Sunday, July 2, 2017

Could Kuelap be Mulek?

Along the east borders by the seashore situated from the south to the north, were the Nephite cities of Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid and Mulek (Alma 51:26). All of these cities were obtained by the defector Amalickiah as he marched his Lamanite army northward to the borders of Bountiful (Alma 51:28), where he was finally stopped by Teancum (Alma 51:30) in 67 B.C. A great battle ensued in which Teancum’s famed warriors killed many Lamanites throughout the heat of the day, “even until it was dark” (Alma 51:31), at which time Teancum and his men “pitched their tents in the borders of the Land Bountiful; and Amalickiah did pitch his tents in the borders on the beach by the seashore” (Alma 51;32).
Now these borders are not the borders of the city, but the borders of the land of Bountiful. Evidently, the Land of Bountiful covered a very large area compared to the size and location of the city, much like the Land of Zarahemla was so much larger than the city. This is obviously why the City of Bountiful is not involved in those activities, battles and events surrounding both Morianton and Amalikiah in their different races to get to the Land Northward.
    In any event, during the night, Teancum and his servants stole into the Lamanite camp, with Teancum killing Amalikiah, and when the Lamanites awoke the following day, with Teancum and his troops encircling their camp ready to do battle, the Lamanites gave up their plan of “marching into the land northward” and retreated with all their army into the city of Mulek, and sought protection in their fortifications” (Alma 52:2).
    With Moroni engaged in battling the Lamanites on the West Sea and unable to come to Teancum’s aid, he sent a part of his army to defend Teancum’s force, who was planning to mount an attack against the Lamanites that occupied Mulek, but in the end he gave up the idea because the city was so well fortified (Alma 52:17). Later in the following year Moroni finally arrived in the North to join Teancum (Alma 52:18).
Top: Yellow Arrow: The fortress of Kuelap (City of Mulek) as it sits atop a ridge above the Utcumbamba River to the west and the Maranon River to the east. Before the continent rose and stabilized, the area to the left rising from the canyon in between, where the (White Arrow) Maranon, was the Sea East in Nephite times, so that Kuelap (Mulek) overlooked the seashore (Beyond the hill to the left, which is part of Cordillera Oriental—Eastern Mountain Range—is the Amazonas leading into the Amazon); Botton: The Maranon River, in Nephite times, the foreground would have been the seashore and that beyond the river beneath the East Sea—when the continent rose and stabilized and the Andes came up, the river valley was created 

Seeing that they could not attack the Lamanites within the fortifications of the city of Mulek, Moroni and his chief captains held a council of war the following year to decide how to coax the Lamanites out of the city, so they could retake Mulek (Alma 52:19). It is interesting that this city, originally built by the Nephites, was so strongly defended that it was impossible to attack, therefore Moroni devised a plan of subterfuge to draw the Lamanites out of the city, which eventually worked. The point is, the fortification of the city of Mulek, a northern city along the borders of the Land of Bountiful, and near the seashore of the East Sea, was the last city the Lamanites captured in their drive to take the Land Northward.
    Now either there were no more major cities between Mulek and the narrow neck of land and its narrow pass (Alma 52:9), or there were none that would have given the Lamanites any problem, thus we can understand that the city of Bountiful was not between the city of Mulek and the narrow neck of land, but further south, nor was it close enough to the narrow neck to head the Lamanite army before it reached the Pass and it was marching toward the Land Northward.
    This is why, once Amalikiah had captured Mulek, his path to the Land Northward was open as they marched to the borders of the Land of Bountiful, driving the Nephites before them and slaying many (Alma 51:28), and was so disappointed when Teancum arrived with his army to head them in their forward and northward progress (Alma 51:29).
    As Mormon states it: ”And it came to pass that he [Teancum] headed Amalickiah also, as he was marching forth with his numerous army that he might take possession of the land Bountiful, and also the land northward” (Alma 51:30). Thus, Teancum, when he headed or cut off Amalickiah’s march to the narrow neck and Pass, was north of the City of Bountiful, but still within the Land of Bountiful.
    One can imagine how disappointed Amalikiah would have been, having marched all the way up the east coast, taking one city after another in his unopposed race to reach the Land Northward and occupy the northern lands beyond the Nephites, when so near his prize, his worst enemy shows up with his army to cut him off from his objective. As Mormon states it: “But behold he [Amalikiah] met with a disappointment by being repulsed by Teancum and his men, for they were great warriors; for every man of Teancum did exceed the Lamanites in their strength and in their skill of war, insomuch that they did gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Alma 51:32).
Top: The fortress of Kuelap that sits atop a ridge of a steep sided Andean mountain with perfect views in all directions of the valleys below; Bottom: The formidable and unscalable walls of Kuelap, the City of Mulek. It is not difficult to see why both Teancum and Moroni realized they could not attack the Lamanites entrenched in the captured city, so well defended was it

As shown by the extensive size of this city, and why so much fighting took place around it, was it had been built to safeguard the eastern approach to the Land Northward—an approach the Lamanites seemed to favor since almost all their attacks were up the eastern seashore where isolated Nephite cities had been easy prey for them until Moroni began strengthening them and building stone walls around each city and places of resort, i.e., early warning posts (Alma 48:8).
    Yet, despite the extensive size, there were only three entrances to the fortress, two on the east and one on the west, and each was very narrow and easily guarded against any attack.
Two of the entrances—all three looked much the same, were very narrow and lengthy corridors that had to be climbed several feet in height that led to the eventual top of the city. Defenders could stand on the top and drop rocks, shoot arrows or throw  stones with their slings down upon an approaching force, that could only approach within the entrances one or two abreast; Top: Outside entrances; Bottom: Inside view of both entrances 

In Peruvian South America, now resting along the Andean ridges, Kuelap lies about 10 miles south of Chachapoyas, though at a higher elevation, about 2 miles south of Nuevo Tingo (same elevation), and about 60 miles northwest of Cajamarca, and about 250 miles southeast of the narrow neck of land. Both Kuelap and Chachapoyas lie between the Maranon River and the Utcubamba River, though Chchapoyas is to the east and Kulap to the west of the Utcumbamba, with Tingo along the west river’s edge.
Cajamarca (City of Bountiful) is about 250 miles south and east of the narrow neck of land, with Kulap (Mulek) further east and not as far south. Kulap and Chachapoyas are both on the eastward slope of the Andes overlooking the Amazonas further to the east, but Cajamarca is on the western slope of the Andes and within a natural high plain called an Inter-Andean Valley (or capital parts of the Land) that moves from Lima (Pachacamac, which was Zarahemla) to Cajamarca (Bountiful)—and as far south from Lima to Avacucho and Arequipa and the Chilean border. It is the reason Mormon describes Coriantumr’s charge toward Bountiful from Zarahemla as “through the most capital parts of the land” (Helaman 1:27). Having been a Nephite defector, Coriantumr knew the layout of the Nephite lands, and that Zarahemla was on the western edge of this Inter-Andean plateau that stretched all the way through the middle part of the Nephite lands to almost the city of Bountiful, before it broke up into cross ridges and small hills just to the south of Bountiful. 
Top: The ruins atop Kuelap, within the walls, numerous circular buildings in various stages of repair; Bottom: An artist’s rendition of the appearance of the city with all the ruins placed as separate houses for the occupants. It could have held a large city population, or a large garrison population, or a combination of both

It is not difficult to see how formidable the fortress of Kuelap was and is, and why once the Lamanites controlled it, Teancum decided not to try and attack it, and Moroni had to come up with subterfuge to draw the Lamanites out from behind its protective walls.
    Whether Kuelap is the ancient city of Mulek, we may never know, certainly there will be no signs anywhere to tell us as critics always expect us to provide; however, we can see that it fits all of the criteria surrounding Mulek’s many descriptions and has the appearance of a city built for the purpose of defense as Mormon describes to keep the Lamanites and any defector from reaching of the Land Northward.
Top: This third entrance has deteriorated with some of the upper wall crumbling and falling away; Bottom: All three entrances provided the same defensive value of dropping rocks, shooting arrows and slings downward as an invading force tried to infiltrate the narrow entrances that provided such easy and simple defense their entire length. No force could have survived these gauntlet-style entrances so long as the garrison was adequately staffe


  1. Pretty amazing defensive structure

  2. I think a primary impediment to understanding BoM Geography (at least in my case), is that in the modern world of paved super highways and bridges, most geographical "barriers" are no longer barriers to movement. You can now drive around features, such as the Grand Canyon, in a matter of hours instead of the many days/weeks it would take by wagon or pack train.

    You can drive from the US West Coast to the East Coast in a couple days instead of the months it would take a wagon train.

    Even the most desolate stretch of road is not that far from the next convenience station where you can pick up gas, food, and filtered water, instead of being required to load up barrels of water and food for yourself and your animals for your entire trip.

    A "modern" mind may not even notice or think of the landscape as anything other than background.

  3. Michael: That is the exact point we have been trying to make for a long time. We simply cannot truly appreciate the difficulty terrain and distances presented to ancient peoples when it is rarely considered in our time. Thank you for your keen insight.

  4. Great research Del. I went through Priddis book and wrote down what she thought were BOM cities of the Jaredites and Nephites. There are a number of them that are dead ringers such as Zarahelma=Pachacamac. Priddis thought that Chachapoyas was identified with Mulek but your analysis of Kuelap is very compelling. Do you have any kind of list of what you think are good fits? Thanks, Ira

    Modern City Book of Mormon City
    Otavalo Ogath
    Malchala City Desolation
    Riobamba Moron
    Salinas Heth
    Manta Nehor
    Cayambe Shurr
    Tabacundo Corihor
    city of Nephi Cuzco
    Pachacamac Zarahemla
    Machu Picchu Amulon
    Chanapata Shemlon
    Kotoch Lehi
    Chavin De Huantar Aaron
    Cajamarca Bountiful
    Huanuco Nephihah
    Izcu-Chaca Minon
    Pisco Antiparah
    Vilcas-Huaman Sidom
    Arequipa Middoni
    Tiahuanaco Ishmael
    Asillo Jerusalem
    Vilcabamba Helam
    Pomacocha Ammonihah
    Bonbon Jershon
    Tarapoto Omner
    Chachapoyas Mulek
    Hanan-Cuzco Shilom
    Huancayo Gideon
    Mayoc Melek
    Mendoza Omner
    Moyobamba Gid

  5. As far as I know, Priddis did her analysis based strictly on location within her assumed map, which may be correct. However, I prefer more compelling comparison, such as the tower base still visible at Sacsayhuaman and king Noah’s tower, the compelling defensive description of Mulek and that of Kuelap, etc. Machu Picchu seems to fit the location of the priests of King Noah when they stole the Lamanite daughters because of the many small, individual house connections that would have served such an immediate beginning of these individual families, its isolated location, where they could hide from both Nephites and Lamanites, etc., as we've written about. but few others seem to suggest a definitive location at this time.

  6. Thanks Del. From your research how much archaeology has been done on Kuelap?

  7. I put this up after studying the Priddis book:

  8. Thank you. It will be interesting to see how many of these can be verified form the scriptural record. My sense is that we do not have enough information on most of this to make such claims, but I could be wrong. It is obvious an area in need of study and comparison.

  9. A friend of mine sent me an email with the following info in it.

    This is George Potter's version of the City of Mulek.

  10. Perhaps Potter should be reminded of the scriptural record regarding the city of Mulek: "And thus he went on, taking possession of many cities, the city of Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore" (Alma 51:26). His map and location of TamboViejo is in the south and west--NOT EAST! Why is it so difficult for these theorists to just simply follow the scriptural references in their selection of "candidates" for this place or that?

  11. I don't know... I thought I would share what he had to say. At least he is on the right Country. :-)