Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nephi’s Journey Northward – From First Inheritance to City of Nephi – Part III

Continuing from the previous post as we follow Nephi and his small party putting a great distance between themselves and Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael, as they head northward toward the area that is now Lake Titicaca, then on through the La Raya Pass, and into Cuzco. We have been discussing the proofs showing how Tiahuanaco and surrounding sites, such as Puma Punku, which was a seaport, were raised suddenly from sea level (of the Sea East) to over 12,000 feet when the Andes rose, trapping a huge lake in the high mountains today called Titicaca. 
   Attendant to this sea level marina was a huge wharf system that archaeologists claim could house thousands of ships. It might be of interest to talk about “and their shipping and their building of ships” (Helaman 3:14). Of course, these two events, the scriptural reference and the archaeological find are not proof that this is the place, however, it should be noted the two certainly go together and lay groundwork of a possible connection.
Puma Punku- Remains of a great wharf for lake Titicaca that once ago lapped upon the shores of Tiahuanaco
    Thus it is suggested that the area of Lake Titicaca, which lies 215 miles to the south of Cuzco, would have been in Nephi’s time below sea level, or more accurately within the borders of the Sea East. Somewhere between Juliaca, or the northern end of Titicaca, the land dropped down to the sea, which later shot upward with the Andes. At the time of Nephi, it is likely, then, the Altiplano would have existed, but much lower than its present height, yet still at an altitude of a high plateau.
    Of course, in Nephi’s time, as they passed this way, there was nothing on the Altiplano other than a few wild vicuñas, who would have disappeared at the sight of this small party, the shrill male warning whistle reverberating through the hills. Nor would there have been anything down on the seashore except some type of bay or natural harbor which would later cause the Nephites, once securely settled in the city of Nephi to then backtrack and build along the bay a city of great significance, perhaps even a sacred site in the temple erected there.
    In Nephi’s time, though this altiplano was much lower and moved through an area today known as the La Raya Pass (La Raya meaning “crease,” “line,” or “streak,” suggesting the line of higher mountains to the east running today in a northeasterly direction for about six miles to the west of the Altiplano and Lake Titicaca near the La Raya pass. While we do not know the exact configuration of this area at the time Nephi passed through, it might be assumed that this pass, at some altitude existed, providing a type of restraint from the south where Nephi, just beyond settled in Cuzco (city of Nephi) where he must have felt safe, at least for a time, from his brothers and the sons of Ishmael.
However, before reaching the Pass, they would have come to the region today called Asillo, a cup-shaped area with two lakes, one on either side of the settlement, the one to the east (right) called Tuyfuqara qocha (Tuyfuqara Lake), the larger one on the west, now mostly a shallow swamp land, at one time was one large lake, though the marshes existed long before the lake dried up. Of this place, Victor W. Von Hagen once said that the lake at Asillo periodically overflowed, and the ancient Peruvians built a large  village on the hill above (later to be called the cerro de Calvary) to be out of the reach of such flooding. Alongside the village, which had originally been a high-top fortress, and during Inca times served as a tampu station alongside the ancient highway that crossed this way, Von Hagen describes a narrow but deep, swift-flowing stream called the Carabaya
    This area of Carabaya, called “verrye riche” by Von Hagen, referred to both the Carabaya country and the Carabaya river, both heavily laden with gold, where steps would later be cut into the solid rock that continued upward thousands of feet, in this vast land that lay midway between the environs of Lake Titicaca and that part where the Andes begin their precipitous drop into the jungles. Glacial valleys lay close to snow-bound peaks, which in turn were flanked by still  higher peaks. Then the land fell downward into deep valleys and cascading rivers, which rushed on through forest-covered montanas  into lowland jungles. This was the Carabaya. The river wound on into the precipitous hills that at one time had evidently carved out a canyon.
    Today a large Spanish-built Church of San Jeronimo de Asillo dominates the area, which was overladen with gold. In fact, the Spanish took 1,700,000 pesos of gold of “such fineness” that it exceeded the standard” from this settlement. Beyond here, still extant in Von Hagen’s time, a rope suspension bridge crossed the canyon and the deep flowing river. In fact, Von Hagen reported numerous ruins of bridge sites along this route.
The Abra (Mountain Pass)  La Raya, looking northward across the northern end of the Altiplano
    Today, this pass is the highest point between Puno (northern Lake Titicaca) and Cuzco, and we might assume it was in this same logical state before as well as after the area rose to its present height.
    In Nephi’s time, this area would have been at sea level along the Sea East coastal line and evidently lower by a considerable distance from the altiplano at this point, so that when the mountains rose up, the water would have been trapped and unable to run off to the west (inland).
    Today, Lake Titicaca occupies the northernmost basin; to the south are Lake Poopó and the Coipasa and Uyuni salt flats. To the north, the pass into Cuzco. Thus, beyond Titicaca, Nephi would have crossed through the La Raya Pass, which separates the Titicaca basin from the Vilcanóta valley, and on to Cuzco valley. 
The Altiplano anciently covered with grass and herds of vicuñas, today of llamas and Alpacas
    Beyond the La Raya pass, Nephi was led past the snow-capped mountains on the right and the steep grassy hillsides on the left, climbing all the way into the mountains. In the high elevations of the Sub-Andes “Puna” Nephi might have stopped to pick up gold nuggets in the rivers flowing northward toward Cuzco and eventually mingle into the Amazon River, or at least noted their existence for future prospecting of the precious metal. 
   They may also have extracted some salt and obsidian to be used for spears and arrowheads. In the enormous flatlands at these heights, were llama and vicuña herds abounded, which provided the party with necessary wool and meat, but also transport capabilities. The most productive region for agriculture was further down the mountains where farming terraces were built.
Once reaching the Cuzco Valley, where the Liahona evidently signaled them to stop and settle down, they later would have built some type of “pucarás,” or fortified constructions Mormon called resorts, of stone in high strategic places, to be reached by stone steps. According to Pedro Lozano, in his “Historia” of 1892, describes how these early Peruvians survived invasion by enemies, through their creativity and great resourcefulness—such as building water reservoirs in these high places, which can still be seen and visited today at the ruins of Aconquija in Andalgala, province of Catamarca as well as those in Quilmes. The location of the town of Quilmes was a brilliant strategic decision. The ruins are surrounded by a wall and nested up against the mountain. Water was available from springs and the snows up above and, from numerous lookout points, anyone approaching the town could be seen from miles away.
    Nephi, as his words indicated, was not unaware of the dangers the Lamanites presented: “And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.” 
Lamanites arguing that the leadership of this new land belonged in their hands, not the Nephites
    However, making sure they were not surprised, Nephi would have been able to control to a degree the early confrontations between his people and the Lamanites could have been controlled and limited to discussion, arguments over who deserved to keep the records and had the rights to the priesthood, and the birthright. But certainly there were battles, for Jacob describes Nephi as wielding the sword of Laban in the people’s behalf (Jacob 1:10), and by the time of Enos, there had bee n many wars between them (Enos 1:24). In fact, Nephi, before his death, said that, “I have beheld that many gnerations shall pass away, and there shall be great wars and contentions among my people” (2 Nephi 26:2). By Jarom’s time, the Lamanites had come many times against them to battle (Jarom 1:7).

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