Saturday, April 2, 2016

Pachacamac: The City of Zarahemla – Part V

Continuing from the previous four posts on Zarahemla as Pachacamac and its coastal location when Coriantumr attacked it then where he went as he headed up the center of the land toward Bountiful.
There have been so many ancient cultural sites in Peru where so many citadels, farming terraces, temples and pyramids have been built that you often only need to climb the nearest hill to find remnants of their existence. Because of this the vast majority of the country’s archaeological sites are relatively unknown, unvisited and unprotected. In the valley of the Lurin river there are dozens of ruins starting from the ancient power-center of Pachacamac along the coast to the Cieneguilla region, which has many of these spectacular ruins.
Behind the small town of Huaycán on the road east along the valley are the ruins of a city well over 1500 years old. Climbing up over the sandy foothills of the Andes through the backs of the multi-colored illegally built houses of the poor one reaches the top and a wonderful view. What was left of the pre-Inca city is spread out to view. As large and impressive as this city is, there are dozens of others just like it and larger, and surrounding many of the cities were farming terraces, now mostly collapsed, once stood, of the kind found all over the country of Peru.
The ancient walled city of Huaycán not far from Pachacamac in the Lurin Valley about ten miles from the ocean. Huaycán, with its great walls, aqueducts, stone carvings in the Cuzqueño style, the cemetery and its friezes on the walls with animal features and different ways, is located near Cieneguilla, Chontay and Chaclacayo
    The Lurin Valley is about 20 to 25 miles from the coast to where the valley narrows to a mile or so wide as it curves northward then circles back around to the south, a narrow strip of green looking much like a snake, lying stretched out on the ground in a half circle. Eventually the valley narrows to less than half a mile wide where the narrow pass curves down the narrow pass into the mountains where it is even less than half that wide.
    At the far east end is a very narrow passage or gorge through the mountains. Padre Bernabé Cobo (born Lopera) was a Spanish Jesuit missionary and writer, who was responsible for describing the cinchona bark which led to the development of quinine in Europe after his visit to Peru in 1632. His long residency in the Andes of 61 years, and his position as a priest and several times, as a missionary, gave him unusual opportunities for obtaining reliable information. In 1653, he finished his most important writing work, the Historia general de las Indias, of which only the first of four volumes was ever published. Another work, Historia de la fundacion de Lima, was also published.
Blue Arrow: Quito; Yellow Arrow: Pachacamac and Lurin Valley; Red Arrow: Sixty Mile Long Passage; Green Arrow: Pass at end of Lurin Valley; White Arrow: Cuzco
    To clarify the roads through here, we need to keep in mind that there were two main north-south highways, with the eastern one, called the Camino Real by the Spanish conquistadors, ran from Quito to Cuzco and on down into northwestern Argentina that traversed the mountain ranges of the puna and mountain valleys of the Andes, with peak altitudes of more than 16,000 feet and on to what is now Tucuman, Argentina, for a total length of 3,230 miles. The other main road, the western route that followed the coastal plain except in coastal deserts where it hugged the foothills, which the Spanish called El Camino de la Costa, or Coastal Road, ran for 2,420 miles parallel to the sea and was linked with the Camino Real by many smaller, feeder routes, of which the road from Pachacamac northeastward up the Lurin Valley was one. In fact, this road connected Zarahemla to Nephi (Cuzco) was greatly feared by the Spanish.
    It was Padre Bernabé Cobo who described just how narrow the pass was on the road up the Lurin Valley, and how treacherous it was, which gives us a clear picture of the importance of the passes that dot the land. He wrote: “The part of this road of the plains that reaches the sierra and broken land was made by hand with much work and skill. If it passed through hillsides with cliffs and slabs of rock, a narrow path, only wide enough for one person leading a llama or sheep, was dug in the boulders itself; and this type of construction did not run very far, but as soon as the boulder or slab was passed, the road widened again.” He also wrote: “Along the parts of these hills and slopes where there was some ravine or narrow gorge that cut off the road, even though it was three or four estados deep, rock walls were also made from below and built up to the level of the road.”
    The Spanish conquistadors apparently feared this pass at the eastern end of the Lurin valley when they traveled up and down the center of the country between Cajamarca and Cuzco.
    In the writings of Hermando Pizarro y de Vargas, one of he Pizarro brothers, the only one legitimately born in wedlock, he wrote in a letter dated November 1533 to the Royal Audience of Santo Domingo in “reports on the discovery of Peru” about “all the terrain was very rugged and obstructed by difficult passes,” he further stated: “The governor then ordered the troops to advance, leaving the rear-guard behind. The rest ascended, and the road was so bad that, in truth, if they had been waiting for us, either in this pass or in another that we came to on the road to Cajamarca, they could very easily have stopped us; for, even by exerting all our skill, we could not have taken our horses by the roads; and neither horse nor foot can cross those mountains except by the roads. The distance across them to Cajamarca is a full twenty leagues.”
The 19th century writer, William H. Prescott (left) in History Of The Conquest Of Peru, recounts the dilemma in which the Spanish force found itself at one point in Cajamarca. “Any assault on the Inca armies overlooking the valley would have been suicidal. Retreat was equally out of the question, because any show of weakness might have undermined their air of invincibility, and would invite pursuit and closure of the mountain passes. Once the great stone fortresses dotting their route of escape were garrisoned, argued Pizarro, they would prove impregnable. But to do nothing, he added, was no better since prolonged contact with the natives would erode the fears of Spanish supernaturality that kept them at bay.”
    Obviously, what was critical was that the Inca not close the mountain passes, where often a handful of men could stand off an entire army. The pass into the Lurin Valley was one of these very important passes.
    In fact, the junction on the roads in the Lurin valley was a major military position with a key “point” that was easy to defend. The point was the place where the highway passed through a narrow river gorge near the summit of the valley.
    Now, it would have been through this pass that led to the highway the Spanish called Camino Real, which cut through the center of the Nephite lands northward to Cajamarca, that is to Bountiful.
As Mormon put it: “And now when Coriantumr saw that he was in possession of the city of Zarahemla, and saw that the Nephites had fled before them, and were slain, and were taken, and were cast into prison, and that he had obtained the possession of the strongest hold in all the land, his heart took courage insomuch that he was about to go forth against all the land. And now he did not tarry in the land of Zarahemla, but he did march forth with a large army, even towards the city of Bountiful; for it was his determination to go forth and cut his way through with the sword, that he might obtain the north parts of the land” (Helaman 1:22-23).
(See the next post, ” Pachacamac: The City of Zarahemla – Part VI,” to see where Coriantumr went in order to travel up the center of the land to attack Bountiful)

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