Friday, March 9, 2018

The Sidon River: Where it Was and Where it Wasn’t – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the Sidon River and its possible location, and more importantly, where it would not have been in relationship to the Mantaro River, a Quechua name meaning “great river.”
    Once again, let us state that we do not generally make a habit of trying to identify rivers, lands or cities in the Land of Promise because of the meager descriptional information in the scriptural record, but since we are continuously being asked about the location of the Sidon River and that there is so much misinformation about it with numerous theorists guessing here and there, we are attempting to clarify some of this information in this two-part article.
    We are doing so because of studies made in Andean Peru that have recently come to light regarding the pre-historic geologic formations and ancient conditions of the land, particularly as they have to do with the Mantaro River and the Mantaro Valley in Peru—specifically in the area now referred to as the Pampas Quadrangle, i.e., that area along the southern region of the current river through the Huanta Depression.
    These studies show the conditions of the region prior to the rising of the Andes, or prior to the Andean Uplift, which are very interesting and have some bearing on the direction and flow of the ancient Mantaro River. Obviously, the rising and collapsing of mountains as described by Nephi, Samuel the Lamanite and the disciple Nephi as found in the scriptural record has an extreme bearing on this information as well.
    In this Andean orogeny, or the forming of the Andes Mountains, along the depression of the Andean geosyneline, that is the large-scale depression in the earth’s crust in times past, along the path of the Mantaro River would obviously have a major impact on the direction of that river’s flow. Mountains simply cannot tumble into pieces and others rise to great heights without affecting the flow of rivers located there.
    According to recent geological work in this area, referred to as “the quadrangle,” which is approximately 1865 square miles in the province of Tayacaja of the department of Huancavelica (the remaining parts comprise small sectors of the provinces of Huancayo, department of Junín, and Huanta, department of Ayachucho), this area has some very interesting geologic structure. Here the high mountain range of the Tayacaja Peninsula rising above 16,400 feet around its southern curve, forces the present flow of the Mantaro into the Huancavelica valley area (6400 feet elevation), known in Quechua as the Wankawilka region.
    This Wankawilka in the pre-Colombian period was known as the “Sacred Stone,” by the Quechua natives, and during the Spanish occupation, was the greatest source of azogue (mercury) in Spanish America, a product necessary to extract silver.
    While mercury is a mineraloid and not really an ore because it lacks crystalline structure (it does not have streak, hardness, cleavage or crystals), but is a naturally occurring liquid substance, it is still referred to and listed as an ore. However, it is really a silvery metal that is liquid at normal temperatures, readily forming alloys with other metals, making it useful in processing gold and silver. It occurs as very small blobs on top and lodge in small crevice or pores, or just sticks to the host ore, such as Cinnabar, that do not roll around or fall off, but stay attached in position unless tampered with.
    Still the ancient natives referred to it as an ore or more accurately, a “stone” and it was so important in this area to the Spanish that the Viceroy of Peru declared that Potosi and Huancavelica were the two pillars that supported the South American Spanish kingdom as well as that of Spain. The Viceroy also stated that “Moreover, Spain could, if necessary, dispense with the silver from Potosi, but it could not dispense with the mercury from Huancavelica.”
    Huancavelica, then, was a heavy mining region and obviously an important part of the Spanish involvement in Peru, making the importance of the Mantaro River swinging past and through it an integral part of its success.
The current path of the Mantaro River as it flows southward out of Lake Junín down through the Mantaro Valley  to the small village of Mayoc in the Huanta Depression, before winding back northward

At the lower end of the valley along the Mayoc curve (#1 – First Curve of the Mantaro), lies a small gorge of 100’ to 160’ in height, where the Mantaro enters the Pampas Quad, bends around and turns toward the east, then through the narrow rapids at Pauhuanca heading northeast, giving rise to the (#2) Second Curve of the Mantaro. At Huachicua, it turns east at 1325 feet above sea level, where it runs, from its source, on a course of 1800 miles and has descended 12,000 feet. The river receives a considerable number of affluents among which are mainly the Yauli or Pachachaca, the Chupaca, Sulcas, Moya, Acoria, Huarpu, Huayo and Andamayo rivers.
    This area or section of the Mantaro Valley is cut indistinctly in igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, and presents numerous inflections (changes in topography), many of which are controlled by faults, fractures (“They shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath“ Helaman 14:22).
    This is a narrow-bottomed longitudinal interandean valley, confined and deep, comprising most of the mid-elevation areas of the “sierra” of Peru (as well as "los valles" of Bolivia and the “cuyo” region of Argentina), which rugged topography of the Central Andes creates warm, dry valleys that typify the valles or valleys of Andean Peru, which feature steep hillsides and deep canyons, of which the world’s deepest, Colca Canyon, is an example. Further south, of course, is the harsh, frigid deserts of the altiplano, and even further south is the extremely dry Atacama desert.
    The formation of the Mantaro Valley is related to the faulting (breaking) processes that occurred in the final stages of the plate-tecctonic movement called the Andean Uplift (when mountains rise, such uplifts either do so from folds [bending] or faults [breaking], the latter, like the Andes, resulting in sharp definitions before erosion begins taking place, which can still be seen almost across the entire formations of the Andes ranges, attesting to their young age).
    These breaks, or failures, gave rise to depressions, zones of weakness and high massifs (compact group of mountains, especially ones that are separate from other groups), which in some way exerted a control in the direction of watercourses and the formation of lake basins—and particularly in the direction of the Mantaro River toward the First Curve.
#1 the First Curve of the Mantaro River, where it bends back northward toward Huancayo before reaching #2, the Second Curve, which takes the river south again, then southeast to where it joins the Apurimac River and becomes the Ene River (many consider these bends to match Alma’s description of Moroni’s placement of his army around the hill Riplah in Alma 43:27,31-32)

However, because of these depressions and geologic conditions, the primitive or early course of the Mantaro River flowed in a southerly direction, along a zone of weakness that connected the depressions of Junín, Huancayo and Huanta, and did not make the bends and angles from #1 to #2 to the Apurimac River. Thus, the Mantaro River could not have matched the Sidon River course passing the hill Riplah as indicated in the scriptural record in 74 B.C.
These three depressions, the Junin, Huancayo and Huanta, caused the early river (prior to the destruction in 3 Nephi and the Andean Uplift) to flow from Lake Junín along a direct southeast path to the south of Ayacucho
According to John James Prucha, Zone of Weakness Concept, Department of Geology, Syracuse University, New York, 1989), this zone of weakness is an area within the earth’s crust that is relatively weak causing differentially stressed areas within it to fail more readily than the surrounding rock. Such formations are often inferred to determine the extent, orientation and style of younger deformation. These basement fabric elements include faults, joints, foliation, cleavages folds, shear zones, plate sutures, lithologic discontinuities, and basement terrane boundaries.
    Within this array of fabric elements, there is a multiplicity of potential operating mechanisms such as shear and extension fractures, crystal gliding, cataclastic flow, crystal dislocations, recrystallization, and pressure solution, each conditioned by one or more environmental factors, such as temperature, confining pressure, stress fields, pore pressures, and strain rates (M.J. Bartholomew, et al, The Basement Tectonics, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1992, pp83-92).
    Thus, the area of these depressions prior to the Andean Uplift would have caused the Mantaro River to flow southerly as shown in the maps above, not turn and bend as it now does because of the uplifting Tayacaja Peninsula and the high Andes toward Ayacucho.
The Andes between the Tayacaja Peninsula and the Ayacucho Region. As they rose during the Uplift, no southerly-flowing river toward Ayacucho could have continued in that direction through these high mountains

Thus, we see the present course of the Mantaro now flowing around the uplifted Tayacaja Peninsula through Huancavelica and forced to flow back upward or northerly before bending again south and southeast into the Apurimac River, forming the Ene River.
The Huancavelica Valley and the city of Huancavelica, with the towering Tayacaja Peninsujla rising high above it to the North, and the uplifted Andes below to the South, forming the topography that dictated the change in flow of the Mantaro River

Thus, the original widening and deepening depression that flowed southward from Lake Junín clear to Ayacucho, allowing the Mantaro to flow to the south through the Huanta Depression, was altered after the Uplift, as the Tayacaja Peninsujla rose to above 16,000 feet, and the Andes south of there rose as well, changing the primitive or pre-historic course of the Mantaro River from flowing south to flowing northward around the Tayacaja Peninsula and through Huancavelica, as the Uplift blocked the southward slope of the depression.
    Obviously then, when the Andes Uplift occurred, this depressed valley channel was blocked both north and south of this First Curve area, causing the river to deflect and swing to the east, then back up toward the north around the Tayacaja Peninsula rise of mountain range, and into the Second Curve to then flow south and eastward into the Apurimac River as we now see it.
    Subsequently, the backward erosion smoothed the unevenness, drained the lagoons and established a general course of drainage toward the south that would have caused the river to originally flow southward toward Ayacucho. Had the Andes not risen out of valleys “to a height which was great,” at this point, the Mantaro River would have continued to flow southward into the Huanta Depression and on toward Ayacucho.
That being the case, there is no way the Mantaro River could have been the Sidon, since before the crucifixion (the first 600 years of Nephi history) it never would have flowed northward at any time, and the meaningful bends Mormon describes (Alma 43) in the battles that took place along it around the hill Riplah would not have taken place there, for the river would have flowed more or less straight southward from Lake Junín toward Ayacucho.
    This, then, leaves only the Apurimac River as the single north flowing river passing in the general area that the Sidon River would have done, though its southern extension would disqualify it unless that area was blocked in the past with mountains that tumbled to pieces and was replaced by other mountains, whose height was great. Again, it is speculation, but the geology surrounding the Mantaro should disqualify it from any consideration as the Sidon.
    What more we might learn as additional studies are conducted and greater insight into the geological formation of the past emerge, only time will tell.


  1. Del, do you happen to have a little schematic to show what the Sidon would have looked like before the uplift? The direction it flowed and so on? It would be fun to compare it to the existing rivers today.

    The only thing I get out of the scriptures about the river is it ran in a north-south direction. I have no idea if the river ran north or south only that the armies of the Nephites/Lamanites were found either on the west or east side of the river which means it ran in a north-south direction.

    I guess my point is I don't know too much about what the old river looked like. I've looked over the scriptures but that is about all I get out of them that the river flowed in a north-south direction - nothing else. What am I missing and what have you found?

    Also, even though you haven't located any of the other cities other than the city of Nephi and Zarahemla I believe you've got some good candidates for the South wilderness and narrow strip of wildernes. And general location for the land of Zarahemla and Bountiful and so on. From that information can a general sketch of the river be made? Seems like we have quite a bit of information and we should be able to do something like that. We know where the narrow neck was. We even have a line of defense from Helaman.

    Interesting subject, thanks

    1. You answered the question in the next post. Thanks Del