Friday, March 31, 2017

The Fascinating Currelom and Cumom

Moroni's his perspective centuries later, having the Ether records before him and the writings of the Jaredites regarding two very strikingly different animals, as well as the thousand year history of the Nephites, having these same animals,should be of interet to us, since it helps us understand the location of the Land of Promise.
    Referring to some Jaredite animals, the same animals that he would have known in his lifetime, Moroni wrote: “And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:19).”
Note that the first set of animals were for “food,” but the second were “useful,” and listed several beasts of burden, of which the curelom and cumom were as useful as the elephant, and more useful than the horse and donkey.
    Thus, we can rule out such theorists and apologetics suggestion that these two unknown animals (unknown by name to Joseph Smith in 1830 New England) were the sloth or tapir, neither animal being of benefit to man other than for food. It also rules out the idea of the American buffalo (or bison) which animal had many consumer uses to the American Indian, but not as a domesticated beast of burden, and the same is true of the Big Horn Sheep, as some Heartland theorists want to claim were these unknown animals.
    We need to keep in mind that the curelom and cumom, on a par with the elephant in usage and benefit to the Jaredites and later Nephites, would be based not solely on food, but also on utilitarian purposes, i.e., as a beast of burden or draught animal that carries or pulls loads, and trained to perform tasks for humans. Such domesticated service and draft animals perform specific tasks, such as hauling, herding, carrying loads and laboring for man. The more versatile the animal, the more benefit the animal has in man’s world and the more tasks it can perform.
The Llama is a versatile animal of service and can draw a wagon, carry burdens, is friendly and docile, and be ridden among other things, and its wool is harvested for clothing, rugs, drapes, etc., and in death provides food, and much like the buffalo, daily needs

    Wild animals, of course, do not perform tasks and cannot be trained, unless they can first be domesticated, like the horse and elephant.
    First of all, there are no such two animals in any of the other so-called Land of Promise locations that theorists have been promoting for decades. While most theorists have suggested some animal or another, they are not beasts of burden that have great value to early man in assisting him to build, clear, or work his land and home.
    The only two such animals in the Western Hemisphere are found in South America, among the Andes area of Peru, Ecuador, western Bolivia and northern Chile. These two animals are known today as the Llama and Alpaca, two names and animals unknown in North America during Joseph Smith’s time and for more than a hundred years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, though today they are quite common in certain locations.
    We also know today that these animals are part of camel family, or more precisely, they are camelids that are recognized in South America—two wild and two domesticated. The two wild forms, the larger guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and the daintier vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) diverged from a common ancestor at some point in the far distant past, and an event unrelated to domestication.
Left: the wild guanaco; Right: the wild vicuña

    Genetic research indicates that the smaller alpaca (Lama pacos L.), is the domesticated version of the smaller wild form, the vicuña; while the larger llama (Lama glama L) is the domesticated form of the larger guanaco.
Left: the domesticated alpaca; Right; the domesticated Llama

    Physically, the line between llama and alpaca has been blurred as a result of deliberate hybridization between the two species over the last 35 years or so, but that hasn't stopped researchers from getting to the heart of the question. All four of the camelids are grazers or browser-grazers, although they have different geographic distributions today and in the past. Historically and in the present, the camelids were all used for meat and fuel, as well as wool for clothing and numerous other vital daily needs, including a source of string for the use in the quipu. In fact, the Quechua word for dried camelid meat is ch’arki, from which derives the Spanish “charquji” which comes to us in English as “jerky.”
    The earliest evidence for domestication of both llama and alpaca comes from archaeological sites located in the Puna region of the Peruvian Andes, at between 13,000-14,500 feet above sea level. At Telarmachay Rockshelter, located 105 miles northeast of Lima, faunal evidence from the long-occupied site traces an evolution of human subsistence related to the camelids. 
    The first hunters in the region lived on generalized hunting of guanaco, vicuña and the South American huemul deer. Later, the control of domesticated alpacas and llamas developed into a predominant herding economy based on llama and alpaca as found at Telarmachay, and evidence for domestication of llama and alpaca accepted by scholars include changes in dental morphology, the presence of fetal and neonatal camelids in archaeological deposits, and an increasing reliance on camelids indicated by the frequency of camelid remains in deposits. Wheeler has estimated that by 3800 years ago, the people at Telarmachay based 73% of their diet on camelids--which would have been during the early Jaredite period.
The llama is the larger of the domestic camelids and resembles the guanaco in almost all aspects of behavior and morphology. Llama is the Quechua term for L. glama, which is known as “qawra” by Aymara speakers. Domesticated from the guanaco in the Peruvian Andes dates back to a similar early period, while the llama moved into lower elevations. Long before the time of the Inca, vast Llama herds were roaming the northern coasts of Peru and Ecuador. During Inca times, they were used to move their imperial pack trains into southern Colombia and central Chile.
    Through much of their existence, man used llamas as beasts of burden, as well as for meat, hides, and fuel from their dung. They have upright ears and a leaner body with less wooly legs than the alpacas, and according to Spanish records, the Inca had a hereditary caste of herding specialists, with an emphasis placed on breeding animals with specific colored pelts for sacrificing to different deities. Information on flock size and colors are believed to have been kept using the quipu. Herds were both individually-owned and communal.
The Alpaca is considerably smaller than the llama, and it most resembles the vicuña in aspects of social organization and appearance, with archaeological evidence suggesting that, like llamas, alpacas were domesticated first in the Puna highlands of central Peru, but eventually came down to lower elevations. Their smaller size rules out their use as beasts of burden, but they have a fine fleece that is prized throughout the world today for its delicate, light-weight, cashmere-like wool that comes in a range of colors from white, through fawn, brown, gray, and black.
    Archaeological evidence suggests that both llamas and alpacas were part of the daily routine and rites in Chiribaya culture such as El Yaral, where naturally mummified animals were found buried beneath house floors. Quechua and Aymara-speaking herders today subdivide their herds into llama-like (llamawari or waritu) and alpaca-like (pacowari or wayki) animals, depending on physical appearance. Cross breeding of the two has attempted to increase the amount of alpaca fiber, which is of a higher quality; and the fleece weight (a llama trend). However, their main value to the early Peruvians was in their versatile service in numerous ways, as well as their ability to guard other herds and flocks (like a guard dog), as well as provide numerous daily needs, such as hides, clothing, fibers, meat, and numerous beast of burden work.
    Nowhere in the Americas are there two other animals like the Llama and the Alpaca that provide so much benefit to man. No wonder Moroni made such a remark.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Amazing Ruins of South America – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the apparent vitrified stones at Sacsayhuaman above Cuzco in Peru.
Vitrification of stonework at Sacsayhuaman complex above Cuzco in Peru

    If these rocks were indeed vitrified, as some historians claim, their ancient builders ought to have possessed some yet unknown means by which they were able to soften, melt and in some cases vitrify enormous masses of rock, making it extremely easy to carve stone as hard as granite and andesite in any kind of desired shapes and angles. In fact, experts have suggested several prominent features of these “vitrified” rocks that include:
• A shiny, glossy appearance that reflects light like a mirror;
• The presence of a “layer” on the surface of the stone, where the apparent vitrification is visible;
• Evidence of vitrification in places where it would be illogical or simply impossible to achieve a similar level of polish by any other more conventional technique (such as hammering, chiseling or polishing with an abrasive substance such as sand or quartz powder);
• An evident discoloration or change in color and texture of the stone in areas where the vitrification phenomenon is apparent;
• Marks in the stone or other evidence that might suggest that the stone was indeed molten or softened at some point during construction;  
• The sockets where metal clamps would have been inserted to join together adjacent blocks of stone are often visible in stones that bear traces of vitrification (with the sockets or T-Grooves also showing signs of vitrification)
    The vitrified stonework in the vestiges of Peru are stones that have been melted to a point where the molecular modification caused by high temperatures (over 1900ºF) changes the stone’s natural texture and produces a skin or surface layer providing a metallic sheen, which gives the stone strength and precision.
The shiny surface and molded forms are easy to see in these various stoneworks at Sacsayhuaman

    At the present time, there is a lot of debate in archaeological circles over the ancient examples under study at Sacsayhuaman and the complex of monuments and stonework surrounding it. However it is well known that the stones so treated, though much older than more recent stonework, has required no restoration at all, while the following stonework has had to be restored.
Left: A later wall requiring restoration because of its constant deterioration of the stone; Right: Stone that had gone through the vitrification process when originally constructed, though older, still requires no restoration at all

    The most interesting part of this is that the composition of the limestone used at Sacsayhuaman is very different than where the vitrification was added. This was a man-made process, for it does not happen in nature. In fact, the main body of the stone shows the spectral composition for limestone—high levels of calcium, carbon, oxygen and minor trace elements are the constituents of limestone. This is not unusual since the University of Cusco recognize the Sacsayahuaman archaeological park as being a karst landscape. Many cave systems are made in limestone bedrock and the sample was from this sort of cave. However, this cave was worked on by people in the past as is clear by all who visit the site.
    Now, the Vitrified Surface of the stone shows a very different spectrum of elements to the limestone body. The glaring difference is that Silicon is the predominant component with much higher concentrations. The trace elements of Aluminum and Magnesium are also significantly higher than the body of the stone. Oxygen is also present in double the quantities found in the body. The quantities of Calcium and Carbon are much lower than the body sample. The Silicon, Aluminium and Magnesium indicate that a material was added to the surface of the stone. The oxygen may have been part of this matter or it may have been introduced as part of oxidation during an aerobic heating process. This could have been during the formation of silicate, SiO2.
Left: Shine shows the vitrified stonework; Right: Cross section shows the vitrified stone as the top layer and the normal limestone beneath (the indentation is for a connector, probably brass, poured into the openings to seal the two stones together)

    The analysis of the intermediate region between the surface and body of the stone shows a gradation of compositions. This is a surprising result, and implies either the surface layer was somehow ground and mixed with the body of the stone, or the body limestone somehow merged/melted with the surface layer. Lastly and most unlikely, the limestone constituents could have been a part of the added surface layer. If this last were true the second and third spectra would have been more similar. Thus, as stated earlier, the body stone of limestone is different from the surface layer, which seems to have been changed due to high temperatures and pressures. That is, it was added to the stone during the working of the stonework.
    In addition to the stone itself, the stonework is also of great interest. As an example, inside the Coricancha (Qorikancha, Korikancha, Qurikancha, or Quri Kancha—the ancient opulent gold Peruvian temple beneath the Spanish Santa Domingo Cathedral built on top of the partially destroyed ancient site in the 16th century) in Cuzco, below Sacsayhuaman, stones and niches bear traces of perfectly drilled holes and grooves whose purposes is unknown (it has been speculated they might have held golden plaques, doors, hinges or other ornaments). Some of the holes were drilled in the hard granite for a depth in some cases exceeding 20 inches and with a diameter of up to 1½ to 2 inches.
An interesting niche inside the Qorikancha, with remarkably drilled holes and unresolved grooves whose purpose is unknown today

    One can only wonder at the exact precision such holes were made in ancient times with non-power tools that seemed perfectly drilled through the stone, and also at what purpose the holes served.
Drilled holes in stone showing both the precision and the tool marks inside the holes (light is a flashlight at the other end

    Once again, returning to the origin of these articles, is that while Mesoamerica has some very interesting buildings and history, it cannot compare with Andean Peru in presenting structures, artifacts and questions that simply have not to-date been answered and very likely will never be answered given the complexity of the ancient Peruvian beginnings. The structures these first Peruvians built can still not be fully explained today, nor can so many of their artifacts associated with their building skills and techniques. That Peru has the oldest structures found anywhere in the Americas is without question and more and more ancient sites are being discovered as the years progress and techniques, money and interest expand in South America to increase discovery.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Amazing Ruins of South America – Part I

A reader recently inquired about our opinion of the ruins found in both South and Central America and if they were the same quality and accomplishment. Since the answer has taken far more space than a simple “Comment” response, we are posting this as a full article, as it is quite revealing regarding these ancient ruins.
Ruins of the Mayan Temple grounds at Tulum upon a cliff along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya

    Briefly stated, as amazing as the ruins are in Mesoamerica, and having personally visited numerous sites down there the difference of Andean Peru is quite striking, the ruins found in South America are far superior and much more amazing than those in Mesoamerica. In fact, Ephraim George Squier, the American archaeologist, newspaper editor, and U.S. Commissioner to Peru—famous for his work with Edwin H. Davis on the book Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, published in 1848, which was a landmark work in American scientific research of the study of the prehistoric Mound Builders in North America, as well as an early development of archaeology as a scientific discipline, and which became the Smithsonian Institution’s Contributions to Knowledge series—has said of the ruins in South America:
    And I may say, once and for all, carefully weighing my words, that in no part of the world I have seen stones cut with such mathematical precision and admirable skill as in Peru, and in no part of Peru are there any to surpass those which are scattered over the plain of Tiahuanaco” (Squier, Peru: Incidents of Travel and Exploration in the Land of the Incas, 1877, Harper & Brothers, New York, p279].
    Ever since the time of the discovery (or rediscovery) by Hiram Bingham of Machu Picchu in 1911, and Percy Harrison Fawcett’s disappearance while searching for the lost city of Paititi in 1925, followed by several others later on, the remarkable megalithic ruins of ancient Peru have fascinated archaeologists and tourists like no other in the Americas. Of greatest interest has been the remarkable workmanship and precision of the megalithic stone cutting and dressing techniques employed by the ancient Peruvians that amaze scholars, travelers and construction experts even today.
    Compare the difference between standard stonework found in the various pyramids and buildings of ancient Mesoamerica and Andean Peru:
Stonework of ancient Mesoamerica. Note the typical stone cutting method and standard rectangular or rounded stones

    As impressive as their work was for a period around the beginning of the Christian era, consider the remarkable, unequaled stonework of Andean Peru that stretches nearly six hundred years before that of Mesoamerica.
Stonework of ancient Andean Peru. Note the intricate cuts and angles of stone fitted so tightly without mortar that not even a thin knife blade can fit between the stones

    The megalithic architecture of the Andean altiplano of Peru and Bolivia is indeed remarkable. It has the same clear and neat lines that only ancient Egypt was able to express, and then only briefly over the course of the IV Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Yet, very often, what is labelled as “Inca architecture” has nothing whatsoever to do with the Incas, a people conquered by the Spanish conquistadores in 1533 and whose empire stretching over much of today’s Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and parts of Argentina that lasted for a little over a hundred years since the late 13th Century A.D. to the beginning of the 15th Century A.D. Indeed, most architectural historians and archaeologists have now come to recognize in the megalithic architecture of the Peruvian and Bolivian highlands the legacy of much older civilizations, including the Wari and the Tiwanaku empires, whose history already stretched back several centuries (perhaps even millennia) by the time the Incas became lords of the land. 
    It is not that the stonework found in Mesoamerica is not impressive, because it is—a remarkable fete for a people of that era; it just does not equal what was accomplished before that in South America.
Just consider the difference in expertise and technical ability between the (left) Mesoamerican block cutting, and the (right) Andean Peru twelve-angled block cutting of about the same period of time

    Over the last couple of decades, architectural historians such as Jean Pierre Protzen, Architectural Design and construction principles of ancient civilizations, graduate of Diplôme d'Architecture, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and current University of California, Berkeley, professor who teaches courses on design theories and methods, logics of design, and research methods, whose current research interests include the logics of design, design planning, and construction principles of ancient civilizations, particularly Pre-Columbian South America, and Stella Nair, U.C.L.A. professor of Indigenous Arts of the Americas, have addressed the mystery of how a civilization with evidently no knowledge of the wheel and which only possessed rudimentary copper tools and chisels could have quarried, transported, dressed and fitted enormous blocks of hard granite, porphyry and andesite stone with the almost supernatural precision that one can see in the ancient sites of Peru and Bolivia.
    Even though their experiments have been able to shed some light on the techniques that, even with very rudimentary tools, could have been used to craft perfectly planar surfaces, accurate right angles and millimeter wide joints, many aspects of ancient Andean stone cutting and architecture remain unexplained.
Examples of vitrified stone in temple structures in Cuzco (City of Nephi) at Sacsayhuaman. Note the shiny surface due to extreme heat in the vitrification process. It should be noted that the body stone is limestone, but the surface is more complicated—it’s spectrum shows similarity to Wollastonite, which forms when impure limestone is subjected to high pressures and temperatures

    So far, very little analysis has been done to determine the composition of the vitrified layer and whether it is chemically or physically different from the stone itself. Some samples collected from a set of vitrified caves and tunnels at a site called Tetecaca, above the city of Cusco were purportedly analyzed by the University of Utrecht, Holland. Microscope photographs have revealed two clearly distinct regions, the vitrified layer and the stone underneath. The presence of a transition layer, which is also clearly visible in photographs, suggests however that the vitrified surface and the stone body are not separate but are indeed one and the same, although the surface of the stone has certainly undergone a physical transformation.
    If, however, the chemical composition of the surface layer, which currently appears to be at least partially different from that of the body stone since it contains elements not present in the natural rock samples, it would suggest that a kind of glaze composed of mostly silica was applied to the stone under conditions of extreme heat and pressure (Jan Peter de Jong, Evidence of Vitrified Stonework in the Inca Vestiges of Peru). And if these results were confirmed with more evidence from other sites, it remains to be explained how a similar glaze could be applied to the stone and how the required temperatures (well above 1900ºF) and pressures could be reached and maintained in the open air outside of a large furnace—on the other hand, there are those, including Brian Dunning, a member of the National Association of Science Writers, who claims that blacksmiths had furnaces of that period that reached some 2400ºF. Evidently, there was no lack for expertise in the arts of building smelting fires or keeping them hot.
(See the next post, “The Amazing Ruins of South America – Part II,” for more information regarding the vitrification of stones in the area of Sacsayhuaman above Cuzco in Peru)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nephi Code Video: Is This King Noah's Tower?

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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mystery of Sacsayhuaman and its Current Threat – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the mysteries of Sacsayhuaman and how it now faces threats that could destroy the outer walls.
The Sacsayhuaman complex (inside the yellow lines) seen from an aerial view overlooking the valley of Cuzco

    As stated previously, the descriptions we have from chroniclers gives us some insight into the magnificent complex known as Sacsayhuaman. In addition, Vince Lee, an author, architect, and explorer who has studied various ancient sites where people moved large megaliths, theorizes that the blocks at Sacsayhuaman were put into place by carving them precisely. The method used to match precisely the shape of a stone with the adjacent stones is unknown; it may have been scribing or by templating. The blocks would be towed up a ramp and above the wall, where they would be placed on top of a stack of logs. The logs would be removed one at a time to lower the stones into place. It fit is so tight a knife cannot separate the stones.
    Indeed, the Sacsayhuaman fortress at one time looked not only to be impregnable, as the Spanish believed it to be, but lasting through the ages. However, in recent years, problems have begun to arise surrounding the outer walls of the site. And because of a mounting problem recently discovered, the Ministry of Culture of Peru invited a group of Russian geophysicists in 2012 to perform research on the archaeological complex of Sacsayhuaman, namely on the soil problems of the former pre-Inca fortress. In the course of this work, interesting historical and archaeological data were collected and a lot of photo and video coverage was done and used for production of a documentary called “The Living Stones of Sacsayhuaman.”  It was found that the interlocking style of the stones kept them from being dislodged during movement, such as during an earthquake, even a violent one.
    The added value of the video format of these “field” data allow a rare understanding of the unique character of the building of the ancient Peruvians both form the scientific point of view and from the viewpoint of independent researchers. They also show how the interlocking stones that were used withstand earthquakes and even violent disruptions without losing their placement integrity.
The location of the soil samples taken

    The mandatory prerequisite for the selection was the integrity of the monument; the specimens were collected solely in the areas where the integrity of the construction material was already interrupted by existing cracks. These specimens were sent for analysis into the different laboratories in Khabarovsk (where the most exhaustive set of specimens was delivered, though only 10 of them were investigated so far) and from the laboratory of the Geology of Oil and Gas faculty of the South Federal University where a fragment of a processed construction block from the archaeological site was researched. As the research continues, the preliminary conclusions based at a limited number of the factual material showed stones that matched a pre-Hispanic stone quarry whose stone cliffs rose to a height of 300-feet compared to the walls of the fortress. The quarry is surrounded by the wall; assumingly, it was built after the construction of the Sacsayhuaman fortress. 
The stone quarries of Huayrange from which the huge stones cut and dressed for Sacsayhuaman were  cut and dressed fifteen miles away across very hilly terrain

    To the stone quarry from the fortress there leads a wide road, considered to be the stone quarry of Huayranga, mentioned by the chroniclers Bernabe Kobo and Polo de Ondegardo, where the stones for the construction of the fortress walls were procured. The specimens were collected for the purpose of investigation of this hypothesis. While some researchers considered the material to be an artificial material produced with unknown technologies, the experts of Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow, of the Geology Department of St-Petersburg State University and of the Department of Geology of Oil and Gas of the South Federal University have expressed their opinion during the private consultations that the mentioned fine-grained limestone is deemed to be a natural formation.  
    In recent years the employees of Sacsayhuaman archaeological complex witnessed a number of destructive processes taking place at certain sites of the complex. These consisted of the large cracks coming forth in the main walls, the shift of the stone blocks and recession of the walls. Such trend may lead to an irreversible and unrecognizable change of the complex which remains to be one of the most significant monuments of the heritage of the ancient Peruvians before the Inca. That's why this issue raised a need to conduct a research to define the reasons of these continuous destructive processes taking place at the Sacsayhuaman complex.
    Despite the state of art technologies of the modern geology and geophysics, it was difficult to find the one which allows a deep look into the soil and to find out the clear causes of the adverse processes influencing the constructions of the complex. The fact that a considerable amount of the zig-zag walls have been effected by the soil movement, causing cracks to appear in the walls, is of significant importance to the stability of the ancient Peruvian construction at Sacsayhuaman.
Orange shows outer zig-zag wall sections where the fractures between the blocks are of significant size. Red areas are the sections where the walls were destroyed (yellow circle indicates the tower base for orientation purposes in viewing the site)

    The georadars of “Loza” series allowed the exploration of the geologic land structure down to 656-feet below the surface. Such georadar researches allow the experts of VNIISMI to detect the areas of high humidity, the fissures in rock formations, crust fractures, underground objects, etc. It was learned that an extended zone of fissured soil goes through the area of the wall foundation. Such fissuring under the wall forms a drainage basin and a channel for the natural line gradient movement of ground waters. Uncontrollable local movement of ground waters under the wall’s foundation will lead to the washout of the easily soluble fractions of the top layer of soil and to the loss of the carrying capacity of the wall’s foundation.
    This down-warping of the soil is located directly under the foundation of the wall.
It is worth adding that this is not the only area of fissuring. There are several other locations where this is occurring.

The deteriorating stones at Sascsayhuaman

    To prevent the further destruction of wall, additional investigation of the soil under the foundation is being conducted to detect other zones of fissuring and to track their extension. Based on the data regarding the location of the fissuring areas where the surface waters are captured and from where they flow down along the natural gradient line, it is necessary to organize the lateral drainage of the surface waters and their deflection from the wall foundation.
    Extensive erosion of the surface was observed at a large number of Sacsayhuaman block stones during the georadar research. To clarify the cause of these processes the samples of materials which bear no cultural value were taken with the approval of the staff of the archaeological unit. At the moment of preparation of the initial report, comprehensive analyses were still being carried out in a number of Russian laboratories in order to obtain the precise information regarding the geological structure, characteristics and the chemical formula of the mentioned samples.
    The preliminary report, however, suggests that despite the uncertainty of the precise chemical formula of the material, the conducted experiments demonstrate that the stone blocks in the walls of Sacsayhuaman may gradually dissolve under the influence of acidic environment, which often occurs in rain precipitations of many countries, which possess heavy industry where the production cycle with utilization of various acids is being violated, such as in the mining industry. If such is found to be the case in the area, then immediate measures will need to be taken to protect the Sacsayhuaman archaeological complex. That can be done with the help of modern methods, such as covering the stone blocks with a protective coating, etc.
As to the complex itself, there can be no question that Sacsayhuaman, and several other sites in the region roundabout, was built with a technology that was far beyond and ahead of not only the capabilities of those at the time, but even today, so many people in construction cannot figure out exactly how it was done. Yet, despite this unquestionable fact, so many Book of Mormon Land of Promise theorists, neglect to even consider the Nephite history of Nephi being shown how to build a ship, not after the manner of men, but after the manner which the Lord had shown him (1 Nephi 18:2); and work timbers, not after the manner of men, but after the manner the Lord showed him (1 Nephi 18:1), and that he was shown many things directly from the Lord (1 Nephi 18:3). Might not we consider that the Lord showed Nephi how to build in an earthquake threatened land using an advanced technology that only the Lord could have known then, and even for the next 2500 years? How on earth can one deny the Lord’s hand in this?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Mystery of Sacsayhuaman and its Current Threat – Part I

In the north-western suburb of the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, there is a steep hill floating up above the ancient city—at the top of this hill there is one of the greatest monuments of the ancient Peruvian architecture, and carries the name of Sacsayhuaman. In the language of Quechua—the language that was spoken by the Pre-Inca patrials in ancient times, the name means “satiated hawk.” Sacsayhuaman is usually referred to as a fortress or a citadel, since its cycloptic walls evoke the impression of indestructible might, and its position on as cliff overlooking the valley below.
   The central part of this archaeological monument is represented by three impenetrable zigzag walls located one after another, fringing the slope of the hill. The length of each of the walls reaches 1150-feet, with their height varying from 13-16 feet for the bottom wall, and up to 10-feet for the top wallthough each was considerably higher before the Spanish tore the tops off the walls to make their own buildings in the city below. Each has more than 20 prominent bastions, which add to the zigzag shape, and each of the walls has one or two passages to the next level. 
    The walls are compiled of the large, thoroughly processed blocks of the so-called grey Yucay limestone. The lower wall consists of the largest blocks which have the height of 7-9 feet and the weight of dozens of tons, with the weight of the biggest block at 360 tons, while its height is almost 28-feet. The blocks have a different shape, but despite this they fit together with unbelievable precision. It’s impossible to squeeze even a knife blade between them, though they are joined without mortar, but with the help of a technology which today is called polygonal masonry.
In a model of a wall’s construction, the (top left) back is shown as rough and rather sloppily put together; however, in (top right) turning the model around, the (bottom) front is revealed as a polished product as is found at Sacsayhuaman

    Many of the bulges are sophisticatedly carved so that to match the shape of the adjacent boulders. This way, the blocks fit together just like the elements of a puzzle. Engineers believe, that this type of masonry provided the maximum stability and safety of the construction in such an earthquake endangered zone as the valley of Cusco. Remarkable is the fact that the blocks of the prominent bastions are rounded. That means that for the ancient developers it was not a problem to trim the facets of the 10-12 feet high monoliths just for rendering them the rounded shape. 
    In addition, the whole surface of the blocks were thoroughly polished in ancient times, though today the signs of erosion are very evident with all of the stones. At the top of the hill there remained the remnants of the Inca buildings, including the foundation of the three towers. The main tower consisted of 5 levels and were made of the smaller hewn blocks which were a pale comparison to the gigantic monoliths of the lower walls.
Yellow Arrow: In movement, stones lift off their housing, but the (red arrow) interlocking shape of the stones keep them from moving far, and return the stones to their original positions when the movement stops

    The early Spanish chroniclers noted that Sacsayhuaman was first and foremost, a tremendous temple complex, the True House of the Sun, as some chroniclers used to call it. During the time of the Inca, only the Inca and royal family could enter it. It has been described as splendidly decorated, with an amount of gold figures, facades, and wall coverings to excite the imagination. However, today, it is impossible to imagine the architecture of Sacsayhuaman, since these same chroniclers did not leave enough of the detailed descriptions to reconstruct it’s one-time magnificence; and after the suppression of the Inca mutiny of 1536 the Spaniards began energetically disassembling the complex as much as they could. The perfectly processed stone blocks of Sacsayhuaman were dismantled and used for the construction of Cathedrals and residential buildings of the central part of colonial Cusco.
    It is hard to imagine how the ancient Peruvians, with the help of the simple tools, managed to erect such a magnificent building made of the monolithic stone blocks weighing many tons each. The full scope of work assumed stone-cutting works in the mines, stone delivery to the sites—over long distances—treatment of stones at the site and, finally, the masonry. Sacsayhuaman is the most sublime, but not the only existing monument of the similar cyclopean construction. In the so-called “king’s valley,” where Cusco is located, there also survived until recent times other monuments which comprise large megalithic constructions, such as  Machu Picchu, Winay Wayna, Coricancha, Ollantaytambo, Liactapata, etc., some of which are located on the high mountain peaks and where it is not very easy to reach, while transporting scores of stone blocks onto those steep slopes is a mission close to impossible even in the present conditions.
    Originally, at the foot of the tremendous walls of Sacsayhuaman there stretched a vast square. Anciently, it was completely filled with the various temples and residential buildings which were later disassembled by the Spaniards, and on the opposite side is a rock crest, the Hill Suchuno, a dome-like diorite formation of magmatic rock. On the different slopes of this hill, in a very solid formation there are cut the multiple footsteps and niches, where the quality of work is so excellent that it’s impossible to imagine that this was done by the stone or bronze tools. In addition, there exist no justified hypotheses regarding the purpose of such architectural constructions.
For example, the so-called “throne of the Inca”—two layers of footsteps at the Eastern slope of the hill Suchuno--possesses the smoothly polished facets intersecting strictly perpendicularly which have basically not suffered any damages throughout all of the centuries, or millenniums of their existence. It’s worth highlighting that the solidity of diorite is higher than that of the basalt and it requires very labor-intensive processing. There are strange cut traces (sawn?) in the diorite rock in one location, and along the edge of a crack that appeared as a result of a split of a large piece of formation, there are cut traces left by an unknown instrument. It is claimed that the cut was ½ to ¾ inches deep and several feet long—for the modern man such trace would be the sign of a disk saw with a diameter of almost five feet.
    Pedro Sancho (Account of the Conquest of Peru), Pizarro's secretary, who visited the complex before the siege, mentions the labyrinth-like quality of the complex and the fact that it held a great number of storage rooms filled with a wide variety of items. He also notes that there were buildings with large windows that looked over the city. These structures, like so much of the site, have long since been destroyed by he Spaniaards.
    The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities and several of the large structures at the site may also have been used during rituals. It is also clear from early accounts that the complex held a great number of storage rooms. Pedro Pizarro described storage rooms that were within the complex and which were filled with military equipment.
The precision cutting of the stonework at Sacsayhuaman: LtoR: Huge rounded stones; interlocking stone cuts; walls that lean inward

   This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward, is thought to have helped the ruins survive devastating earthquakes in Cuzco. There is indeed not a house in the city that has not been made of this stone, or at least the houses built by the Spaniards. Today, only the stones that were too large to be easily moved remain at the site.
    In 2008, archaeologists discovered additional ruins at the periphery of Sacsayhuaman where similar construction techniques were used in building the fortress complex. It is believed that the stones were rough-cut to the approximate shape in the quarries using river cobbles. They were then dragged by rope to the construction site, a feat that at times required hundreds of men. The ropes were so impressive that they warranted mention by Diego de Trujillo (Relation of the Discovery of the Kingdom of Peru), the Spanish conquistador and highly accredited chronicler, as he inspected a room in 1571 filled with building materials. The stones were then shaped into their final form at the building site and then laid in place.
    Cieza de León, who visited the complex two times in the late 1540s, mentions the quarrying of the stones, their transposition to the site, and the digging of foundation trenches. All this was conducted by rotational labor under the close supervision of the architects. Jean-Pierre Protzen (Architecture and Construction at Ollantaytambo), a UC Berkeley professor of architecture, has shown how the Peruvians built long and complex ramps within the stone quarries near Ollantaytambo, and how additional ramps were built to drag the blocks to the construction above the village. He suggests that similar ramps would have been built at Sacsayhuaman.
(See the next post, “The Mystery of Sacsayhuaman and its Current Threat – Part II,” for more information on the threat that now faces the ancient complex)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Understanding Coastal Breezes and Prevailing Winds

Since we have received some questions lately about the winds and sea currents in various areas that effected Nephi’s course to the Land of Promise, we are answering these in one article. Part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that while we assume reader questions or comments are based, at least in part, on more than their reading a single post, sometimes it turns out they were not and the reader’s knowledge, which we base on their written comment or question, is less than we had thought. This is often true about winds and currents, since at first blush, they appear to most people to be simple and understandable (which is far from correct).
Whether or not a person agrees with the South American location for the Land of Promise, they might want to better understand how winds and currents work since Lehi got from Irreantum, along the shore of Bountiful, to the Land of Promise on a ship the Lord showed Nephi in great detail how to build—and that ship was “driven forth by the wind,” not diesel powered or even sailed with much experience on the part of Lehi and Ishmael’s families and households.
    As some of our long-time readers have often stated to a few of the comments sent in that such readers should go back and read the entire blog and the books before entering into lengthy comments about already answered questions, but for the moment we will endeavor to make the winds and currents more understandable. In doing so, we mean no disrespect to anyone or any question or comment sent to us. We are just trying to make this information more clear, and why it is needed in the first place.
    It should be kept in mind that we have been talking here on this blog regarding wind and sea directions, paths, currents, etc., of well-established wind and sea patterns that are based upon unchanging factors, i.e., constant land mass configuration (continents and mountains etc., don’t change day to day or year to year, but remain constant), gravity, earth rotation, direction of spin (of the earth), etc. There are numerous factors involved in a sea current pattern as well as in “constant” air movement (winds).
Top: Deep Sea; Bottom: Coastal Waters, they appear very different but not always in the way they actually are

    However, that is not to say, nor have we ever suggested that sea and land breezes, i.e., winds and wind direction based on day to day climate conditions, land mass and sea temperatures, etc., do not change from day to day or even hour to hour, since they are not entirely determined by the factors that make up the constant wind and sea patterns. As an example, monsoons (like those in the Indian Ocean) are changing patterns, though their change is both well understood, predictable, and rare—they change only twice per year. On the other hand, constant or prevailing wind and sea current directions do not change throughout the year and time.
    In the area of changing wind directions (not sea directions) it should be noted, in coastal areas the sea breeze/land breeze cycle can define local winds; in areas that have variable terrain, mountain and valley breezes can dominate local winds. That is to say, the topography and temperature of the earth effects temporary changes in the wind. In this, there are big differences between sea breezes and land breezes.
As an example, sea breeze blows from a large body of water toward or onto a landmass and develops due to differences in air pressure created by the differing heat capacities of water and dry land. As such, sea breezes are more localized than prevailing winds (prevailing winds are constant, i.e., they prevail over extended periods of time, which means a ship could count on prevailing wind patterns, but not on fickle sea breezes, thus, from time to time, especially near land, winds change abruptly, which, by the way, is what allows small vessels with highly movable small sails (such as dhows) the capability to move along shores opposite to or in agreement with normal or prevailing winds).
    Thus, because land absorbs solar radiation far more quickly than water, a sea breeze is a common occurrence along coasts and after sunrise. By contrast, a land breeze or offshore breeze is the reverse effect: dry land also cools more quickly than water and, after sunset, a sea breeze dissipates and the wind instead flows from the land towards the sea. Thus sea breezes and land breezes are both important factors in coastal regions’ prevailing winds. The term offshore wind may refer to any wind over open water. Wind Speed fluctuates and the normal daily fluctuations of wind speed resulting from sea or land breezes.
    In addition, the sea has a greater heat capacity than land, so the surface of the sea warms up more slowly than the land's surface. As the temperature of the surface of the land rises, the land heats the air above it by conduction (directly transmitted). The warm air is less dense and so it expands, decreasing the pressure over the land near the coast. The air above the sea has a relatively higher pressure, causing air near the coast to flow towards the lower pressure over land. The strength of the sea breeze is directly proportional to the temperature difference between the land and the sea, and if a strong offshore wind is present, that is, a wind greater than nine miles per hour and opposing the direction of a possible sea breeze, the sea breeze is not likely to develop.
    Now, a sea breeze front is a weather front created by a sea breeze, also known as a convergence zone. The cold air from the sea meets the warmer air from the land and creates a boundary like a shallow cold front. When powerful this front creates cumulus clouds, and if the air is humid and unstable, the front can sometimes trigger thunderstorms—all of which effects coastal sailing, but not ships at sea. If the flow aloft is aligned with the direction of the sea breeze, locations experiencing the sea breeze frontal passage will have benign, or fair, weather for the remainder of the day.
This is what allows a coastal vessel (the ancient traders) to basically move in any direction they wanted along the coast in most conditions—though not during strong monsoon weather, which overrides normal coastal breezes, and which caused the ancient India traders to  wait for the change of monsoon winds to go and return along India’s coasts.
    Now, having said that, it needs to be understood that once the ship leaves coastal waters, beyond the land breeze/sea breeze confrontations (which varies according to the exact topography of the land at any given point, i.e., flat plain, beaches, hills, mountains, cliffs, etc.), then the prevailing winds will always prevail, which is why they are called prevailing winds.
    Having studied the Indian Ocean and Sea of Arabia, Bay of Bengal, Indonesia Sea Through, etc., for many, many years, I can tell you that most people who write about or draw maps about the winds and currents, mix up coastal sailing with deep sea sailing. As an example, one of the interesting points in the Book of Mormon episode of Nephi’s sailing is when the storm came up and the ship was “driven back upon the waters for the pace of three days” (1 Nephi 18:13). Most Mesoamericanists, who believe that that deep sea vessels “driven forth before the wind” could have sailed eastward from Arabia to Indonesia, and through into the Pacific, miss the meaning of this story.
    First of all, Nephi tells us that they had been to sea “for the space of many days” (1 Nephi 18:9), and as such would have had to be many miles offshore, deep into the Sea of Arabia or more likely as far south as the Indian Ocean, since that is where the terrible storms occur (called Cyclones or Sea Typhoons), which whirl around and drive the sea into circles (turning a sailing vessel back in the direction from which it came). Now, three days of that, moving swiftly because of the power of the wind blowing it, if it had been near the coast in any way (like heading east toward Indonesia/Malay), the ship would have been driven into the coast and smashed against the rocky shore. But Nephi tells us where he went by telling us how his ship was configured, i.e., it was driven forth before the wind (1 Nephi 18:8,9).
Storms develop in the northern Indian Ocean and drive toward land

    Also, keep in mind that the Indian Ocean weather systems develop out to sea and moves toward land. If these storms last long enough, they move into land and that is where they do their damage. Three days and into the fourth day (1 Nephi 18:14) is a very long time for a tropical storm like the one Nephi describes as “a great and terrible tempest” that became “exceedingly sore.” Now note that Nephi says on the fourth day they were about to be “swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 18:15 emphasis added), meaning they were still in deep ocean water, and at no time was anyone concerned about being driven into the shore, rocks, reefs, etc., near a shore. Thus, Nephi's ship could not have been heading eastward or it would have been driven into the shore long before the fourth day arrived.
    Now, with this understanding, a recent link sent to us by a reader, called with active maps, failed to mention that these maps were “current wind configurations,” i.e., how the wind was acting on that particular day at that particular time and are used so one can plan ahead as to where the wind might be blowing and how strong at any given time when planning trips, activities or short voyages. Those maps are not indicative of prevailing winds, but merely what is happening at any given moment. The point is, when we talk about winds and currents on this blog, we are talking about prevailing winds and constant currents that drove shipping across the deep oceans from the days of fixed sails before tacking to the Age of Sail that ended with the invention of paddlewheels, piston-engine steamships and finally diesel engines.
When Nephi tells us he “was driven forth before the wind,” he is telling us that his ship had basically a fixed sail and he was dependent upon the wind to move him in the direction of the Land of Promise, which was only in one direction away from the Land of Promise and eventually to a spot around the 30º South Latitude along the west coast of Chili in South America, as Frederick G. Williams once wrote.
    Another point to keep in mind is this is not coastal sailing like the early traders did on any continent at any time—even today coastal sailing is far different than deep ocean sailing and, in fact, coastal sailing requires far more expertise than simply sailing with the winds and currents in the deep ocean.