress or citadel, it only needed to be out of the way and back or up where foot traffic seldom, if ever, passed, and the city itself out of view from any distant vantage point. The Machu Picchu peak easily provided that need, and was actually not that far from the cities of Nephi, Shilom and Shemlon and therefore not out of range of a reconnoiter or surreptitious visit for the kind of supplies the priests might need from time to time that they could steal by night from the Nephites (Mosiah 21:21).
Those who burned Abinadi suffered the same death by fire along with their descendants
    However, they were not to escape the punishment that Abinadi prophesied upon them and their descendants (Mosiah 13:10), and true to his word, “those rulers who were the remnant of the children of Amulon caused that they should be put to death, yea, all those that believed in these things. Now this martyrdom caused that many of their brethren should be stirred up to anger; and there began to be contention in the wilderness; and the Lamanites began to hunt the seed of Amulon and his brethren and began to slay them; and they fled into the east wilderness. And behold they are hunted at this day by the Lamanites. Thus the words of Abinadi were brought to pass, which he said concerning the seed of the priests who caused that he should suffer death by fire.


  1. It should be noted too that the elevation of Machu Picchu was at a lower elevation than it is today since the foundation would have laid in BC times. Even then it would still have been very isolated. Kind of like the James gang robbers roost. Ira

  2. As much as a good fit as it seems, it is hard to believe that the small group of priests and later Lamanite wives could have constructed the megalithic (older and higher quality) part of Machu Picchu.

  3. erichard: I don't believe they did, at least not all of it. We don't know how long they were there, though it must have been several years. When you see Machu Picchu, it seems evident it was built in stages, with the rough work of the residential houses obviously built in a hurry or with less ability than the larger megalithic work later on. One of those things, I suppose, we will never know for sure until more information is available to us.