Monday, March 18, 2019

Olmec Iron

The Book of Mormon mentions iron in a mineralogical context five times:
2 Nephi 5:15 work in all mannner of iron, copper, brass, steel, gold, silver, precious ores ca. 590 BC
Jarom 1:8 exceedingly rich in gold, silver, precious things, iron, copper, brass, steel ca. 400 BC
Mosiah 11:3, 8 gold, silver, ziff, copper, brass, iron, precious things ca. 150 BC
Ether 10:23 work in all manner of ore, gold, silver, iron, brass, copper ca. 1,100 BC

Iron is implied when steel is mentioned in an extractive mineralogical context in Jaredite times:
Ether 7:9 molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel ca. 2,000 BC

Steel is carburized or quenched and tempered iron. Iron was known anciently from meteoric sources. King Tut's famous steel dagger on display in the Cairo Museum was pounded from meteoric iron.
Steel Dagger from King Tut's Tomb ca. 1323 BC
Photo by Daniela Cornelli
Meteoric iron is rare on the surface of the earth. High grade iron ores such as hematite and magnetite are much more abundant and are mined commercially today. We have known about polished Olmec hematite mirrors for decades.
Olmec Polished Hematite Mirror from Guerrero
Photo by Linda Schele
This is a similar example.
Olmec Polished Hematite Mirror from Guerrero
Photo by Linda Schele
Both mirrors are dated prior to 400 BC, the traditional date associated with the Olmec collapse.

We also know that another form of iron ore, ilmenite (a principal modern source of titanium), was worked at industrial scale at the first Olmec capital, San Lorenzo. Ann Cyphers Guillén found 8 tons of it at a workshop in the SE sector of the San Lorenzo plateau.
Perforated Ilmenite Artifacts from San Lorenzo
Photo by Ann Cyphers Guillén
This photo is in Ann Cyphers Guillén, "San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán," in Los Olmecas en Mesoamérica, edited by John E. Clark, (Mexico City: Citibank/Mexico, 1994). The ilmenite  was imported from Chiapas and Oaxaca. Similar concentrations of worked ilmenite pieces were found in Plumajillo and Amatal, Chiapas.
Sites with Worked Ilmenite Iron Ore
The perforations were made with a drill, likely using fine sand as an abrasive. The San Lorenzo workshop dates from ca. 1,100 BC. Several of the San Lorenzo artifacts were analyzed by BYU geologists. The report is Steven E. Jones, Samuel T. Jones, and David E. Jones, "Archaeometry Applied to Olmec Iron-Ore Beads," BYU Studies 37:4 (1997-98).  The iron artifacts could have been used as jewelry, chain mail armor, or miniature tools (a typical bead is 3 centimeters long) if fitted with a wooden haft.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Great New Book from Elder Callister

General Sunday School President Elder Tad R. Callister of the Seventy is well-known among Latter-day Saints as an author and engaging speaker.
Elder Callister from
His titles The Infinite Atonement (2000),

The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration (2006),

and The Blueprint of Christ's Church (2015)

have been well received. Now, Elder Callister has turned his talented pen (or more likely, keyboard) toward the Book of Mormon. His latest book is entitled A Case for the Book of Mormon. It is published by Deseret Book and appeared on store shelves March 4, 2019.

This handsome 262 page book should become a classic in Latter-day Saint letters. It strikes a wonderful balance between certitude and polemic, spiritual and intellectual, doctrinal and narrative. Elder Callister had a 34 year career as a tax attorney and logical precision is evident on every page. Some of my favorite parts were his personal stories from the mission field and from his many years in Church service. And, of course, since I volunteer as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, I was thrilled to see Book of Mormon Central and members of our staff (Jack Welch, Matt Roper, Neal Rappleye) mentioned or referenced over 40 times.

Congratulations to Elder Callister for a significant new contribution to Book of Mormon studies. I didn't just read this book. I devoured it in about six hours and highly recommend it. After finishing the read, I promptly authored positive reviews on Deseret Book and Amazon.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Light from Guatemala

Javier Tovar and I spent February 14th and 15th, 2019, in Guatemala City and Antigua. We visited Elder Clate and Sister Carol Mask who are currently serving an oral history mission. We visited with Rolando Amado, a retired agronomist soon to earn a degree in anthropology. Both Elder Mask and Brother Amado are serious life-long students of the Book of Mormon. We got to spend time with Richard Hansen, director of the massive Mirador Basin project and one of the most renowned archaeologists alive today. We visited the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología and the Minerva Park relief map, both in Guatemala City. We were hoping to get to the Museo Popol Vuh but didn't make it. We did get to the former Museo Miraflores only to find it closed for massive remodeling. That museum was quite new and very impressive when I visited at the end of 2015. Someone is spending serious money to do an extensive makeover just a few years after the original opening. Museo Miraflores is dedicated to the important early highland Maya site Kaminaljuyu (see the blog article "Kaminaljuyu").  The enlarged space will showcase recent finds at Kaminaljuyu where the ancient city underlies much of modern sprawling Guatemala City.
Artist's Rendering of Expanded Museo Miraflores
Note the Kaminaljuyu Mound to the Left
Museo Miraflores is scheduled to re-open in 2020.

Another important museum dedicated to the Mirador Basin will open in Antigua in 2020. BYU's Ray Matheny began excavating at El Mirador in 1978. What Richard Hansen and others have discovered at El Mirador, Nakbe, Tintal, and other massive sites in the basin has re-written early Maya history with potentially profound implications for the Book of Mormon.

The venerable Museo Nacional opened in 1930.
Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología
Photo taken February 14, 2019 by Kirk Magleby
Striking depictions of beards are included in the Museo Nacional collection.
Bearded Figure with Arms Folded on Early Ceramic Vessel
Photo taken February 14, 2019 by Javier Tovar
DNA is a top Book of Mormon question around the world right now. Antis slam the Nephite text claiming Lehi's DNA has not been found. Naive Latter-day Saints misinterpret population genetics data in a misguided attempt to link Algonquins with Israelites. The Church's Gospel Topics Essay sheds light on a complex biological subject but doesn't definitively settle anything. People tend to be less than satisfied with the answer "We just don't know."

Beards are a strong response to the DNA question. A heavily-bearded population once lived in Mesoamerica as attested by the thousands of beard depictions we see in ancient art and iconography. That population passed through one or more genetic bottleneck events like the mass die-offs at hill Ramah/Cumorah. By European contact in AD 1492, almost all surviving native Americans were beardless or capable of growing only scant facial hair.
Bilbao Monument 1
Drawing by Oswaldo Chinchilla
Bilbao is an important archaeological site on the Pacific slope of Guatemala near Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, 60 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu. It was occupied in pre-classic (Book of Mormon) times. Note that three of the five decapitated heads depicted on the monument above are bearded. Physiological characteristics often facilitate ethnic cleansing.
Bearded Figurine from Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa
Photo Taken by Peter Jacob
The crude figurine above is in the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin.
Kaminaljuyu Stela 10
Photo taken February 14, 2019 by Javier Tovar
Kaminaljuyu Stela 10 in the Museo Nacional dates to ca. 200 BC. Note the florid beard.

A few years ago we were excited to receive reports of a stone box found in Hun Nal Ye Cave in Alta Verapaz. The box depicts scribes writing on codices and the container was fashioned to hold codices. The original is now on display in the Museo Nacional. 
Stone Box from Cueva Hun Nal Ye, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala
Photo taken February 14, 2019 by Javier Tovar
 Thrones are mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon (Alma 60:7,11). A good example from Piedras Negras is on display in the Museo Nacional.
Piedras Negras Throne
Photo taken February 14, 2019 by Javier Tovar
Ladders are mentioned in the text (Alma 62:21,23). Here is a good example from Bilbao near Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa. The original of this piece is in the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin
Ladder on Stone Stela from the Pacific Slope of Guatemala
Photo Taken by Martin Franken
Guatemala has some of the most variegated topography on earth. Its highest point, Tajumulco Volcano, rises 4,220 meters (13,845 feet) and winter snow accumulates in the higher elevations. The famous concrete relief map in Minerva Park, completed in 1905, gives tourists an idea of this monumental landscape. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Red Line Traces Proposed Narrow Strip of Wilderness from the
Caribbean to the Pacific. Photo taken February 14, 2019 by Kirk Magleby
Our narrow strip of wilderness runs in nearly a straight line from the East Sea (Caribbean) to the West Sea (Pacific) as described in Alma 22:27. Today we call this line of cliffs with east west rivers flowing at their base the Polochic Fault which is the tectonic boundary between the North American plate on the north and the Caribbean plate on the south. See the blog articles "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness" and "Ubiquitous Narrow Strip."

Visiting with some of the Saints in Guatemala about the Book of Mormon, some interesting new insights emerged. 

A. Mexico is a city, a state, and a country. 
Google Maps Image of Mexico State Surrounding Mexico City
Guatemala is a city, a department, and a country.
Google Maps Image of Guatemala Department Surrounding Guatemala City
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi is a city Alma 47:31, a lesser land Alma 47:20, and a continental-scale greater land Alma 50:8,11. Zarahemla is also a city 3 Nephi 9:3, a lesser land Alma 62:6, and a continental-scale greater land Alma 50:7, 11. This pattern is not common. You don't find the city of France in the Department of France in the nation of France. Ditto India, India, India or almost any other nation you can think of.

B. Some have proposed the site of Mixco Viejo, 30 kilometers NW of Kaminaljuyu, for the city of Nephi. The reconstructed site tourists visit today is post-classic, well after Book of Mormon times. Some archaeologists, though, have found a pre-classic (Book of Mormon time period) occupation layer. Terrain makes Mixco Viejo eminently defensible. Additional excavation in the future is unlikely because Instituto de Antropología e Historia (IDAEH) considers the site developed.

C. An interesting candidate for head of Sidon Alma 22:27, 29 is Nacimiento del Rio San Juan on the outskirts of Aguacatán, Huehuetenango where the San Juan River literally bursts out of the side of a mountain.
Nacimiento del Rio San Juan, Photo taken by Josué Goge
The volume of water flowing from this fountainhead is unmatched by any other spring in Guatemala. 

D. Alma 21:18 can be interpreted to mean the land of Ishmael was the land of both Lamoni's and Ammon's inheritance. Lamoni's relationship to the land of Ishmael is clear. He was king over the land of Ishmael Alma 17:21. If Ammon also had a relationship to the land of Ishmael, it could imply the Lehi-Nephi of Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi was later renamed Ishmael. I find this chain of events possible but doubtful based on the similar word pattern in Alma 21:17 where "their sins" and "their fathers" refers to Lamanites in general.

E. Alma 51:20 says the king-men had multiple towers in multiple cities. Guatemalans envision a scene like this from iconic Tikal when reading this passage.
Tikal Temples I, II, III, and V Surrounded by Jungle 
F. Latter-day Saint scholars through the years have commented on the seven ancestral caves/boats/tribes tradition prevalent in many parts of Mesoamerica. One example is Diane Wirth's "Revisiting the Seven Lineages of the Book of Mormon and the Seven Tribes of Mesoamerica" in BYU Studies Quarterly 52:4 (2013). Seven founding lineages are mentioned in Jacob 1:13, 4 Nephi 1:37-38, Mormon 1:8, and D&C 3:17-18. Seven founding lineages are part of the highland Maya tradition recounted in Quichean literature such as Popol Vuh and Annals of the Cakchiquels. Guatemalans also point to Bilbao Monument 21 as a possible iconographic representation of the seven founding lineages coming to the Pacific coast of Guatemala in a boat with three faces shown left of the tassel in the lower right-hand corner of the carving and four faces shown on the right.
Bilbao Monument 21 Drawing by Oswaldo Chinchilla
The two most powerful Quichean groups in highland Guatemala today are the K'iche' and the Kaqchikel. Both believe their forefathers came to Guatemala in ocean-going vessels and both talk of seven founding lineages divided into progenitor groups of four and three. The Kaqchikel believe they descend from the four and the K'iche' from the three. Other possible correlations between Kaqchikel ethnohistory and the Book of Mormon are in the blog article "Kaqchikel Chronicles." Other possible correlations between K'iche' ethnohistory and the Book of Mormon are in the blog article "Titulo de Totonicapan."

In addition to its possible depiction of the pan-Mesoamerican tradition of seven ancestral lineages, Bilbao Monument 21 shows several faces attached like fruit to a vine. This is another example of the fascinating theme we explored in the article "Anthropomorphic Trees." Some Latter-day Saint Mesoamericanists (such as John E. Clark) consider images of humans growing/flowering like trees powerful evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon Alma 32:28-41, 33:1.

G. Rolando Amado showed us an Egyptian-style figurine head he found in a farmer's field near the port city of Ocos. His children and grand-children played with it over the years and the pharaonic beard broke off. We did not get a photo. This artifact should be date-tested like the Roman figurine head described in the article "Roman Figurine Head in Ancient Mexico."
Ocos and Other Places Mentioned in this Article
with Possible Book of Mormon Connections
The main reason we went to Guatemala was to attend a conference in Antigua entitled "3,000 Years of Maya Knowledge" keynoted by Richard Hansen.
Archaeology Conference February 15, 2019 
These are my notes from the conference with editorial markers numbered 1 to 41 where data may have Book of Mormon relevance.

Edwin Roman is a native Guatemalan with a PhD from UT Austin.
Javier Tovar and Edwin Roman in Antigua, Guatemala
Photo Taken February 15, 2019 by Kirk Magleby
His dissertation was on Teotihuacan influence in the Peten. He has worked at many Guatemalan sites, particularly El Zotz with Stephen Houston.

Roman: In the lowlands, water is scarce and ancient public works for water management are extensive. Ca. 5,000 BC maize agriculture came into Guatemala from Mexico. El Zotz in the Buenavista Valley was on the route from Tikal to the San Pedro River. The Laguna El Palmar was an ancient lake in the area. Sites were built around the lake shore. The PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative (PLI) revolutionized our understanding of this area. See the articles "LiDAR" and "Ground-Truthed LiDAR." LiDAR identifies structures. 1 Pre-classic structures have conical rooflines while classic buildings have flatter roofs. Most classic structures are built atop pre-classic precursors on the interior of the pyramid.

2 El Palmar dates to 800 BC. Gran Cival dates to 1,100 BC and features an E Group (structures oriented astronomically eastward to the rising sun). 3 Seven sites in the pre-classic Buenavista Valley including El Zotz and Naranjo had E Groups. There is so much order evident in the architecture that the ancient Maya must have had standard units of measurement 4. Consensus has not yet emerged on the absolute value of any standard units. Triadic groups appear in the late pre-classic following the pattern we see at Holmul, Uaxactun, and Tikal. 5 Roads appear in the late pre-classic, as well as extensive residential areas. Then about 6 AD 200 many sites declined in an event known as the pre-classic collapse. Populations fell, emigrants left the area, there were droughts, and territorial conflicts began to disturb this formerly tranquil region. This time of instability followed the AD 150 collapse of gigantic El Mirador about 60 air kilometers to the north. Tikal and Yaxha apparently did not suffer a pre-classic collapse.

Water management features called "aguadas" appear in the early classic. El Zotz at apogee probably had 5,000 permanent residents. In the early classic we see 7 defensive walls and terraces and the cult of 8 divine kingship. Then on 9 January 16, AD 378 Sihyaj K'ahk' came on the scene from Teotihuacan and nothing was ever the same again. Eight sites including Bejucal, El Zotz, and Tikal have inscriptions mentioning Sihyaj K'ahk' (born of fire) by name. In the early classic, following the Teotihuacan "entrada," we see a kind of Pax Tikalense reminiscent of the period prior to the collapse of El Mirador. Ux Yop Huun was an important god in this period. Masks appear on buildings. Canals are built. Cave communities appear. Cacao cultivation is important. Large-scale defensive structures are erected. 10 One defensive wall was 6 meters (19 feet) high. The tallest defensive wall found to date was 7.6 meters (25 feet) high. Near El Zotz, LiDAR has identified a veritable 11 fortress, the largest defensive structure known in the Peten. Thomas G. Garrison named it "La Cuernavilla."
La Cuernavilla Fortress, 2.4 Kilometers Long
LiDAR Image from PACUNAM/Thomas Garrison
National Geographic published an article about La Cuernavilla on March 1, 2019. The article quotes Stephen Houston saying the heavily fortified site had 20 foot high walls, moats, watchtowers, and supplies of round stones that probably served as ammunition for warrior's slings. The article says the Maya fought bitter wars that ended in bloody sacrifices. Houston describes "an almost palpable sense of fear in this landscape." Tikal had a massive ditch and rampart stretching for miles. A causeway led from La Corona northeasterly toward Calakmul.

By 12 AD 500 there are wars and shifting alliances. Shark teeth appear in El Zotz, obviously traded into the area from distant shores. By AD 600 tombs are built with murals adorning the walls. 13 Commerce is more limited than it was before. Teotihuacan in Central Mexico has collapsed. By now, El Zotz has an emblem glyph and the red polychrome pottery diagnostic of the site is abundant. Ca. AD 800 is the classic Maya collapse, a period of drought and warfare.

Cesar Castañeda was supposed to present, but he was unable to attend, so Edwin Roman gave another presentation about Teotihuacan influence in the Peten, the subject of his doctoral dissertation. Ancient Teotihuacan influence was discovered at Kaminaljuyu and along the Pacific coast of Guatemala (Balberta, Montana) in 1950. David Stuart made epigraphic advances reading Mayan and now we know that the "entrada" of Teotihuacan is part of the 14 historical record. In AD 378 Teotihuacan conquered the Maya in the Peten. We see tripod vases, stucco decor on vases, and the Maya name Sihyaj K'ahk'. He was never a king of a single city state, but he was a military conqueror and the first person we know of given the title kaloomte' (emperor).  Naysayers said this conquest was 15 logistically impossible because Teotihuacan is 1,000 air kilometers distant from Tikal. They said there was 16 little material evidence of a Teotihuacan presence. And they said Sihyaj K'ahk' must have been 17 merely a diplomatic envoy. We now know all these attempts at minimization were wrong. We find green obsidian from Pachuca (Pachuqia) at Altun Ha. Caracol has cremated burials and green obsidian by AD 330.

Teotihuacan itself rose to prominence between 18 100 BC and the time of Christ. Many of the early settlers of Teotihuacan came from the 19 south. At AD 300 the great Pyramid of the Sun was built without any prior structure underneath and the Avenue of the Dead was constructed. Teotihuacan was a cosmopolitan society with people from Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz, and the Maya world. The Tetitla murals are in a Maya-like style. And, just three years ago, the murals at the Plaza de las Columnas were discovered. These murals, which date to AD 300 - 330, have clearly Maya iconography and symbolism. In the Ciudadela we find jade, feathers, and conch shells which are all important Maya symbols. Ca. AD 300 Teotihuacan underwent a 20 revolution. The Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent was burned. The Teotihuacan empire was all about 21 trade and control of resources rather than political subjugation. In the Pyramid of the Moon, Maya-style burials were found with jade ornaments. Tikal had a vase in Teotihuacan style made with clay from Central Mexico. The Aztecs reached the Soconusco, 800 - 900 air kilometers distant from Tenochtitlan.

Among military scientists, it is conventional wisdom that a soldier carrying a 50 pound pack can march 22 30 kilometers (20 miles) in one day. That limits things such as the area around its capital a city state could reasonably defend. Teotihuacan controlled 2 sites in the 23 Tuxtlas: Matacapan and Tres Zapotes. Teotihuacan is mentioned on an inscription from Palenque Temple V. Teotihuacan is mentioned on El Peru - Waka' Stela 15 8 days before Sihyaj K'ahk's fateful arrival in Tikal. Teotihuacan also shows up on Naachtun Stela 24 a few days before the Tikal conquest. Stucco and volcanic ash on pottery are Teotihuacan markers. After the Teotihuacan entrada there are evidences of a general peace between La Sufricaya, Holmul, El Zapote, Tikal, Uaxactun, Rio Azul, El Zotz, and Bejucal. Architecture becomes more grandiose. There is conformity, a single ceramic tradition. Dynasties form. Stela, altar complexes proliferate. 24 Glyphs became homogeneous, standardized. The peace evaporated ca. AD 530 when Teotihuacan was burned.

Matilde Ivivc, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. Indigenous healers were 25 herbalists. In many cases locals had better treatments for diseases than the Spaniards did. That is one reason Phillip V ordered the Florentine Codex written, to preserve native medicinal knowledge.

Tomas Barrientos, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. PLI was the largest LiDAR survey ever flown - over 2,000 square kilometers. LiDAR is the most revolutionary technology for archaeology in tropical forests since Carbon 14 dating was perfected in 1946. Technology began with the camera lucida used by Frederick Catherwood. It then progressed to the photographic camera and aerial photography. The Carnegie Institution employed Charles Lindbergh to take aerial photographs of the Maya area. It was Lindbergh who discovered Calakmul in 1930. Technology progressed to include satellite imagery, GPS, and data bases of Maya inscriptions. Now we have 3D scanners for accurate imagery of a single carved monument and LiDAR for large scale mapping. 26 It was 1955 at Tikal before we knew the Maya built true cities with permanent populations rather than just ceremonial centers hosting seasonal pilgrimages. Tikal was the first Maya city with a complete map. It took 6 years of tedious work to complete. The PLI rendered a much better map of Tikal in 6 months. 27 Canals managed water. Terraced fields improved agricultural yields.

The La Corona/El Achiotal survey showed 3,629 structures for an average density of 29 structures per square kilometer. Naachtun was 28 densest at 89 structures per square kilometer. El Peru - Waka' was next with 84 structures per square kilometer. The central Maya lowlands encompass 23,000 square kilometers. 25% of Maya structures are non-residential. Residents per house mound (family size) averaged 4 - 5.6. There are 95,000 square kilometers in the southern Maya lowlands. This means 2.7 million structures and 11 million inhabitants ca. AD 800. This is the math behind the numbers that so surprised the world when National Geographic reported them in February, 2018.

The 29 Kaanul empire ca. AD 690 stretched from Coba to Quirigua and from Palenque to the Caribbean. The Snake Kings ruled over 10 million people.
White Shows Kaanul Empire at Apogee ca. AD 690
Between AD 807 and AD 936 there were 8 major droughts in the southern Maya lowlands. This factored into the classic Maya collapse. Rather than focus on their failure at the end, though, we should focus on their 1,000 to 1,200 years of success. 30 The Maya were well-organized and they achieved sustainable productivity in a harsh environment. 31 They organized themselves in dozens of allied city states.

Josephine Thompson, Foundation for Archaeological Research and Environmental Studies (FARES).
The Mirador/Calakmul Basin is 6,407 square kilometers. 10,000 square kilometers is ideal for a protected wilderness area. LiDAR surveys of the Mirador/Calakmul Basin were flown in 2018. Images are just now becoming available. Josephine had various LiDAR images posted outside the room for all to see.
LiDAR Image of One Section of the Causeway from Tintal to El Mirador 
The new LiDAR surveys show 32 250 kilometers of sacbes (ancient highways) in part of the Mirador Basin. The longest discovered so far is a 25 kilometer causeway between Tintal and El Mirador. As a point of comparison, the Great Wall of China is 21,000 kilometers long. Josephine walked the causeway from Tintal to El Mirador. It took her 9 hours. She sees touristic potential. Wakna has the largest E Group in the world. The El Mirador archaeology program needs to raise $12,250,000 in the next five years or about $2.45 million per year. The project employs 400 people.

Edgar Suyuc, FARES. El Mirador was discovered in the 1930's via aerial photography. In 1962 Ian Graham (1923 - 2017) drew the first site map. From 1979 - 1983 Ray Matheny (BYU) and Bruce Dahlin (1941 - 2011) (Catholic University) worked at the site. 33 Richard Hansen has been in charge since 1987 and work at El Mirador has flourished under his direction. The 34 largest structures in Mesoamerica were Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan; Cholula; Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan; El Tigre, El Mirador; Structure 1, Nakbe; Catzin, Tintal; Henequen, Tintal; Structure 2, Calakmul; Temple IV, Tikal; and the Great Pyramid, Toniná. All of them are dwarfed by La Danta. There is a causeway from the center of El Mirador to La Danta and another to Nakbe. La Danta is 72 meters high. It was 78 meters high at apogee. It is the tallest ancient structure in the New World and the largest ancient structure in antiquity. La Danta is east of the center of El Mirador. It was an E Group. It was built in 200 BC with large blocks of dressed stone. It featured a ceremonial pool of water. Lithics, ceramics, and figurines have been recovered from the excavation. La Danta required 15 million man days to construct.

Richard Hansen, University of Utah.
Latter-day Saint Archaeologists Richard Hansen and Javier Tovar
Photo Taken February 15, 2019 by Kirk Magleby
The Mirador/Calakmul Basin has a fault line to the west. The pyramids contain the greatest volume of building material of any structures in the ancient world. They are the tallest in the Americas. Tigre has a triadic pattern with 3 summits. This pattern was in place by 300 BC. El Mirador was abandoned AD 150.  35 A battle was fought on the steps of La Danta between AD 300 - 400. 100 locals were killed by Teotihuacanos. The obsidian points used in the battle came from Pachuca. Human blood stains some of the points. DNA extraction is being attempted. 36 A royal throne has been discovered along with pools of water. The stucco frieze at El Tigre shows 37 Hunahpu (one of the hero twins from the Popol Vuh) with a beard.
Bearded Hunahpu Swimming, El Tigre, El Mirador, Peten
Photo Taken January 2, 2016 by Kirk Magleby
The El Mirador excavations have uncovered walls and ceramics. The Museo Mirador will open in Antigua in 2020. Early LiDAR initiatives in Mesoamerica included Izapa in 2013, Dzibanche, and Caracol. The current Mirador Basin LiDAR survey began in March, 2018 just after the PLI debuted. There was a plane crash. The pilot and technician both died. This tragedy slowed things down for a time, but work resumed and rendered LiDAR images are just now becoming available. Causeways up to 50 meters wide 38 radiate out from El Mirador east to La Danta, SE to Chacte, SSE to Nakbe, SW to Tintal, etc. To date 250 lineal kilometers of causeways have been discovered in the basin. They form a dendritic (branch and node) network. BYU soil scientist Richard Terry discovered systems of 39 meat production on an industrial scale. The ancient Maya were raising dogs and turtles for food. The largest Maya city was El Mirador. The second largest was Tintal. It had a ball court. Nakbe was larger than Tikal and it was built between 1,000 and 400 BC. Wakna was the first 40 state in the Americas. Maya society in the Mirador basin depended on 41 cotton, cacao, beans, and corn as staples. El Mirador flourished from 1,000 BC to AD 150. It was then re-occupied from AD 300 - 800. It participated in both the pre-classic and classic Maya collapses.

Book of Mormon commentary on the 41 points.
  1. The Book of Mormon took place between ca. 2,500 BC and ca. AD 421. In Mesoamerican terminology, this is the pre-classic and early classic eras. The fact that many of the ancient structures discovered in the Guatemalan Peten date to the pre-classic means they could potentially correlate with the Book of Mormon.
  2. El Palmar and Gran Cival date to Jaredite times.
  3. Mesoamericans in Book of Mormon times were astute observers of astronomical phenomena. Ditto the Nephites Helaman 12:15.
  4. Mesoamericans in Book of Mormon times used standard units of measurement. Ditto the Nephites Alma 11:5-19, Helaman 4:7.
  5. Mesoamericans in Book of Mormon times built roads. Ditto the Nephites 3 Nephi 8:13.
  6. Many Mesoamerican sites collapsed ca. AD 200. Former peace gave way to territorial conflicts. This is precisely the time period when the peace following the Savior's visit began to fade as old ethnic and political divisions re-surfaced, eventually leading to conflict 4 Nephi 1:20, 26.
  7. Mesoamericans were erecting defensive walls in the early classic. Ditto the Nephites Mormon 2:4.
  8. Mesoamerican kingship was a well-established institution in Book of Mormon times. The Nephites had no end of trouble with dissenters who wanted to be kings Alma 47:851:5.
  9. January 16, AD 378 was the day Teotihuacan militarily overthrew Tikal. Mormon at this time was leading the Nephites northward toward their final battle at hill Ramah/Cumorah Mormon 5:5.
  10. Mesoamericans built high defensive walls. Ditto the Nephites Alma 49:4.
  11. Mesoamericans built forts protected by walls and ditches or moats. Ditto the Nephites Alma 49:18. Mesoamericans fought with stones. Ditto the Nephites Alma 49:2. Mesoamericans built watchtowers. Ditto the Nephites Alma 50:4. More on fortifications is in the article "Ground-Truthed LiDAR." Mesoamericans fought bitter wars that ended in bloody sacrifices. Ditto the Lamanites Mormon 4:20-21. War brought a palpable sense of fear to the Maya landscape. This is almost a paraphrase of the Book of Mormon "great fear to come upon the people upon all the face of the land" Helaman 11:32.
  12. Mesoamericans ca. AD 500 experienced nearly constant war. Moroni described precisely this condition Mormon 8:8 just a few decades earlier.
  13. Long-distance trade declined when Teotihuacan collapsed. Teotihuacan may be the Gadianton capital established far into the land northward 3 Nephi 7:12. The Gadiantons were traders 4 Nephi 1:46.
  14. Mesoamericans recorded military actions in their histories. Ditto the Nephites Alma 43:3.
  15. The Book of Mormon is gradually being vindicated as authentic ancient history just as the Maya accounts of the Teotihuacan "entrada" were.
  16. Critics claim there is little material evidence for the Book of Mormon just as they did with the Teotihuacan "entrada."
  17. Critics claim Mormon wasn't really a historical military general just like they did with his contemporary, Sihyaj K'ahk'.
  18. Teotihuacan was on the rise shortly after 100 BC. Nephites were migrating into the land northward in large numbers at about this time Alma 63:4.
  19. Teotihuacan included many settlers from the south. Many people migrated northward from Zarahemla just as Teotihuacan was on the rise Helaman 3:3.
  20. Teotihuacan saw revolutionary changes ca. AD 300. Ditto the Nephites and Lamanites 4 Nephi 1:42-46.
  21. Teotihuacan was a commercial empire with a military component. Ditto the Gadiantons 3 Nephi 3:7-8.
  22. 30 kilometers is a typical day's march for a foot soldier. That is probably on the high end of what we would expect for a Nephite Helaman 4:7 since the term "a Nephite" in the text is always used in an ordinary rather than elite sense Alma 55:32. See the article "Land Southward Travel Times" for context.
  23. Prior to AD 378 Teotihuacan controlled Matacapan and Tres Zapotes in the Tuxtlas. Hill Ramah/Cumorah may be in the Tuxtlas and the Teotihuacan presence there could explain some things in the text such as the dual treaty in Mormon 2:8.
  24. Mayan glyphs underwent a process of standardization. Ditto Lamanite writing Mosiah 24:6-7.
  25. Mesoamericans cured diseases with herbs. Ditto the Nephites Alma 46:40.
  26. The Book of Mormon describes true cities Helaman 3:9. For over 100 years after Stephens and Catherwood introduced Maya civilization to the western world, archaeologists doubted the Maya built true cities. Finally, in 1955, enough work was done outside the ceremonial center that archaeologists realized Tikal was a true city.
  27. Mesoamericans built large scale public works. Ditto the Nephites Alma 53:3-4.
  28. The Book of Mormon describes high population densities Mormon 1:7. Science has now caught up. High population densities are attested in the Peten.
  29. The Book of Mormon describes absolute population numbers some have found hard to believe Ether 15:2. Science has now caught up. A single polity in ancient Mexico and Guatemala ruled over 10 million people.
  30. The Maya were well-organized. Ditto the Nephites 3 Nephi 6:11.
  31. The Maya lived in allied city-states. Ditto the Nephites Alma 50:14, 25.
  32. Mesoamericans in Book of Mormon times built many kilometers of highways. Ditto the Nephites Helaman 7:10.
  33. Richard Hansen is one of the world's great archaeologists. He is also a returned missionary (Bolivia) who loves the Book of Mormon, although he does not discuss it in professional settings.
  34. Mesoamericans built large structures. Ditto the Nephites Mosiah 11:12.
  35. Between AD 300 - 400, Teotihuacanos initiated a battle at El Mirador. In that same time period, Teotihuacanos may have participated in a much larger battle at hill Ramah/Cumorah Mormon 2:27,  8:9.
  36. The Book of Mormon mentions kings with thrones Ether 10:6. Royal thrones are attested at El Mirador in Book of Mormon times.
  37. The Book of Mormon describes populations that would have been bearded. Beards are attested in Mesoamerican art and iconography in Book of Mormon times. By European contact, the ability to grow a beard had largely disappeared from the native American gene pool.
  38. The Book of Mormon describes networks of roads linking cities and towns 3 Nephi 6:8. The Mirador Basin in Book of Mormon times had a dendritic network of roads linking cities.
  39. The Book of Mormon describes animal husbandry 3 Nephi 3:13. Science has now caught up. Domesticated meat production is attested in the Mirador Basin in Book of Mormon times.
  40. Mesoamerica had state level societies in Book of Mormon times. The Book of Mormon describes societies that advanced to state level Helaman 3:13-15,  7:22. See the article "State Level Societies."
  41. The Book of Mormon mentions corn Mosiah 7:22 and cloth Helaman 6:13. Maize and cotton were Mesoamerican agricultural staples.
Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible in English and Spanish.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

What is the Great and Abominable Church?

Nephi saw in vision a great and abominable church 1 Nephi 13:6. It goes by many names in scripture:
Babylon, Illustration (colorized) from Martin Luther's 1534 Translation of the Bible
The Kings of the Earth are Coming to do Business
No single institution is the great and abominable church. It is a global system of exploitation, survival of the fittest, the dog-eat-dog world where the law of the jungle rules, the strong oppress the weak, and Master Mahan murders to get gain Moses 5:29-31. Korihor described the system well Alma 30:17. This is why an angel taught Nephi the entire world can be divided into only two churches - the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil 1 Nephi 14:10. And what characteristic is diagnostic of the church of the Lamb of God? Love Moroni 7:48John 13:35.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Book of Mormon Geography 101

This article introduces basic Book of Mormon geography based on the February, 2019 version of the Magleby-Tovar Book of Mormon Map. Kirk Magleby lives in Utah. Javier Tovar lives in Hidalgo. This map successfully passed 11 stringent tests designed to evaluate degree of fit to the text. See the articles in this blog entitled "Test #1 Ups and Downs" through "Test #11 The Big Picture."

1. Authority. The primary source for evidence about the real-world location of Book of Mormon events is the text itself. Written by eye-witnesses and translated by the gift and power of God, the Book of Mormon is the most divine object most of us will ever hold in our mortal hands. The Lord could have revealed the location to Joseph Smith, but He did not just as He has not to any Prophet since. See the Church's January, 2019 Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography. I know people who personally guided modern-day Apostles and Prophets on visits to ancient American archaeological sites such as Izapa, Tikal and Teotihuacan. I have read modern-day Apostles and Prophets' marginalia in books they once owned such as Popol Vuh. The brethren who have dealt with it have not considered the matter settled, but have wrestled with the geography issue just like the rest of us.

2. Setting. Based on close reading, most modern Book of Mormon scholars (Sperry [1895 - 1977], Nibley [1910 - 2005], Ludlow [1924 - 2009], Sorenson, Welch, Skousen, Givens, Hardy) are persuaded Mesoamerica best fits the text. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Mesoamerica with Major River Systems
Why Mesoamerica? See the article "The Case for Mesoamerica."

3. Voyages. Jaredites ca. 2,300 BC, Mulekites ca. 595 BC., Lehites ca. 590 BC.
Proposed Jaredite, Lehite, and Mulekite Sea Voyages 
Most students of the text accept a Lehite  landfall on the Pacific coast based on Alma 22:28 and a Mulekite  landfall on the Atlantic coast based on Alma 22:30 and Omni 1:16. Whether the Jaredites crossed the Atlantic or Pacific is ambiguous in the text. A Pacific crossing correlates well with the length of time it takes for Asian debris to wash up on North American shores. See the articles "Test #6 Relative Distances" and "Tracking the Jaredites." An Atlantic crossing is too short for the 344 days at sea reported in Ether 6:11. Columbus in 1492 crossed from Spain to the Canary Islands in 6 days, and from the Canaries to the Bahamas in 42 days. In 2018, Bryce Carlson from Cincinnati set a new world's record for a solo row across the Atlantic. He did it in 38 days, shattering the previous record of 53 days set in 2016. The Ocean Rowing Society is the official adjudicating body of solo rows across the Atlantic. My friend, Richard Jones of Midvale, Utah, rowed across the Atlantic in 2000-2001 in a homemade 27-foot boat he named "The Brother of Jared."

4. Marine environment. The Nephites were conscious of their proximity to salt water. The article  "Smoking Gun" shows how frequently aquatic terms occur in the text. According to 2 Nephi 10:20-21 they believed their promised land was an isle of the sea. Alma 22:32 says the greater lands of Zarahemla and Nephi (most of what the Jaredites and Nephites called the "land southward") was nearly surrounded by water. Mesoamerican cultures often perceived themselves surrounded by bodies of water in the four cardinal directions. See the article "Quichean Directionality" for examples. The Nephites perceived themselves surrounded by oceans in the four cardinal directions Helaman 3:8.
Likely Land Southward Nearly Surrounded by Water
Seas in the Four Cardinal Directions
The map circle above roughly corresponds to our correlation of the Jaredite and Nephite "land southward." No point in this circle is more than 250 air kilometers (155 air miles) from salt water.

5. Orientation. The Book of Mormon uses the term "land southward" 14 times and "land northward" 30 times. We assume a "northward" heading is not as close to true north as a "north" azimuth would be. So, we expect the major Book of Mormon lands to be oriented either northwesterly or northeasterly.
Plausible Lands Northward & Southward Oriented NW to SE
The straight line on the map above runs due NW to SE. It precisely follows the Pacific coastline of Chiapas. The Chiapas coastal plain was a major travel corridor anciently as it is today. The NW SE orientation of the Chiapas coast is probably the origin of the Book of Mormon terms land "northward" and "southward."

6. Size. The Book of Mormon term "day's journey" is most likely a Nephite standard unit of distance measure. See the articles "Textual Progress" and "Land Southward Travel Times" for context. Plotting all instances of a "day's journey" (Test #6 Relative Distances), the terms "near" and "far" (Things Near and Far), the term "by" (By and By), the terms "narrow" and "small" (Narrow and Small Things), and the terms "many" and "few" (How Many were Many and Few?) we can deduce plausible minimum and maximum values for the the size of the Nephite known world. It turns out to be 750 to 1,500 air kilometers or 500 to 1,000 air miles. Other careful students of Book of Mormon geography such as Jesse Alvin Washburn (1873-1951), his son, Jesse Nile Washburn (1901 - 1986), and John L. Sorenson have arrived at similar numbers.
Likely Maximum Extent of the Nephite Known World
Beyond the Mexico City area on the northward or the Ulua River in Honduras on the southward was probably terra incognita in the Nephite worldview.

7. Polity sizes. The Book of Mormon uses almost 20 different terms to describe settlements or occupied areas - what contemporary archaeologists call the "built environment." See the article "Nephite Political Geography." The most important political units by far were cities and lands. Many Nephite lands are described as a capital city with surrounding agricultural or wilderness territory Mosiah 7:21Mosiah 23:25, Alma 43:25Alma 58:13. In other words, the Nephites often organized themselves in an alliance of defensible city states like the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Britons, Maya, etc. Ancient city states were not randomly spread across landscapes. Most averaged 2,000 to 3,000 square kilometers in surface area for good reason. See the article "Test #7 Land Areas." A polity smaller than 2,000 square kilometers may struggle to maintain a military force strong enough to defend itself against larger neighbors. A city state much larger than 3,000 square kilometers may be vulnerable to attack on the periphery because its militia would have difficulty mustering and marching to remote hot spots quickly enough to respond to threats. See Alma 16:3 for an example of an army unable to deploy in time to prevent devastation. Exceptions existed, of course, but in general the surface areas of ancient city states tended to average about 2,500 square kilometers because of immutable factors such as the distance an army could march in one day.
36 Proposed Book of Mormon Lands
The map above shows possibilities for 3 exceptional lands (Moron, Desolation, Bountiful) that are near-continental in scope and clearly not city states. Greater Zarahemla and Greater Nephi, omitted to avoid clutter, were also much larger than mere city states. The other 33 proposed lands could have been city states. They average 2,362 square kilometers in land area - right in the sweet spot of city states known from antiquity. Viable Book of Mormon maps will have reasonable land sizes.

8. Wilderness. Jaredite, Nephite, and Lamanite territories were not contiguously settled. Embedded wilderness was everywhere present. The term "wilderness" occurs over 200 times in the text. Its does not mean absence of humans. The Lamanites built strongholds in the wilderness Alma 50:11. It may be associated with mountains as in Helaman 11:31, but wilderness in Nephite parlance could also refer to a coastal plain as in 1 Nephi 16:14. Wild beasts lived in the wilderness 1 Nephi 7:16, Alma 2:37, Ether 10:21.
Possible Wildernesses
Wilderness was an untamed place outside of political control. See the article "A Note about Wilderness." For a discussion of the very interesting wilderness of Hermounts, see the article "Hermounts."

9. Narrow strip of wilderness. The land southward contained land Bountiful and the greater lands of Zarahemla and Nephi. A narrow strip of wilderness separated greater Nephi on the south from greater Zarahemla on the north Alma 22:27.
Likely Narrow Strip of Wilderness Separating Nephites & Lamanites
We (along with many others) correlate the narrow strip of wilderness with the Polochic Fault, the interaction zone between the North American Tectonic Plate to the north and the Caribbean Tectonic Plate to the south. See the articles "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness" and "Ubiquitous Narrow Strip."

10. Natural features. Besides polities and wilderness, the text describes geo-physical features of the landscape such as hills, mountains, waters, valleys, a river, a harbor, etc.
Naturally-Occurring Landforms & Geo-Physical Features
with Suggested Book of Mormon Correlations 
For details, see these representative articles:

11. The big picture. The text explicitly names four continental-scale entities that ran from sea east to sea west: land Bountiful, greater Zarahemla, narrow strip of wilderness, and greater Nephi. See the article "Test #11 The Big Picture." The Sidon corridor where Zarahemla was located was in the center Helaman 1:24-27 or heart Helaman 1:18 of Nephite lands. River Sidon ran generally from south to north. See the article "River Sidon South to North." North of greater Zarahemla was land Bountiful Alma 22:29 and north of land Bountiful was the north parts of the land Helaman 1:23.
Proposed Major Relationships
Coriantumr in Helaman 1 was trying to surround the Nephites who vigorously protected land Bountiful so they always had an escape route Alma 22:34. Amalickiah had invaded the east coast Alma 51:26 and ultimately failed. His brother, Ammoron, had invaded the west coast Alma 52:12 and ultimately failed. Now in Helaman 1, the Lamanites were invading via the central Sidon corridor. They ultimately failed, but their next invasion in Helaman 4 drove the Nephites completely out of greater Zarahemla into land Bountiful.

12. Strings of settlements. Before Utah achieved statehood in 1896, the Latter-day Saints settled colonies from Alberta, Canada to Chihuahua, Mexico and from California to Colorado. This was a vast area over 2 million square kilometers in extent. But, the entire membership of the Church in 1896 was only 241,000 and some of them were overseas. Latter-day Saints were spread very thinly over a large territory in strings of settlements set among large numbers of other people. Ultimately, the Latter-day Saints effectively controlled only the state of Utah (219,890 square kilometers) and over time even that society became increasingly pluralistic. The Nephites under Captain Moroni founded settlements from Judea on the west coast to Moroni on the east coast with Manti in the middle. On our map, greater Zarahemla ca. 60 BC had a surface area of 138,000 square kilometers, about the size of the state of Arkansas. Some idea of Nephite populations can be deduced from data in the article "Population Sizes & Casualty Counts." Ancient populations are notoriously difficult to estimate. See the article "Prophecy Fulfilled 010" for insights. Applying pessimistic demographic assumptions, the Nephites ca. 60 BC numbered at least 750,000. More optimistic assumptions could push that number to 1 - 2 million. 
Possible Strings of Nephite Settlements
The Nephites were spread very thinly Alma 58:32 across this large territory in strings of allied settlements set among large numbers of other people. Ultimately, they lacked the manpower to defend such a huge area and by ca. 34 BC the Nephites lost control of greater Zarahemla Helaman 4:5.

13. Sovereignty. The Nephites did not exercise exclusive sovereignty over their territory the way a modern state does. Nephites co-existed in their promised land with king-men Alma 62:6 and other dissenters Alma 8:17, Lamanites Helaman 5:16, Gadianton robbers Helaman 7:4, etc.  

14. Nephite capitals. The Nephites helped settle the land of first inheritance 1 Nephi 18:23 and lived there until Lehi I died. They then founded their highland capital, Nephi, 2 Nephi 5:8 which they occupied from ca. 588 BC until ca. 200 BC. Mosiah I led the Nephites into lowland Zarahemla Omni 1:13 where they joined with the numerically superior Mulekites. Zarahemla remained the Nephite capital until ca. 62 BC when an insurrection of king-men forced chief judge Parhoron (critical text orthography) to set up a government in exile across the Sidon in the land of Gideon Alma 61:5. The following year, with the help of Captain Moroni, the Nephite government was restored to the city of Zarahemla Alma 62:8. A Lamanite invasion ca. 34 BC forced the Nephites out of greater Zarahemla into land Bountiful Helaman 4:6. The Nephites regained Zarahemla via military action by ca. 31 BC Helaman 4:10. Zarahemla was burned ca. AD 33 3 Nephi 8:8 and rebuilt within two decades 4 Nephi 1:8. The final war of Nephite extermination began ca. AD 322 in the lesser land of Zarahemla Mormon 1:10. From there the Nephites followed Mormon in a gradual retreat to Angola Mormon 2:4 followed by David Mormon 2:5 and then Joshua by the west sea Mormon 2:6. From there they went into the land northward to the land of Jashon Mormon 2:16 and finally to Shem Mormon 2:20. Shem was the northernmost Nephite capital, a fortified gathering place. From Shem the Nephites mounted a counter offensive resulting in a treaty Mormon 2:28 giving them temporary respite in the land northward. Mormon then focused Nephite effort on extraordinary fortifications in the city of Desolation Mormon 3:5. The Nephites were driven to the nearby city Teancum Mormon 4:3. They retook the city of Desolation briefly Mormon 4:8 only to lose Mormon 4:13, 14 and then regain Mormon 4:15 both Teancum and Desolation. The Lamanites with massive manpower drove the Nephites to Boaz Mormon 4:20 and then to Jordan Mormon 5:3. The Nephites made their last stand at hill Cumorah Mormon 6:2.
Plausible Nephite Capitals
The Nephites changed their capital 20 times in the 975 years from ca. 590 BC to AD 385. This is the story of a beleaguered minority forced from their homes frequently at sword-point.