Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Were There Other Cities Vacated by the Nephites at the Time Mosiah I Left the Land and City of Nephi – Part I

When the Lord told Mosiah to leave the city of Nephi and take those who would go with him, we often think of this event surrounding only the immediate area of the city of Nephi; however, after 400 years in the Land of Promise, among a people who had been taught by Nephi to build great buildings, as evidenced by a temple like unto Solomon’s, and to work with all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores (2 Nephi 5:15), and also to construct a temple after the manner of the temple of Solomon (2 Nephi 5:16), one might conclude that the Nephites were not only capable of building, but would have done so.
    Obviously, it is only prudent to conclude that several other sites had been built during the four centuries the Nephites were in the Land of Nephi. This would have included the cities of Shemlon and Shilom (Mosiah 10:8; 11:12), but obviously many others, since two hundred years after arriving in the land, “the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land” and “they were scattered upon much of the face of the land” and they “multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land“ (Jarom 1:5-6,8).
    Whatever cities and settlements, villages and towns, the Nephites had built during that 400 years in the Land of Nephi, all would have been vacated and left behind when Mosiah, “being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).
    Now, since Nephi, when fleeing from his brothers and the sons of Ishmael first settled the land and built the City of Nephi, there would have been both ability and experience in such city and development building. It would only be a foregone conclusion that they built other cities. And since the Nephites were well aware of the nature of the Lamanites and their inherent interest in gaining control over the posterity of Lehi through the rights of Laman under the principle of the first born, or primogeniture, we can also conclude that these cities and settlements would have been defensible by the Nephites.
Map of the Urubamba Valley and the area of Cuzco and ancient road from there to Puno, now on the northwest shore of Lake Titicaca

To the north of the Valley of Cuzco, is the beautiful Urubamba Valley, known as El Valle Sagrado (the Sacred Valley), reached over a narrow road of hairpin turns to the ancient settlements of Pisac, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, and beyond, the famed Machu Picchu. How far in that direction the early Nephites would have built is unknown, for this was the land of Mormon’s Narrow Strip of Wilderness, running from east to west, eventually separating the Land of Nephi form the yet-to-be-discovered Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27).
    To the south of the area of Cuzco, the site of the city of Nephi as has previously been established via the scriptural record and the findings at Sacsayhuaman, overlooking Cuzco Valley, are numerous ancient settlement areas. One of which, twelve miles south and a little east of Cuzco, is the city of Tipón, which is a 500-acre complex located near Oropesa in the Community of Choquepeda, southeast of Cusco and along the Cuzco-Puno road. The ruins at an altitude of 11,318-feet are made up of gardens and temples, dating back to the 2nd century BC. The excellently preserved, wide terraces are made of red rock, with exactly twelve terraces that archaeologists believe may symbolize the twelve months of the year.
    Although in many Peruvian ruins there is evidence of irrigation channels and constructions, Tipón is one of the only places where the irrigation system is still fully functional, with water flowing all year round, even in the dry season. In fact, Tipón has been touted as a masterpiece of water management, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has put it on its list of International Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.
    The complex contains enclosures, terraces and an intact canal. The upper area is crossed by the Inca Trail with an irrigation canal, and is considered an engineering marvel. No doubt the area was an ancient “laboratory” of agricultural products because of the various micro-climates found within the complex. Today, Tipón is considered one of the 16 most important archaeological tours for tourists who visit the area, since it is not only an archaeological complex, the site is home to one of the largest irrigation works in the terraces and the decorative waterfalls connecting them, with a great distribution of outdoor water channels
The ancient terraced lands of the settlement of Tipón, about 12 miles southwest of Cuzco along the road from Puno to Cuzco, about 100 miles north of the La Raya Pass, and about 230 miles north of Puno at Lake Titicaca 

Today, the Tipón ruins cover an area of 591 acres of wide agricultural terraces irrigated by a network of water channels fed by a natural spring. Much has been excavated, however, far more has not with much visible beneath the soil. are located in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. This archeological complex, where water runs by carved stone canals, is located at a height of 3.560m (11,684ft) above the sea level.
    Along an ancient ten-foot wide road built of stones where it passed through Cuzco, or the City of Nephi, and walled on both sides as it traversed the slopes of a steep hill, it ran southward to Tipón. This ancient settlement, high in the mountain tops of the Valley, overlooking the Cuzco-Puno road thirty minutes from Cuzco, this citadel dates back thousands of years and is well hidden in the mountains. The beautiful sight of the well-preserved terracing, fountains and finely designed water channels of Tipón date back thousands of years and was constructed for agricultural purposes, with military structures and high, defensive walls about the city. The water channels feed the whole site with fresh water, harnessed from a natural spring near the top of the site, with some of the ancient aqueducts still in use today. Near the top is a small stone-built reservoir and though the ruins are not as extensive as other sites, they are beautifully designed architecturally—consisting of thirteen terraces flanked by polished stonewalls, enormous agricultural terraces, canals, and decorative waterfalls. 
    Every archaeological complex features well-built canals which channeled and distributed water throughout the settlement.  There are various baths and irrigation channels that still function today, providing the archaeological site with an endless stream of running water.  The outer wall at Tipón, measures 15 to 20 feet high and nearly four miles long, encircling the entire community.  This wall also provides evidence that a large labor force was once used, representing a major construction achievement in and of itself by a culture that long pre-dated the Inca. 
The terraces at Tipón, that contained remarkable fountains, walls, and structures

There is an extensive complex of ancient settlements built along the road from Puno at Lake Titicaca through the La Raya mountain range and through the pass called LaRaya, located about halfway from Puno to Cuzco. This complex includes the Pre-Inca, ancient Peruvian surprisingly well-preserved ruins of the early villages of Tipón, with its numerous irrigation terraces, Pikillacta, Huarcapay and the Wari ruins of Andahuaylillas, which is located on a nearby hill, not far from the ruins of Wiraqucha, all to the south of the Pass.
The Fortress of Tipon which overlooked and guarded the agricultural site and defensive walled city

To the north of the Tipón terraces there is a plant on a hill, which has its own water pipe, which brought the water from about ¾ of a mile away. The line is in operation, although not in the whole length from the source. It is interesting that visitors to the agricultural site have completely ignored the "Pucara de Tipón,” or “Fortress of Tipón,” a second site which is again almost as large as the plant of Tipón and a mile to the north of the mentioned water pipe, along with 24 more terraces.
(See the next post, “Were There Other Cities Vacated by the Nephites at the Time Mosiah I Left the Land and City of Nephi – Part II,” for more on the additional sites built by the Nephites to the south, between Cuzco (City of Nephi) and the area of Puno, which at one time would have been along the Sea East in the Land of Nephi)


  1. Methinks one thing that's forgotten is that the Nephites and certainly the Lamanties were not likely insular. That is, there were other peoples (think of Sherem) that they had dealings with, and between famines, droughts, and wars, some cities would be abandoned in favor of better locations. Even in modern-day America we're familiar with the concept of a "ghost town".

  2. Doug: As for Ghost Towns, they exist because of a resource that was available to prospectors and wild-catters that eventually dried up and the people moved on to the next "strike" somewhere. That is not common in the Book of Mormon, either among the Jaredites or the Nephites, and there is no reason to believe that would be the case--the land was abundant with natural resources, and considering the time it would have taken to have built these vast cities,it is highly unlikely that people moved out of them willingly. In the Book of Mormon, we only know of wars and invasions that caused people to vacate cities.

  3. Doug: First of all, "insular"is a modern term and one that would have had no meaning in Nephite times. Certainly the Jaredites did not encounter a single soul outside their own original people that landed in the land of promise--there is certainly no hint of such a thing and it was only a short time after the Flood when everyone died except on Noah's ark. It took the Lord's special insights and instruction to guide the Jaredites across the seas to the land of promise. If the Lord led others to this New World, he certainly did not want us to know about it and there is no record of any Jaredite--someone else--interaction. The same can also be said of the Mulekites and Nephites/Lamanites. Insular pre-supposes there is someone else or something else to be considered--we have no indication in the scriptural record that such was the case