Monday, October 12, 2020

The Ancient Peruvians – Part I

Much information has been published regarding Israelites in Peru that has been deliberately or accidentally suppressed over the years until it is barely known today. A lot of that information was published in 1650 by Rabbi Menessah ben Israel, a Portuguese, kabbalist, writer and diplomat, and founder of the first Hebrew printing press in Amsterdam in 1626.

Very few readers today will have heard of Menasseh ben Israel (Manoel Diaz Soeiro); but in the 17th century he was arguably the most famous Jew in the world


He was a prolific author and his works were widely circulated.  He opened the first Hebrew print shop in Amsterdam and was friends with Rembrandt who painted two portraits of him. Menasseh was one of the most accomplished and cosmopolitan rabbis of his time, and a pivotal intellectual figure in early modern Jewish history. His books and other writings—in Hebrew, Yiddish, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, and English—reached a broad and very appreciative audience, among both Jews and gentiles.

He did more than anybody in the 17th century to advance the Jewish cause, whether in learning or in politics, and to educate Christians about Jewish religion, literature, and history. He was a scholar, philosopher, and educator, and no activity seems to have been outside his considerable talents. His network of friends and admirers stretched across the continent, and he was, for many, the go-to person for all things Judaic.

He wrote profusely, and with such credentials, it seems most likely that what he wrote was authentic and described correctly the situation in Peru, of which he wrote about extensively.

He played a central role in strengthening the association of the American Indians with the Lost Tribes. Deeply influenced by the report of Portuguese traveler Antonio Montezinos (Aharon Levi), Ben Israel gradually fashioned his most important and best-selling book: The Hope of Israel.

In 1655 Menasseh ben Israel met with Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, at Westminster. He dedicated The Hope of Israel to Parliament and submitted his petition for the recall of the Jews who had been expelled from England.

Monstezino wrote that "It was a thrilling journey I took in South America. Now that I am back in Amsterdam, I must share with you some incredible news. There is a Jewish Indian tribe living beyond the mountain passes of the Andes. Indeed, I myself heard them recite the She'ma (the expression of the Jewish faith) and saw them observe the Jewish rituals." Christian theologians awaiting the Second Coming were thrilled to receive this welcome news.

The ancient city and temple of Pachacamac in the Lurin Valley just south of Lima, Peru


He also learned that anciently, the Peruvians believed in a Supreme Being, creator of all that exists, and called him Pachacamac. The immense ruins of a temple, which are still visible near the town of Lurin, just south of Lima, was the only temple throughout the whole country that was dedicated to the Supreme Being, whom these Indians worshipped, along with his son who was the judge of the human race.

This son of God was much more widely extended than historians suppose, and we may safely say that he was the deity most popular and most respected by the Peruvian people.

The Peruvians also believed in another being, of evil disposition, and very powerful, animated with an inextinguishable hatred against the human race and disposed to injure them as much as possible. Temples were built to him wherein children were sacrificed to him; however, he was inferior to Pachacamac.

It was also reported through the personal observation of Montezinos that the early Peruvians fortified themselves by digging a trench entirely around a mountain steep and elevated to a high point; and to make there three or four redans—an arrow-shaped embankment forming part of a fortification—at some distance from one another. Within this, they raised a small wall, breast high, to shelter themselves. Fortifications of this kind were so common that there are few mountains where they are not found on their tops. Each ditch had the same depth and the same width, and were always made so that the interior border was higher than the exterior by at least three or four feet, so as to have more advantage over the assailants.

In addition, the method and manner of burial in ancient Peru was a remarkable coincidence with the mummies of Egypt (G. Whitfield Ray, The American Indian—Who is He? Meador Publishing, Boston, 1951, p274).

Qorikancha, also known as the temple of the sun; Top: Yellow Circle: The dark stone wall was the original temple, now the foundation for the Spanish Church of Santo Domingo; Bottom: The interior of original Qorikancha walls beneath the Spanish church


To the east, in Cuzco, the Temple of the Sun was the most magnificent structure in the New World, and was surpassed in the costliness of its decoration, by no buildings in the Old World. “No other religious edifice of all time is reputed to have been as rich in gold and precious stones as was this temple—the value of the jewels that adorned the chief temple of Cuzco was equal to one hundred and eighty millions of dollars.  This ancient pre-Inca temple (called Coriancha) had jewels valued at one hundred and eighty million dollars.” In addition, the area of the Inca Empire has furnished the world with 2.5 billion worth of silver since its discovery, which amount in bullion would make twenty-five (U.S.) billions of silver dollars.

Menasseh also reported that if perfection in textile art were the measure of a people and its culture the Old Peruvians would rank with the great civilizations of antiquity.  “They carried spinning to the highest perfection the world has ever known—a garment of gold, black, white and red, which we found, might have been the costume of an Olympian god” (Morris deCamp Crawford, Peruvian Textiles, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol.12, Part3, p285-288).

For arrangement of color and design, and for spinning and weaving, the tapestries of Peru surpass any in the world, even including the famous Gobelin tapestries in Paris, the finest in all of Europe. In fact, the Peruvians wove linen which surpasses any woven in Ireland today. In addition, they invented gold teeth at least a thousand years before any other dentist. They also knew how to preserve teeth and they were able to transplant and implant teeth

Even up to and including the Dark Ages, no doctors in the world could compare for skill with the surgeons of the Andes. Their brain-surgery was not the work of novices, for a number of skulls show the patients lived after the operation.  They were probably the first medical men in the world to use anesthetics when performing operations.

The Peruvians built aqueducts and reclamation projects that are unequaled elsewhere.  the work is beyond our comprehension. Compared to the Hanging Gardens of Peru, those of Babylon sink into insignificance. They accomplished the seemingly impossible.  Our undertakings are poor indeed in the face of what this vanished race accomplished, and this when the conquering Romans were striving to subdue the barbarians of England, at which time the Peruvians had civilized, settled forms of government.

Noted American explorer, Yale historian, academic and politician, Hiram Bingham III stated that “The ancient Peruvians succeeded in equaling the Egyptians in architecture, engineering, pottery and textiles. A highly-civilized people, artistic, inventive and capable of sustained endeavor, a race the destruction of whose annals was a calamity to mankind,” the ancient Peruvians left their mark upon the landscape of the Andes.    

Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt


According to Baron Alexander von Humboldt, Prussian polymath, geographer, naturalist and explorer, who was a major figure in the classical period of geography and physical biogeography, spent five years, from 1799 to 1804, in Central and South America. He covered, with a companion, more than 6,000 miles on foot, on horseback, and in canoes. It was a life of great physical exertion and serious deprivation.

Spending five years in Peru covering by foot the entire country, he stated that none of the famed Roman roads in Italy, France or Spain, appeared to be more imposing than those of the ancient Peruvians. Was there any road in Europe two thousand miles long, or an aqueduct extending four hundred and fifty miles across sierras and over rivers?  Are there any such today?  Try to imagine a paved road from the North Sea to Constantinople before the 16th Century

He also noted that the Peruvian culture was as old as any in Asia.

While Egypt was situated at the very crossroads of the ancient world, right in the heart of the stream of life, learning from east and west, north and south, the ancient Peruvians were alone and from their own unaided brains there evolved all they had. He also noted that “there was abundant evidence that Peru has been inhabited for many years—thousands of years.”

(See the next post, “The Ancient Peruvians – Part II,” for more information oabout the early people of Peru and tie-in to the Book of Mormon

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