Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why Build a Wall Around a City?

Building walls anciently took time, manpower, and resources. Obviously, the building of such and expenditure of such effort, served an important purpose. Anciently, city walls were constructed to include gates and watchtowers and, usually, a ditch running around the outer perimeter of the wall that could be filled with water or wooden spikes. King Hammurabi surrounded his city of Babylon with more impressive walls than usually seen shortly after he assumed the throne in 1792 B.C. Later, King Nebuchadnezzar II built three walls around Babylon, at heights of forty feet, and so broad at the top that chariots could race around them. The Ishtar Gate in the wall of Nebuchadnezzar II’s Babylon was claimed by some to be greater than any of the listed Wonders of the Ancient World.
Babylon’s famed Ishtar Gate, which still stands today in much the same way as seen here, was first built in 575 B.C.
In ancient Egypt most private homes had walled courtyards to help deter robbers. Every city in ancient Egypt was walled and each of the great palaces had elaborate painted walls for the purpose of defense. In the countryside houses had just one story; and people surrounded them and their courtyards with mud brick walls, in the hope of preventing robbers from breaking in and stealing their belongings. The most valuable among these were their cattle, which were often branded, and their agricultural stores. In towns too, a large part of the houses had walled-in courtyards. Doorjambs were let into stone lintels and thresholds, making breaking down the doors more difficult. Windows were small and placed high up close to the ceiling to inhibit entrance, which also improved ventilation. Walls were thick, and among the rich, their private residences looked more like a castle, surrounded by walls with a main gate protected by massive gate-houses.
Top Left: Temple fortress at Dush, near Akysis, Egypt; Top Right: Ancient Northern Walls of Cairo; Bottom: Enclosure wall of Netjerikhet’s complex
This same building pattern held true in ancient Greece where citizens of Athens built small decorative walls around their courtyards and patios and the Athenians also surrounded their city with thick walls which lasted until the end of the Pelopponesian Wars with Sparta when the victorious Spartans had them torn down. Also of note in Athens were the Long Walls which were two parallel stone structures which ran from the Acropolis down to the port of Piraeus and protected the center of the city. In fact, in most of the ancient cities, people not only walled in the city itself, but built private walls around their residences for protection.
The Butrint Gate (left) is typical of fortifications built, even in private residences, that have inside steps descending downward, with the steep incline as an added defense to restrict access in case of attack. Obviously, in the ancient world, fear of attack was often on people’s minds.
The oldest walls found in existence so far are those of the temple of Gobekli Tepe in Urfa, southeast Turkey which date to 11,500 years ago. City walls, which became common for purposes of defense, are first seen around the city of Jericho (now in the West Bank) around the 8th century B.C. and the Sumerian city of Uruk, constructed shortly after, was also walled. It is thought the very first wall (in the west) not built around a city was erected by the Sumerian King Shu-Sin, son of Shulgi, around 2038 B.C. Shu-Sin’s wall was 170 miles long and was built between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to keep the invading Amorites out of Sumerian lands. This wall was unusual in that it did not surround a city but, rather, marked a territorial national (rather than private) boundary and, as such, was a first of its kind. Of course similar walls were built by Moroni for the purpose of defense in the Land of Promise.
One of the greatest defensive walls built in the Americas was at Chan-chan in northern Peru, just west of Trujillo and protected a population of 30,000
The ancient city of Chan Chan in Peru had a monumental zone of four square miles in the center of the once twelve square mile city, comprising nine large rectangular complexes (‘citadels’ or ‘palaces’) delineated by high thick earthen walls. Within these units, buildings including temples, dwellings, storehouses that were arranged around open spaces, together with reservoirs, and funeral platforms. Around these nine complexes were thirty-two semi monumental compounds and four production sectors for activities such as weaving, wood and metal-working. It was triangular in shape, surrounded by 50–60 foot walls, with no enclosures opening to the north. The numerous walls throughout the city were adobe brick covered with a smooth surface into which intricate designs were carved, and created a labyrinth of passages. The average enclosed area of a citadel is equal to the approximate area of 26 football fields, and each is surrounded by very high walls, creating a monumental landscape of the former ChimĂș capital.
The decoratively carved walls surrounding Chan Chan that are 50-60 feet in height were impossible to scale or penetrate
Chan Chan was the largest city of pre-Hispanic America and uniquely designed with its immensely tall walls, its labyrinth interior passages, and minimal entrances--it was an example of the protective and fortified architecture that permeated Andean Peru. To those who understand the Book of Mormon and the 1000-year wars between the Nephites and Lamanites, such building design is understandable—to those archaeologists and anthropologists who have no knowledge of such history, the height of the walls at Chan Chan have been a mystery for many years. Some have claimed they were built for protection against the northern winds, others claim it was to keep out the dust that blows in the valley, but the reality is that these walls and the labyrinth design inside the city proper, are reminisicent of the many other fortress cities of the Andean area such as Kuelap, Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman, to name a few.
One of the walls at Chan Chan. Note the thickness of the wall compared to its height. Such construction can be for only one reason—protective defense
Obviously, walls were built around cities for defense, not to keep the dust out. Sticks and brush contained cattle and detered wild animals, but walls of stone and brick were built for strength, and when an ancient people built a wall 50 to 60 feet high, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-18 feet thick (see photo above), you know it is for strength, not to keep the wind out. Such strength in a non-bearing wall can be for only one reason—for protection against a dedicated and aggressive enemy.
Top LtoR: Ollantaytambo; Huallamarca; Sacsayhuaman; Bottom: Kuelap. Such defensive walls can be found all over the Andean area, from Ecuador to northern Chile, including western Bolivia. Nowhere else in all of the Western  Hemisphere are there such ancient defenses built
And Moroni strengthened his armies, and erected small forts, “and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8). It would seem reasonable to find some noticeable trace of these stone walls the Nephites built. Certainly the evidence in Peru of such is overwhelming.

No comments:

Post a Comment