Sunday, March 20, 2016

Where Are the Cities of Shemlon, Amulon and Shilom?—Part I

For many years we have abstained from the guesswork of trying to place the location of cities, hills, rivers, and valleys described by Mormon simply because it seemed there was not enough information in the scriptural record to justify such random guesswork. However, after years of study and increasingly additional information of the area we have found the scriptural record leads us to as the land of Promise, it seems reasonable that certain places that are well described by Mormon can be located with some confidence. Therefore we have found sufficient connection to suggest locations of these three areas outside or near the City of Nephi, which we have isolated earlier from the information Mormon has given us.
    When the Nephite leader, Zeniff, arrived back in the Land of Nephi to reclaim the land of their inheritance for he and his people, he went down and met with the Lamanite king, a man named Laman, and struck a deal with him—whatever that deal completely entailed, we are not told; however, Laban withdrew from the City of Nephi and had his Lamanites vacated both Nephi and Shilom. 
     As Zeniff wrote in his record, which was read to the Nephites in the City of Zarahemla later (The Record of Zeniff comprises chapters 9 thru 22 in the Book of Mosiah and spans an approximate period of 75 years, roughly from 200 B.C. to 125 B.C.), “For this very cause has king Laman, by his cunning, and lying craftiness, and his fair promises, deceived me, that I have brought this my people up into this land, that they may destroy them; yea, and we have suffered these many years in the land” (Mosiah 10:18), we get the impression that whatever the original deal Laman agreed to with Zeniff was merely a subterfuge involving “lies and fair promises,” to get the Nephites into the land so the Lamanites could get gain from their presence and possibly kill them.
    However, Zeniff was likely a peaceful man who thought to do things by negotiation rather than war, much like a diplomat today. Whatever Laman said to him, Zeniff agreed to and accepted, and no doubt told his people that they would have peace in the land—perhaps something like the news Neville Chamberlain brought back from his meeting with Hitler in September 1938. Yet, he was not completely trusting, for he “had sent my spies out round about the land of Shemlon, that I might discover their preparations, that I might guard against them, they might not come upon my people and destroy them.” (Mosiah 10:7).
A topographic image from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite from July 18, 2006, shows Cuzco, Peru, which was once the capital of the Inca Empire, as well as the famed Sacsahuaman fortress above the city in the northwest edge of the valley, and the Sacred Valley somewhat to the northeast. The valley of Cuszo runs almost north and south, with its entrance to the lower far right in the (yellow arrow) lower (Hurin) portion of the city. The Urubamba (Willkamayu, meaning “Sacred”) River flows from right to left on a northwest course, and further upriver it becomes the Vilcañota (Willkanuta “house of the sun).
    As for their location, we have given much background as to where the City of Nephi was located, within the Valley of Cuzco, and probably around the entrance to it from the south, originally called Hurin-Cuszo (lower Cuzco) by the later Spanish chroniclers; and that Shilom would have been in the northern end of the valley Hanan-Cuszo (Upper Cuzco), close to the cliff or hill overlook where Sacsayhuaman was located above the valley, what Gideon called “the back side of the city” (Mosiah 22:6).
    It should be kept in mind that the area within Cuzco must have been occupied at times by small populations in small, open structures, for Garcilaso writes about places (villages, settlements) being 100 steps outside the city, or one thousand paces from the city, yet, in just a few years later when he left, the city limits had already expanded to include all of them.
Shilom evidently was close to the temple and tower next to it that king Noah built and from which he could see the Land of Shilom and he Land of Shemlon. The Hebrew word “Shilom” means “peace,” which means a state of tranquility or quiet. Fields and pastures give one a feeling of peace and tranquility. Perhaps Shilom and the hill north of it were comprised mostly of fields and pastures, with  few homes scattered throughout. Garcilaso de la Vega said that the first homes were built on the slopes of the Sacsahuaman hill. This area of northern Cuzco was called Collcampata (Cóllcam-terrace), and beyond (east) was Cantutpata, meaning the “terrace of pinks,” a flower similar to a carnation, which grew in vast profusion there. Beyond, further east, was Pumacurcu, “the lion’s beam,” referring to some large beams there to which in Inca times according to Garcilaso, lions presented to the Inka were fastened until they were tamed and could be moved to their permanent quarters. And beyond that was another ward, called Tococachi, which literally means “window salt,” of which Garcilaso leaves us no clue, even though names were never applied in the Andes at random.
    To the West of the city was a village called Chaquillchaca, where two streams of excellent water ran near the road that were channeled underground. In 1555, the Inca had no idea where the water came from or who had built the channels (called Collquemáchac-huay, meaning “silver snakes”), for the work was ancient even to their ancestors.
    Shemlon, on the other hand, would have been beyond one of the hills that surrounded the Valley of Cuzco, or at least what would have been at the time an extension or arm of the valley that cut back into the hills since we find that there was an area in Shemlon that was wilderness (Mosiah 20:1-4).
Shemlon, current settlement of Chanapata, was tucked back up the northwest finger of Cuzco valley, backing against a wilderness that stretched clear to the mountainous land to the north
    Most likely, that area would have been to the west of Sacsahuaman up in a separate valley from Cuzco, where beyond the flat plain lies mountains all around where no settlements were or are locateda true narrow strip of wilderness separating regions of occuppied land. The area of Shemlon was dedicated to agriculture and livestock, and was excavated in 1941 by the well-known archaeologist and anthropologist of Peru, John Howland Rowe, who evidenced the fact that these people originally came from the south since even to this day that is the only entrance into Cuzco Valley (from across the southern Altiplano)
    The reason Chanapata is likely Shemlon is found in the history and archaeology of this area compared to the rest of the valley round about. Just outside the northwest boundary of Cuzco is an ancient site which archaeologists call Chanapata, a settlement said to be the oldest site ever discovered in the Cuzco Valley. This estimate of its relative antiquity is based on the fact that there are no stone buildings, in fact, according to Thomas R. Ybarra, the only evidence of its existence are bits of pieces of fieldstone walls, simple graves, and general rubble along with numerous fragments of incised writing (Lands of the Andes Peru and Bolivia, Coward-McCann, New York, 1947, pp156-157). 
    Such type of evidence does not mean that the site is older than others, it could very well mean that just a less civilized people lived there—thus Chanapata could easily have been the ancient habitation of the Lamanite people who lived near the city of Nephi and Shilom, in the land of Shemlon. It might be noted that in the entire scriptural record, in the six times “Shemlon” is mentioned, it is only given as a land—except once where it is called “a place in Shemlon” where the daughters of the Lamanites gathered (Mosiah 20:1)—but never listed as a city. Thus, Chanapata fits an area where the Lamanites withdrew to from Nephi and Shilom and lived probably in tents and a rough settlement but did not build a city.
Shemlon to the west and north from Sacsahuaman hill and Shilom to the south, directly beneath Sacsahuaman hill and stretching out southward into the Cuzco Valley
    In fact, the scriptural record tells us that Shemlon was very near, since Zeniff had spies placed round about the land of Shilom, while he and his people occupied Shilom and Nephi (Mosiah 10:7). In addition, a tower built on the hill overlooking Shilom could also see Shemlon (Mosiah 11:12). Also, the Lamanite army crossed the border of Shemlon into that of Shilom (Mosiah 19:6) and Shemlon was very near Shilom (Mosiah 24:1)—Amulon, the third city, was the one that the priests built after kidnapping the daughters of the Lamanites, so probably would have been beyond where the priests had been hiding in the wilderness to the north of Shemlon  (Mosiah 23:31), which was to the south of the wilderness in which they were hiding to watch the women.
    Now this wilderness in Shemlon (Mosiah 20:1,4) would not have been to the south or east for that was the direction of Cuzco. Directly behind Chanapata is an open area, about where the Calle Saphi ends (running along the foot of the western cliff face of Sacsahuaman hill). From there northwest to Machu Picchu, a distance of about 47 miles is nothing but wilderness and mountains, even today. 47 miles is about 3 days journey from Shemlon over rough mountainous terrain. But the priests were fearful of their own people who had earlier tried to kill them along with king Noah, who they had lorded over the people for so many years, and then abandoned their wives and families when Noah ordered them to run away with him, and obviously fled for their lives in fear and disgrace. They would not have gone back to the Nephites, nor would they have wanted anything to do with their enemy, the Lamanites (other than their women), so they needed a place to hide from everyone where they would not be discovered. But first they needed women for wives.
(See the next post, “Where Are the Cities of Shemlon, Amulon and Shilom?—Part II,” to continue with the daughters of the Lamanites and where the priests of Noah took them—the city of Amuon, which they built)

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