Sunday, March 12, 2017

Los Horcones

Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers wrote an article in 2007 entitled "The Early Classic Obsidian Trade at Los Horcones, Chiapas, Mexico" that was published by Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI) in 2008. We cited her article in the blog post entitled "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage." This is her map of the area. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Los Horcones in Context
As she explains, this is a unique spot along the coast of Chiapas. It is the only place from Guatemala to Oaxaca where a spur of the Sierra Madre (Cerro Bernal) cuts through the coastal plain and comes right to the seacoast. Los Horcones is located in the passageway between Cerro Bernal and the Sierra Madre where Mexican Federal Highway 200 runs today. Garcia-Des Lauriers, describing Cerro Bernal, says "its foothills on the inland side constrict the terrestrial pass forming a narrow natural corridor that could have been easily controlled by Los Horcones."

We identify this constricted terrestrial pass forming a narrow natural corridor with the narrow passage mentioned in Mormon 2:29. We correlate quite a number of Book of Mormon geographic features with places shown on Garcia-Des Lauriers' map:
  1. Pacific Ocean - west sea Alma 22:27
  2. Mar Muerto Outlet - place where the sea divides the land Ether 10:20
  3. Sandbar containing Puerto Arista and Boca del Cielo - narrow (small) neck of land Ether 10:20, Alma 63:5, Alma 22:32
  4. Olmec site Tzutzuculi - city of Lib Ether 10:19-20
  5. Paredon - city Desolation Mormon 3:5-6, Mormon 3:8
  6. Eastern edge of Mar Muerto - Hagoth's port Alma 63:5
  7. South side of Cerro Bernal where Estacion Mojarras is today - narrow pass Alma 50:34, Alma 52:9, Mormon 3:5
  8. Pacific Ocean on the west and Laguna la Joya on the east - the singular west sea that also had an easterly component Alma 50:34
This is the area where we site the border between land Desolation on the north and land Bountiful on the south. The east west line mentioned in Helaman 4:7 that ran from a point in the east to the west sea we trace right through the site of Los Horcones. In our view, the point in the east was uphill in the Sierra Madre and the west sea mentioned was the saltwater lagoon Laguna La Joya. F. Richard (Ric) Hauck was the first to identify Los Horcones as part of the fortified border in the area between Bountiful and Desolation in his 1988 book Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon.

If this correlation is correct, much of the Book of Mormon narrative took place right here where the lands northward and southward intersected. This was the one place where the greatly outnumbered Nephites could hope to contain the Lamanites because topography worked to their advantage. As Garcia-des Lauriers says, at this place there was a narrow pass that "could have been easily controlled by Los Horcones."

Additional things we learn from the Garcia-des Lauriers paper with possible Book of Mormon implications:
  • The extent of Los Horcones' trade networks was remarkable. This was a nexus, a connecting point. The Book of Mormon consistently describes the Bountiful/Desolation west sea border as a transit point between the lands northward and southward Alma 22:32-34Alma 50:34, Alma 63:5, Mormon 3:5.
  • Los Horcones had close ties to Teotihuacan during the Early Classic (AD 200 - 450). Ca. AD 350, the Nephites forever abandoned the land southward to Lamanite control Mormon 2:29.
  • Los Horcones also maintained strong connections with Veracruz and the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Southern Veracruz is where we place Nephite territories in the land northward. Pacific coastal Guatemala we correlate with the greater land of Nephi in the land southward.
  • Los Horcones was occupied from AD 200 - 700. Apogee was probably AD 400 - 600. From the Book of Mormon we would expect a modest Nephite garrison stationed in the general area ca. 90 BC Alma 22:33 with much more substantial population by ca. AD 328 Mormon 2:6-8.
  • Large numbers of prismatic blades recovered from excavations at Los Horcones evidence militarism in the area which is precisely what the Book of Mormon describes Mormon 2:8.
  • Obsidian at Los Horcones came from Pachuca, Oyameles/Zaragoza, El Chayal, San Martin Jilotepeque, Otumba, and Guadalupe Victoria.
This map shows the sources of Los Horcones obsidian.
Obsidian from Six Sources Found at Los Horcones
Other observations from Claudia Garcia-des Lauriers:
  • The amount of obsidian recovered from Los Horcones is quite large relative to other sites in the area. The Book of Mormon points to the land northward/southward border region as a focus of military activity Alma 50:34-35, Mormon 3:7-8, Mormon 4:19.
  • Obsidian sources in Central Mexico controlled by Teotihuacan are disproportionately represented at Los Horcones. We correlate Teotihuacan with the Gadianton robber capital established by King Jacob 3 Nephi 7:12. Mormon says the Nephites were fighting an alliance of robbers and Lamanites Mormon 1:18, Mormon 2:8, Mormon 2:27.
  • Teotihuacan was a military power, but even more importantly it was a trading empire. The Gadianton robbers were distinguished as intense traders 4 Nephi 1:46.
  • After AD 300 there was a disruption in trading patterns at sites in the southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Whereas up to that point, obsidian had come into the area from Guatemalan quarries, from that point on the Guatemalan material does not appear and all obsidian comes from Central Mexican sources, particularly Oyameles/Zaragoza. The Book of Mormon describes significant political shifts at precisely this time that drew a sharp dividing line between the lands northward and southward Mormon 2:28-29. The annihilation of the Nephites may also have opened up this region to a Teotihuacan trading monopoly controlled from Matacapan. See the article "Matacapan."
This map shows the southern Isthmus region.
Southern Isthmus in Context
Two travel and trade routes came from Central Mexico into Los Horcones. One went through the Ishtmus of Tehuantepec at Chivelas Pass, the other through the Central Depression of Chiapas. Both of them communicated between our proposed city Desolation and our proposed Ramah/Cumorah.
Two Routes from Central Mexico to Los Horcones
A rough Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 322 the war of annihilation began in the borders of the greater land of Zarahemla beside river Sidon Mormon 1:10. Mormon was 11 years old Mormon 1:6. Proposed location: The Chama, Alta Verapaz area which we correlate with the land of Manti on the southern border of the greater land of Zarahemla.
  • ca. AD 322 - 326 four years of peace Mormon 1:12.
  • ca. AD 327 Mormon assumed command of the Nephite armies at age 16 Mormon 2:2.
  • ca. AD 327 Nephite retreat towards the north countries Mormon  2:3. Proposed location: Between Chama, Alta Verapaz and Pijijiapan, Chiapas.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Angola fortified ("with our might") then lost. This had not previously been a Nephite city because they had to "take possession" of it. Mormon 2:4 Proposed location: La Libertad, Huehuetenango. 
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 David lost Mormon 2:5. Proposed location: Motozintla, Chiapas area. 
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Nephites gathered into land of Joshua on the west sea Mormon 2:6-7. Proposed location: The Pijijiapan area on the Pacific coast of Chiapas.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Ubiquitous robbers and Lamanites were dual enemies Mormon 1:18, Mormon 2:8.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Widespread witchcraft Mormon 1:19, Mormon 2:10.
  • ca. AD 331 Nephites victorious in battle in land of Joshua Mormon 2:9.
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites retreated from land of Joshua to land of Jashon which was near land of Antum where hill Shim was located Mormon 2:16. Proposed location for Jashon: Laguna de los Cerros, Veracruz area. Proposed location for Antum: Tres Zapotes, Veracruz area. Proposed location for hill Shim: Cerro Vigia between Tres Zapotes and Santiago Tuxtla. 
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites driven northward from Jashon to land of Shem Mormon 2:20. Proposed location: Alvarado, Veracruz area, east of the Papaloapan River.
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites gathered, fortified city of Shem Mormon 2:21. Proposed location, El Meson, Veracruz. This was the northernmost Nephite advance.
A proposed map of Nephite movements ca. AD 322 - 345.
Proposed Manti, Angola, David, Joshua, Jashon, Antum with Hill Shim, & Shem
More Nephite chronology at the end:

Saturday, March 11, 2017


In 2000 INAH convened the 2nd Teotihuacan Round Table with the proceedings published in 2004. Christopher A. Pool (University of Kentucky, Anthropology) and Wesley Stoner (University of Arkansas, Anthropology) presented at the round table and their paper was included in the proceedings. Their paper is entitled "El Fenomeno Teotihuacano en Tres Zapotes y Matacapan: Una Discusion Comparativa." They reference Teotihuacan, of course, and the three major Teotihuacan-influenced sites in the Tuxtlas.
Teotihuacan, Tres Zapotes, Matacapan, & Piedra Labrada
This is what we learn from their paper:
  • Tres Zapotes, Matacapan, and Piedra Labrada all show significant Teotihuacan influence, with that influence strongest at Matacapan.
  • Matacapan was probably the site from which Teotihuacan influence spread throughout the Tuxtlas.
  • The classic period Matacapan was founded after AD 300.
  • Between AD 300 and AD 450, Matacapan extended over approximately 50 hectares.
  • In the terminal formative period (0 BC - AD 200) Matacapan was covered by a thick ash layer from a volcanic eruption (Nixtamalapan) that caused the site to be temporarily abandoned.
  • Soon after AD 300 immigrants from Teotihuacan settled in Matacapan and began manufacturing pottery that was a fusion of local material & technology with Teotihuacan style & iconography.
  • During the AD 300 - AD 450 time period, green obsidian from Pachuca, Hidalgo (an obsidian source under Teotihuacan control in that era) was present at Matacapan.
  • Between AD 450 and AD 650 Matacapan grew rapidly, extending over approximately 700 hectares.
  • Between AD 650 and AD 800 Matacapan diminished in size to approximately 460 hectares. The site was abandoned ca. AD 800.
  • Teotihuacan influence at Matacapan reached its zenith between AD 450 and AD 550.
  • Between AD 300 and AD 450, Matacapan had a much stronger relationship with Teotihuacan than it did with neighboring sites in the Tuxtlas. After AD 450, even as Teotihuacan stylistic influence became more pronounced, Matacapan began developing strong ties with their neighbors.
  • Tres Zapotes was an Olmec site that continued into the epi-Olmec period (300 BC - AD 200).
  • Between AD 300 and AD 600 Tres Zapotes experienced a dramatic decline in population after a volcanic eruption (ca. AD 200 - 300) covered it in a thick ash layer. This was a different volcano than the one that covered Matacapan 100 - 200 years earlier.
  • Even though it is only 30 kilometers west of Matacapan, Tres Zapotes was not abandoned in the 0 BC - AD 200 time frame like Matacapan was.
  • 855 obsidian artifacts were recovered from Tres Zapotes by Drucker & Weiant in their excavations reported in 1943. 4,155 obsidian artifacts were recovered from Tres Zapotes by Pool & Stoner in their 1995 - 1997 excavations.
  • The obsidian Pool & Stoner found at Tres Zapotes was dated strati graphically with the following results: 1,328 pieces in the late formative (500 BC - 0 BC), 1,092 pieces in the terminal formative (0 BC - AD 200), 720 pieces in the early classic (AD 200 - AD 450), no pieces in the middle classic when the site was in serious decline (AD 450 - AD 600), and 638 pieces in the late classic (AD 600 - AD 900).
If the land of Cumorah and hill Ramah/Cumorah were in the Tuxtlas, as we propose, there are some potentially striking Book of Mormon correlations with these data.
  1. The eruption of Nixtamalapan that covered Matacapan with ash may correlate with the destruction in the land northward reported in 3 Nephi 8:5-23.
  2. Teotihuacan may be the great city, Jacobugath, in the northernmost part of the land, inhabited by Gadianton robbers 3 Nephi 7:12, 3 Nephi 9:9.
  3. If Teotihuacan was the robber capital, that explains why Mormon was fighting a two-front war against the Lamanites coming up from the south and the robbers coming down from the north Mormon 2:27-28. It also explains why Mormon and the Nephites could not simply continue retreating northward out of harm's way, and why survivors of the holocaust at Cumorah fled southward Mormon 6:15.
  4. Hill Shim is probably in the same general vicinity as hill Ramah/Cumorah. Ammaron was inspired to hide the Nephite repository in hill Shim, and he fully expected it to remain their securely until the latter days 4 Nephi 1:48-49. He explicitly told Mormon that he had deposited the Nephite records unto the Lord, and that Mormon was to remove the plates of Nephi, but leave all the other records in Ammaron's repository Mormon 1:3-4. If Cerro Vigia was Shim and Cerro San Martin Pajapan was Cumorah as we suggest, that explains why Mormon expressly disobeyed Ammaron's instructions and moved the Nephite archives from Shim to Cumorah Mormon 6:6. Teotihuacan's abrupt presence at Matacapan after AD 300 dramatically changed the balance of power in the western Tuxtlas in favor of the enemy. A previously underpopulated place suddenly became a stronghold. 
This map shows the 3 sites in the Tuxtlas with Teotihuacan influence in relationship to our proposed hills Shim and Ramah/Cumorah.
Proposed Shim (Vigia) and Ramah/Cumorah (Pajapan)
Relative to Teotihuacan - Influenced Sites
Tres Zapotes, Cerro Vigia, and Cerro San Martin Pajapan were all Olmec sites during the Jaredite era. The presence of obsidian in quantity at Tres Zapotes in the late formative works well with the Jaredite warfare narrative in the book of Ether. The rapid expansion of Matacapan after the pesky Nephites were eliminated ca. AD 385 fits well with known relationships between Teotihuacan and virtually all of southern Mesoamerica at this precise time period (for example, the famous "entrada" at Tikal in AD 378).

Significant Teotihuacan presence at Matacapan from AD 300 - 385 makes a Cerro Vigia - Ramah/Cumorah correlation a la David A. Palmer & John L. Sorenson highly problematic from a strategic military point of view.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Moroni first appeared to seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith the evening of September 21, 1823. The next day the young prophet had his first of five annual interviews with the angel at Hill Cumorah and got his initial glimpse of the plates. On September 22, 1827, Joseph and Emma took the plates from the hill. By July 1, 1829, Joseph Smith had finished translating the Book of Mormon, the U.S. copyright application had been filed, and Egbert B. Grandin had published the title page as a "curiosity" in the Wayne Sentinel weekly newspaper. About nine months later, copies of the Book of Mormon were available for purchase in Palmyra, NY. See the excellent Joseph Smith Chronology published by BYU Studies.

In the Lord's timing, accurate information about literate high civilization in ancient America began to come forth via scientific means at precisely the same moment when accurate scriptural records from ancient America were being revealed. What began as a trickle of sketchy information about the Maya in the early 1820's gradually grew to a small stream. A steady flow of publications appeared after the Book of Mormon went on sale to the public on March 26, 1830. And then, while the Prophet was building the City of Joseph in Nauvoo, the floodgates opened. American archaeology as a modern science began during his lifetime.

Information began flowing from the Americas to Europe with the voyages of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492. Spanish military men, civil servants, and clerics authored a few dozen treatises containing valuable ethnographic information about post-classic cultures such as the Aztec, Inca, and Toltec. Conquistadores left lively descriptions of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan and the Inca capital Cusco. Most of these documents, now collectively called the Spanish and Indian Chronicles, were little-known outside of the Iberian sphere of influence. In an attempt to protect their treasure fleets, the Spanish crown maintained a veil of secrecy over their American colonies that lasted from the 1500's through the early 1800's. These conditions characterized Spanish America during those three hundred years:
  • Indigenous cultures and antiquities were routinely ignored or suppressed. Spanish priorities were economic exploitation justified through Roman Catholic evangelism.
  • Speculation about native American origins generally tried to fit the New World into the Biblical narrative of the flood, Tower of Babel, etc.
  • Spanish accounts that did reach London, Philadelphia, or New York were often considered unreliable and little attention was paid to them.    
1688 Franciscan Diego Lopez de Cogulludo (1613 - 1665)'s work in Spanish entitled Historia de Yucathan was published in Madrid. John L. Stephens carried a copy of Cogolludo's book with him on his second journey around Yucatan (1841 - 1842).
Historia de Yucathan Title Page
1777 William Robertson (1721 - 1793) published his 3 volume History of America in Dublin. In Volume 2, Book IV he said "The inhabitants of the New World were in a state of society so extremely rude as to be unacquainted with those arts which are the first essays of human ingenuity in its advance toward improvement." He argued that the Spanish exaggerated what they found in the Americas, that the so-called temples were simple mounds of earth and their "houses were mere huts, built with turf, or mud, or the branches of trees, like those of the rudest Indians."
Principal William Robertson
1780 Francisco Javier Clavijero Echegaray (1731 - 1787) published La Historia Antigua de Mexico in Italian. An English translation by Charles Cullen was published in 1787. American editions were published in Richmond, Virginia in 1806 and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1817. This work dealt mainly with the Aztec empire and its Toltec predecessors. It was the first serious attempt to establish a native American cultural chronology.
Jesuit Francisco Clavijero
1814 Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) published the English translation of his 2 volume 1810 French Vues des Cordilleres et monuments des peuples indigenes de l'Amerique as Researches concerning the institutions and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of America: with descriptions and views of some of the most striking scenes in the Cordilleras with Longman, Hurst, Rees, et al. in London.  Humboldt reproduced an image of the Aztec calendar stone, unearthed in 1790, a figure from Palenque he incorrectly attributed to Oaxaca, and five pages from the Dresden Codex. He recognized artistic and historical merit in pre-columbian structures and artifacts, but ultimately concluded that the indigenous peoples in the Americas had been despotic and barbaric.
Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt
1821 Mexico and Guatemala (which then included Chiapas, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) achieved independence from Spain. Suddenly, the world's attention was focused on these former colonies which were shrouded in mystery because they had been off-limits to most foreigners for centuries.
Mexican Flag
Guatemalan Flag
1822 Jose Antonio del Rio (1745 - 1789)'s brief report to the Spanish crown about his 1787 excavations at Palenque, illustrated by Ricardo Almendariz' drawings, were published in English translation by Henry Berthoud in London. Del Rio described Palenque, Tonina, and Uxmal. The booklet was entitled Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City Discovered near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala, in Spanish America. The volume, first published 33 years after del Rio's death, was met with astonishment, curiosity, and skepticism in the English and American presses. The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. on Saturday, November 9, 1822, No. 303 called the book "about as fanciful an antiquarian hypothesis as we ever met with." The highly disparaging review continued "To talk of medallions, figures in stucco, relievos, devices, etc. etc. at the assigned period, is little short of the grossest absurdity." "The whole work is obscure, and in parts altogether unintelligible." A few years later, after additional corroborating reports had been published, the same London Literary Gazette on Saturday, January 19, 1828, No. 574, said under the heading of "American Antiquities" that the earthen mounds found throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys were made by people more advanced than the Indians at European contact. The North American earthworks, though, were "trifling compared with the civilisation of the ancient inhabitants of Palenque. The remains found in [then Guatemala, now Chiapas, Mexico] prove that its monuments must have rivaled those of the greatest cities of Europe; and that its people must have arrived at a high cultivation of the intellectual faculties ... The monuments of Palenque are certainly the most astonishing discovery that has been made in America."
Rendering of the Tablet of the Cross from Captain del Rio's Report
1823 Domingo Juarros (1752 - 1820) wrote a history of Guatemala that was published in Guatemala City in 1808, then three years after his death in English translation in London by J. Hearne. Entitled A Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala, Juarros described the ruins of Palenque and Tonina in opulent terms, comparing them with Egypt.
Juarros' History Title Page
1824 Politician John Van Ness Yates (1779 - 1839) and Attorney Joseph White Moulton (1789 - 1875) wrote History of the State of New York Including its Aboriginal and Colonial Annals, published in New York City by A.T. Goodrich. In it they discussed the relatively primitive earthworks built by ancient peoples in the Great Lakes area, the more sophisticated mounds along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers including the massive Cahokia complex, and the much more advanced ruins in Mexico and Guatemala including the recently reported Palenque.
Yates Moulton Title Page
1825 The 1822 London publication of del Rio's report so impressed the recently-formed Societe de Geographie in Paris that it sponsored a contest. A 2,400 franc prize was authorized for the first person to produce a comprehensive report on Palenque and other Maya ruins in Yucatan. Jean-Francois Champollion (1790 - 1832)'s breakthrough publications on Egyptian decipherment (aided by the Rosetta Stone) had just been published in 1822 and 1824, fueling an already-lively French interest in antiquities.  
Plaque on Society Headquarters Building in Paris
 April 7, 1829 Oliver Cowdery (1806 - 1850) began writing for Joseph Smith (1805 - 1844).
Attorney Oliver Cowdery
July 1, 1829 Translation of the Book of Mormon was completed.
Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
March 26, 1830 The Book of Mormon went on sale to the public in Palmyra, NY.
First Edition Copy of the Book of Mormon
1831 Edward King, Lord Kingsborough (1795 - 1837), published Volume 1 of his monumental Antiquities of Mexico with Augustine Aglio in London. This large format book that ultimately would run to 9 volumes contained "fac-similes of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics, preserved in the royal libraries of Paris, Berlin, and Dresden, in the Imperial Library in Vienna, in the Vatican Library, in the Borgian Museum at Rome, in the library of the Institute at Bologna, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Together with the Monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix with their respective scales of measurement and accompanying descriptions. The whole illustrated with many valuable inedited manuscripts." Guillaume Dupaix had visited Tonina and Palenque in 1808 at the request of the Spanish crown.
Antiquities of Mexico Title Page
Saturday, October 15, 1831 A letter from Juan Galindo (1802 - 1839) was published in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. No. 769 describing his 1831 visit to Palenque. Galindo said the ruins with phonetic writing "rescue ancient America from a charge of barbarism." Prior to his visit, he did not believe writing existed anywhere in the ancient New World. The Maya civilization, Galindo believed, "far surpassed that of the Mexicans and Peruvians." He further reported that these "surprising people were not physically dissimilar from the present Indians."
Diplomat Juan Galindo's Letter from Palenque
February, 1833 William W. Phelps (1792 - 1872) mentioned Juan Galindo's letter to The London Literary Gazette in Vol. 1, No. 9 of The Evening and the Morning Star published in Independence, Missouri. Phelps' article was entitled "Discovery of Ancient Ruins in Central America." Phelps remarked "We are glad to see the proof begin to come, of the original or ancient inhabitants of this continent. It is good testimony in favor of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon is good testimony that such things as cities and civilization, 'prior to the fourteenth century,' existed in America."
Printer William Wines Phelps
1834 Henri Baradere (1792 - 1839), Guillaume Dupaix (1746 - 1818), et al., Antiquites mexicaines, Paris, described the ruins of Mitla, Uxmal, Palenque, etc. in a three volume set reporting on expeditions undertaken from 1805 - 1807.
Rendering of the Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal in Baradere's Book
Saturday, July 18, 1835 A letter from Juan Galindo (1802 - 1839) was published in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. No. 965 describing his 1831 visit to Palenque and his 1834 visit to Copan. Others had visited one or the other, but Galindo was the first in modern times to visit both ruins.
Diplomat Juan Galindo's Letter from Copan
1836 Mariano Fernandez de Echeverria y Veytia (1718 - 1780)'s masterwork Historia Antigua de Mexico was published by Juan Ojeda in Mexico City. Veytia helped advance knowledge of ancient American calendrical systems and astronomical observations.
Antiquarian Mariano Veytia
1837 Mordecai M. Noah (1785 - 1851) Discourse on the Evidences of the American Indians Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel: Delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, Clinton Hall published by J. Van Norden in New York. Noah cited recent discoveries (Palenque, Uxmal) to argue that ancient American civilizations "rivaled the splendor of Egypt and Syria."
Journalist Mordecai Manuel Noah
1838 Frederic de Waldeck (1766 - 1875) Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dan la province d’Yucatan (Amérique Centrale), pendant les années 1834 et 1836, Paris, described visits to Uxmal and other Yucatan ruins.
Rendering of the Nunnery, Uxmal in Waldeck's Book
1839 Parley P. Pratt (1807 - 1857) in the second edition of his influential A Voice of Warning, chapter 4, mentions del Rio's 1787 expedition to Palenque and posits that ruin as evidence of the cities described in the Book of Mormon.
Apostle Parley Parker Pratt
1841 John L. Stephens (1805 - 1852) and Frederick Catherwood (1799 - 1854), published their 2 volume blockbuster Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan with Harper & Brothers in New York. This book more than any other forever dispelled the notion that the indigenous peoples of the Americas descended from rude barbarians. Stephens is considered the father of American archaeology.
Explorer John Lloyd Stephens
1841 John M. Bernhisel (1799 - 1881) sent a copy of Stephens and Catherwood's best-selling book to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. The prophet thanked him in a personal letter dated November 16, 1841. Joseph wrote that Incidents of Travel in Central American, Chiapas, and Yucatan "to me is the more interesting as it unfolds and developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumnes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all the histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct, luminous & comprihensive."
Physician John Milton Bernhisel
1843 William H. Prescott (1796 - 1859) published his acclaimed History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortes with Harper & Brothers in New York. Prescott is generally considered the first American scientific historian.
Historian William Hickling Prescott

Sunday, February 5, 2017

BMAF BMC Book of Mormon Conference 2017

For 13 years, BMAF sponsored a "Book of Mormon Lands" conference. My reports of recent conferences are in the articles entitled "BMAF 2013,"and "BMAF 2014." No conference was held in 2015. The 2016 conference was held on April 16th, at which time we announced that BMAF had merged with Book of Mormon Central (BMC). Videos of BMAF 2016 are on YouTube:

BMAF BMC 2017 will be held on Saturday, March 18th at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo.
BMAF BMC Book of Mormon Conference 2017
As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.

Warren Aston (Brisbane, Australia) is world's greatest living Book of Mormon explorer. He has helped put not just one but two pins on the map - Nahom in Yemen and Nephi's Bountiful in Oman. His current passion is Ramah/Cumorah. I will spend February 19th through 25th with him in Mexico along with Javier Tovar (Hidalgo, Mexico) and Doug Christensen (Twin Falls, Idaho). A 2015 interview with Warren Aston (audio + transcript) is in the BMC Archive.

Why is North American prehistory so riddled with fraudulent artifacts? Fame and Fortune. Its the PT Barnum effect "There's a sucker born every minute" and "Every crowd has a silver lining." Richard Stamps, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Oakland University, will discuss one of the most egregious frauds in the history of archaeology, the bizarre "Michigan Relics." He will show us how to distinguish authentic antiquities from hoaxes.

Matt Roper is one of the leading Book of Mormon scholars in the Church. He is a Research Associate with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU. Authors have different styles in the way they use words. Can computer programs demonstrate that the Nephite masterpiece was written by multiple authors using different writing styles? Roper will discuss the current state-of-the-art in stylometry aka wordprints.

The world of Book of Mormon Studies changed forever on the morning of Wednesday, August 16, 1967 when Jack Welch found Chiasmus in Mosiah 5:10-12 while on his mission in Regensburg, Germany. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of that momentous discovery. Jack and Jeannie Welch will receive the Father Lehi and Mother Sariah Awards for lifetime achievement in Book of Mormon Studies. Jack Welch is almost certainly the leading Book of Mormon scholar in the Church today.

As he was beginning his work of translation, Joseph Smith copied characters from the plates. Martin Harris took the sample characters and their translation to Luther Bradish in Albany, Samuel Mitchill probably in New Brunswick, NJ, and Charles Anthon in New York City. Copies of the characters exist today. Their successful translation would be a bombshell in the Book of Mormon world. Jerry Grover will discuss his noteworthy attempt at translation, beginning with the bar and dot numerals.

Book of Mormon Central began publication on January 1, 2016. What has been accomplished? What is currently being worked on? What exciting new ideas are being talked about? Neal Rappleye, BMC Operations Manager, and others of the staff will give a lively "State of the Foundation" address. We intend this recap and prospectus to be a standard feature at our annual conferences going forward.

Taylor Halverson knows Biblical Hebrew, so he reads the Book of Mormon with wonderful insights. He is a popular Deseret News and LDS Living columnist, so he communicates effectively. He is an executive at Book of Mormon Central, so he is familiar with current scriptural scholarship. Halverson will discuss literary and doctrinal patterns he sees in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon. You may want to take a Book of Mormon Cruise with Taylor in May.

Register for BMAF - BMC 2017 here. The $20 fee includes a box lunch.

Come for book signings, engaging videos, lovely music, art displays, and time to interact with some of the world's top Book of Mormon scholars. Mostly, though, come because you love the Book of Mormon, want to understand it even more profoundly, and want to help many more of God's children around the world feast upon the words of Christ it contains.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

75 BC

Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona is one of the top dirt archaeologists currently working in Mesoamerica. He specializes in the sites of Aguateca and Ceibal in the Petexbatun region of Guatemala. Inomata lectured at BYU on March 8, 2016. My report of his lecture is in the article entitled "Takeshi Inomata." Since 2005 the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project led by Inomata and a talented team has been working at Ceibal. They analyzed 154 radiocarbon dates, more than  we have from any other Maya site. They used Bayseian inferential statistical techniques for state-of-the-art precision. Correlating absolute dates with ceramic sequences, they created a very accurate dating sequence for Ceibal. Inomata's team just published a major article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, entitled "High-precision radiocarbon dating of political collapse and dynastic origins at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala."

Ceibal at the Great Bend of the Pasion River, Peten, Guatemala
In our January, 2016 correlation, Itzan is Noah and Ceibal is Aaron. Bob Roylance and Richard Terry correlate Ceibal with Zarahemla. Several Mesoamerican correlations include Ceibal among Nephite cities in the greater land of Zarahemla.

Here is what we learn about Ceibal from Inomata's latest article:
  • ca. 75 BC population decline, intense warfare, fortifications built
  • ca. AD 150 regional population decline
  • ca. AD 300 dramatic population decline, abandonment
  • ca. AD 400 new dynasty based on divine kingship, probably under the influence of an external power, likely Tikal which was itself under the influence of Teotihuacan
Archaeologists are now calling the period from AD 150 - AD 300 the "Preclassic collapse." El Mirador fell between AD 150 and 175. Ceibal declined from AD 125 - 175 and fell ca. AD 300. Cerros declined from AD 150 - 175 and may have fallen ca. AD 300.

Other sites where fortifications were built in the late or terminal Preclassic (100 BC - AD 100) include El Mirador, Becan, Edzna, Cerros, Muralla de Leon, Cival, Chaak Ak'al, and multiple hilltop sites along the upper Usumacinta such as Piedras Negras.
Late or Terminal Preclassic Sites with Fortifications
I recently heard John E. Clark of the BYU Anthropology faculty say that in his opinion, the presence of many fortified sites throughout the Maya lowlands in the late Preclassic is some of the strongest evidence in favor of the Usumacinta as Sidon. For additional evidence, see the article The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation.

An historically-recorded dynasty emerged at Tikal in the first century AD. San Bartolo also has epigraphic evidence of a dynasty founded by this time. Many Maya sites such as Palenque, Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan, Ceibal, and Copan have historically- recorded dynasties by the fourth century AD.
Early Dynasties Attested Historically
One date stands out. When Inomata finally got enough radiocarbon dates from a single site to determine events with temporal precision, he found that ca. 75 BC was the time when fortifications first appeared at Ceibal in response to intensified warfare. What was going on in the Nephite world ca. 75 BC? Captain Moroni became commander of Nephite forces, he fortified every city in the land, and fought continual wars from ca. 74 BC to ca. 61 BC. See the article entitled "Captain Moroni in Space and Time." These are the war chapters in the Book of Mormon from Alma 43 to Alma 62.

After reading Inomata, et. al., I am changing my correlate for Noah from Itzan to Chaak Ak'al about 3 kilometers to the north. Why? Because Chaak Ak'al, capital of a regional polity, has fortifications dated to ca. 75 BC which is precisely the kind of thing we read about in Alma 49:14.
Drawing of Chaak Ak' al 600 Meter Wall
The fortification wall was built with crudely hewn limestone blocks at its base.
Photo of Chaak Ak' al 600 Meter Wall
The Chaak Ak' al images are from Kevin J. Johnston (2006). Preclassic Maya Occupation of the Itzan Escarpment, Lower Rio Pasion, Peten, Guatemala in Ancient Mesoamerica, 17, pp 177-201. I appreciate Dave Gray of Warwick, Queensland, Australia who sent me a copy of this article.

The mention of Cerros also rings mental bells. Cerros is Joe & Blake Allen's correlate for the city of Mulek on the east coast. The January 2016 map follows the Allens on this point. Inomata says Cerros had fortifications dating to about the same time period as Ceibal (ca. 75 BC) which matches the kind of thing we read about in Alma 52:17.

Inomata identifies a pan-regional collapse between AD 125 - 175 which correlates well with the social turmoil described in 4 Nephi 1:20 that began right about that time. Inomata also identifies site abandonment ca. AD 300 which correlates fairly well with the final Nephite Lamanite war that began ca. AD 322 Mormon 1:8. Nephites began moving toward the land northward about this time.

Why has Takeshi Inomata generated such spectacular results from Ceibal? Because he has spent more than 10 years excavating several parts of the site down to bedrock and has had the budget to submit more than 150 samples for radiocarbon date testing. He also had very good results from the Harvard Project (1964 - 1968) that laid an excellent foundation for his more detailed work. The more we learn about Ceibal, the better the Book of Mormon looks in comparison. As similar resources are expended at other sites, we will likely find exciting comparisons with them as well.

Dave Gray shared his notes from the January 2016 Maya Meetings in Austin, TX. Inomata's work at Ceibal has implications for dating sequences at Kaminaljuyu (KJ) (See the article "Kaminaljuyu.") Lucia Henderson's current timeline for KJ:
  • 700 BC - 400 BC Olmec influence
  • 400 BC to 100 BC Highland regional culture
  • 100 BC to AD 200 Lowland culture importation
  • AD 200 to AD 300 Hiatus
  • AD 300 to  AD 600 Teotihuacan influence
This provides strong support for the January 2016 Book of Mormon Lands Map which places the city of Nephi at KJ and the city of Zarahemla in the Southern Maya Lowlands. Here is what was happening in the Book of Mormon during these times:
  • Jaredite collapse 400 BC - 250 BC Ether 15:2, Mosiah 8:8.
  • City of Nephi capital of expansive Nephite regional polity 550 BC - 200 BC Jarom 1:6-8.
  • Mosiahled many Nephites from the city of Nephi to the city of Zarahemla ca. 200 BC Omni 1:13
  • Zeniff, Noah and Limhi temporarily re-occupied the lesser land of Nephi and the land of Shilom ca. 200 BC - ca. 121 BC Mosiah 9:6-8, Mosiah 22:11-13.
  • Amulon & other priests of Noah ignited a revolution in Lamanite culture by teaching them the Nephite written language ca. 120 BC Mosiah 24:4-7.
  • Amlicites with headquarters at Ammonihah established their belief system in outposts throughout the greater land of Nephi ca. 100 - 90 BC Alma 21:14 (Yale 2009 orthography).
  • Sons of Mosiah ministered throughout the greater land of Nephi ca. 91 BC - ca. 77 BC Alma 17:4.
  • Intense Nephite/Lamanite interaction ca. 74 BC - ca. AD 200 Alma 43:3, Helaman 6:7-8, 4 Nephi 1:17.
  • Nephite collapse ca. AD 322 - ca. AD 385 Mormon 1:8, Mormon 8:7.
Very interesting chronological correlations.

Article updated February 10, 2017.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Earliest Urbanization in the Americas

Anthropologists classify cultures by their degree of sophistication. From a geographic perspective, Hunter gatherers settle down into sedentism practicing agriculture. Sedentary people cluster together into urban centers with civic architecture. Urban areas become cities. Cities develop into states. States form empires. From a social perspective, families band together in clans. Clans form tribes. Tribes develop into chiefdoms. Chiefdoms evolve into states. States form empires. The earliest appearance of sedentism, urbanization, cities, and states are important milestones in the culture history of a region.

North America.

Watson Brake, Louisiana is the earliest urban center yet discovered in North America. It dates to ca. 3,500 BC.
Artist's Rendering of Watson Brake in NE Louisiana
The earthworks were simple and small. Watson Brake was pre-ceramic. Excavations there uncovered no evidence of long-distance trading. Populations were in the hundreds. Nevertheless, its early dates, first reported in 1997, took archaeologists by surprise. No one expected urbanism with even a modest scale community center at 3,500 BC.

Poverty Point, Louisiana dates to ca. 1,700 BC. It is much larger and was engaged in extensive long-distance trade. It also had crude ceramics. Populations were in the thousands.
Artist's Rendering of Poverty Point in NE Louisiana
Poverty Point is important enough in North American prehistory it is now a National Monument as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Both Watson Brake and Poverty Point were urban centers, but neither developed into a city. The only ancient city anthropologists recognize in North America is Cahokia which had a population of approximately 50,000 people at its peak with several hundred thousand in its periphery.
Monks Mound, Largest Ancient Earthwork North of Mexico
Cahokia dates to ca. AD 850. Its largest structure, Monks Mound, rises to 33 meters and has a volume of 623,000 cubic meters. Cahokia is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cahokia was beginning to develop some state-level characteristics when it collapsed ca. AD 1,300. For a discussion of tribalism and states, see the article entitled "State Level Society."

Middle America

The earliest urban centers discovered to date in Mesoamerica are Cuicuilco in Central Mexico (ca. 1,400 BC), San Jose Magote in Oaxaca (ca. 1,500 BC), Paso de la Amada on the Pacific coast of Chiapas (ca. 1,800 BC) and Monte Alto on the Pacific coast of Guatemala (ca. 1,800 BC). San Lorenzo (ca. 1,200 BC) is generally considered the first Mesoamerican city. 
Earliest Urban Centers in Middle America

South America

The earliest urban center yet discovered in South American is Caral on the Peruvian coast near Supe. Caral dates to ca. 3,000 BC. It was the largest of 18 affiliated sites in the area.
Caral on the Pacific Coast of Peru
Photo by Kirk Magleby, April 2014
Caral was preceramic. Populations were in the tens of thousands. It had dozens of large-scale public works. Long-distance trade is attested. It was a true city - large and sophisticated. Caral is the earliest advanced civilization currently known in the western hemisphere. Quipus, the knotted string cords the Inca used as inventory control and mnemonic devices, were found at Caral, as were the famous Andean multi-pitched pan pipes.
Quipu and Pan Pipes Discovered at Caral
Photo by Kirk Magleby, April 2014
Peru is so proud of the earliest known New World city, they adopted a spiral design from Caral as their new national symbol.
Caral Spiral Carved in Stone
Photo by Kirk Magleby, April 2014
Peru's current tourist logo on a baseball cap.
National Symbol Inspired by Ancient Caral
Caral, which only came to the world's attention in 2001, surprised the experts. No one anticipated a city co-terminus with the first Egyptian dynasty in the Americas. No clear antecedents have been found. A full-fledged advanced civilization appeared on the scene seemingly out of nowhere. In 2009, Caral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tracking the Jaredites

The Jaredite saga began at the Tower of Babel Ether 1:33. Biblical tradition has long held that the Tower of Babel was in the land of Shinar based on Genesis 10:10 and Genesis 11:2. Shinar is generally associated with Babylon in the alluvial plain between the lower Tigris and Euphrates. See Bible Dictionary Shinar, Plain of. From Babel, the Brother of Jared was instructed to lead his small band northward down into the Valley of Nimrod Ether 1:42, Ether 2:1.

One problem locating the Tower of Babel near Babylon is that virtually all topography northward is up in elevation and the Book of Mormon explicitly says they went down. In 2011, Anne Habermehl published a revisionist article entitled "Where in the World is the Tower of Babel?" She argues that Shinar was in the Khabur triangle of northern Mesopotamia in the  NE corner of modern Syria. From Habermehl's Babel one can in fact go northward and drop down in elevation.
Anne Habermehl's Proposed Tower of Babel Location
From the Valley of Nimrod, the group went into "that quarter where there never had man been" Ether 2:5. Since their eventual destination was an ocean leading to the New World, they must have gone either east to the Pacific or west to the Atlantic. John L. Sorenson in 1985 (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon) suggested they traveled east to the Pacific and landed on the west coast of Mexico. In 2013 (Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book) Sorenson changed his mind and postulated an Atlantic crossing disembarking in Veracruz. I find Sorenson's 1985 model more convincing. His 2013 reversal is based on several assumptions I find problematic:
  1. Textual indications that the Jaredites incorporated pre-existing populations into their polities favor a Veracruz setting. This is not necessarily true. There is as much evidence for pre-Jaredite peoples in Guerrero, Central Mexico, Puebla, and Oaxaca as there is in Veracruz.
  2. Sorenson places Heth approximately at modern Xalapa, Moron at Cordoba, and Nehor at Tuxtepec. He then says Moron was in the southern tier of Jaredite lands which contradicts his map. He further says Moron was near Nephite Desolation which also contradicts his map. Finally he says that Moron was up in elevation relative to other Jaredite lands, a condition required by the text Ether 7:5, 14:11 but not obvious on his map.
  3. Because Sorenson correlates the Nephite narrow pass Alma 50:34, 52:9, Mormon 3:5 with the "Tehuantepec Ridge" between Minatitlan and Acayucan, he tries to cluster Jaredite lands in the same general vicinity. His east west "gravelly ridge" has never made any sense to me. I have yet to find it on any topo map. Several north south "ridges" bisect it, defeating its supposed purpose. I have been in the area and inquired locally to no avail. The natives I have spoken with do not acknowledge any such natural feature. I believe the narrow pass identified in the Book of Mormon Lands Map 2016 on the Pacific coast of Chiapas is a more likely candidate and a stronger fit to the text. See the article entitled "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage."
  4. The severe drought mentioned in Ether 9:30 is more likely in arid Oaxaca or Puebla than in humid Veracruz.
  5. Sorenson's insistence that Ether 9:3 and 14:26 both refer to the "east sea" are probably forced readings. The text simply says people went eastward to a sea. The Gulf of Campeche, Sorenson's "east sea" is NW or even WNW of both his Zarahemla (Santa Rosa) and his Nephi (Kaminaljuyu). We now know that the ancient Maya called the Caribbean the "east sea." See the article entitled "Smoking Gun."
  6. Sorenson's point that no single river in south central Veracruz stands out is simply wrong. The Papaloapan is by far the largest river in this part of Mexico.
  7. Sorenson correlates the Jaredites with the Olmec who had influence from Central Mexico to the Caribbean and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific.
Sorenson's proposed Jaredite lands (yellow pins) overlay a map of sites with known Olmec influence.
Olmec World (Orange) with Sorenson's Jaredites (Yellow)
I have difficulty reconciling Ether 1:43 and the extensive Olmec world with Sorenson's diminutive Jaredite territory.

I share the view more common among LDS Mesoamericanists that the Jaredites landed on the west coast of Mexico and spread first throughout the land northward. Upland Oaxaca is a suitable candidate for the land of Moron.

David Rosenvall, one of the brightest contemporary Book of Mormon theorists, suggests that the Jaredites left the Tower of Babel area and turned eastward, building barges to cross the large inland Caspian Sea Ether 2:6-7.
Proposed Jaredite Route Eastward to Inland Sea
From there he thinks they traveled across Central Asia and China to the highest mountain on the Chinese coast - 1,083 meter Mount Laoshan Ether 3:1.
Proposed Jaredite Routes Eastward to Mount Shelem
Mount Laoshan is interesting because it is the traditional birthplace of both Taoism and Chinese culture generally. From Mount Laoshan the mythological Eight Immortals crossed the sea.
Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea
Relief from Qingsong Temple, Hong Kong
One of the eight, Zhongli Quan, reputedly had the power to turn stones into silver and gold.

From Mount Shelem, eight Jaredite barges were blown across the ocean for 344 days Ether 6:11 until they reached the New World. This is  a detail we can test scientifically.

On March 11, 2011 a massive tsunami killed 16,000 people in northern Japan and washed millions of tons of debris into the ocean. On December 13, 2011 buoys from Japan reached Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the first objects from the tsunami to cross the Pacific.
Buoys from Japan retrieved from a Canadian Beach
Light enough to be blown by the wind Ether 6:8, the buoys drifted for 276 days. Two days later, December 15, 2011, the first tsunami debris landed on Washington's Olympic Peninsula after drifting for 278 days. Similar Japanese buoys from oyster farms began appearing on beaches in the Alaska Panhandle in January, 2012. The first vessel to arrive, the Japanese shrimping boat Ryou-Un Maru from Hokkaido, was spotted in Canadian waters off British Columbia on March 23, 2012. It was adrift as a ghost ship for 377 days. It was scuttled to avoid damaging other vessels. A few days later a Harley Davidson motorcycle in a shipping container landed on Graham Island, British Columbia. Its Japanese owner donated it to the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

So, we have recent credible evidence that drifting waterborne objects from northern Japan can reach North American shores in a period of 276 - 377 days. Assuming the Jaredites crossed the North Pacific, this tsunami drift data supports the Book of Mormon account to a remarkable degree. This is a map of the places Japanese tsunami debris had landed as of March, 2016, five years after the disaster.
Japanese Tsunami Drift Map
According to the University of Hawaii International Pacific Research Center IPRC Drift Model, the Book of Mormon's 344 days is right in the sweet spot of probability for northern Pacific oceanic passage of objects that ride high enough in the water to catch the wind which the Jaredite barges clearly did.