Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Ancient Peruvians – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding the connection between the Land of Promise and Andean Peru.

Quito to Lake Titicaca is 1250 miles; an addietional 500 miles is to Antofagasta along the coast,

538 miles north of La Serena


The ruins of Ancient Peru are found chiefly on the elevated table-lands of the Andes, between Quito and Lake Titicaca; but they can be traced five hundred miles farther south, to Chili, and throughout the region connecting these high plateaus with the Pacific coast. The great district to which they belong extends north and south about two thousand miles.

When the marauding Spaniards arrived in the country, this whole region was the seat of a populous and prosperous empire, complete in its civil organization, supported by an efficient system of industry, and presenting a very notable development of some of the more important arts of civilized life. These ruins differ from those in Mexico and Central America. No inscriptions are found in Peru; there is no longer a “marvelous abundance of decorations;” nothing is seen like the monoliths of Copan or the bas-reliefs of Palenque.

The method of building is different; the Peruvian temples were not high truncated pyramids, and the great edifices were not erected on pyramidal foundations. The Peruvian ruins show us remains of cities, temples, palaces, other edifices of various kinds, fortresses, aqueducts (one of them four hundred and fifty miles long), great roads extending through the whole length of the empire, and terraces on the sides of mountains.

For all these constructions the builders used cut stone laid in mortar or cement, and their work was done admirably, but it is everywhere seen that the masonry, although sometimes ornamented, was generally plain in style and always massive. The antiquities in this region have not been as much explored and described as those north of the isthmus, but their general character is known, and particular descriptions of some of them have been published.

It is now agreed that the Peruvian antiquities represent two distinct periods in the ancient history of the country, one being much older than the other. William H. Prescott, in his The History of the Conquest of Peru, accepts and repeats the opinion that “there existed in the country a race advanced in civilization before the time of the Incas,” and that the ruins on the shores of Lake Titicaca are older than the reign of the first Inca. In the work of Mariano Eduardo Rivero and Johann Jacob Von Tschudi, it is stated that a critical examination of the monuments “indicates two very different epochs in Peruvian art, at least so far as concerns architecture; one before and the other after the arrival of the first Inca.” Among the ruins which belong to the older civilization are those at Lake Titicaca, old Huanuco, Tiahuanaco, and Gran-Chimu, and it probably originated the roads and aqueducts (M.E. Rivero, and J.J. Von Tschudi, Peruvian Antiquities, Nabu Press, Charleston SC, 2013; originally published by George P. Purnam, NY, 1853)

At Cuzco and other places are remains of buildings which represent the later time; but Cuzco of the Incas appears to have occupied the site of a ruined city of the older period. Montesinos supposes the name of Cuzco was derived from cosca, a Peruvian word signifying to level, or from heaps of earth called coscos, which abounded there. In his account of the previous times there is mention that an old city built there was in ruins. Perhaps the early Peruvians found on its site nothing but coscos, or heaps of ruins.

Seven leagues from Lima, near the sea, are the much-dilapidated ruins of Pachacamac, a large city that was built chiefly of adobes or sun-dried bricks. Ruins of towns, castles, fortresses, and other structures are found all about the country. At one place, near Chavin de Huanta, there are remarkable ruins which are very old. The material used here was like that seen at Old Huanuco. From the interior of one of the great buildings there is a subterranean passage which goes under the river to the opposite bank. Very ancient ruins, showing remains of large and remarkable edifices, were seen near Huamanga, and described by Cieça de Leon. The native traditions said this city was built by “bearded white men, who came there long before the time of the Incas, and established a settlement.”

Views of several of the thousands of irrigation channels dug and rocked by the early Peruvians for the flow of water from the mountains to the coast


It is noticed everywhere that the ancient Peruvians made large use of aqueducts, which they built with notable skill, using hewn stones and cement, and making them very substantial. Some of them are still in use. They were used to carry water to the cities and to irrigate the cultivated lands. A few of them were very long. There is mention of one which was a hundred and fifty miles long, and of another which was extended four hundred and fifty miles across sierras and over rivers, from south to north.

However, nothing in ancient Peru was more remarkable than the public roads. No ancient people has left traces of works more astonishing than these, so vast was their extent, and so great the skill and labor required to construct them. One of these roads ran along the mountains through the whole length of the land, from Quito in Ecuador to Chili. Another, starting from this at Cuzco, went down to the coast and extended northward to the equator.

These roads were built on beds or “deep under-structures” of masonry. The width of the roadways varied from twenty to twenty-five feet, and they were made level and smooth by paving, and in some places by a sort of macadamizing with pulverized stone mixed with lime and bituminous cement. This cement was used in all the masonry.

On each side of the roadway was “a very strong wall more than 6-feet thick. These roads went over marshes, rivers, and great chasms of the sierras, and through rocky precipices and mountain sides. The great road passing along the mountains was a marvelous work. In many places its way was cut through rock for leagues. Great ravines were filled up with solid masonry. Rivers were crossed by means of a curious kind of suspension bridges, and no obstruction was encountered which the builders did not overcome. The builders of our Pacific Railroad, with their superior engineering skill and mechanical appliances, might reasonably shrink from the cost and the difficulties of such a work as is found in Andean Peru. Extending from one degree north of Quito to Cuzco, and from Cuzco to Chili, it was quite as long as the two Pacific railroads, and its wild route among the mountains was far more difficult.

Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, a Spanish explorer, author, historian, mathematician, astronomer, and scientist, who spent 20 years in Peru chronicling the country and its artifacts, stated; “It seems to me that if the emperor (Charles V.) should see fit to order the construction of another road like that which leads from Quito to Cuzco, or that which goes from Cuzco toward Chili, I certainly think he would not be able to make it, with all his power.”

One of the ancient Peruvian roads as it passes the remains of a caravanseras or Inn


Humboldt examined some of the remains of this road, and described as follows a portion of it seen in a pass of the Andes, between Mansi and Loxa: “Our eyes rested continually on superb remains of a paved Peruvian road. The roadway, paved with well-cut, dark porphyritic stone, was twenty feet wide, and rested on deep foundations. This road was marvelous. None of the Roman roads I have seen in Italy, in the South of France, or in Spain, appeared to me more imposing than this work of the ancient Peruvians.”

He saw remains of several other shorter roads which were built in the same way, some of them between Loxa and the River Amazon. Along these roads at equal distances were edifices, a kind of caravanseras—an Inn with a  central courtyard, built of hewn stone, for the accommodation of travelers.

These great works were described by every Spanish writer on Peru, and in some accounts are suggestions regarding their history. They are called “roads of the Incas,” but they were much older than the time of these rulers. The mountain road running toward Quito was much older than the Inca Huayna Capac, to whom it has sometimes been attributed. It is stated that when he started by this route to invade the Quitús, the road was so bad that “he found great difficulties in the passage.” It was then an old road, much out of repair, and he immediately ordered the necessary reconstructions.

Francisco López de Gómara, a Spanish historian who was particularly noted for his descriptions of the early 16th century expedition undertaken by Hernán Cortéz, in the Spanish conquest of the New World, stated: “Huayna Capac restored, enlarged, and completed these roads, but he did not build them, as some pretend.” These great artificial highways were broken up and made useless at the time of the Conquest, and the subsequent barbarous rule of the Spaniards allowed them to go to decay. Now only broken remains of them exist to show their former character.

There is no doubt in the minds of nearly all historians and scholars that these magnificent roads pre-date the Inca and were built anciently by cultures now long gone. These ancient Peruvians were experts in engineering and building as these roads attest.

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

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