Monday, April 1, 2013

Who Were They Afraid Of? Part II

Continuing from the previous post about the defenses found in ancient Peru. Looking at more of these amazing defenses, we see a unique back trail that leads into the area of a mountain fortress. This trail is extremely narrow along the side of a cliff face with a sheer thousand foot drop. Midway along the trail, there is a bridge that extends about 20 feet or so over a 1900 foot drop. The bridge is removable, so in times of attack, or for security, the boards could be removed and the trail useless for an invading force to reach the mountain top city.
Top Left: Note the narrow path leading to the trail across the cliff; Top Right: the small retaining wall disappears as the trail crosses the sheer cliff; Bottom: View of the bridge midway across the sheer cliff. Note that the boards (right) simply lay across the opening in the trail, and also note the sheerness of the construction that creates the width of the trail along the cliff side
Top Left: In the middle of the image is a dark horizontal line across the cliff—that is the trail—and in the foreground left, is the trail that leads to the cliff. Note the sheerness of the entire trail; Top Right: Note the rock facing that was built up along the cliff to create the width for the trail; Bottom left: the narrowness of he trail as it approaches the bridge; Bottom Right: a person standing on the boards across the opening that can be removed to block the trail to the city above
It would take an anxious and, no doubt, fearful people to build such an unnecessary trail along s sheer cliff for nearly a mile, unless they were desperately afraid of an invading army or attacking force approaching the city and this was either an escape route, or a means of mounting a counter-attack. The removable bridge allowed them to keep any enemy who might stumble on this trail, or follow a returning force, from reaching the city along this back route. Whether it was used for this purpose or not is unknown, however, the investment in untold man hours for no other apparent reason suggests at least it held an extremely important purpose in the minds of the builders or defenders of the city above.
Scholars today believe that this trail was built by the Inca as a secret way to move the Inca army to the city. Such an idea makes little sense. One look (especially one passage along the trail) would convince anyone that it is not a way to move an army—the process would be very slow and place the entire army in danger. In the most dangerous areas the trail is wide enough for only one person to traverse, and one slip would mean instant death falling 1000 feet or more down a sheer cliff. In addition, there would be no reason for the removable bridge since an army could easily defeat any force traveling along this trail. In fact, one look at this trail would convince even the most novice military mind that this trail would be a disastrous means to move an entire army. On the other hand, as a desperate escape route, or a path to move a small attack force, or to safeguard against attack, the trail makes a lot of sense.
In other areas of Peru there are additional signs of a defensive nature in the ancient building of structures. Even when constructing cities, forts, and complexes on top of mountains, these ancient builders also constructed difficult approaches where an invading force could easily be spotted and defensed against.
Top Left: An easily guarded stairway to the top of another hilltop fortress. Top Right: A turret on the outside of a mountain fortress overlooking the valley below; Bottom: A wall with defense openings that guards an approach to the higher elevated city fortress
As any military mind knows, height is a major advantage in any battle, and creating difficult approaches to any defensive position is a must in order to safeguard a position against attack. And obviously, defensive walls, firing positions (slings and arrows) from such defensive positions is a must.
Any invading army trying to take Choquequirao would be faced with climbing up an almost vertical mountain while the defenders fired down upon them (dropping rocks, throwing slings and spears, or shooting arrows)
Top: These three walls at Sacsayhuaman above Cuzco provide a perfect defense against attack. Each wall is about thirty feet high, and if the first wall is breached, there are two more walled levels. Also, note the zig-zag pattern, which provides perfect cross-fire against an enemy trying to scale the walls; Bottom Left: Another example of a narrow city entrance with high walls on either side; Bottom Right: A high wall with defense windows at the top
In addition, in the Andean area towering walls enclosed most cities—walls that stood as high as 65-feet, and sometimes more, requiring a huge investment in manpower, time and effort. It would not be reasonable to assume that such walls were merely decoration, or to impress another people. Such construction, requiring lengthy periods of time to accomplish and a large investment in the community, could only be the result of a very strong fear of attack and a desire to defend oneself, one’s family, and one’s city.
Top and Center: This ten citadel site called Chan Chan lies behind 50 to 60-foot high surrounding walls, and easily guarded singular entrances with the tallest walls facing to the south. Inside is a labyrinth of passages created by numerous walls inside the city; Bottom: Another three tiered walled complex called Chinchero shows another well fortified city-fortress in Peru, with these walls surrounding the entire complex
Top: Towering walls that stood sixty-five feet high, so well built, they have weathered numerous earthquakes for two millennium; Bottom Left: Tiers of high walls below a city; Right: The old wall of a city built beside a paved road. Note, all these walls are unscalable and provide protection for the city and people behind them
There can be no doubt that these remarkable ruins now scattered all over the Andes, including Ecuador, western Bolivia, Peru and northern Chile, that took an enormous amount of manpower, time and effort, were built for a singular purpose—that of self-defense. The question then begs itself. Who were these ancient Peruvians afraid of?
(See the next post, “Who Were They Afraid Of? – Part III,” for an answer to this question and more on the difference between Mesoamerica and Andean Peru and the meaning and purpose behind this difference)

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