Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part I

Sacsahuaman (also known as Sacsayhuamán, Saqsaywaman) is a walled complex near and above the old city of Cusco, at an altitude of 12,000 feet (by comparison, Brian Head, near Cedar Breaks in southern Utah, at 9,800-feet, is the highest city in Utah, while Kings Peak, at 13,528 in northeastern Duchesne County in the central Uinta Mountains of Utah, is the highest peak in the State).
     The archaeological park of Sacsahuaman is located north of the city of Cuzco and covers an area of 3,094 hectares (7,645.5 acres, or 12 square miles), and contains more than 200 archaeological sites. Leading to Sacsahuaman today, there are two paved roads, one starts in the old and traditional neighborhood of San Cristobal and is just under a mile long, and the other road begins at Avenida Collasuyo and is a little over 2 miles long.
Ancient Peruvian city complex buildings

The city is such a remarkable layout of ancient structures of unprecedented engineering and construction ability, that when the conquistadors arrived, they looked at these extraordinary edifices and at the level of ability of the Inca around them, and despite the fact that these people had carved out an Empire covering 690,000 square miles in a little less than 100 years, the Spanish could not believe these “Peruvians” could have built such greatness. Workmanship, to these Europeans was so far beyond what they saw among the Inca caused these religious conquerors to attribute much, if not all, of what they saw to the work of demons or maligned spirits of the Devil.
    As a result, they tried to tear down and destroy what they considered to be Satan’s handiwork from the outset, and today much of the glory and beauty that was once Sacsahuaman is gone, its abundant gold sheeting stripped and melted down, its jeweled statues removed and destroyed, its magnificent structures demolished. Only the larger, unmovable boulders and hewn rock remains in place, enough of which, that gives us some idea to its past, along with the writings of the Spanish chroniclers who preserved in word and description, that once famed and remarkable area that today is merely a shadow that gives a hint of its former glory.
    Still, from what is left, we can draw a fairly good picture of the enormous achievements of the ancient builders of these cities, which in many cases, have been erroneously attributed to the Inca, whose building capabilities were far from the skilled artisans that originally built the marvelous constructions that we can only today catch a glimpse. As the conquerors correctly surmised, the Inca were simply not capable of building what we see today across the Peruvian landscape.
Three-tiered outer zigzag walls covering the north end of Sacsahuaman

In fact, not even the chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, who was born around 1530, and raised in the shadow of these walls, writing much about what existed when he was a boy growing up there, had a clue as to how Sacsahuaman was built. He wrote:
    "...this fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world. For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were, by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year, they overcame all difficulties by employing human effort over a long period. But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand how these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places. For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment."
    Obviously, even in the 16th century, Sacsahuaman was so ancient, no one had any memory of who built it or when, making the enormous achievement far older than modern scholars would lead us to believe as they fall over themselves today trying to make the Inca into some super race, which they were not—though they excelled at war, diplomacy, conquest and government.
    Not even in the early to mid 1500s did any Inca have any idea who built Sacsahuaman or when it was built—the same is true with Tiahuanaco, Puma Punku, Ollantaytambo and numerous other sites with such monumental stonework in the region. In fact, seeing the impossibility of the Inca at their highest civilized point when the Spanish entered Peru, and understanding there was no way the Indians could have built anything they saw, led to numerous questions by the conquerors as to who built the many structures they encountered and when were they built. To these questions, every Inca questioned replied that they did not know, stating merely that it was built by the ancients long before the Inca came.
    The official royal story line, of course, was that the Inca had built everything, a part of the diplomacy they developed over the century of their conquest—for the purpose of making their enemies believe they stood no chance against such a superior Empire with such tremendous power and ability, that fighting would only prove disastrous and that their salvation depended solely upon surrender and joining the might of the powerful Inca—which so many cultures did. It was a tact that served the Empire well, for many a tribe capitulated without raising a single sword in their defense.
    But Garcilaso, born of an Inca Princess, and a Captain of the Spanish conquerors, grew up in the royal courts of the Inca, talked with the old chiefs and the educated of the royal household all his growing years, and had no idea himself who had built Sacsahuaman, a fortress so dominant it was the focal point of the entire Empire, “the naval of the world,” and the seat of all power, even later under Spanish rule.
Top: Person showing a comparison height of the lower wall; Bottom: The engineering fete of cut and dressed stone that fits perfectly though each stone has multiple angled cuts to fit

The outer defensive perimeter consists of three outer lines of gargantuan walls, 1500 feet long and 54 feet wide, that flank the hill site of the temple and fortress citadel on three levels. The largest stone blocks, some of which are over 28-feet high, are regularly estimated to weigh over 120 tons, but other measurements claim they are between 300 and 440 tons. So precise was the masonry that one block on the outer walls, for example, has faces cut to fit perfectly with 12 other blocks. All the hewn blocks were fitted together so precisely that a thickness gauge could not be inserted between them.
    Beyond the walls is a 500,000 gallon water reservoir, storage cistern, ramps, citadels and underground chambers. At the top and center of the complex, on a collado, an artificially leveled mountain top, was the fortress, and next to it the temple—in Inca times called the “Fortress of the Sun” and the “Temple of the Sun.” And next to the temple was a triangle of three towers, the tallest and main tower was said to be 66-feet high.
    Beneath the fortress were a myriad of rooms, chambers, corridors, and a labyrinth of passageways that are no longer open to the public for fear tourists would wander off and get lost in the maze of tunnels that stretch for miles.
    As magnificent as the stonework is presently at Sacsahuaman, archaeologists tell us that the walls rose ten feet higher than their remnants seen today. That additional ten feet was removed to supply the building materials for the cathedrals and casas of the conquistadors. In fact, there simply are no other walls like these. They are different from Stonehenge, different from the Pyramids of the Egyptians and the Maya, different from any of the other ancient monolithic stoneworks. The stones fit so perfectly that no blade of grass or steel can slide between them. There is no mortar. They often join in complex and irregular surfaces that would appear to have been a nightmare for the stonemason to crerate. There is usually neither adornment nor inscription.
(See the next post, The City of Nephi – The Fortress of Sacsayhuamán – Part II,” for an understanding of who actually built these walls and fortress and how they managed to do so, defying known engineering techniques of today)


  1. The sacsayhauma cannot be the Nephites . Nephite building were made out of wood not stone.

  2. Nope David you have it wrong as always. Alma 48:8 says they built walls of stone. Where are your walls of stone in North America? Where is your great Tower that Noah Built? You don't even have any HIGH mountains where you claim they lived. Cusco fits in so many ways whereas your lousy model is nothing but garbage. Next time do a little reading of scripture before you make a posting that shows your complete stupidity.

  3. The Nephites did not live in the mountains.

  4. Walls of stone around their lands are not buildings. The building material of the Nephites was wood/timbers they built earthen mounds around all their cities.

    1. They weren't mound builders. They piled dirt around their cites. The North American model built mounds to bury their dead thus proving they weren't Israelites.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Jarom 1:8

      and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons

      Interesting that there is no mention of the use of stone work.

      Don’t forget that Zarahemla was destroyed by fire. It is difficult to burn down a city almost entirely built of stone

    2. Have you ever see a car fire? They aren't built of wood either. You don't think they can use both wood and stone to build with? The highest technology for building anything in the old world was South America not North America. Also we're did they get all that gold in North America in the North East when there isn't very much. Not in abundance like South America. So your model is still unacceptable and you haven't made any valid arguments.

  6. If Del wants to match the Book of Mormon record I need to see civilizations that made their cities from timbers not stone.

    time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings.

    Timber was the commodity of the Nephites so much so timber was shipped from the land southward to the land northward.

  7. Mckane, The term stone and cement are used. If you want me to believe your model then you need to show me stone and cement. Both are used in South America not just wood. You are missing the entire picture. You are focused on one thing and that wasn't the only thing that was used to build. The model fits perfectly in Cusco for the City of Nephi. PERFECTLY right down to the towers and temples. Where is any of this found in North America? Nothing is found there and so your model doesn't make any sense. So why come here to fight when you don't have anything to offer in the first place.

    1. The building material of the Nephites was timber. Cement was only used in the land northward because a lack of timber. To remedy this the Nephite shipped timber to the land northward.

      the face of the land that it should grow up, that in time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings.

    2. So where are your stone walls of Alma 48? As I said you haven't proved your case. The oldest and most complex civilation was in South America. Not North America. Where is your exceedingly high tower in North America. It was found intact at Cusco. Nothing you've said is accurate not persuasive. So why come here to fight when you don't have any facts to support your theory?

    3. So where is a land north of the narrow neck of land without any timber in your model?

  8. I think it is odd that these debates get so heated, with one side pointing to scriptural references to timber, and other to stone, and each side acting like the other is wrong, as if it simply must be one or the other. Clearly both are mentioned, and the mentioning of one doesn't lessen the importance of the other. Even in cities built of stone, timber and "flammable" material is used for roofing and, as the scripture mentions, for decorative effect.

    As we look at ancient ruins in places like the Andes, in most cases we're seeing shells. We're seeing the walls and features that don't burn or decay and collapse with time. We're not seeing them in their glory days - very much is missing. If you were to burn my house down, all that would be left is a foundation and the outer walls of my first floor. The second floor, the roof, and all my inside walls would be gone. But that wouldn't mean, when observed by outsiders, that my home had only been built of cement and brick. It would merely be a shell of what it once was. So yes, even a massive city of stone walls and structures could burn, like Zarahemla, because much of it would have flammable elements. When you strip down these great cities over thousands of years, all that remains are stone shells, and often merely foundations. Sure, there could have been certain cities of primarily wood construction, but there wouldn't be anything left of those to observe now. What would be left are the stone elements and primarily stone cities.

    Oh, and timber would have been very critical in moving and placing huge stones in many of the Andean ruins, thus a lack of timber would have made even those structures very hard to build.

    Concerning the defensive walls erected by the Nephite military to protect vulnerable cities from immanent attack, we're looking at a group of people who knew the Lamanites were coming, they had a short time to prepare, they knew these cities were targets because they were weak, and they wanted to create an element of surprise. The obvious way to do that in the time given is by throwing up walls of timber. The Lamanites were indeed surprised because previously vulnerable cities were suddenly defensible. But when given more time, and when building a city that is able to defend itself long term, stone is a much better choice, so why wouldn't stronger, fortress cities be built with much more permanent stone walls rather than easily constructed wooden walls? One approach in one scenario does not rule out the other approach in a different scenario, like quick surprise defense versus long term defense.

    See comment part 2...

  9. Part 2...

    When we look at scriptural references, remember that a lot of things mentioned are situational and may even be mentioned precisely because they are outside the norm. If I were writing a brief history of my own family, I would most likely bring the highlights and the exceptional moments to the forefront. I wouldn't dwell on the normal, day-to-day stuff, like saying that every day we woke up and ate cereal out of a box and then put on our clothes. Just like when we reminisce with one another we mention the year when the snow was so deep, or the time the basement flooded, or the time so-and-so died, but don't ever say, "remember that time when I watered the lawn?" Because the things we do regularly are a given, and would seem mundane to us. A Nephite mentioning that they built with stone might be, to them, a given, if that's what they've always done. But mentioning that a people lived in tents might be worth scratching into plates if that was an unusual, memorable, or significant situational detail.

    When it comes to arguments about "Nephites only built with wood..." Those statements are usually being made in defense of a geographical theory that is so full of holes in so many other critical ways that it is hard for me to take seriously. Yes, timber was obviously a huge part of construction and is mentioned in the scripture, along with stone, but if you're using that to "prove" that a certain geography is correct when that geography defies many other parts of the scriptural record, then it's hard to take the argument seriously. In that case it is being used as a flagship argument to draw attention away from bigger flaws, like the absence of the scars that would be left behind by a huge, millennia-long, advanced civilization.

  10. Todd: Thank you for your comments. We have made this same argument several times in our blog over the years. Many theorists, who know of the information, continue to ignore some parts of the scriptural record and highlight others, to which they agree. In addition, it is not that our blog deals with what is right or wrong, but what the scriptural record says and what it means. And obviously, wood was used, as wood is a very important building material, but that stone was also used, which was a better building material, and one matching Jerusalem from where Nephi came. There are no such things as purely stone buildings, even ancient castles had wood framing and structural parts, as well as roofs made of wood, etc., not to mention interior items as you state. All of which burns. When we find people writing on our blog who claim something opposite of what the scriptural record clearly states, or ignores what it says in view of something else they want to stress, we typically suggest that such information is not in keeping with the entire scriptural record. We do this because we have made a stand on responding to every and all comments, questions, and inquiries—most of which are in response to what we publish on this website. Again, thank you for your insightful comments.