Monday, March 23, 2020

Yaynu: Another Ancient Fortified Peruvian City

On a hilltop in Ancash about halfway between Pachacamac (Lima) and Chiclayo, along the northern slope of mount Panahirka (Panajirca) was the fortified city of Yaynu (Yaino, Yayno), the home of an ancient people called the Recuay culture. This gigantic stone construction or fortress was in the highlands of Peru of the Cordillera Blanca range in the Central Andean mountains. The valleys and mountains in this region are covered with scattered high Andean forests and puna grassland as well as the ruins of numerous ancient archaeological settlements, terraces, tombs and fortresses, such as Ichik Yaynu, Willka Marka, and Runa Marka.
    The mountains at Yaynu are resolutely covered in clouds with 360° panoramic views with the peaks of Cordillera Blanca to the west with their sparkling glaciers. In the valley below was the settlement of Pomabamba (Puma Pampa, meaning “cougar plain”). Higher, beyond fallen stones from a rocky outcrop, sat the fortress of Yaynu.
    A day away was the settlement of Quishuar, where the famed and sacred Quishuar tree grew, that anciently was used for numerous purposes because of its unique propertied, such as fuel and building bridges because the wood was impervious to water and became very hard and did not rot when immersed in water.
Native in the Andes is the Quishuar tree, which grows between 9850 and 14,800 feet above sea level

To the north was the Copa mountain, whose summit reaches 20,302 feet, and further north is Cajamarca in the central highlands, where the Recuay built numerous forts and where many battles took place. To the west was mount Huayllan.
    The Rucuay culture flourished from 200 BC to 600 AD and was related to the Moche culture of the north coast and very close, especially in stonework, to the earlier Chavin culture at the center of Chavin de Huantar that lies just to the west. The culture developed in the Callejón de Huaylas valley, and its art style of kaolin clay (China clay) involving highly complex work called Huaylas, was related to that in Cajamarca and also to the Virú culture. Their textiles were of very high quality, and used similar decorative motifs as the ceramics as those of the Pukara and Tiwanaku cultures, and found throughout the Peruvian Highlands.
The Peruvian highlands as viewed out the entrance gate of the walled city of Vaynu

The fertile land on the eastern slopes gave birth to one of the biggest pre-Inca confederations of powerful warriors, the federation of Conchucos within the Callejón de Conchucos (or “Valley of Conchucos”).
    This entire area, including Yaynu, had advanced metallurgy, and they made very fine Recuay style jewelry of gilt arsenic bronze (Terence Grieder, et al., The Art and Archaeology of Pashash, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2010, pxviii, 27).
    The descendants of these early settlers of Peru became a powerful confederation and were an iron agglomeration of people that presented a hard and brave resistance to the Inca and later Spanish armies.
    In addition, archaeologists have found that at Yaynu, besides having pyramidal construction of public buildings, such as temples, palaces, etc., included numerous private housing showing a high degree of social interaction, and highlights the general autonomy of households as units of economic production and social reproduction (George F. Lau, “Compounds at Yaynu,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 2010).
    The Recuay hilltop settlement is considered the most important evidence of their culture in the Ancash Region. The ancient stone constructions are situated about four miles south of Pomabamba at a height of 13,123 feet on the northern slope of Pañahirka (Pañajirca). Also to the south was the Valley of Conchucos about 50 miles distance.
The ancient ruins of Yaynu

Yaynu is the largest known Recuay site and is best described as a fortified hilltop town covering an area of 61 acres, with the entire site 260 acres.
    It had The central sector is bounded by perimeter walls and long trenches, with circular and quadrangular compounds of monumental character within. The fortress is at the center of a network of early villages and protected the community from outsiders and attack, which was common during the period of this settlement, especially in hilltop dwelling and defense. The buildings were of stone and densely built up (George F. Lau, (2010). "House forms and Recuay culture: Residential compounds at Yaynu (Ancash, Peru), a fortified hilltop town,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Vol.29, no.3, 2010, p327).
    The Recuay tradition formed at the center of a network articulating small nearby farming villages, with Yaynu featuring an impressive series of natural and built defensive strategies, that worked in concert to protect the community from outsiders where the archaeology of warfare is quite evidenced at Yayno.
    Once again, we find reference to Mormon’s description of “building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities” (Alma 48:8) and they dug “up heaps of earth, round about all the cities, throughout all the land” (Alma 50:1), creating ditches all around (Alma 49:22). Obviously, archaeologists have found, as mentioned above, such walls of stone and trenches all around these ancient Peruvian cities.
The high wall around the ancient city of Yaynu

Yaynu is just another of the numerous settlements, forts and fortresses scattered through the Andes that their archaeological descriptions of today match those descriptions left to us by Mormon in his abridgement of the ancient prophets.


  1. It is one of the ruins where you can easily see some of the trench works on Google Earth.

    8°53'11"S 77°27'21"W