Alternative writers are maddeningly illogical in their wild speculation. One odd claim I keep running across is the assertion that beneath South America is an interconnected network of underground tunnels stretching into the thousands of miles and of such workmanship that primitive Natives could never have built them. In Ancient American (issue 53, 2003), Warren Smith claimed that proof that the tunnel system existed was the fact that the Inca did not discuss it; specifically, he believes that when the Inca told the Spanish they had secreted away their gold where none might find it, this therefore proves the existence of thousands of miles of underground tunnels spanning the continent.
Despite hundreds of pages of alternative claims about them, these elaborate tunnel systems have never been found. Pizarro supposedly tried to enter them from atop Mt. Huascaran, but found only large slabs of stone. (In truth, only modern writers claim these were caves: Pizarro thought they were merely treasure-chambers.) In the 1850s, the Spanish viceroy sent an expedition to find them, but after encountering hostility from the natives, gave up. In Isis Unveiled (1877), Helena Blavatsky claimed, ridiculously, that a Peruvian had given her a map of the tunnels and their entrance—which of course she declined to share. In Mysteries of South America (1947), Harold T. Wilkins, working from Blavatsky, claimed several underground roads existed—which of course he had never actually seen—and attributed them to Atlantis.
In 1971, an expedition returned to Huascaran and claimed to have sighted the slabs of stone that they believed blocked the tunnel entrances. They described paved stone tunnels that extended down the mountain and into the ocean for 65 miles, terminating 80 ft. below sea level, blocked by doors that moved ingeniously on pivots—all signs of a hoax. These tunnels have never been seen by anyone else, though all modern English versions are derived (largely verbatim) from Erich von Däniken’s summary in The Gold of the Gods of a German popular science magazine’s description of them. This magazine article is apparently the sole documentation of the expedition. Von Däniken also claimed to have personally explored the tunnels in The Gold of the Gods, finding within alien artifacts, which he knew then and later admitted was all a lie. David Childress sought them out as well, and he admitted he found absolutely nothing, which failed to dent his enthusiasm for the tunnels in the least. Wilkins’ work was the direct source for David Childress.
The fact of the matter is that all of the modern writers’ accounts are derived—in many cases almost verbatim—from Blavatsky’s. Seriously: Every alternative account I’ve examined has nearly paralleled Blavatsky’s point for point and claim for claim. Consider this:
The whole passage of each book is in fact exactly parallel, but I think this makes the situation fairly clear. Therefore, let’s take a look at what the Theosophical fraud wrote about this imaginary network of tunnels.
I’m sure you can see the elements of all the later accounts here: The pivoting doors, the mysterious hieroglyphs (in a land without writing no less!), the dubious historicity, etc. But note too the differences: Blavatsky does not doubt that these were Inca tunnels—for she did not know the Inca were a young empire. She also makes no claim for a continent-wide system, but she does provide the key to the mystery: Seeing all the Inca gold and silver, Pizarro believed the Inca had an “inexhaustible mine” from which it was drawn. This must be the legendary origin of the “tunnel” myth, but later authors ignore this important piece of evidence.
Specifically, the actual warrant for this myth probably derives from Garcilaso de la Vega's report that the Inca made underground passages that connected the towers of Sacsayhuaman in a labyrinthine way: "They were built with so many streets and lanes, crossing each other in all directions, and making so many turns, that one might easily be lost as in a labyrinth, and not know how to get out." This limited information, strictly applicable only to the basement level of a single fortress, appears to be the genesis point for the myth of the continent-wide tunnels.
From here we see a gradual accretion of myth. Pizarro looked for isolated treasure chambers; these grew into a belief in connected underground treasure vaults under the Spanish. Blavatsky imagined a corridor connecting these vaults from Bolivia to Lima, and later writers kept expanding, combining and remixing elements to create a vast network of corridors, eventually running an imaginary one right up to Pizarro’s unseen treasure chambers. And all this occurred without anyone ever actually demonstrating that a single mile of this alleged system existed.
Did the Peruvians use underground chambers? Of course they did. Did they combine them into a network that stretched thousands of miles beneath South America with doors so cunning that for 500 years they have remained hidden? I doubt it. If you want to say it’s true, show me.
It’s like the carved Inca and pre-Inca false-doorframes in the mountain rocks that Childress claimed on Ancient Aliens are mystical portals to another dimension through which “the aliens” came and left again. If you want to believe that, take a running start and go on through to the other dimension. If you won’t do it, you don’t really believe it, and are just making stuff up.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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