Monday, September 25, 2017

Understanding the City of Nephi

The LaRaya Pass (meaning “The Line” or “Crease”) is a six-mile stretch through the LaRaya Mountain Range northwest of the Peruvian Altiplano and Lake Titicaca and south of Cuzco
After his father’s death, Nephi and his party traveled north away from the site where Lehi landed, passed through what is today the Titicaca Basin, about 240 miles south of Cuzco, and through the La Raya Pass (14,170-feet), along a small river known as Urubamba, from Quechua Willkamayu (meaning “Sacred River”), and upriver it is called Vilcañota from Aymara Willkanuta (meaning “house of the sun”), which originates near the La Raya Pass as a headwater of the Amazon River.
    This ever-widening river flows north-northwest for 450-miles before coalescing with the Tambo River to form the Ucayali River. The Urubamba drops down to Cuzco at 11,154-feet and beyond to Machu Picchu in the Sacred Valley, which is only 7,784 feet.
    Upon reaching the long, narrow valley that was once an ancient glacier lake bed in the center of natural routes through the mountainous peaks surrounding it, which would later become known as Qosqo (Qusqu, from the Aymara qusqu wanka, meaning “Rock of the owl”).
    Here, three rivers, the Huatanay, Tullumayo, and Chunchul join, where Nephi and his party moved to the far end, evidently to be as far from the southern entrance to the valley as possible. The first habitation of settled populations is considered to be around 500 B.C. or earlier, with its main settlement an area today called Chanapata. Today Cuzco, which covers 149 square miles, extends throughout the Huyatnay (Watanay) river valley located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco at an elevation of 11,152 feet. To its north is the Vilcabamba mountain range with mountains reaching 13,000 to 20,000-feet in elevation. About 37 miles northwest of the city is the highest peak, called Salcantay at 20,574 feet.
Two entrances/exits to/from Cuzco Valley; Left: the one in the south leading to La Raya Pass; (Right) and the one in the north, leading to the Sacred Valley

This valley area has a subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb) and is generally dry and temperate, with two defined seasons—a dry season from May to August, that has abundant sunshine and occasional nighttime freezes, with July the coolest month (equivalent to January in the northern hemisphere) with an average temperature of 49.5 °F. The wet season is from December to March (with February equivalent to July in the northern hemisphere), with night frost less common, and November averaging 55.9 °F. Although frost and hail are common, the only snowfall ever recorded was in June 1911. Temperatures usually range from 32.4 to 69.6 °F, with sunshine hours peaking in July. In contrast, February has the least amount of sunshine.
    This suggests then that during the dry season is when the Lamanites throughout their encounters and warfare with the Nephites, would have chosen to attack, which would be from about April/May through possibly October—rainfall during this time averages less than two days per month, and humidity is at its lowest. They would have broken off the conflicts and returned back to their highland home around November, to sit out the west season from December through March, when two-thirds of the year’s rain falls, with rain averaging over 15 days a month and humidity at its highest, and when the rivers swell and overflow, mudflats occur, and movement of large bodies of men would have been quite difficult. In fact, Mormon tells us of a continual returning to battle or returning to their homeland of both the Lamanites and Nephites, that they “returned in season” and that they did “arrive in season,” etc. (Alma 25:13, 27:1, 50:35, 52:17, 57:17-18).
    Even from earliest times, Cuzco was busily engaged in mining gold, a very extensive commodity in the valley, as well as agricultural effort with corn, barley, and quinoa. Also, from earliest times, the valley was divided into sections—the first of which was between “Upper Cuzco” (Hanan-Cuzco) and “Lower Cuzco” (Hurin-Cuzco), a division that has puzzled and confused historians for centuries. Toward the southern entrance to the valley was an area called que llamó de Rurincuzco, barrio de abajo del Cuzco, that is, a township of Rurincuzco, considered a suburb below Cuzco. This later became known as Hurin-Cuzco, or the lower valley.
When the Spaniards first arrived, they were astonished at the long, straight streets, organized buildings, and overall beauty of the city’s edifices 

Garcilaso de la Vega states that the people of Cuzco Alto (Hanan-Cuzco) were to be respected and considered as elder brothers, while those of the lower part were treated as younger brothers, which evolves from the belief that Hanan members were vested with the most prestigious status because they belonged to the main royal line (Qhapaq Ayllu) by both parents. They were "legitimate" or "elder" children who opposed the "second" children born of a noble father and a foreign mother.
    Thus, the “halves system” surviving in Inca times, was a hierarchical structure of the descent group based on the binary opposition between the eldest son and the minor son. The former were qhapaq , that is, opulent and of royal descent of father and mother, while the latter were wakcha quncha or poor and orphans, children of ladies without rich ancestry.
    Where this got started is not known, however, when Nephi settled his party in the valley, he chose to do so in what later became known as Hanan-Cuzco, or the upper valley. As the Nephites increased in number, they obviously extended southward in the valley toward its southern entrance, or what became known as Hurin-Cuzco, or the lower valley. Perhaps it is a carry-over from the ancient Hebrew "Law of the Firstborn," or Primogeniture of the Hebrew family that existed in Biblical times providing the bulk of the father's estate to the first born son. In fact, ancient Near East culture has believed that the first born human or animal had the purest and strongest blood, and thus were considered the best representatives of their race, based in part on the fact that the lifespan of Adam and the subsequently shorter lifespan of his later descendants provide an example for the basis of this belief. Thus, in Hebrew culture, the "firstborn" law anointed the oldest son with the assignment of special privileges and responsibilities, being second to his father and had the authority over his younger siblings. We see the result of this when not followed in the case of Laman's anger and hatred by his descendants toward Nephi and his descendants that Nephi was given the birthright (priesthood) privilege of the family, and the cause of most of the Lamanite-Nephite problems over the centuries.
The Collasuyu Road today. Originally it was paved with large, flat stones, and connected the Titicaca Basin with the Cuzco Valley
In the beginning there was a single road built within the valley, what later became known as the Calla Suyu, or Collasuyu, a road that extended into the southern realm of the four-quadrant Inca Empire, moving out of Cuzco to the south and the LaRaya Pass and then into the Titicaca Basin.
    There was also Antisuyu (eastern), a road that stretched eastward toward Pisac and then northward into the Urubamba river valley; Kontisuyu (western) left Cuzco in a southwesterly direction to a place south of Nazca along the coast; and Chinchasuyu (northern), part of the great highland road which stretched from Colombia, through Cuzco, and down to Chile, moving out of Cuzco, in a northwesterly direction and crossing over the Apurimac river by way of a great suspension bridge made of natural fibers woven together creating a strong rope and reinforced with wood creating a cable floor and attached to a pair of large stone anchors on each side of the canyon.
    Much has been written about these as "Inca roads," but the Nephite nation would have built these roads at one time or another, both early on when Nephi and his party arrived and their descendants began expanding and filling up the land (Jarom 1:8), and also later when “there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place” (3 Nephi 6:8).
    It should be noted that when Ammon and his brethren arrived on the hill above Shilom and Nephi, they camped for the night, then Ammon and tree others went down into the land of Nephi below where they encountered the king, who later told them, ”I desire to know the cause whereby ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city, when I, myself, was with my guards without the gate?” (Mosiah 7:10). Now, as one of our readers, David K., pointed out, “any proposed location for the city of Nephi should claim that the location at least used to be a walled, gated city.” Thus, when the Spanish arrived, they should have found, at least the remains of a walled and gated city.
Map drawn by conquistador Cieza de León, and published in his work, Crónica del Perú, 1553 showing not only the walled city of Cuzco, but a gate for the entrance

In fact, not only did they find such, but it was depicted in a drawing by Pedro Cieza de León, and published in his work, Crónica del Perú, 1553, later translated by Clements R. Markham and published in London in 1883 (Cambridge University Press). The drawing clearly shows a walled city with a main gate. In addition, an engraving by an early artist of the Manco Inca revolt also shows a walled city and a gate.

An early engraving of the 1536 rebellion and revolt of Manco Inca, who marshalled 40,000 Inca warriors that attacked the Spanish-held city of Cuzco, shows a walled city with a gate


  1. I read somewhere that another reason the Nephites and Lamanites returned home was to grow crops. After the harvest they would engage in warfare.

  2. Iterry: That sounds reasonable until you consider two things: 1) The number of women, non-combatants, older men, etc., left behind could have done so, and 2) There is little evidence that the Lamanites were into agriculture since they are described in scripture as hunters

  3. I think I read this years ago in FARMS. As I recall they found evidence that the Bom wars mainly took place after the harvest. You make some good points.