Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Garden of the Sacred Valley

In the Judean Desert, south of Jerusalem, overlooking the Dead Sea, is the Oasis of Ein Gedi (two Hebrew words meaning “kid spring” or “fountain of the kid”—kid meaning young goat, are abundant archaeological remains of agricultural irrigation system. Ein Gedi lies in the Dead Sea Valley, which is an effect of the Great Rift Valley. The irrigation systems here were fed only by spring water and used to irrigate the fields that were on the agricultural terraces.
    In geology, a terrace is a step-like landform consisting of flat or gently sloping geomorphic surface, called a tread, that is typically bounded on one side by a steeper ascending slope, which is called a "riser" or "scarp." The tread and the steeper descending slope (riser or scarp) together constitute the terrace. Terraces can also consist of a tread bounded on all sides by a descending riser or scarp. A narrow terrace is often called a bench (Alan D. Howard, et al., "Terraces, Fluvial—Introduction,” The Encyclopedia of Geomorphology: Encyclopedia of Earth Science Series, vol. 3, Reinhold Book Corporation. New York, New York, 1968; Julia A. Jackson, Glossary of Geology, American Geological Institute, Alexandria, Virginia, 1997).
    The Judean Desert, known as the Judean Wilderness, is one of the world’s smallest, yet most unique desert regions. Descending from Jerusalem causes a person or group to pass through this desert, which is a rock land characterized by a large number of wadis cutting through the rock, forming cliffs, hillsides, and terraces.
    Throughout history, the Judean Desert has been an important, and much documented place. It was the main entry route to the Holy City of Jerusalem from the east, and Moses famously looked out across it, and the Holy Land into which he never entered, from the Moab Mountains of Jordan which lie across the Dead Sea from Israel. The desert has also provided quiet and tranquility contrasting to the ever-political and tense situations which have existed in Jerusalem throughout the ages.
    Monks have formed some of the world’s most spectacular monasteries in the cliff-faces of the desert, such as the beautiful Monastery of St George, and the Mar Saba which remain active to this day, while the wealthiest and most notable members of society often sought out sanctuary in the desert, or at the Dead Sea.
The stark wilderness of the Judean Desert

Leaving Jerusalem, the stark change in scenery as you enter the Judean Desert is impressive, changing from a green, mountainous, urban landscape to a yellow, rocky, desert scene almost instantly. The Judean Desert is home to a small but visible nomadic Bedouin population who can be seen grazing animals on the hilltops, as well as a number of small towns and villages; however, this desert is still largely unpopulated.
    In fact, leaving the area of Jerusalem and descending down to the Judean Desert, one is met with a stark, though impressive, change in scenery as they change from a green, mountainous, urban landscape to a yellow, rocky, desert scene almost instantly. The Judean Desert is home to a small but visible nomadic Bedouin population who can be seen grazing animals on the hilltops, as well as a number of small towns and villages. It is still largely unpopulated, however, meaning that it offers a wealth of outdoor and leisure pursuits, including off-road driving, biking, and hiking.
    The man-made agricultural irrigation systems in this wilderness enabled farmers in the oasis to make a living in desert region, as archaeological excavations around the irrigation systems have revealed. These systems date to the Roman period in the first century AD, and attests to the existence of a settlement in the oasis which dates to about 630 BC., which was destroyed after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC.
The Judean Desert is a wilderness landscape spanning from the Judean Hills at 3,300 feet above sea level all the way down to the Dead Sea at 1300 feet below sea level in the east, and hills and canyons of the Negev Desert in the south. The Judean Desert is marked by barren wilderness, mountains, terraces and escarpments rather than rolling sand dunes
Located in the southern end of the Judean Desert between Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and the site of Masada, the ancient fortress occupying a breathtaking, strategic location high on a flat plateau above the Dead Sea, where the Jews made their famous last stand against the Romans.
    It should be noted that in Israel, these terraces were natural, however, in the Andes, they were man-made to take advantage of the sides of hills or mountains. The point is that these systems in Israel and those in the Andes were noticeably similar. Obviously, irrigation was critical in Israel because of the desert arid desert and lack of water requiring and extensive irrigation management sysem to combat. In the Andes, it was the way to grow crops and water them on the steep sides of hills or mountains.
    This is seen at the ancient settlement of Tipón, a remarkable garden area sixteen miles southeast of Cuzco, just beyond the entrance into the Cuzco Valley. The intact ritual garden at Tipón is more than mere ruins, the ancient landmark offers an oasis in the midst of a stark wilderness are of hills and mountains, not unlike the Oasis of Gedi in Israel. Both garden areas are the result of communities principally established on agriculture, requiring a steady flow of water in areas where water was scarce.
Elevated terraces at Tipón show a tranquil, garden like atmosphere

Verdant terrace upon verdant terrace forms a relaxing garden tempting the relaxing enjoyment of an oasis in the midst of desert and rock. No doubt it was the purpose of the way in which both gardens were formed, with ingeniously providing water to crops and plants as well as creating a beautiful area to be enjoyed.
    Encompassing 590 acres, more than 50 times larger than Ein Gedi, Tipón rests on the side of a mountain in the Andes. It should be noted that the Andean territory is considered one of the eight centers from around the world where agriculture originated. The ancient Peruvians compensated for the steep terrain in the Andes by constructing terraces from the top to the bottom of hillsides that overcame problems of water supply, soil erosion, and unstable climate.
    The Tipón ruins are some of the most notable architecturally, in the Sacred Valley, located away from other main Sacred Valley highlights, on the Cusco to Puno road, leaving them tranquil and relative isolated. The citadel itself is well hidden in the mountains above the valley and town below. The well-preserved terraces, fountains and finely designed water channels are impressive, a well-constructed for agricultural purposes. The water channels feed the entire site with fresh water, harnessed from a natural spring near the top or the site, with some of these aqueducts still in use today.
Water an irrigation channels, sometimes miles long, were used to bring water to various parts of the irrigation system for both potable water and irrigation

These terraces were along the entire stretch of mountains through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu through settlements like Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. The bottom layers of these terraces were filled with different strata of crushed rock and small river rock. These stones provided drainage and also filtered water to the terraces below.
    The early Peruvian farmers were also able to take advantage of microclimates by situating crops so they received optimal sunlight and temperature. The terraces followed the form of the hillsides and the mountains and were supported with beautiful, precisely stacked stonewalls. There are also numerous aqueducts, small reservoir, and traditional stonework found throughout the Sacred Valley.
    The numerous water based area shows how advanced the early Peruvians were architecturally and how well they managed water needs.
The Tipón terraces cover hundreds of acres

The well-maintained terraces grew enormous crops high in the mountains in ages past, and today are maintained for their beauty more than functionality. This method of growing crops on sides of hills or mountains by planting on graduated terraces built into the slope is referred to as Terrace Cultivation. Though labor-intensive, the method has been employed effectively to maximize arable land area in variable terrains and to reduce soil erosion and water loss. This has been true in the Jerusalem area as well as in the Andes. 
    In fact, this type of planting has been practiced in China, Japan, the Philippines, and other areas of Oceania and Southeast Asia; around the Mediterranean; in parts of Africa; and in the Andes. It should be noted that the earliest such terraced planting was practiced in the Philippines, Central Africa and Peru, while today, it is also practiced around the Mediterranean, Mexico and parts of North America, and often only for decorative purposes, referred to as terraced gardens.
    Specifically, for several thousand years before the Spanish invasion of Peru in 1532, a wide variety of high mountain and desert coastal kingdoms developed in western South America, building terraced agriculture using terraces, known as andenes to farm potatoes, maize, quinoa and other native crops. It should be noted the terraced agriculture has never been practiced in Mesoamerica nor the Heartland of the U.S.


  1. I have a question about climate. How similar is the climate where Nephi departed from in Arabia to where they landed in Chile? I'm assuming they were the same. Also was the climate the same where they left on Jerusalem. I'm assuming that all three areas had Mediterranean climate and therefore seeds would have prospered in all three locations.

  2. The climate in the Salalah region is different. It's a subtropical desert climate with a distinct monsoon season.

    The scriptures never say that they planted their seeds in Bountiful. Only that they found fruit in abundance. They ate what was already there.

    1 Nephi 17:5-6 And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.

    And it came to pass that we did pitch our tents by the seashore; and notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful.

    - Upon arriving in the promised land, it is specifically said that they planted their seeds from Jerusalem.

    1 Nephi 18:24 And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.

  3. Thanks Todd, that answers the question. All I had to do is what you did is read the scriptures.