Friday, September 9, 2016

The Ancient Peruvian Fortress of Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is situated 40 miles north-west of Cuzco, and located at an altitude of 9,160 feet above sea level in an area the Inca later called the Sacred Valley, a region in Peru's Andean highlands. Along with the nearby town of Cusco and the ancient city of Machu Picchu, it formed the heart of the Inca Empire. Stretching roughly 37 miles, it’s an area of fertile farmland and Spanish colonial villages like Pisac and Ollantaytambo, Pisac being a hilltop citadel.
    When Nephi separated himself from his brothers at the Lord’s command, he traveled northward in the Land of Promise for many days before stopping and pitching their tents. This is the area the Nephites (those who went with Nephi) called Nephi, or the Land of Nephi. This is where Nephi built the city of Nephi, and where the Nephites centered their lives for the next 350 years or so until Mosiah was led away by the Lord to eventually encounter the Land of Zarahemla and the people of the Mulekites.
    During that time, the Nephites built several cities and roads that led from city to city, land to land and place to place. The ancient cities within the Sacred Valley today are those the Nephites built, for Nephi tells us that he taught his “people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” (2 Nephi 5:15).
This was a building instruction that Nephi learned from the Lord while building the ship that carried them across the deep water of the oceans. During that instructional period, the Lord taught Nephi many things.
    To his scoffing brothers, Nephi said, “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:50-51). In this building of the ship:
1. The Lord showed Nephi where to go to find ore to make tools (1 Nephi 17:9);
2. He showed Nephi the manner in which he was to construct a ship (1 Nephi 17:8);
3. The Lord showed Nephi “from time to time after the manner I should work the timbers of the ship (1 Nephi 18:1);
4. He worked the timbers of curious workmanship (1 Nephi 18:1);
5. He worked the timbers not after the manner of men (1 Nephi 18:2);
6. He did not build the ship after the manner of men (1 Nephi 18:2);
7. Nephi was instructed oft by the Lord in great things during this construction period (1 Nephi 18:3);
8. When the ship was finished all agreed it was exceedingly fine )1 Nephi18:4).

When Nephi then taught his people how to work with various mediums and build, no doubt he was conveying to them many of the things the Lord taught him while Nephi was building his ship( 1 Nephi 18:3).
    When the Nephites began building buildings in the Land of Nephi, they were well aware that the Lamanites sought their lives and they had already fought many battles and wars with them dating back to the time of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:14).
Large defensive walls surround the building of Ollantaytambo as well as most other sites in the area. The builders built on top of hills or mountains, knowing they needed an advantage over a persistent enemy 

    This construction took on two specific important emphasis—extensive defense, and amazing construction techniques uniquely fitted to the earthquake prone lands of the Andes. The stonework used was similar to that found all through Jerusalem that existed there long before Lehi’s time of cut and dressed stones, well-fitted, but Nephi’s work had an extra ingredient that was an unknown method of cutting and fitting in numerous angles that were incredibly smooth that even surprise today's builders with great ability. The rockwork at Ollantaytambo and many others places in the area was so smooth and perfectly pieced together it almost defies comprehension. The biggest stones are easily 12 feet high by 8 feet long, and some weigh 80-100 tons. The quarries were on a hillside across the Urubamba River, perhaps two miles away, so they had to move the stones downhill, get them across the river, then bring them uphill. Many modern-day builders still marvel at what these ancients accomplished.
    In addition, the work of the Nephites, like that of the Jews and historically that of the Lord’s people, was always involved with extensive and effective terracing for agriculture. So, Ollantaytambo, also like Sacsahuaman, consisted of a series of terraced levels, defended by huge megalithic walls.
Like Sacsayhuaman and Tiwanaku, the site is littered with stone blocks in which mysterious niches have been cut with precise angles and perfect inside edges. 
    Curiously, one of the lower walls here has been repaired with inferior quality stones, which stand on top of their superior megalithic cousins. No-one but the Incas could have carried out these repairs. It is a feature repeated at other sites such as Pisac, and provides a further clue to the limited scope and quality of Inca constructions, contrasting their achievements to those from the pre-Inca period.
    Above the fortified terracing at Ollantaytambo, there lies a mysterious building romantically known as the “Temple of the Sun.” This “temple” is fronted by six enormous monoliths, the largest stone measuring over 13 feet in height. These stones are unique, their straight sides and unusual spacers being in total contrast to the multi-faced joints and bevelled edges of other megalithic walls in Peru.
(Red Arrows) The Temple of the Sun at the top of Ollantaytambo

    Exactly how the stones were so perfectly shaped is unknown, since they were carved out of red porphyry, a stone as hard as granite. The great mystery of Ollantaytambo is how these six 50-ton stones were moved to their present location, since the quarry from which they came has been definitively identified at Chachicata four miles away across the valley on the opposite mountainside!” Having first quarried the stones, it would be necessary to take them down a steep mountain slope, across a river, and then up another steep mountain slope to the construction site. It seems to be an impossible task.
    At the northern end of the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is rare if not unique in Peru.
Ollantaytambo is a massive citadel located 50 kilometers from Machu Picchu. The citadel served as both a temple and a fortress. At some time unknown, and for reasons unknown, work mysteriously stopped on this huge project.

    According to legend, Ollantay (the titan of the Andes) was of plebeian origin, who loved the princess Cusi Coyllor (cheerful star) the daughter of Inca Pachacútec. In disagreement with this love, Pachacútec sent the princess to a house of Virgins from where Ollántay tried to abduct her. He failed without but managed to escape. From the fortress that Ollántay controlled he rebelled against Pachacútec, and after several bloody battles was defeated, but because of the generosity of Pachacútec, he forgave the life of Ollántay.
The foundation of Ollantaytambo is attributed to Ollántay, and the military fortress that protected this area of the valley which prevails strategically between two mountains. On the summit of the archaeological complex stands six monoliths of enormous size, assembled with incredible precision, with mysterious engravings of iconography.


  1. That is a good insight: that Nephi having been trained in methods by the Spirit to build a unique ship to cross the ocean for the salvation of his people, would naturally also be the one trained by the Spirit in methods to build massive fortresses in the Andes for the salvation of his people.

  2. Any clue yet as to the identity of Ollantaytambo?

  3. Any idea how they moved the massive stones? Elephants?

  4. Here is a great, up-close video look at Ollantaytambo by somebody who repeatedly shows the contrast between the skill of the original builders and the Incan contributions. He doesn't know of Nephite culture but attributes original construction to more advanced ancients whose work was demolished by a cataclysmic event. Great video if you can't go see it yourself.