Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Ancient Settlement of Siquillapurcara

In the Book of Mormon we find listed a few main cities pertinent to the sequences being described; however, the fact that the Nephites “did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8), there obviously were a lot more cities and towns not mentioned in the scriptural record. Still, those cities and towns existed.
The ancient city of Tunanmarca (Tunan Marka), at 11,385-feet, northwest of Huancayo

In the area of Jauju in the central highlands east of Lima was found two exceptionally large adjacent hilltop settlements, Hatunmarca and Tunanmarca which were both located at about 11,500 feet. Each site was protected by multiple defensive walls and their interiors contained a haphazard arrangement of hundreds of patios and thousands of circular houses. The most densely occupied Wanka site was Tunanmarca, which contained approximately 3,800 houses for an estimated population of at least 10,000 and was arguable among the largest settlements in the central Andes at this time.
    Situated along the Mantaro River in the central highlands of Peru, in the area today known as Jauja, but earlier in Quechua called Sausa, Shawsha or Shausha and loosely translated as the “land of milk and honey.” It is about two miles west of the four-mile-long Laguna de Paca (Lagoon or Lake Paca), which is flanked by the Eastern Cordillera, which when seen from the other side of the lagoon seems to be the figure of a man lying down, which the locals call the “Sleeping Indian.” The lake was formed by diverse sedimentary, glacial and tectonic activity, and is the only one in the valley that has water throughout the year.
    Inside the lagoon’s crystal-clear, spring-fed, mirrored waters are floating reed islands made of totora that grows on its banks, the biggest island being called the “Isla del amor,” with the lake surrounded by the districts of Paca, Pancán and Chunán.
Paca Lake is one of the three lakes in the Mantaro River Valley in the central highlands of Peru formed by high Cordillera ranges, which has three tributary valleys known as the Masma, the Paca and the Yanamarca

A city by the same name is where the Wanka culture, also known a the Huanca culture flourished before the time of Christ. The Wanka (Wanca, Waycha or Huanca) people occupied the highlands of ancient central Peru around Lake Junin and the Mantaro, Chanchamayo and Tarma rivers. The culture flourished from the Middle to Late Horizon periods, and was preceded by the Wari, Moche, and Lima culture. Dwelling in fortified hill-top settlements, they largely specialized in llama herding. As with other cultures in the area, herding was long-preferred over farming, though potatoes were always a commodity. In fact, Tunanmarca was divided into two neighborhoods. This geocache is set in what was once the lower neighborhood or barrio abajo. This area was where native potatoes were found growing wild. Potatoes, of course, are native to Peru and were brought to the rest of the world by the Spanish conquistadores. During the height of the Xauxa period, potatoes were grown on the valley floors and on terraces or andenes on the slopes. The potato plants now grown between the ruined buildings, especially in the rainy season, are the descendants of plants left there thousands of years ago.
    A shift to agricultural, however, caused an intense maize farming practice that was motivated by changes in settlements and a significant increase in population density, especially when they developed walled and fortified towns.
    About two miles to the northwest of Lake Paca is the settlement of Tunanmarca of the pre-historic Xauxa culture, which was originally called Siquillapucara, that sits on the top of the high Pojuipuquio hills, covering 1½ miles in length and half a mile in width—about is 32 hectares, or 80 acres. In the center of the complex was a large plaza, and to the north was a palace of seven large buildings and a courtyard enclosed by a stone wall.
    The settlement consisted of numerous patios, each surrounded by three round buildings enclosed within an outer wall. One or two narrow streets lead into the compound, and the patio structures were . repeated over and over. The entire settlement had three walls, a system of courtyards and a main square, as well as innumerable constructions of circular and rectangular plan (warehouses and houses) and a complex hydraulic system for irrigation and potable water. Most buildings were circular and arranged in small groups of up to twelve around an open courtyard. There is little evidence of town planning, although some settlements were constructed in pairs in close proximity. Nearby were the settlements of Warniwilca, Araturo, and Tarmatambo, the latter being the best known of the myriad archaeological ruins near Tarma. The fairly extensive remains include storehouses, palaces and an impressive, still-used aqueduct system.
    Tarmatambo is four miles south of Tarma, and over the hills on the old, ancient road through the Tarmeña countryside, and down to Jauja. In pre-historic times, Tarmatambo, at over 9800 feet, was an important administrative center, made up of imperial residences, agricultural production areas, and administrative zones.It also had colcas (qullqa) or food tanks, and a system of stone channels for irrigation with ancient hydraulic techniques. It was later occupied by the Inca, and then the Spanish.
Tarmatambo in the Valley south of Tarma

In addition, in the Araturo (Arhuaturo) esplanade, or open area two miles long that separates the fortress from the town, are found the most important buildings, including a quadrangular colcas for food storage, and 16 buildings, 11 construction sites, and a religious neighborhood and guard. The colcas were oriented from south to north with the purpose of receiving the sun's rays to keep food stored dry and fresh, while the houses were circular in shape and built forming a circle around the central space.
    Tunanmarca, though in a poor state of repair today, was also a major settlement of pre-history, housing about 10,000 to 15,000 residents. Built on the top of a hill of stonework or granite rock, the west and south has three concentric stone walls surrounding it, while in the east and north, very steep slopes served as a natural defense. It was a heavily fortified city with more than three thousand rooms, each room being a home for a family, and huancas houses, characterized by their great geometric perfection, their circular plan and their height from five to 6½ feet in height.
Tunanmarca’s individual round houses

Buildings were constructed from irregular polygonal stone with shaped outer faces, held in place by clay mortar made of  lime and ground sand. The doors were almost always trapezoidal and very few irregular, with ceilings made of queñual wood, hard buddleja wood and Andean adler, covered with straw or ichu grass.
    Tunanmarca is one of the best preserved structures of the Xauxa culture which thrived in this region before the Incas. The site served as a living town and the outer walls, family compounds with a central plaza and some well-preserved houses are still recognizable.
    Tunanmarca, also called Siquillapucara, is situated in the fertile Mantaro Valley, about 160 miles east of Pachacamac and 28 miles northwest of Huancayo, and two miles off the road to Junin. The name Tunanmarca comes from two Quencha words Tunan meaning tip and Mark meaning people interpreted as being people from the top of the hill, and is a large, fortified settlement. Another nearby settlement was Hatunmarka (Big Settlement) and Walqlamarka (Horn Village), the latter having numerous burial towers (chullpas).
The round houses of the Xauxa culture found throughout the area surrounding Tarma

Culturally, Tunanmarca was occupied by the Xauxa Culture and predates the Wari, as do other archaeological locations in the area. The road into the populated city had a cobbled access with a gentle slope over almost all its route, with viewpoints overlooking the landscape of the Yanamarca Valley, which rests beneath a ridge to the east and rolling farmlands to the west. The city was surrounded by three walls as protection against the enemies of the city, also within the city are two well-marked sectors and a central courtyard between them, possibly marking the difference between the administrative and living spaces. In addition, a main plaza held a rectangular building, one of very few structures in Tunanmarca that were not round, and was probably the town hall or central administrative center. Next to it was a plaza that was probably the site of markets and festivals. In the plaza, near the town hall, is an example of a stone on which grain such as quinoa was ground into flour.
Jarava ichu, commonly known as Peruvian feathergrass, ichhu, paja brava, paja ichu, or simply ichu (Quechua for straw), is a grass endemic to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, growing extensively in the Andean altiplano

The method used in the construction and layout of the archeological center was the piping of stone edging and the use of mortar that helped in the union of large stones. The roofs were thatched with straw from the ichu grass, which in the area, especially above 10,000-feet elevation, was plentiful. In fact, this grass, was also used to hold together adobe bricks, as found throughout the ancient city of Cuzco (Nephi), make ropes (especially large ones used in the building of bridges across ravines and narrow canyons), and also for the base of colca food storage towers (mixed with the herb muña to help conserve produce and protect tubers and grains from pests).
    For the entire Tunanmarca chiefdom, the total population was about 20,000, including the site of Hatun Xauxa on the outskirts of the city, which had been arranged in a three-tiered hierarchy: one center (10,600 people), one town (5,200 people) and 5 villages (600 to 1450 people in each). They were placed defensively and surrounded by multiple defensive walls, forming an impregnable fortress.
    The Xauxa were experts at hydrology—draining field complexes, and irrigating the entire chiefdom, including aqueducts over low areas, and earth-walled terraces (lynchets). The main and secondary irrigation channels were three feet wide and clay lined, often supported by a stone retaining walls, and running a total length of fifteen miles.
    The great pre-Inca Confederation of the Xauxa Huanca and the Jauja, with their great capitol Sioquillapurcara (Tunanmarca), who emigrated from the province to seek a better future in this native land between Juaju and Tarma within the farmed upland, hill slopes, and bottomlands of the Yanamaara and Upper Mantaro valley and along the great River Hatun Mayo (river Mantaro), which for several millennia was a beautiful and plentiful area, rich with indigenous customs and religious traditions.
    Today, the Jaujinos are a continuation of the warrior and corajuda rasce of the Xauxas, a lineage which filled this part of the country with splendor and abundance in pre-historic times.
The Xauxas Culture lasted for 500 years when they joined with the Jaujinos and became the Xauxas-Huanca confederation, where it lasted another several hundred years before eventually falling to the Inca after a fierce and lengthy struggle becoming the last stronghold to surrender to Cuzqueño militarism.  Old unpublished documents tell that the inhabitants of this city were defeated by hunger and thirst, since their provisions were exhausted by the besieged city that lasted several months. Once their heroic inhabitants were defeated, they were mass deported to the northern region of Chachapoyas, and the monumental capital city was depopulated and burned.


  1. Did anyone else notice this statement by President Nelson during his recent trip to Brazil?

    President Russell M. Nelson has an effective way to talk about the Book of Mormon with those who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    “Ask if they know about the mission of Jesus Christ to the people of South America,” he told missionaries serving in Brazil.

    Speaking to 5,825 missionaries from 35 missions on Friday morning, President Nelson added that once a person has committed to reading the sacred book of scripture, he suggests he or she doesn't start at the beginning. Instead, he said, open to 3 Nephi 11 and read Jesus Christ’s “important words” spoken to the Nephites—words that promote baptism, prayer, the doctrine of Christ, the sacrament, and seeking the kingdom of God.


    The Lord loves the people in this “very special part of the world,” said President Nelson. “It’s so easy to teach them here. They’re exceptionally receptive.” Missionaries can love as He loved, pray as He prayed, and endure to the end as He did, he added.


    While this should not be taken as an official church position on the geography of the Book of Mormon lands, I’m having a hard time reading it any other way than President Nelson saying 3 Nephi 11 happened in South America. Am I reading it wrong?

    I’ve seen one person on another comment say it doesn’t mean much because visited a lot of people after his resurrection.

    But this was not just a generic statement. President Nelson was telling missionaries in Brazil how to introduce the Book of Mormon. He said to ask if they know about the Saviors mission to South America and then he told them to read 3 Nephi 11.

    Personally, I’m 99.9% sure the Book of Mormon lands were in the Andes (leaving the .1% open in case the church ever takes an official position contrary). This is thanks to the incredible work of Del combined with thousands of hours of personal study of the Book of Mormon, every model written about, and every post and book written by Del.

  2. Woohoo! Tunanmarca is a place I've studied quite a bit. It's my personal pick as a Nephihah candidate for many reasons. I don't believe the structures you see now were the originals. They're mostly rebuilt with uneven "scrap" stones, with only a few well cut stones still intact, though not well placed like in other Nephite cities. The city walls have all been demolished and reduced to piles more than actual walls. What you see now is likely post-cataclysm repurposing of material.