Saturday, February 17, 2018

Refugee Pageant

What would you do if the Book of Mormon was not yet available in your native language? You would stage a pageant so the powerful messages in this divine book could communicate to your family and friends.

That is precisely the situation the Karen and Karenni Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake's Columbus Branch find themselves in. Refugees from Burma (Myanmar), they have come to Utah and joined the Church, but the Book of Mormon has not been translated into either Karen or Karenni so not all of their family members and friends have access to it.

Enter humanitarians Bob and Susan Roylance who have been working with the Columbus Branch for so many years some of their neighbors in Murray hardly know them. See the article "Refugee Eagle Scouts" for background on the Roylances. Their family non-profit is called "Welcome Hand" which provides a variety of services to the Utah refugee community.

Years ago, Susan authored a Book of Mormon pageant called "Mormon Speaks." It has been produced several times, but not in the last 20 years. She recently received the impression that she was to produce it again, casting Columbus Branch members in most of the roles. And that is how "Mormon Speaks" came to be scheduled for Thursday, June 7, 2018 through Saturday, June 9, 2018 in the Murray High School Auditorium, 5440 South State Street in Murray, Utah. General admission tickets are $5 and you can click on this link to purchase them on Eventbrite.
Pageant June 7 - 9, 2018 in Murray, UT
Click on this link to download a single page PDF flyer for printing or sharing.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Trample Under Feet

I was looking at the figure on the obverse of the Leiden plaque aka Leiden plate who is standing beside a bound captive when it occurred to me that the Book of Mormon phrase "trample under feet" may be reflecting the Mesoamerican cultural tradition of lords humiliating victims by treading on them.
Leiden Plaque Incised Jadeite
This artifact was unearthed in 1834 in a post-classic burial mound near the mouth of the Motagua River in Guatemala. It is now in the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands. The glyph text on the reverse celebrates the accession of a king, probably in Tikal, on September 17, AD 320. This was just a few years before Mormon, age 15, took command of the Nephite armies Mormon 2:1-2.

The Book of Mormon uses a variant of the expression "trample under feet" 11 times. It must have been a relatively common term among the Nephites and their contemporaries. In contrast, the Old and New Testaments each use the phrase only once. Nephi was concerned enough about the meaning of the idiom that he defined it in 1 Nephi 19:7 as not heeding the counsels of the one being trampled underfoot. 1 Nephi chapter 19 is at the very beginning of Nephite history and literary tradition in the New World. Nephi may have sensed the need to define this expression because he saw the metaphor being used explicitly to depict dominance and subservience throughout the Mesoamerica of his day.

The relevant passages:
  • Psalms 91:13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. This psalm is generally understood to refer to the future Messiah.
  • Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
  • 1 Nephi 19:7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet.
  • 1 Nephi 19:7 Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet;
  • 1 Nephi 19:7 I say trample under their feet, but I would speak in other words - they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.
  • Alma 5:53 ... can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet;
  • Alma 60:33 Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet.
  • Helaman 4:22 ... they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people;
  • Helaman 6:31 ... they had become exceedingly wicked; yea, the more part of them had turned out of the way of righteousness, and did trample under their feet the commandments of God,
  • Helaman 6:39 ... they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor, and the meek, and the humble followers of God.
  • Helaman 12:2 ... they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One - 
  • 3 Nephi 14:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
  • Related is Mormon 5:6 ... they did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet.
The relatively high frequency of trampling verbiage in the Nephite text may be related to the abundance of trampling imagery in Mesoamerican art and iconography.
Kaminaljuyú Sculpture 173
Drawing by Lucia Henderson
Kaminaljuyú (KJ) Sculpture 173 (Lucia Henderson's nomenclature) depicts a bejeweled human holding a double headed serpent in one hand while standing on one of the creature's two heads.

Izapa Stela 25 from V. Garth Norman
Izapa Stela 25 shows Hunahpu, one of the hero twins, trampling the earth monster.

Coba Stela 20 Site Drawing
In this image from Coba, Quintana Roo, a victorious ruler stands on the backs of two war captives. Coba stelae 1 & 4 show similar scenes of elites trampling prisoners under their feet.

Xultun Stela 5
In this image from Xultun, Peten, a victor tramples a hapless war captive.
Naranjo Stela 30 Drawing by Ian Graham
Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions
Naranjo Stela 24 depicts a similar scene with an elite person treading on a captive.

We could duplicate these examples many times over. Tonina Monument 147 (bottom portion) for example is a striking image. Powerful individuals are often portrayed in Maya art treading or trampling on a hapless victim. This Mesoamerican cultural practice is a good explanation for the frequent occurrence of the phrase "trample under feet" in the Book of Mormon. It is a particularly good explanation for the reason Nephi defined his meaning when he used the term in 1 Nephi 19:7.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Wade E. Miller is a retired BYU Professor of Geology and Paleontology. He received his PhD in Paleontology from UC Berkeley. He has done fieldwork and presented at academic conferences in more than a dozen countries. He spent a number of years working with faunal remains from the famed La Brea tar pits under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museums. He has a long-standing close working relationship with the Museo del Desierto in Coahuila, Mexico. Miller's ResearchGate profile shows a productive scholar whose work gets cited by others in his field. His personal statement of faith in the Mormon Scholars Testify collection shows his firm belief in the Book of Mormon.

Miller has personally reconciled his deep knowledge of earth sciences with his understanding of the scriptures. He wrote a book in 2010 entitled Science and the Book of Mormon.  My overview of it is in the article entitled "BMAF 2014." Miller teamed up with Book of Mormon Central Research Associate Matt Roper for an article on animals in the Book of Mormon published in Interpreter in 2014. That article was updated and expanded into an even better piece entitled "Animals in the Book of Mormon: Challenges and Perspectives" published in BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 56 No. 4 (2017). The BYU Studies article includes blockbuster information about horse (Equs) remains from the state of Coahuila in Mexico that date to ca. 520 BC.

In other words, a qualified paleontologist has documented the presence of horses in Mexico in Book of Mormon times. Passages such as Enos 1:21 now have additional credible external corroboration.
State of Coahuila in Mexico
Wade Miller lives just a few minutes from my house. We visited recently. Additional research is underway.

See also the very good article by Daniel Johnson entitled "Hard Evidence of Ancient American Horses" in BYU Studies 54:3 (2015) and the January 29, 2018 Book of Mormon Central blog post entitled "New Evidence for Horses in America."

Friday, February 2, 2018


Early Thursday morning, February 1, 2018, National Geographic broke a story intended to drive viewership to a one-hour special entitled "Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings" that aired on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 on the National Geographic Channel. The teaser was "See how LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology and rewriting history." The National Geographic story that quickly went viral was entitled "Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya 'Megalopolis' Below Guatemalan Jungle." In subsequent days, the story was picked up by other major media:
The details in this story, including those shared in the television special, explicitly corroborate dozens of verses in the Book of Mormon that describe dense populations, sophisticated economies, road networks, large-scale agriculture, intensive land use, disaster-prone landscapes, and prevalent warfare. This is paradigm-shifting even for LDS scholars who have tended to dismiss Book of Mormon phrases such as "the whole face of the land" as hyperbole. If the Maya lowlands were part of the Book of Mormon world as we believe they were (See the Book of Mormon Central archive article "Book of Mormon Lands Map, January 2016") these grandiose descriptions are not far-fetched after all. Respected archaeologists are now comparing the Maya with the ancient Egyptians and Chinese.
LiDAR is a technology where expensive equipment is flown in a slow grid pattern over a target area. Billions of pulsed laser beams penetrate the forest canopy and bounce off structures below to create a massive data cloud. Graphics processing with supercomputers then yields highly accurate 3-D maps of the scanned surface. This digital imaging technique is revolutionizing Mesoamerican archaeology where important ruins lie concealed beneath jungle or forest.
Guatemalan LiDAR Data after Rendering and Graphical Processing
Richard Hansen's and Fernando Paiz' Fundación Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (PACUNAM) just went public with the results of the largest LiDAR survey ever attempted for archaeological research. Called the Pacunam LiDAR Initiative, it mapped 10 tracts totaling 2,100 square kilometers near the Mirador Basin and other areas of northern Guatemala. The surveyed area is less than half the size of Utah County. And what did archaeologists find buried in the Peten?
  • 65,000 previously unknown structures. Mosiah 27:6 speaks of large cities and villages in all quarters of the land.
  • Vast networks of highways elevated so they functioned even in the rainy season. 3 Nephi 6:8 terminology is many highways cast up, and many roads made.
  • Ubiquitous fortresses, ramparts, and defensive walls. Alma 49:13 mentions forts of security, for every city in all the land round about. Alma 49:18 emphasizes the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about. Mormon in Alma 50:4,6 calls Captain Moroni's fortifications towers and strongholdsAlma 52:6 describes Teancum preparing defenses by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort. The article "75 BC" documents the impressive chronological correlation between widespread fortifications in the Maya lowlands and the Book of Mormon text.
  • Public works including dikes, dams, canals, ditches, and reservoirs. In some cases Maya engineers re-routed natural stream flows. Mormon, in describing the Nephite golden age in the land southward, mentions widespread engineering and construction works Alma 50:12 which included ditches Alma 49:22.
  • Agricultural terraces with irrigation systems. Alma 17:26-27 describes a designated Lamanite place of water.
  • Animal pens. Alma 1:29 says the Nephites had an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind.
  • Stone quarries. Alma 48:8 lists banks of earth and walls of stone as structural components.
It will take decades to study so many new sites, but settlement patterns and big picture insights are already apparent. The concordance between this new scientific data and the scriptural record is simply remarkable. It is almost like the archaeologists are paraphrasing the Book of Mormon.
  • Maya lowland population at apogee could have reached 15-20 million. Mormon 1:7 says the people in the land southward were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.
  • Maya civilization was much more dense, complex and advanced than previously thought. Jarom 1:8 says the people multiplied exceedingly, spread upon the face of the land, became exceedingly rich, employed fine workmanship, built buildings and machinery, worked metals, made tools of every kind, and crafted weapons of war. Helaman 3:14-15 adds that they built ships, temples, synagogues, and sanctuaries and authored many books and many records of every kind.
  • Maya cities were more interconnected with transportation infrastructure than anyone realized. 3 Nephi 6:8 describes many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place.
  • Food production was at an industrial scale. Helaman 6:12 mentions raising grain in abundance, many flocks and herds, and many fatlings.
  • Land use was intensive - nearing 100% in many areas. Mormon 1:7 says the whole face of the land had become covered with buildings. Note to would-be Book of Mormon geographers from John W. (Jack) Welch: the text does NOT say huts, tents, dugouts or mounds.
  • Many people lived on marginal, swampy lands. Helaman 11:20 uses the terminology waste places4 Nephi 1:9 speaks of cities sunk in water.
  • Endemic warfare over centuries was the norm. Mormon 8:8 Moroni ca. AD 400 said the Lamanites are at war one with another, and the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.
  • Warfare was particularly prevalent in the early classic AD 250-500. Moroni 1:2 Moroni ca. AD 400 - 421 wrote that their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves.
Notes from the television special that aired on Feb. 6:
  • We have always known the Maya were the most advanced civilization in the ancient Americas. Now we know they were one of the most advanced in all the ancient world. The Lord promised Jared and his brother that their seed in the New World would become "a great nation" and that there would be "none greater ... upon all the face of the earth" Ether 1:43.
  • The Maya developed perhaps the most sophisticated writing system in the entire ancient world with over 800 different glyphic characters. Book of Mormon authors mentioned writing challenges: "difficulty of engraving our words upon plates" Jacob 4:1, "awkwardness of our hands" Ether 12:23-24, "stumble because of the placing of our words" Ether 12:24.
  • Tikal was 3 or 4 times larger than we thought. Previous population estimates were 60,000 at apogee. That number should now be 250,000 or more. El Palmar (15 kilometers west of Tikal) was 40 times larger than we realized. The Maya created vast urban sprawl. In many places the Book of Mormon text mentions large populations: "numerous people" Mosiah 24:3, "so many people" 3 Nephi 5:8.
  • Estimates of population in the Maya area at apogee have been revised upward to about 20 million. This was 1/2 the population of Europe at the time, even though the Maya occupied only 1/30 as much land area. Mormon described the Lamanites as "numberless hosts" Alma 51:27.
  • We used to think of Maya cities as isolated. They were not. Networks of roads and highways connected them over vast distances. One is reminded of the roads and highways mentioned in 3 Nephi 8:13.
  • Agricultural production was on an astonishing scale with many wetlands drained and turned into irrigated fields. Helaman 12:2 explicitly mentions agriculturalists prospering "in the increase of their fields."
  • There was much more war among the Maya than we had ever supposed. Defensive structures and fortifications were everywhere. Tikal had a large fortress protecting it. The Nephites strengthened "so many cities ... all of which were strongly fortified, after the manner of the fortifications of Moroni" Alma 51:27.
  • There was an earthwork wall surrounding Tikal 5 meters high and 16 kilometers long. Archaeologists have begun calling it "the great wall of Tikal." The Book of Mormon describes "a strong wall of timbers and earth to an exceeding height" Alma 53:4 encircling Bountiful with similar earthworks surrounding Gid Alma 55:25-26.
The Maya flourished in their tropical home from ca. 1,000 BC to AD 900. In most parts of the world, archaeological remains of the magnitude revealed in the Pacunam LiDAR initiative would have been obscured long ago by modern farming, ranching, and urbanization. In the case of the northern Peten, dense jungle quickly reclaimed the sites abandoned in the classic Maya collapse and this overgrowth both hid and protected them. As a result of the recent laser survey, four entirely new sites with pyramids and plazas are now known to science. The most important findings of the research, though, are the unexpected length, breadth, and depth of human activity and architectural development around sites previously known.

Thomas Garrison is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at New York's Ithaca College. He has worked extensively at the site of El Zotz ("the bat," classic Mayan "Pa' Chan"). He went into the area recently looking for one of he roads shown in the LiDAR data. "I found it," he said, "but if I had not had the LiDAR and known ... that's what it was, I would have walked right over it, because of how dense the jungle is."
Some of the Archaeological Sites Near Areas Mapped
in Phase I of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative
This northern Guatemalan LiDAR project will continue in phases, eventually mapping more than 5,000 square kilometers (about the size of Utah County). At that point it will have mapped approximately 1.4% of the ancient Maya world which covers 350,000 square kilometers (about the size of Montana).

This note was shared by Larry Stay, former Guatemala City South Mission President and personal friend of Richard Hansen: “We have a big article coming out in Nat Geo magazine later this year. This material is not the Mirador Basin, but the area to the east of the Basin, towards Belize.  We start flying again at the end of this month to finish the rest of the Basin. Best to you always, Richard”

LiDAR in archaeology is like the Hubble Telescope in astronomy.
Guatemalan LiDAR Data after Additional Graphical Processing
For notes of a 2015 talk given by Richard Hansen that discussed part of this LiDAR project, see the article "Hansen and Coe." For additional LiDAR images from the vicinity of the Mirador Basin, see the articles "Roads and Highways" and "Flocks and Herds."

Hansen, almost certainly the leading field archaeologist in Mesoamerica today (he's nicknamed "King of the Jungle"), served his mission in Bolivia, graduated from BYU, and is a practicing Latter-day Saint living in Rupert, Idaho.

If you enjoyed this article, you will likely appreciate "Top 10 Archaeological Evidences for the Book of Mormon."

Article by Kirk Magleby, volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, world's premiere source of reliable Book of Mormon contextual material in English and Spanish. Article last updated on February 12, 2018.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


By any standard, Palenque is a magical place. I have visited several times and expect to return. Its natural setting on the well-watered littoral between the highlands of Chiapas and the coastal plain of Tabasco is striking. Its fabled ruins are as impressive as those from any ancient culture on the planet. Palenque is the high water mark of Maya civilization, and the Maya were the most advanced of all ancient Americans. K'inich Janab Pakal (AD 603 - 683) was a grand king and the discovery of his intact tomb beneath the Temple of the Inscriptions in 1952 is often considered the greatest archaeological discovery ever made in the Western Hemisphere. Modern Mayan decipherment began in earnest at the First Palenque Roundtable in December, 1973. George Stuart and his wife, Gene (1931 - 1993), celebrated National Geographic authors, attended that noted gathering. Soon afterward they took their young son, David, to Palenque where he began working with Linda Schele (1942-1998). David was 12 in 1978 when he presented a paper at the Third Palenque Roundtable. By age 18 he was the youngest-ever recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He earned his PhD from Vanderbilt, taught at Harvard, and now holds the Linda and David Schele Chair at UT Austin. David Stuart is generally regarded as world's leading Maya epigrapher.

George and David Stuart wrote Palenque Eternal City of the Maya published in 2008 by Thames & Hudson.
Excellent Book on the "Queen of Maya Cities"
I read it looking for potential Book of Mormon connections. This article highlights what I found.

Palenque p. 33 Earliest known occupation at the site was 500 BC. This fits Nephite or Mulekite time horizons.

Palenque pp. 35-63 detail the publication history of early reports and drawings of the site.
  • 1808 Domingo Juarros described the ruins in a Guatemalan publication printed in Spanish.
  • 1810 Alexander von Humboldt included a drawing of one panel from Palace House A in a European publication printed in French, but he mis-identified this artifact as Oaxacan. 
  • 1814 an English translation of Alexander von Humboldt was published in London.
  • 1822 Antonio del Rio's 1787 report to the Spanish crown was published in English translation in London with 17 drawings of Palenque monuments. The popular London Literary Gazette gave it a harsh negative review.
  • 1823 del Rio's report was printed in German translation.
  • 1827 8 illustrations from the 1822 publication were included in a new work printed in French that compared primitive North American mounds with much more advanced Palenque structures.
  • 1827 The Saturday Evening Post published a letter describing Maya hieroglyphic writing.
  • 1829 James H. McCulloh published ten pages of serious discussion about Maya writing including the first images of Maya hieroglyphs printed in the Americas.
  • 1830 Lord Kingsborough shared a great deal of Palenque material including dozens of drawings in his monumental Antiquities of Mexico published in London. A copy of this important work finally reached the US in 1839.
News of Palenque was just beginning to appear as Joseph Smith was growing up in New England and New York. After the young prophet's theophany in 1820, the pace of information flow quickened. See the article 1829 for more historiography about who knew what when.

Palenque pp. 107-108 describes a site called La Esperanza (aka Nueva Esperanza) on the west bank of the Usumacinta near the modern town of Emiliano Zapata (formerly Monte Cristo). It was one of the oldest and largest among the many preclassic sites in the region studied by Robert L. Rands. It has been only lightly sampled archaeologically. It was occupied ca. 300 BC. It is the premiere example of a strikingly different cultural pattern than the contemporaneous early Maya civilization Richard Hansen is working on in the Mirador Basin. El Mirador and nearby preclassic sites in the northern Peten were clearly precursors of the classic Maya with temples atop pyramids, public art, standardized iconography, and glyphic writing. La Esperanza and other preclassic sites like it in the western Maya area were populous but relatively plain architecturally and artistically. Stuart hypothesizes that classic Maya culture reached Palenque from the Peten rather than from the much closer La Esperanza.
Large Preclassic Sites that Could have Influenced Palenque
In Stuart's view (following Rands) Nueva Esperanza and similar sites were something of a cultural anomaly surrounded by proto-Maya on their way to becoming classic Maya. I visited La (Nueva) Esperanza in 2006 with Garth Norman acting on a suggestion from John Clark. Locally it also goes by the names Zapatillo and Calatraba. It features dozens of mounds, some quite large. A couple of mounds had been sideswiped with a backhoe for sampling. We did a little surface scavenging. Garth believed the shards we found were preclassic. Garth and I correlate Nueva Esperanza with the city of Zarahemla on the west bank of Sidon. In his 2005 Worlds of Joseph Smith presentation at the Library of Congress, Clark's title slide was an image of Nueva Esperanza.

The town of Emiliano Zapata (Monte Cristo) is mentioned on pp. 18-19, 82, 89, and 108. Palenque is strategically situated between the Michol river flowing west and the Chacamax flowing east. Emiliano Zapata is at the confluence of the Chacamax with the Usumacinta. The Usumacinta is navigable to Boca del Cerro upstream from Tenosique, but Emiliano Zapata is only 35 air kilometers from Palenque while Tenosique is 60 air kilometers distant and on the other side of the big river.
Access to Palenque from the Usumacinta
An ancient trail, early dirt road, and modern paved road all connect(ed) Emiliano Zapata (Nueva Esperanza) with Palenque. This is the most direct route from Palenque to the sea. Nueva Esperanza is the point along the Usumacinta where permanent downstream flood plain gives way to higher arable ground. Immediately NW of Nueva Esperanza lie the formidable Pantanos (Swamps) de Centla full of jaguars and crocodiles which Garth and I correlate with the wilderness of Hermounts Alma 2:37. In this model, Palenque is in the lesser land of Zarahemla and Boca del Cerro is the point on the route to the land of Nephi where lowland Zarahemla gives way to upland wilderness Omni 1:27-28.

Palenque p. 18 describes 588 meter El Mirador peak with the Cross Group at its base and a small ruin at its summit. Norman correlates this eminence with hill Manti Alma 1:15 and I follow his lead on this point, having found no better candidate.

Palenque p. 82 reports that as late as 1897 the official inspector of ancient monuments for the Mexican government did not know if the major site Yaxchilan was in Mexico west of the Usumacinta or in Guatemala east of the river (it is on the Mexico side). This is an indication of how difficult and inaccessible the upper Usumacinta area is. Even today, a trip to Yaxchilan is a travel adventure because there are no roads to the site.
Remote Yaxchilan on the Upper Usumacinta
The Book of Mormon describes a scenario where the Nephites in Nephi (Kaminaljuyú in our correlation) and the Mulekites in Zarahemla (Nueva Esperanza on our map) were completely unaware of each other's existence for nearly 400 years Omni 1:14. The Book of Mormon also describes multiple savvy groups getting lost in the wilderness between Nephi and Zarahemla Mosiah 8:8Mosiah 22:16. Both the disorientation and incommunicado narratives fit well in our proposed correlation where one goes through the upper Usumacinta basin to travel between Nephi and Zarahemla. See the articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Four" and "Water Fight on the River - Round Five."

Palenque p. 98 - 103 tells the fascinating story of Mayan decipherment. Many of the people mentioned have connections to the LDS Mesoamericanist community.
  • Books that once belonged to Tatiana Proskouriakoff (1909-1985) are in my personal library.
  • David H. Kelley (1924-2011) was John L. Sorenson's friend and collaborator.
  • Michael D. Coe was in Utah in 2015 as Richard Hansen's guest. See the article "Hansen and Coe."
  • Gordon Willey (1913-2002) was one of the three founders of the New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) along with Thomas Stuart Ferguson (1915-1983) and Alfred V. Kidder (1885-1963).
  • Román Piña Chan (1920-2001) was one of the five people digging near Huimanguillo, Tabasco in 1953 as part of NWAF's first field season. The others were Pedro Armillas (1914-1984), William T. Sanders (1926-2008), Gareth W. Lowe (1922-2004), and John L. Sorenson. See the articles "Zarahemla ca. 1955" and "Gareth Lowe's Maps."
  • George W. Brainerd (1909-1956) would have been John L. Sorenson's PhD advisor at UCLA had he not died unexpectedly just as Sorenson was beginning his program.
  • Robert M. Carmack is the brother of John K. Carmack, emeritus General Authority, and the uncle of Book of Mormon textual scholar Stanford Carmack.
  • Linda Schele (1942-1998) was Allen J. Christenson's PhD advisor at UT Austin. Christenson, on the BYU Humanities faculty, is a Mayanist who specializes in K'iche'. 
Palenque p. 102 talks about the Grolier Codex which recently joined the Dresden, Paris, and Madrid Codices as an authenticated pre-Columbian Maya manuscript. The Grolier is different enough from the other three that most scholars initially dismissed it as a fraud. John L. Sorenson in a 1997 article entitled "The Sobering Lesson of the Grolier Codex" uses the Grolier's journey from pariah to pillar as a cautionary tale about those who would cavalierly disregard the Book of Mormon as an ancient American codex.

Palenque p. 105 reminds us that less than two percent of Palenque has been studied in depth and there is much yet to discover.

National Geographic just published a report on Richard Hansen's LIDAR project in the northern Peten. The survey shows 60,000 structures previously unknown to science (many, unfortunately, already looted). Ancient population in the area may have reached 15 million. There is much yet to discover. See the article "LiDAR."

Palenque p. 109-110 discusses a very early Palenque ruler (perhaps mythological) who was born on March 11, 993 BC, well into Jaredite times. Another ancient leader began to rule in 252 BC when the Nephites were still living in the city of Nephi.

Palenque p. 114 shows the earliest known depiction of a Palenque ruler and he is heavily bearded.
Onyx Bowl in The Dumbarton Oaks Collection
Stuart calls him the "Ch'a" ruler born in AD 422 and comments on his unusual hand gesture pointing downward. We have seen this gesture before on Kaminaljuyú Monument 65 and Izapa Stela 5. See the article "Partake of the Fruit" for illustrations. The inscription on the bowl calls him a "young" ruler even though his full beard implies age. This reminds us of Mormon's play-on-words description of Alma1 in Mosiah 17:2. See Matt Bowen's 2016 Interpreter article entitled "Alma - Young Man, Hidden Prophet."

Palenque pp. 117, 138-9, 145, and 149 reproduce David Stuart's very clean drawings of 7 ancestors carved into the walls of Pakal's sarcophagus. Each is depicted as an anthropomorphic fruit tree.
Pakal's Parents as Trees
This is interesting because of the curious Book of Mormon teaching in Alma 32 that humans can sprout trees. See the articles "Maya Place Names" and "Anthropomorphic Trees" for context. Another anthropomorphic plant is depicted on the Tablet of the Foliated Cross where heads appear as corncobs on a stylized maize plant.
Linda Schele's Drawing of the Tablet of the Foliated Cross
Palenque Figure 65
Palenque pp. 143-4 explain how the Maya used variants of the term "seat" to describe a ruler's accession to the throne. The Book of Mormon follows this same convention Alma 4:17.

Palenque pp. 145, 178-9 discuss the phrase "enter the path" used commonly at Palenque to mean a ruler died. On p. 178 Stuart gives a new translation of the rim text from Pakal's sarcophagus lid. It has a list of royal ancestors who "entered the path" on such and such a date. The Book of Mormon equivalent is "go the way of all the earth." Lehi would soon go the way of all the earth in 2 Nephi 1:14. Ditto King Benjamin in Mosiah 1:9. Mosiah2 had already gone the way of all the earth in Alma 1:1. Ditto Teancum in Alma 62:37. Chief Judge Parhoron (critical text orthography) had gone the way of all the earth in Helaman 1:2.

The phrase "go the way of all the earth" is also biblical. Joshua used it as recorded in Joshua 23:14, and King David harked back to Joshua's words in 1 Kings 2:2. Some of the Bible versions shown on use the word "path" or "road" rather than "way."

Palenque pp. 148, 238 discuss the chiastic pattern found in the dynastic king list from Palenque. There is a chiastic pattern found in the dynastic king list recorded in the book of Ether. See Book of Mormon Central KnoWhy #235 "Why Does the Book of Ether Start with Such a Long Genealogy?"

People come up with wildly different notions of the distance a Nephite may have traveled in a "day's journey." I take the Book of Mormon phrase to be a standard unit of distance measure, and some of the best textual scholars in the Church support this interpretation. See the article "Textual Progress." It is helpful to know from historical records how far pre-modern groups actually traveled in one day. Palenque p. 158 reports a narrative with details that allow us to calculate distance traveled per day. On August 7, AD 659, troops from Palenque captured the king of Santa Elena in his hometown. Six days later they paraded this same king as a bound captive before K'inich Janab Pakal in Palenque's palace. How far did this military detachment travel in six days with a high-value captive in tow?
95 Air Kilometers Santa Elena to Palenque
95 air kilometers divided by 6 days equals 15.8 kilometers per day. This compares remarkably well with other journeys we have documented. See the article "Land Southward Travel Times." Our rule-of-thumb standard unit of distance measure - 15 air kilometers per day - is corroborated yet again.

Palenque p. 174 is describing the famous resurrection scene on Pakal's sarcophagus lid. It mentions circlets that represent jade and preciousness scattered throughout the image. Many have pointed out that these circlets are fruits of the stylized tree depicted in cruciform shape above or growing out of the king who is being re-born. Stuart comments (Palenque p. 176) on the rows of jade beads adorning the flowers of the tree.
K'inich Janab Pakal Resurrecting
as the Rising Sun
Similar circlets representing fruits of the tree are a prominent motif on Izapa Stela 5. See the article "Partake of the Fruit." The Book of Mormon explicitly associates trees and fruit with resurrection Alma 32:41-42.

An incised circlet appears in front of the upper lip and under the nose of K'inich Ahkal Mo' Nahb in a fine portrait on Temple XIX's limestone panel.
Circular Breath Bead on Portrait of Palenque King
Palenque plate 34
This is what Mesoamericanists typically call a "breath bead" which represents life and re-birth. Many breath beads are illustrated in the article "Partake of the Fruit." Dead bodies were sometimes interred with small jade breath beads near the deceased's nostrils. The Book of Mormon explicitly associates breath with life Mosiah 2:21.

Palenque pp. 176, 198 share the name the Maya gave the stylized cruciform image of their sacred world tree. They called it "Shiny jeweled tree." Stuart also uses the term "jade jewel tree." Jade beads represent fruit of the tree. In addition to dominating the scene on Pakal's sarcophagus lid, this special tree is the central motif on the Tablet of the Cross, now in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
Linda Schele's Drawing of the Tablet of  the Cross
The Tablet of the Cross adorned the Temple of the Cross, one of three temples dedicated to the three patron deities knows as the "Palenque triad." These deities are generally referred to simply as GI (god 1), GII, anId GIII. The Palenque triad are not trinitarian although GI is very much a Christ-like figure. These are points Stuart makes about Palenque deities and their associated symbols:
  1. There were dozens of gods in the Maya pamtheon p. 191 Mormon 4:14
  2. Itzamnaaj was the supreme Maya god p 212 3 Nephi 27:13
  3. Itzamnaaj crowned GI p. 212 3 Nephi 11:7 
  4. The tree represented wealth and preciousness p. 176 1 Nephi 11:9, 1 Nephi 15:36
  5. The tree was shiny and resplendent p. 176 1 Nephi 11:8, Alma 32:42
  6. The tree represented re-birth to new life p. 176 Alma 32:41
  7. The tree incorporated serpent imagery p. 176 2 Nephi 25:20   
  8. The tree was a symbol of GI p. 198 1 Nephi 11:21-22, 25
  9. A supernatural bird perched atop the tree pp. 173, 197 2 Nephi 25:13, 3 Nephi 10:4-6
  10. GI was the first-born among the Palenque triad p. 189 Mosiah 3:8
  11. GI and the tree were both associated with the solar east pp. 175, 189, 198 3 Nephi 9:18
  12. GI was an aquatic deity p. 189 1 Nephi 11:25
  13. GI died and was resurrected p. 189 3 Nephi 9:22 
  14. GI descended from the sky pp. 189, 198 3 Nephi 11:8
  15. GI ascended to the sky p. 196 3 Nephi 18:39
  16. Stuart links GI with Central Mexico's Quetzalcoatl p. 212 and note 21
Palenque p. 192 Stuart downplays the Popol Vuh's role as an urtext for classic Maya religion. He stresses that the Popol Vuh story elements appearing iconographically throughout the Maya area are few and scattered. We reached this same conclusion regarding Popol Vuh imagery on Izapa Stela 25 "Art and Iconography 2" and Izapa Stela 5 "Art and Iconography 4." See also the Stuart's discussion in chapter 8 note 10.

Palenque p. 223 talks about the title sajal applied to military captains. Alma 2:13,16 attests military captains among the Nephites as Alma 43:6 does among the Lamanites.

Palenque p. 228 describes Matwiil, legendary origin place of the Maya, as watery and symbolized by cormorants which are coastal birds. 1 Nephi 17:5 and Ether 6:2-4 describe watery, coastal places of origin.  See the discussion of pp. 72-73 in the article "Maya Place Names."

Palenque chapter 8 note 15 (p. 256) has a tantalizing clue for those of us interested in locating Book of Mormon lands. The Maya knew where GI descended from heaven and they had a name for the place - "six sky." The Book of Mormon tells us that the resurrected Savior appeared to the Nephites at "the temple which was in the land Bountiful" 3 Nephi 11:1.

This article was written by Kirk Magleby, volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, world's premiere source of reliable Book of Mormon contextual material in English and Spanish.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Maya Place Names

An important monograph entitled Place and Identity in Classic Maya Narratives (hereafter Place) was published in 2013 by Dumbarton Oaks (part of Harvard University). It is an updated version of Alexandre Tokovinine's Harvard PhD dissertation published in 2008. Tokovinine spent many years working on the famed Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (CMHI) alongside William and Barbara Fash. He specializes in toponyms and curates the world's leading database of over 2,300 instances of place names in ancient Mayan. He makes the database freely available in Microsoft Access format. Some of the toponyms are mythological, but an increasing percentage of place names can be correlated with known archaeological sites. Tokovinine's monograph incorporates many of the latest advances in rapidly-evolving Maya epigraphy, building on the foundation laid by David Stuart and Stephen Houston in their seminal 1994 Classic Maya Place Names also published by Dumbarton Oaks.
Study of Place Names in Ancient Maya Texts
The cover illustration is Heather Hurst's rendition of Mural 6N, Structure 1, La Sufricaya, which was commissioned no later than AD 379 just one year after the noted "entrada" of Sihyaj K'ahk' (Fire is Born) from Teotihuacan into the Peten. Mural 6N is generally interpreted as a visual representation of a 1,000 kilometer pilgrimage from the Maya Lowlands to Teotihucan in Central Mexico. Might students of the Nephite text be interested in a Mesoamerican "map" drawn during Book of Mormon times? I read Tokovinine with considerable anticipation and felt well-rewarded for my effort.

Place p. 7 mentions the common Maya phrase uhtiiy translated as "it happened." LDS and Restoration Branch (formerly Community of Christ) scholars have compared this phrase with the ubiquitous Book of Mormon "it came to pass" 1 Nephi 1:4-7 (and more than 1,300 other instances).

Place p. 7 references lakam ha' as one of the ancient Maya names for Palenque. The ha' suffix denoting "water" is a component in many ancient Maya place names such as sak ha'. We find a similar suffix in the Book of Mormon place names Ammonihah Alma 8:6-9, Moronihah 3 Nephi 8:10, Nephihah Alma 50:14, and Onihah 3 Nephi 9:7.

Place p. 8 says Maya toponyms often reference mountains, rocks, lakes, rivers, and springs. We find similar referents among Book of Mormon place names:
Place p. 8 says some Maya toponyms end in la. A handful of Book of Mormon place names end in "la" or "lah:" Zarahemla Omni 1:12, hill Riplah Alma 43:31,45, Angola Mormon 2:4.

Place p. 9 mentions corn (maize) as an important component of Maya toponyms. Corn is attested in the text Mosiah 7:22, 9:9,14.

Place pp. 10, 43 describes the Maya notion of kaaj ordered, settled space versus k'a'ax "chaotic wilderness or forest." The Book of Mormon demarcates settlements from adjacent wilderness Alma 16:2Alma 58:13-14.

Place p. 10 says the Maya used the term ti' (edge/mouth of) in a similar way the Book of Mormon uses the term "borders" Alma 8:3,5, Alma 50:14. The component "ti" is attested in Book of Mormon place names: Manti Alma 16:6,7, Ani-Anti Alma 21:11. Manti is one of the places the Book of Mormon text explicitly correlates with borders Alma 22:27Alma 43:32.

Place p. 11 mentions the term te' (tree) as a component of Maya toponyms. The Book of Mormon city name Teancum Mormon 4:3, 6-7 contains a similar element.

Place p. 11 says many Maya place names incorporate the component naah (buildings). One Book of Mormon place has "nah" in its name: city of Gadiomnah 3 Nephi 9:8

Place p. 13 identifies one of the mountains towering over Palenque with the Maya Yehmal K'uk' Lakam Witz, a place where the king performed rituals. V. Garth Norman identifies 588 meter Mirador hill which towers over Palenque with hill Manti Alma 1:15, the place where Nehor was executed for murder. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Palenque and Proposed Hill Manti (Mirador Hill)
Place p. 13 says the Maya occasionally used double place names. The Book of Mormon peoples occasionally used double place names such as Lehi-Nephi Mosiah 7:1-2, 4 and Ani-Anti Alma 21:11.

Place p. 14 reports that two stelae from the site of Dos Pilas talk of "binding" carved monuments containing writing. The Book of Mormon talks of "sealing up" written records Ether 4:5, Moroni 10:2.

A major problem in Book of Mormon geography right now is the relative scale of distance we should expect between sites. Some mapmakers interpret the text to mean the Nephite saga played out on a small, intimate landscape such as a single region within modern Costa Rica. Others imagine a vast, sprawling landscape such as North America from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. The classic Maya world gives us a very useful model of demonstrable relationships from which we can calculate accurate distances. Maya city states in the AD 300 to AD 900 time frame operated in a world where 20 to 250 air kilometers was a routine distance but 1,000 air kilometers was an exceptional distance traveled by elites perhaps once in a lifetime. Place in dozens of instances mentions pairs of archaeological sites with an association of some kind that got memorialized in a hieroglyphic text. Summarizing some of these associations gives us a firm idea of the distances between sites that were typical in the classic era.
  • p. 16 Dos Pilas and Cancuen 55 air kilometers
  • p. 16 Calakmul and Oxpemul 20 air kilometers
  • p. 17 Dos Pilas and Oxpemul 212 air kilometers
  • p. 17 Rio Azul and Los Alacranes 23 air kilometers
  • p. 54 La Sufricaya and Teotihuacan 1,042 air kilometers
  • p. 71 Moral-Reforma and Palenque 88 air kilometers
  • p. 71 Palenque and Tortuguero 47 air kilometers
  • p. 71 Dzibanche and Calakmul 126 air kilometers
  • pp. 81, 111 Calakmul and Cancuen 233 air kilometers
  • p. 105 Dos Pilas and Naranjo 136 air kilometers
  • p. 113 Naranjo and Machaquila 129 air kilometers
  • p. 116 Tikal and Dos Pilas 146 air kilometers
These results concur closely with our analysis of relative distances in the Book of Mormon documented in the article "Things Near and Far." The Maya data and our Book of Mormon deductions both vindicate John L. Sorenson's conclusion that the Book of Mormon internally requires a location hundreds but not thousands of kilometers in extent.

Place on the other hand directly contradicts Sorenson's much-maligned system of skewed directionality. The phrase "cardinal directions" appears perhaps twenty times in Tokovinine with several maps and illustrations showing precisely what the Maya meant when they used the terms "east," "north," "west," and "south." Tikal (pp. 95-97) offers a clear example. From the perspective of Tikal at the center of its dominion, Altun Ha was east, Edzna north, Palenque west and Copan south. All four vectors radiating out from Tikal to these places are within a few degrees of the astronomically-derived cardinal directions.
Tikal at the Center of its Quadripartite World
Aligned to the Four Cardinal Directions
Teotihuacan is referenced in several early classic Maya inscriptions. It is always described as west of the Maya lowland sites of Tikal, Ucanal, Pusilha, Machaquila, Dos Pilas, and Yaxchilan (Place p. 95).
Teotihuacan West of Maya Lowland Sites
This mainstream understanding of ancient solar-based Mesoamerican directionality is further documented in the articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten," "Test #5 North South East and West," "Quichean Directionality," and "Light from L.A."

I am convinced the interpretation of "narrow neck of land" as "isthmus" causes much of the confusion that currently dominates Book of Mormon geography thinking. See the article "Red Herrings." Place p. 24 adds another data point to the discussion. It says the Maya word "neck" in spatial context connotes "edge" or limit. This fits well with our correlation of the narrow neck of land as Barra San Marcos running along the edge of the Chiapas coast.
Proposed Narrow (Small) Neck of Land
Place p. 25 examines a term found frequently in ancient Maya toponyms: ch'e'n meaning "cave, opening, hole, hollow, or cavity." One is reminded of the Book of Mormon phrase "cavity of a rock" describing the hiding places of Nephi and his brothers 1 Nephi 3:27 and the prophet Ether Ether 13:13-14, 18, 22.

Place p. 16 mentions the Maya place name Haluum (the archaeological site Cancuen) ending in "um." The Book of Mormon contains several place names ending in "um:" Antionum Alma 31:3, Antum Mormon 1:3, Irreantum 1 Nephi 17:5, Mocum 3 Nephi 9:7, Moriantum Moroni 9:9, Ripliancum Ether 15:8, Teancum Mormon 4:3, 6-7.

Place p. 16 mentions a precious and powerful royal hierloom passed down from king to king. The Nephite crown jewels (plates of brass, sword of Laban, Liahona) were precious royal hierlooms passed down from king to king Mosiah 1:16.

Place p. 16 identifies Chi'k Nahb and Huxte' Tuun as ancient Maya names for Calakmul and the surrounding area. The Book of Mormon mentions cities with adjacent "land round about:" Shilom Mosiah 7:21, Helam Mosiah 23:25.

Place p. 16 indicates that the wall of the Calakmul North Acropolis was prominent enough to have its own name: Chi'k Nahb Kot. The Book of Mormon describes cities with prominent walls: Nephihah Alma 62:20-24, Zarahemla Helaman 16:1-2.

Place p. 17 mentions a Maya place name incorporating the element ton. The Book of Mormon has a place name incorporating the element "ton:" Morianton Alma 50:25-26.

Place p. 19 says the Maya had different words for city (kaj) and land (kab). Cities and lands are fundamental polities in the Book of Mormon Alma 58:10, 33.

Place p. 28 lists sites whose dynasties had remote origins: Palenque, Bonampak, Piedras Negras, Calakmul, Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and Cancuen. Mosiahfounded a non-local dynasty at Zarahemla Omni 1:19.

Place p. 29 indicates one Maya name for temple, uwitzil uk' uhuul, was related to the name for hill or mountain, witz, and meant "the mountain of the god." The Book of Mormon, quoting Isaiah, relates mountains with temples as houses of the Lord 2 Nephi 12:2-3.

Place p. 33 says common Maya words for warfare were the verbs burning pul and chopping ch'ak. Burning was a major part of warfare in the Book of Mormon Mormon 5:5, Ether 14:17.

Place p. 39 references Kerry M. Hull, a Ch'orti' specialist on the BYU Religion faculty. I am becoming increasingly impressed with Hull's contributions to the scholarly Mayanist literature.

Place p. 43 explains the Maya word for agricultural lands, luum, associated with urban areas, kaaj, and wilderness, k'a'ax. Kab was a more general term referring to property, lands, or the earth in general. The Book of Mormon has all four landscape classifications: fields Alma 34:20, 24-25, villages and cities Alma 23:14, wilderness Alma 43:22-24, and the generic possessions Alma 58:3. The Book of Mormon also uses the term "earth" in a general sense Alma 5:16,17.

Place p. 47 describes the couplets kab, earth, and chan, sky, which when paired connote the totality of the whole earth. The common Book of Mormon variant is "heaven and earth" Alma 11:39.

Place p. 48 talks about sky, earth, and water bands as pictorial conventions in Maya iconography. This same tripartite division of the world is attested in the Book of Mormon Mosiah 13:12.

Noted BYU archaeologist John E. Clark believes the Book of Mormon idea that trees can grow from humans Alma 32:28, 37, 41 is one of the strongest evidences of the book's authenticity. The idea is relatively unique and highly arbitrary. This man-tree notion is well-attested in Mesoamerican iconography. See the article "Anthropomorphic Trees." Place p. 48 describes images on the side of K'inich Janaab' Pakal's sarcophagus in the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque depicting ancestors of the entombed king sprouting as fruit trees.
Female Ancestor of Pakal as Fruit Tree
Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson
Place p. 52 indicates the Maya associated wilderness with mountains. The Book of Mormon explicitly associates wilderness and mountains Helaman 11:28,31.

Place p. 53 reproduces a wall painting with mountain and cave imagery from Rio Azul Tomb 1. The style and some of the motifs are similar to those on Kaminaljuyú (KJ) Stela 10.
Rio Azul Tomb 1 Wall Painting
The trefoil eye, aka "death eye," is generally interpreted to mean the represented figure is deceased.
Kaminaljuyú Stela 10, Drawing by Lucia Henderson
Henderson in her superb 2013 PhD dissertation mentions strong stylistic relationships between KJ and the lowland Maya centers San Bartolo and Rio Azul.
KJ Influence in the Maya Lowlands
This is of interest because KJ is a leading candidate for the city of Nephi. See the article "Kaminaljuyu."

Place p. 54 interprets a late pre-classic facade from Holmul as a feathered serpent being exhaled from a mountain cave. Tokovinine says this image shows the idea of wind emanating from a mountain. Flying serpents are attested in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 17:41. Nephi's Jesus Christ is represented by both avian and serpentine symbols 2 Nephi 25:13, 20. The feathered serpent deity in Mesoamerica was associated with wind. Quetzalcoatl in Aztec times was represented wearing a wind breastplate or wind jewel. The Book of Mormon explicitly attributes the source of wind to deity Ether 2:24.

Place p. 55 discusses the "map" depicted on the monograph cover at the top of this article. It was painted as part of a mural at La Sufricaya in AD 378 or 379. A similar scene was painted at Copan about this same time. In both cases, the scenes show Maya lords travelling to Teotihuacan, probably on a pilgrimage to receive an investiture of authority. What were the Nephites doing in AD 378 - 379 when these emissaries were traveling to Central Mexico? They were in the land northward, regrouping at Jordan and environs after being routed out of Boaz. Mormon had re-taken command of the Nephite military. Mormon had moved the Nephite record repository from hill Shim to hill Cumorah because the security situation around hill Shim had become unstable. In AD 379 the Nephites were a mere six years from annihilation at hill Cumorah.
Known and Proposed Locations of Historical Events
AD 375 - 379
A great deal of land was devoted to agriculture in the Maya world, but Place p. 55 says luum, the Maya term for cultivated fields, seldom appears in hieroglyphic inscriptions. Maya lords and scribes were simply interested in other things such as lineage, ritual, and conquest, and took humble agricultural pursuits for granted. We see the same under-representation of agriculture in the Book of Mormon. This is the number of times certain words appear in the text:
  • crop 1
  • wheat 2
  • plow 2
  • corn 3
  • seed (not referring to human posterity) 14
  • grain 25
  • field (not all instances pertain to agriculture) 27
  • weapon 52
  • contention 81 
  • battle 125
  • war 167
  • faith 222
  • king 426
Nephite scribes clearly followed Nephi's instructions in 1 Nephi 9:4 and 1 Nephi 19:4 to record primarily political and military events on the large plates.

Place p. 58 describes the Maya system of including place names in personal titles. This is similar to the Book of Mormon convention of naming places after the founder Alma 8:7.

Place p. 59 adds Quirigua and Yaxchilan to the list of sites where fourth-century invasions and pilgrimages to Teotihuacan are documented.

Place p. 61 analyzes inscriptions from Copan and Quirigua, sites that self-identified with the southern quadrant of the Maya world.
Sites that Considered Themselves Southern
Place p. 69 identifies Yaxchilan as the Maya site with the most toponyms in its inscriptions. We correlate Yaxchilan with Melek immediately west of Sidon. In the Book of Mormon, Melek has an explicit relationship with Zarahemla Alma 8:1-3, Ammonihah Alma 8:6, Antionum Alma 31:3,6, Jershon Alma 35:13, Judea Alma 56:3,9, Antiparah Alma 57:4,6, and Nephihah Alma 65:26-29. Melek has more geographic relationships identified in the text than almost any other Nephite city.

Place pp. 72-73 identifies Kanu'l from Calakmul, Matwiil from Palenque, and Tulan from the Popol Vuh as watery origin locations from the distant past that may be overseas. The Book of Mormon describes watery origin locations from the distant past that were overseas such as Nephi's Bountiful 1 Nephi 17:5, and the Jaredites' Mount Shelem seacoast Ether 6:2-4.

Place p. 76 analyzes hieroglyphic texts from Pomona (Pakbuul in ancient Mayan) that describe historical events in AD 179 and AD 297 at a place called Pipa'. It is not known where Pipa' was, just that is was associated in some way with Pomona. We associate Pomona with the lesser land of Zarahemla. Pomona is the major Maya site nearest Boca del Cerro which we correlate with the point described in the Book of Mormon where settled lands gave way to upland wilderness Omni 1:27-28. What was going on in the Book of Mormon in AD 179? After generations of peace and unity 4 Nephi 1:17, the old ethnic labels returned and there began to be Lamanites again in the land 4 Nephi 1:20. By AD 297 the Gadianton Robbers were re-constituted and wicked materialism prevailed among both the Nephites and Lamanites 4 Nephi 1:42-43.
Pomona Inscriptions Reference Events in AD 179, 297
Place p. 77 talks about Copan inscriptions that link it with Quirigua (49 air kilometers), Caracol (213 air kilometers), and Teotihuacan (1,163 air kilometers). See the article "Origins of K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' " for additional interesting details.

Place p. 79 mentions the last known pilgrimage of a lowland Maya king to Teotihuacan to receive an investiture of authority. Yat Ahk, ruler of Piedras Negras, traveled to Teotihuacan in AD 510 and received a helmet as a symbol of power. His journey was similar to the one depicted on the image from La Sufricaya illustrated above. Teotihuacan began to decline in population in the 6th century AD and was in full collapse by the 7th century AD.

Place p. 81 Some Maya inscriptions describing travel from one place to another use verbs interpreted as "ascend" and "descend." Some Book of Mormon passages describing travel from one place to another use the adverbs "up" Mosiah 7:1-4 and "down" Alma 51:11-14.

Place pp. 81-82 A number of dynasties among the ancient Maya established themselves at multiple sites within and across regions. The Mutal dynasty is primarily associated with Tikal, but it was also present at Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and La Amelia in Guatemala's Petexbatun. The Baakal dynasty is primarily associated with Palenque, but it also established itself at Tortuguero and then Comalcalco. A dynasty whose name is not yet completely deciphered established itself at Arroyo de Piedra, Tamarindito, and the as yet unidentified site the Maya named Chak Ha'. The Xukal/Tz'ikal Naah dynasty was associated with at least five different places. The name appears on inscriptions from Lacanha, Bonampak, Yaxchilan, and Piedras Negras.

Place p. 84 Ancient Maya inscriptions use the words ajaw (lord or king) and kaloomte' (high king). The Book of Mormon mentions kings Alma 17:21 and high kings Alma 20:8,26.

Place p. 85 describes the deep social class distinctions that existed anciently in Maya society. One's status as an ajaw (lord, king, ruler) was an all-important membership that conveyed significant benefits such as the right to receive tribute. Nephite social climbers throughout Book of Mormon history tried to become kings Alma 51:5,8 and were in continual opposition to the freemen Alma 51:6,7 who supported a more egalitarian form of government.

Place p. 90 traces the evolution of thinking about ancient Maya polities. Specialists no longer view them as small independent city states. Tikal and Calakmul were powerful superstates exercising influence, even hegemony over sites hundreds of kilometers distant. The Book of Mormon describes two powerful superstates: Nephi, the Lamanite capital, and Zarahemla, the Nephite capital Alma 27:14, exercising influence and sometimes hegemony over distant lands.

Place p. 90 describes feuds lasting for generations between Maya dynasties. The Book of Mormon describes a feud lasting for generations between the Lamanites and Nephites Alma 20:10,13.

Place p. 90-91 itemizes seven cultural traits that were shared by elites throughout the classic Maya world: 1) writing system, 2) language, 3) rituals, 4) deities, 5) mythology, 6) dances, 7) political offices. We see similar standardization across different locales in the Book of Mormon as when Almaregulated Mosiah 26:37 and Almaestablished the order Alma 8:1 of the church.

Place p. 92 introduces the Maya word tzuk meaning "quarter" of the land. The Book of Mormon has several instances of the land being divided into quarters Mosiah 27:6, Alma 43:26.

Place p. 92 describes a hieroglyphic stairway at Sabana Piletas, Campeche, memorializing military conquests against people on the south, east, north, and west. Helaman 1:31 describes military action using similar terms for the four cardinal directions.
Location of Sabana Piletas, Campeche
Place p. 93 makes the obvious but sometimes overlooked point that when location B is described as east of location A, the ancient Maya considered this a relative direction from location A's point of view. Thus, people at Yaxchilan considered Motul de San Jose to be east of their city just as we would today.
Motul de San Jose East of Yaxchilan
Place pp. 94-95 show that the classic Maya aligned their world to the same solar-derived cardinal directions we use today. Copan and Quirigua considered themselves the south. Lamanai and Altun Ha considered themselves the east, and Ek Balam considered itself the north.
Classic Maya Sites in the North, East, and South
This is significant. The Book of Mormon refers to "the east by the seashore" Alma 22:29 which we correlate with the Caribbean coasts of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. Deciphered Maya inscriptions identify Belize-an sites such as Altun Ha as "the east." This is one more Book of Mormon New World place name we can now externally corroborate. See the article "Smoking Gun" for another (east sea) in this same area.

Place p. 97 describes the Maya term tz'ul meaning foreigners from outside the classic Maya world. The Book of Mormon describes settlers who emigrated from Zarahemla to lands unknown Alma 63:8 and others who traveled unusually long distances Helaman 3:4 into the land northward.

Place pp. 98-102 goes into detail about names of geo-political collectives. Two of the most prominent are the names Huxlajuun Tzuk, "thirteen divisions," and Huk Tzuk, "seven divisions." The names are applied to groups of people and individuals rather than places. The term "seven divisions" is attested at Motul de San Jose, Yaxha, Holmul, Naranjo, and Buenavista.
Sites where the term "Seven Divisions" Appears in Maya Texts
This is of interest, of course, because the Book of Mormon three times mentions seven lineages Jacob 1:13, 4 Nephi 1:36-38, and Mormon 1:8. The idea of seven founding lineages is a pan-Mesoamerican concept. See the excellent article by Diane Wirth in BYU Studies 52:4 2013 entitled "Revisiting the Seven Lineages of the Book of Mormon and the Seven Tribes of Mesoamerica." Tokovinine agrees that the seven divisions from classic Maya inscriptions are probably related to the larger Mesoamerican idea Place p. 109. He then suggests that the seven social or political units may be related to the deeply-rooted Mesoamerican division of space into the four lateral quadrants (east, north, west, south) and the three vertical elevations (zenith, nadir, center). Four quarters feature prominently in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 22:25, Ether 13:11, and three vertical layers are explicitly mentioned Mosiah 13:12.

Place p. 108 explores the idea that space and time were related in ancient Maya thought. The k'atun wheel visually depicting cyclical time aligns to the four cardinal directions. We illustrated this same point in the 2011 article "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten."

Place p. 119-120 describes a ritual period-end event in AD 159 at an as yet unidentified location. This event figures into the foundation narratives of the Mutal dynasty from Tikal and the Kanu'l dynasty from Dzibanche/Calakmul. This may be significant. AD 159 is about the time the Lamanites were re-formed as a political entity according to the Nephite record 4 Nephi 1:20.

Place p. 122 mentions the death/resurrection cycle tied to maize agriculture that was a major theme in Mesomaerican cultic practices. The article "Art and Iconography 3" shows how often resurrection is mentioned in the Nephite text and illustrates some very interesting iconographic representations of life after death.

Place p. 123 draws the conclusion from Tokovinine's thorough analysis of geo-political collective terminology that the eastern part of the Maya world was politically more stable than the western part. This is of interest because Mormon's description of the Nephite demise begins on the river Sidon Mormon 1:10 in the center of traditional Nephite lands and moves progressively westward Mormon 2:6. We correlate the Sidon with the Usumacinta, the quintessential Maya river.

Place p. 123 makes the broad observation that in the ancient Maya world, people were associated with "lands." The word "land" is the predominant geo-political unit in the Book of Mormon, where the term occurs nearly a thousand times. "Land" occurs 25 times in the single chapter Alma 62.

Place p. 130 note 8 River confluences were prime locations for settlement. This phenomenon happens in every geography on the planet. See point #1 in both sections of the article "French Connection."

Place p. 131 note 12 Mountain tops were special places in the Maya worldview. Mountain tops were significant in the Nephite and Jaredite worldviews 1 Nephi 18:3Mosiah 13:5Ether 3:1.

There is a great deal more linguistic information in Tokovinine's exceptional monograph that may have some relevance to the Nephite text, but I lack the expertise to deal with it. John L. Sorenson in his important The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book (Provo: FARMS, 1992) stresses in his "report card" that Book of Mormon geographic models cannot be based on "naive linguistic comparisons." Tokovinine is as good as it gets. The world's expert on Maya place names, he is a superb linguist/epigrapher. The Book of Mormon is as good as it gets. It is the world's earliest and most comprehensive ancient American  text. Some of my attempts at comparison between the two corpora are surely naive. Others may have value. In any event, it is exciting that Maya decipherment has progressed to the point that comparisons are possible.