Sunday, August 19, 2018

What Was the Narrow Strip of Wilderness? And Where Was it? – Part II

Continued from the previous post involving the narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Zarahemla from the Land of Nephi. Also regarding how theorists tend to over simplify or even ignore the deeper meaning of the descriptions and information provided by Mormon regarding geography and its implications on the story line of the scriptural record.
    It is obvious from the descriptions Mormon provides us that this narrow strip of wilderness had great strategic significance to the Nephites, and for much of its length was a deterrent to the Lamanites, keeping them from crossing northward into the Nephite lands at will, but confined to a few traverse points. It seems most likely that these crossing points were known and watched since the Nephites often had warning of a Lamanite army’s approach.
Often, when penetrating difficult regions, impassable barriers are encountered, sometimes they can be circumvented and sometimes not

We need to keep in mind that for an area to be a complete deterrent to passage by a dedicated army in ancient times, it had to have been actually impassable for most of its length, if not all. Not just difficult to pass over, which might deter modern men, but basically impossible given the technology available in that area.
Top: A lengthy fault line, which might deter some attempts to bypass, but could be breached by a dedicated group; Bottom: An impassable barrier in any force in ancient times. Today, it would be possible to work out a bridge system across, but anciently, not even a rope bridge could be used to cross this expanse

It should be kept in mind that in the Book of Mormon, we are dealing with a hereditary enemy dating back hundreds of years (Jacob 7:24), with a history of devastating wars where hundreds and thousands were killed (Mosiah 9:18; Alma 2:19; 3:26). All of these wars as recorded were instigated by the Lamanites—except for the end time during Mormon’s period when the Nephites had lost their grace and attacked the Lamanites (Mormon 3:9-11; 4:1-2). Thus, it would have taken something concertedly deterrable to dissuade the Lamanites from crossing over into Nephite territory wherever they chose.
    Now, when traveling on foot, the average person would take the path of least resistance, avoiding difficult paths or often any unmarked or undeveloped cross-country travel, as well as avoiding crossing deep rivers, climbing steep hills or mountains, barren deserts, etc. However, dedicated armies, regiments, platoons, and the like have a history of negotiating what others might claim were impassable avenues.
    Also, when people are moving in stealth, such as an attacking force, they would likely take the most difficult approach since it would be unexpected by those being approached. Therefore, a thick rain forest would not likely deter a serious breach by such a hereditary enemy bent on the Nephites total destruction. Nor would a range of mountains be a deterrent, since mountains are not uniform, having highs and lows along its ridges and summits, with some heights gradually sloping upward, and in other parts having steep cliff faces, slides, or being boulder strewn. Thus, almost any mountain or range would be both ascendible and descendible.
Top: What appears as an impassable barrier, a steep sided canyon the splits or separates the two level areas on either side; however, (Bottom) the ancient people of Peru, built rope bridges over such canyons, making them crossable

Whatever was within the narrow strip of wilderness that acted as a deterrent to the Lamanites from crossing it at will, it would have to be something that could not be scaled, such as a steep cliff face of a canyon. In fact, one of the most impassable barriers in ancient times was a canyon with sheer, steep cliffs on both sides. It would have been impassable for its length except where the cliffs lowered into a passable plain for a short distance.
    With a fast moving, turbulent river full of rocks and rapids at the bottom of the canyon, it would have been doubly difficult to cross over, especially if the river was wide enough to not be bridged, or turbulent enough where even a very sturdy boat might not have made it across.
Even if the mountains or cliffs or canyon could be descended, crossing turbulent rivers with rapids would be another matter

Thus, it would seem that the narrow strip of wilderness might well have been a fast-moving river cutting through mountains, creating a deep, steep cliff-sided canyon that in most of its length, deterred crossing, leaving a handful of areas that perhaps were lower, or the river was wider, or more shallow where a crossing could be affected
    One example of such an impassable area, at least for most of its lengthy run, is that surrounding the Peruvian Urubamba River or Vilcamayo River from Quechua Urupampa (“Plateau of Spiders”—the suffix “bamba” or “pampa” both mean “Plain” like Spanish “pampas,” a level ground) and later called Willkamayu ("Sacred River"), by the Inca (so called because it was not part of the Empire, but the sole property of the emperor or Inca himself).
    With its ferocious rapids, the river originates on the slopes of Khunurana, where it was called the Vilcanota, and is in the Puno Region, Melgar Province, near the La Raya pass. From there the river flows east to west, through the Sacred Valley, passing Pisac, Calca, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and then turns north-northwest.
The Urubamba where it passes below Machu Picchu on its way westward toward Quillabamba

During its course, a resistant granite pluton forces the river into a narrow gorge some 2,500 feet deep in what is called the Upper Urubamba. The once peaceful river is then turned into a frothy, runoff-swollen maelstrom nearly throughout its entire length of 450 miles where it joins the Apurimac and forms the Ucayali river, which eventually runs into the Amazon. To the northwest of Cuzco (city of Nephi), the river is both peaceful and crossable before entering the Torontoy Gorge near Torontoy, a complex of ancient ruins on the north bank of the river. This area, within the narrow strip of wilderness in Peru, runs through the Urubamba Valley (called the Sacred Valley by the Inca) south of Yucay and before entering the Torontoy Gorge, is probably where the Lamanites crossed into the Nephite lands on their many forays up the east coast to attack the cities of Moroni, Lehi, Morianton and Nephihah.
The Urubamba passing through the Mainique Gorge, filled with eddies, whirlpools, and conflicting currents, including numerous waterfalls and cross-currents

Along the Urubamba River is located the Pongo de Mainique, or Mainique Gorge, which splits the high jungle from that of the low jungle and where the river is divided into Upper Urubamba, and bursts through the gorge and becomes the Lower Urubamba (Bajo Urubamba), a relatively undeveloped area even today, which still features a significant indigenous population consisting of the Campa tribes, principally the Machiguenga (Matsigenka) and the Ashaninka.
(See the next post, “What Was the Narrow Strip of Wilderness? And Where Was it? – Part III,” for more information on the  narrow strip of wilderness that separated the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi)

1 comment:

  1. Del, it would be nice to get your take on the place where one such pass through the wilderness seems to intersect what may have been a road from Zarahemla (west coast) to the more newly built east coast cities, like Nephihah.

    Alma 56:25 Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah.

    Near the head of the River Sidon, it is "down" to Zarahemla, and on the opposite side is the road to Nephihah.

    Nephihah, as you've mentioned before, is a fortified city to which refugees of beaten east coast cities flee and important enough that its overthrow greatly distresses Captain Moroni.

    There is an ancient stretch of the Qhapaq Ñan from Pachacamac to what was later Xauxa (near what would have been original coastline). The road crosses impressive highlands where it would have been "down" to the west or to the east, and before the cataclysm, a likely place for the head of a river nearby. It could also be a place on the boarder where a group like the converted Lamanites might wait to find out if they are welcome into the land and where to go next, east or west on the possible road.

    I have an overlay of the trail on a Google Earth screenshot so you can see exactly how it moves through the terrain. It looks like a great candidate for a road that not only connects the two coasts after Nephite expansion, but would act as a borderline of sorts, and points to where the old east coast cities might have been before the cataclysm.