Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Anthropomorphic Trees

Mesoamerican iconography shows the curious idea that trees or other large plants can grow in or from humans. Here is one example from page 34 of the post-classic Codex Fejervary-Mayer thought to have originated in Veracruz.
Aztec God of Rain, Tlaloc, Tending a Human Maize Plant 
And here is another example from page 33 of the same Codex Fejervary-Mayer.
Aztec Goddess of Water & Childbirth, Chalchiuhtlicue,
Tending a Human Maize Plant
This example is from the post-classic Codex Borgia thought to have originated in Puebla.
Tree Growing from Skeletal Figure Codex Borgia 53
This is of interest, of course, because the Book of Mormon refers to anthropomorphic trees. Alma 32:28 talks about planting a seed in one's heart that grows into a tree Alma 32:41. Alma may have been alluding to an existing Mesoamerican image, painting a mental picture that his Zoramite hearers in Antionum would have undersood. This, for example, is page 3 of the Dresden Codex which dates to ca. AD 1100 and comes from Chichen Itza, Yucatan. It depicts the tree of life growing out of the sacrificed body of the maize god.
Anthropomorphic Tree from Dresden Codex 3
Scholars think the Dresden is a copy of an older codex originally painted ca. AD 800. This makes it the oldest pre-Columbian book currently known to science.

See the article "Light from LA" point #38 for another depiction of an anthropomorphic tree from Yucatan.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Partake of the Fruit

Kaminaljuyu (KJ), A-List candidate for the city of Nephi, was the largest and most important site in the Maya highlands during Book of Mormon times. It was located precisely where modern Guatemala City stands today. In 1983, utility crews excavating at the corner of 30th Avenue and 6th Street in Zone 7 found the large stone sculpture known as Monument 65. Archaeologists date it to ca. 150 BC. It depicts 3 rulers, each flanked by captives in postures of humiliation and defeat. This is the top of the stone.
KJ Monument 65 Top, Museo Nacional
Photo by Kirk Magleby, Dec. 27, 2015
And this is the bottom of the stone with different light,
KJ Monument 65 Bottom, Museo Nacional
Photo by Kirk Magleby, Dec. 27, 2015
Possible Book of Mormon correspondences are obvious:
  • If KJ is Nephi, then the location of this artifact is relevant.
  • King Noah reigned in Nephi ca. 150 BC, so the date of this artifact is relevant.
  • The scene depicts 3 rulers seated on benches or thrones. The text describes a throne for King Noah Mosiah 11:9 and seats for his priests Mosiah 11:11.
  • The center right captive wears a large belt, girdle, or loin cloth around his waist. Lamanites in King Zeniff's era wore leathern girdles about their loins Mosiah 10:8.
  • The captives' hands are bound. Captives were brought bound to King Noah Mosiah 12:9 and King Limhi Mosiah 7:7-8.
  • The captives have been stripped of their clothes. Captives in the greater land of Nephi ca. 90 BC were stripped naked Alma 20:29.
The most curious iconographic features on this stone are the 3 small circles just in front of the rulers' noses and upper lips. Other KJ sculpted pieces from this same late pre-classic time period also have the small circles just in front of rulers' noses and lips. Stela 10 has 2 examples. Stela 10 was found in situ by archaeologists. It was intentionally broken into pieces anciently. It dates to the Miraflores/Verbena phase ca. 200 - 1 BC.
KJ Stela 10 Drawing with Small Circles on Upper Left & Lower Figures
This is a closeup of the upper left figure showing the small circle just in front of his nose and upper lip. This figure's eyes are covered with a triune symbol known to Mesoamericanists as the "death eye." This figure probably represents a deceased person.
KJ Stela 10 Detail, Museo Nacional
Photo by Kirk Magleby, Dec. 27, 2015
We see the same thing on KJ Stela 11 which dates to the late pre-classic ca. 200 BC - AD 250.
KJ Stela 11 Drawing by Linda Schele
This is a closeup of the man in the mask. He has a small circle just in front of his nose and upper lip.
KJ Stela 11 Detail, Museo Nacional
Photo by Kirk Magleby, Dec. 27, 2015
About 190 kilometers west of KJ is the allied site of Takalik Abaj (TA). The best-known sculpture piece from TA is Stela 5, carved in AD 126 to commemorate the transfer of power from one ruler to another, likely from father to son. The scene depicts the two rulers flanking a double column of hieroglyphs.
TA Stela 5 Drawing
This closeup photo shows both rulers with a small circle just in front of their noses and upper lips.
TA Stela 5 Detail
Clearly, small circles in front of elite faces was a stylistic convention in the Guatemalan highlands in the late pre-classic. We also find the motif in the lowlands at this same time period. This is a drawing of the accession scaffold from San Bartolo (SB) dated to ca. 100 BC. Mark Wright draws parallels between this scene and the coronation of King Mosiahon a tower as described in Mosiah 2:7. See his 2014 article "Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon" in Interpreter.
SB Accession Scaffold Mural Drawing, Museo Nacional
Photo by Kirk Magleby, Dec. 27, 2015
This scene depicts power being transferred form the ruler on the left to the ruler on the right who sits atop a scaffold with quincunx symbols at the joints. Both figures show the small circle just in front of their noses and upper lips. One other interesting detail about San Bartolo: the principal investigator at this site is William Saturno of Harvard's Peabody Museum. Saturno has been partially funded by the Leon & Randie Reinhart family, LDS membes from Southern California who have also supported John L. Sorenson's work.

Here is Heather Hurst's rendition of a portion of another mural from San Bartolo dated ca. 100 BC. All 4 figures have the small circle motif just in front of their nose and upper lip.
SB Mural Showing Small Circles
Several other examples are found in other portions of the San Bartolo murals..

La Mojarra Stela 1 has a clear example of a small circle just in front of an elite figure's nose and mouth.This monument, discovered in 1986 near the Olmec site of Tres Zapotes, contains the dates AD 143 and AD 156. The original is on display in the Museo de Antropologia in Xalapa, Veracruz.
La Mojarra Stela 1 Drawing by George Stuart
This is a closeup of La Mojarra Stela 1.
La Mojarra Stela 1 Detail
El Baul Stela 1 has another good example. The figure looking down from the heavens has a small circle just in front of his nose and upper lip. This monument contains the date AD 37.
El Baul Stela 1 Drawing
This is a closeup of the figure looking down from above.
El Baul Stela 1 Detail
A similar scene is depicted on La Venta Stela 3 dated prior to 400 BC. The upper right celestial figure has a small circle in front of his nose and mouth.
La Venta Stela 3 Photo & Drawing
Middle pre-classic La Venta Stela 13 has the same motif.
La Venta Stela 13 Drawing
This bearded figure with plumed headdress, beaded necklace, and tasseled sandals, has a small circle immediately in front of his nose and upper lip.
La Venta Stela 13 Photo of Basalt Sculpture
Another Olmec example dated to the middle pre-classic comes from Oxtotitlan Cave in Guerrero.
Oxtotitlan Cave Drawing
This is a photo of the seated figure wearing an avian headdress with a small circle just in front of his nose and upper lip.
Oxtotitlan Cave Seated Figure
We have just seen examples of this small circle motif on 8 sculpted monuments, 2 painted mural segments and 1 cave painting from 7 different pre-classic sites. This iconographic representation continues into the classic period, although far less frequently than in earlier (Book of Mormon) times, Examples are known, for example, from Palenque, Tikal and Copan. 

What is the meaning of this small circle symbol? Our interpretive models will come from the pre-classic site of Izapa and the text of the Book of Mormon.

This map shows Izapa and the other 7 pre-classic sites referenced in this article.
Map Showing Sites with the Small Circle Motif 
Izapa occupies a unique place in Mesoamerica. It is transitional between Olmec and Maya. It is generally regarded as the birthplace of the famous Maya sacred calendar because at the latitude of Izapa it takes the sun exactly 260 days to go from zenith to zenith. Izapa dates from the middle to late pre-classic, and most of its early architecture is still accessible because it was not built over in later times. It is famous for the quantity and distinctive style of its low relief sculpted monuments. Matthew Stirling discovered Stela 5 at Izapa in 1941 while he was working for the Bureau of American Ethnology, a dependency of the Smithsonian, on a National Geographic grant. NWAF under Gareth Lowe's leadership worked at Izapa for two decades beginning in 1961. NWAF published 3 major field reports on Izapa:
  1. "Mound 30a and the Early Preclassic Ceramic Sequence of Izapa, Chiapas, Mexico," Susanna M. Ekholm, 1969.
  2. "Izapa Sculpture Part 1: Album," V. Garth Norman, 1973 and "Izapa Sculpture Part 2: Text, V. Garth Norman, 1976.
  3. "Izapa: An Introduction to the Ruins and Monuments," Gareth W. Lowe, Thomas A. Lee, Jr., and Eduardo Martinez Espinosa, 1982.
These NWAF reports and Garth Norman's images of the carved monuments were considered definitive until 1999. In that year John E. Clark published Ajax Moreno's low tech work in the article "A New Artistic Rendering of Izapa Stela 5: A Step Toward Improved Interpretation" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies Vol. 8 No. 1. The precis of the article reads: "A definitive new drawing of the scene on this famous monument reveals details that demand that Latter-day Saints change some of their views."

M. Wells Jakeman, chairman of the BYU Archaeology Department, began publishing inadequately researched speculations about Izapa Stela 5 in the 1950's. This led to widespread publicity as Mormons began calling the artifact the "Lehi Tree of Life Stone." As a child growing up in Mormon Thatcher, Arizona I remember people displaying large foam replicas of Stela 5 in their front yards. It was as if they were announcing to the neighbors, "I'm Mormon, and this ancient stone carving proves our book is true."

The problem with low quality apologetics is the betrayal narrative when arguments fall apart under scrutiny. Some of Jakeman's claims eventually fell apart. His overzealous work became an embarrassment to more careful scholars. The Clark 1999 piece was an attempt to exorcise the ghost of Wells Jakeman once and for all by imagining blood-letting and other themes Mormons would find opprobrious on the stone. It is no coincidence that the "definitive new drawing" appeared in 1999. Jakeman died July 22, 1998.

Some LDS scholars have swallowed the Clark/Moreno thesis hook, line, and sinker. During my recent trip to Guatemala, Mark Wright of the BYU Religion Faculty told our group that "Izapa had nothing whatsoever to do with the Book of Mormon." Garth Norman, on the other hand, tells anyone who will listen that Izapa was a Nephite Temple Center. Many well-informed people in the Church continue to believe Stela 5 is the single most compelling evidence for the Book of Mormon yet found in Mesoamerica.

In an attempt to restore his besmirched reputation, Garth Norman in the last five years has been patiently directing a major project with Jason Jones to scan all Izapa monuments in 3D. See the blog article "Imaging Izapa." This new high tech imagery substantially corroborates the NWAF 1973 drawings and shows most of the Clark/Moreno 1999 "new artistic renderings" to be mis-interpretations based on surface weathering. For that reason, this article follows Norman 1973 and ignores Clark/Moreno 1999. I have seen a large format print of the original photograph Matthew Stirling took of Stela 5 as it first came out of the ground. The high resolution 1941 photo also corroborates Norman 1973. You can see a copy of the Stirling 1941 image in the article "V Garth Norman in Mexico City."
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Izapa Stela 5 is the mother lode of Mesoamerican pre-classic small circle iconography, and it is very clear on that sculpture that the small circles represent the fruit of the tree of life.
Izapa Stela 5 Drawing by Garth Norman
This is a photograph enhanced with tracing.
Izapa Stela 5 Tracing by Garth Norman
And this is the same photo with fruits of the tree highlighted.
Izapa Stela 5 Tracing with Fruits Highlighted in Red
This monument that Norman calls a "supernarrative" has at least 37 depictions of the fruit of the tree, some of them in the same location in front of a figure's nose and upper lip as we have seen in the monuments shown above. There is no question that on Izapa Stela 5 small carved circles represent fruits of the tree. Norman states this clearly on pages 67-68 of his 1976 Izapa Sculpture text where he also references examples from Kaminaljuyu, El Baul, Tres Zapotes, and La Venta.

The word "tree" appears in 239 verses of the KJV Old Testament, most frequently in the books of Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Genesis. The word appears in 48 verses of the KJV New Testament, most often in the books of Matthew, Luke, and Revelation. The word appears in 103 verses of  as the LDS 1981 Book of Mormon, most frequently in the books of Jacob, 1 Nephi, and Alma. If we calculate the frequency of usage in each of these 3 volumes of scripture, the results are:
    Scripture  Total Words  Verses with "tree"        Frequency
Old Testament 602,585 239 0.0397%
New Testament 180,552 48 0.0266%
Book of Mormon 268,158 103 0.0384%
So, trees appear in the Book of Mormon about as often as they do in the Old Testament which isn't too surprising.

If we then look at verses containing both the word "tree" and the word "fruit" a very different picture emerges. Both words appear in 33 verses of the KJV OT, most frequently in the books of Genesis, Leviticus and Jeremiah. Both words appear in 13 verses of the KJV NT, most often in Matthew and Luke. The two words appear in 44 verses of the Book of Mormon, most frequently in the books of Jacob, Alma, and 1 Nephi. If we calculate the frequency of usage in each of these 3 volumes of scripture, the results are:
    Scripture         Total Words  Verses with "tree" and "fruit"       Frequency
Old Testament             602,585                         33                         0.0055%
New Testament            180,552                         13                         0.0072%
Book of Mormon         268,158                         44                         0.0164%
So, the image of a tree with fruit shows up more than twice as often in the Book of Mormon as it does in the NT, and about three times as often as it does in the OT.

We see similar results analyzing verses containing both the word "tree" and the word "life." Both words appear in 10 verses of the KJV OT, most frequently in the books of Genesis and Proverbs. They appear in 3 verses of the KJV NT, all in the book of Revelation. The two words appear 18 times in the Book of Mormon, notably in the books of Alma and 1 Nephi. Calculating the frequency of usage in each of the 3 volumes of scripture, the results are:
    Scripture         Total Words  Verses with "tree" and "life"       Frequency
Old Testament             602,585                         10                         0.0017%
New Testament            180,552                           1                         0.0005%
Book of Mormon         268,158                         18                         0.0067%
The tree of life shows up approximately 4 times more frequently in the Book of Mormon than it does in the OT, and approximately 13 times as often as it does in the NT. The tree of life was obviously an important symbol to Book of Mormon peoples.

Finally, if we look at verses containing the three words "tree," "fruit." and "life" the disparity within the LDS canon becomes even more dramatic. All three words appear 1 time in the KJV OT, in Proverbs 11:30. They appear a single time in the KJV NT, in Revelation 22:2. These three words appear 9 times in the Book of Mormon.
  1. 1 Nephi 15:36 describes the fruit of the tree of life as desirable, precious, and a gift from God. The righteous get access to the fruit, the wicked do not.
  2. 2 Nephi 2:15 describes two trees in opposition. One tree yields bitter fruit. The tree of life bears sweet fruit.
  3. Alma 5:34 says deity invites people to draw near and partake of the fruit of the tree of life.
  4. Alma 5:62 is Alma's invitation to repent, be baptized, and partake of the fruit of the tree of life.
  5. Alma 12:21 is Antionah of Ammonihah's question about the fruit of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden and its relationship to life, death and resurrection.
  6. Alma 12:23 is Alma's response to Antionah explaining the reason God controlled Adam and Eve's access to the life-giving fruit of the tree.
  7. Alma 32:40 is Alma's warning that without faith and nurture a personal tree of life will not thrive and one will be unable to pluck the fruit.
  8. Alma 32:41 describes an anthropomorphic tree inside a faithful person that eventually bears the fruit of eternal life.
  9. Alma 42:3 is Alma's explanation to his son, Corianton about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden who were prevented from eating the fruit of the tree of life.
One more point from archaeology. Norman in his 1976 text references archaeological field reports from the site of Chama in Alta Verapaz The January, 2016 Book of Mormon Map correlates Chama with Manti. Tombs excavated at Chama showed human remains buried with jade beads pressed to the deceased's lips. "Izapa Sculpture: Text," p. 68.

My synthesis of the data:
  • The idea of a sacral tree with life-giving fruit was in important symbol in ancient Mesoamerica. Ditto in the Book of Mormon.
  • The tree and its fruit were closely associated with deity in ancient Mesoamerica. Ditto in the Book of Mormon.
  • The tree and its fruit were closely associated with death in ancient Mesoamerica. Ditto in the Book of Mormon.
  • The tree and its fruit were closely associated with the afterlife in ancient Mesoamerica. Ditto in the Book of Mormon.
  • The tree and its fruit were closely associated with resurrection - corporeal rebirth - in ancient Mesoamerica. Ditto in the Book of Mormon.
  • The tree and its fruit were closely associated with worthiness and one's standing before God in ancient Mesoamerica. They implied divine favor or symbolized legitimacy. Ditto in the Book of Mormon.
Alma's interaction with Antionah shows that the orthodox Nephite interpretation of the tree of life symbolism from the plates of brass was not the only narrative available to Book of Mormon people. This is a plausible scenario:
  • Fruit of the tree of life symbolism was well-established in ancient Mesoamerica at least as early as Olmec times.
  • Nephite evangelists emphasized their founding narrative based on their copy of the Torah in the plates of brass and their records of Lehi's dream as they interacted with prevailing Mesoamerican religious notions. This accounts for the high incidence of fruit of the tree of life verbiage found in the Book of Mormon text.

You Tube

Book of Mormon Central has now been publishing KnoWhys five times a week for a month. Each KnoWhy is a brief, illustrated, foot-noted essay about some interesting facet of the Book of Mormon and its significance. Each KnoWhy gets co-published simultaneously on bookofmormoncentral.org and Meridian Magazine. The essays are sent out as PDF attachments to an opt-in list of email subscribers. A short KnoWhy video gets posted on Facebook, Google+, and YouTube. Content appropriate to each venue gets posted on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. An unpaid management team (Jack Welch, Kirk Magleby, Taylor Halverson) directs the synthesized efforts of full-time staff (Neal Rappleye, Stephen Smoot, Jasmin Gimenez, Zander Sturgill, Matt Cutler, Jared Riddick, Nicole Shepherd, David Larsen, and Alejandro Martinez) and part-time freelancers (Amanda Cook, Scott Christopher, Nick Galieti, Robert Starling, Tayler Nelson, and Jody Livingston). Terrific volunteers help with research, writing, editing, reviewing, art, music, photography, graphic design, etc. Volunteers include Alan Miner (Utah), Garth Norman (Utah), David Osborn (Monaco), Scott Hoyt (Texas), James Stutz (Texas), Jonathan (J Max) Wilson (Utah), Quinten Barney (Utah), Mickey Cochran (Utah), Jerry Grover (Utah), Walker Wright (Texas), Jerel Lindley (Utah), Joe V. Andersen (Arizona), Ugo Perego (Italy), Lee Donaldson (Utah), Jacob Rennaker (California), LeGrand Baker (Utah), Amanda Brown (Israel), Don Norton (Utah), Tim Barker (California), Russell Stevenson (Utah), Mike Peterson (Utah), Art Brothers (Utah), Paul Brooks (England), and Blake Dalton (Utah). Book of Mormon Central needs many more good volunteers who want to help share this marvelous work and wonder with the world. If interested, go to Book of Mormon Central Contact and message the Exec. Director.

YouTube is a special case. We posted our first video just after midnight on Friday, January 1, 2016. Within minutes, YouTube took our video down and shortly thereafter our entire channel went dark. Our social media publisher got an email saying we were in violation of community guidelines - i.e. people were complaining to YouTube that we were spamming them. The allegations were groundless so we began the lengthy process of written appeals to Google. After weeks of being in limbo, Jack Welch's brother, James, who is Bishop of the Stanford YSA Ward, ran into a ward member who works for YouTube. Our channel was quickly restored.
Book of Mormon Central YouTube Channel
There are currently 22 KnoWhy videos posted along with an intro piece. If we can hang onto our channel, we intend to continue posting KnoWhy videos on YouTube for years. Over time, this will become a significant resource for students of the text.

YouTube's system of crowd-sourced policing is effective. It puts the burden of proof on content publishers to remain compliant with community standards. The down side is that organized haters can take down a YouTube channel through a coordinated campaign of unfounded complaints.

A side note: James B. Welch is a professional organist affiliated with the University of Santa Clara. I last heard him in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. He opened the 2015 summer organ recital series at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Red Herrings

The Book of Mormon was first offered for sale to the public in Palmyra, New York on March 26, 1830. I am writing this on January 27, 2016. The Book of Mormon has been generally available now for 67,878 days or 185 years, 10 months, and 2 days. Why do we not yet have a generally accepted New World map?
  • Is the Book of Mormon true? Yes.
  • Does the Book of Mormon text include hundreds of data points that could help establish a real world location? Yes.
  • Have hundreds of intelligent people spent hundreds of thousands of hours working on the problem? Yes.
Then, why has the puzzle not been solved? (Actually, I believe it has. See the article "Book of Mormon Lands Map January 2016.") It is highly likely one or more red herrings has kept most researchers barking up the wrong tree all these years.

Red Herring. Noun. "A clue that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting."
Origin of the Term "Red Herring"
Has there been a red herring in the Book of Mormon geography enterprise? Yes. In fact, I believe there have been two of them.

A side note: One of the many reasons to visit Bergen, Norway is to see the quayside Bryggen, Hanseatic League offices and warehouses that were used to ship dried, smoked herring and cod all over northern Europe.

Red Herring #1. The narrow neck of land is an isthmus.

The narrow neck is referenced twice in the text. Alma 63:5 says the narrow neck was on the west sea by the Bountiful/Desolation border. Ether 10:20 says the narrow neck was by a single Jaredite city at a point where we will find a distinctive land/sea/land pattern in the coastline. Is there anything in these verses that suggests an isthmus between two oceans? No. These verses are describing a portion of the west seacoast.

Some students believe the small neck referenced in Alma 22:32 is the same natural feature as the narrow neck. I share this view and typically call it the narrow (small) neck of land. Alma 22:32 describes the same Bountiful/Desolation border we saw in Alma 63:5, adding that the boundary line was a relatively short day and a half journey from a point in the east to the west sea. Alma 22:33 adds that the Bountiful/Desolation border was a defensive line manned by Nephite military personnel on the Bountiful side. The military mission was to keep the Lamanites hemmed in on the south. Mormon tells us again that the Bountiful/Desolation defensive line ran from an unspecified point in the east to the west sea. Is there anything in these verses that suggests an isthmus between two oceans? No. These verses are describing a portion of the west seacoast where the topography supported a relatively short defensible east/west line. Helaman 4:7 describes a similar shorter defensive line in the same general area that ran from an unspecified point in the east to the west sea. Alma 50:34 says that near the Bountiful/Desolation border a seaside narrow pass led from the land southward into the land northward. How many seas were there by the narrow pass? One, but it had both an easterly and a westerly component. This is likely a portion of the west seacoast where a sandbar separated the open ocean from a saltwater lagoon. All of these passages refer to one and only one ocean - the west sea.

What do we call a narrow neck of land that runs along a seacoast? A peninsula. The isthmian correlation is a red herring that has waylaid Book of Mormon mapmakers for generations. Many interesting details about the narrow (small) neck of land and environs are found in these 12 articles:
Ric Hauck was the first to point out the non-isthmian nature of the narrow neck in his important 1988 Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon.
Red Herring #2. Ammonihah was west of Sidon because Melek was west of Sidon.

Melek was west of Sidon Alma 8:3, but how far west? Could it have been 100 kilometers to the west as some theorists propose? No. Textual scholars, Royal Skousen chief among them, recognize that the Book of Mormon is highly consistent in its word usage patterns. Skousen calls this tendency "systematic phraseology." The phrases "east of Sidon" and "west of Sidon" can be shown in other contexts Alma 6:7, Alma 43:53 to mean riverside. Therefore, the fact that Melek was west of Sidon almost certainly means that it too adjoined the river. If Sidon flowed northwesterly past Melek, Ammonihah would be north of Melek Alma 8:6, but east of Sidon. Mesoamerican rivers that have been seriously considered as Sidon - the Pasion, Usumacinta, and Mezcalapa - Grijalva, all flow northwesterly over much of their length. The Mezcalapa - Grijalva is shown on the map below as it flowed in Book of Mormon times. See the article "Wandering River."
3 Sidon Candidates, all Flowing Northwesterly
Ammonihah was the headquarters of the cult of Nehor Alma 15:15, Alma 16:11 and his successor, Amlici Alma 2:1. Gideon was a teacher in the Church Alma 1:7 in his namesake valley Alma 2:20. Gideon was explicitly east of Sidon Alma 6:7. Nehor was travelling through Gideon to reach Ammonihah Alma 1:5-7 when he contended with, then slew the aged Gideon Alma 1:9. Therefore, Ammonihah was east of Sidon. When Amlici invaded Zarahemla, he attacked from the east Alma 2:15. Therefore, Ammonihah was east of Sidon. Ammonihah was associated with Aaron Alma 8:13-16. Aaron was associated with Nephihah and Moroni Alma 50:14 in the SE quadrant Alma 50:13 of the greater land of Zarahemla. Therefore, Ammonihah was east of Sidon.

These articles lay out the details of Ammonihah in context east of the central Sidon corridor.
Garth Norman was the first to show Ammonihah east of Sidon in his seminal 2006 Book of Mormon - Mesoamerican Geography: History Study Map.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book of Mormon Lands Lehite Old World Map January 2016

This is my best effort at a map of the Book of Mormon lands traversed by Lehi and his family in the Old World.
Old World Book of Mormon Lands ca. 600 BC
This map derives from the excellent work done by LDS explorers of the Arabian Peninsula:
  • Lynn and Hope Hilton
  • Warren Aston
  • George Potter, Richard Wellington, and Craig Thorsted
Ric Hauck has obtained a permit from the Omani government to dig Khor Khofot. Sponsored by the Khor Khofot Foundation, an expedition with 5 archaeologists (all but 1 not of our faith) and a number of support personnel begins their first field season on or about February 5, 2016. This will be the first archaeological dig at a likely Book of Mormon site whose correlation enjoys near consensus support among LDS Book of Mormon scholars.

My best effort at a map of Book of Mormon lands in the New World is here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book of Mormon Lands Map January 2016

This is my best Book of Mormon Lands Map to date. It incorporates most of what I have learned since this journey began in August, 2011. I recently returned from 11 days in Guatemala where I collaborated with bright people such as Mark Wright, Diane Wirth, Dave Gray, Rick Callister, Van Dunham, Neal Rappleye, Stephen Smoot, and Rolando Amado. Rick shared a very good map from Shelby Saberon who is a trained Mesoamericanist. Mark uses Shelby's map in his BYU Book of Mormon classes. Van let me see an excellent map prepared by Elder Clate Mask who has lived and travelled extensively in this part of the world since the 1960's. Rolando shared insights from his many years of field research as an agronomist and student of anthropology. Rolando may be the native Guatemalan with the best grasp of the Book of Mormon in its New World setting. He worked for several years with Ric Hauck and Joe Andersen helping excavate sites in the Salama Valley.

Nothing I learned on my most recent trip contradicted, and many things corroborated the January, 2016 model presented here. Most importantly, I believe this model exhibits a high degree of fit to the text as many of the 180+ articles on this blog attest.
Kirk Magleby's Book of Mormon Map as of January, 2016
As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge. Colored pins represent lands. White pins represent cities with no corresponding land mentioned in the text. Blue represents the Mezcalapa - Grijalva as it flowed in Book of Mormon times (See the article "Wandering River"). Red represents the Usumacinta which I take to be the Sidon. All other drainage basins are in yellow. Larger type identifies the more prominent lands described in the text - Nephi, Zarahemla, Bountiful, Desolation, and Cumorah.

Here is another version of the map with named cities in the land southward and their proposed correlates.
Proposed Land Southward City Correlates as of January, 2016
And here are many of the natural features mentioned in the text.
Proposed Book of Mormon Natural Features as of January, 2016
Notice how the four seas and river Sidon on the map above form a classic quincunx, a very Mesoamerican way of perceiving space. This is a painted ceramic quincunx from Kaminaljuyu on display in the Museo Miraflores in Guatemala City.
Quincunx on Ceramic, Museo Miraflores, Guatemala City
Photo by Kirk Magleby, December 27, 2015
Other Guatemalan examples of bodies of water in the four cardinal directions and at the center are in the article Quichean Directionality.

For serious students of the Nephite text, I recommend downloading the January 30, 2016 edition of my Book of Mormon Model. This is a 14 MB kmz file that opens in Google Earth. Virtually all of the Google Earth imagery you see on this blog comes from the model.

I can take but a small amount of credit for these maps. They incorporate what I find are the most persuasive parts of maps from a number of other scholars such as:
  • John L. Sorenson, 1985, 2013 supported by Larry Poulsen & Brant Gardner
  • F. Richard (Ric) Hauck, 1988 supported by Joe V. Andersen
  • Joseph L. and Blake J. Allen, 1989, 2008 supported by Ted Stoddard
  • Aric Turner, 2004
  • V. Garth Norman, 2006
  • Clate W. Mask, Jr., unpublished
  • Shelby H. Saberon, unpublished supported by Mark Wright
I do take credit for the methodology behind these maps which I believe is sophisticated and empirically rigorous. Many of the articles on this blog lay out the process I have followed.

There are many discordant Book of Mormon maps because people differ widely in the way they interpret the text. For example, references to seas in the text have been interpreted to mean:
  • The sea south and sea north Helaman 3:8 are metaphorical, not actual bodies of water. Therefore, there are 2 seas mentioned in the text: the sea east and the sea west.
  • The sea south and sea north are metaphorical, but there are 3 seas mentioned in the text: the sea east, the sea west, and the west sea, south Alma 53:8.
  • The sea south and sea north are actual bodies of water; sea west and west sea, south refer to the same natural feature. Therefore, there are 4 seas mentioned in the text. The January, 2016 map is based on this interpretation.
  • The sea south, sea north, sea east, and sea west are actual bodies of water, and west sea, south refers to a discrete feature. Therefore, there are 5 seas mentioned in the text.
  • Sea east Alma 22:27 and east sea Alma 50:8 are two different bodies of water. Ditto Sea west Alma 22:27 and west sea Alma 53:22. Sea south and sea north are physical rather than metaphorical. Therefore, there are 6 seas mentioned in the text.
Add to this the question of whether "sea" refers to a salt water ocean, a fresh water lake, or some combination of the two, and the potential for divergent maps is obvious.

Interpretations follow assumptions about the text. These are my assumptions:
  1. The events described in the text occurred in the Holocene epoch. This means shorelines have been relative stable since Jaredite times.
  2. The language of the text is Early Modern English with its epicenter about 1560, pre-dating even the King James Version KJV. See the articles "Early Modern English" and "English in the Book of Mormon." This important textual insight continues to gain support with a flurry of recent scholarship from Stanford Carmack in Interpreter. See "Why the Oxford English Dictionary (And Not Webster's 1828)" from 2015. See also "The More Part of the Book of Mormon is Early Modern English" from 2016. Add to that "Joseph Smith Read the Words," "The Case of the {-th] Plural in the Earliest Text," and "The Case of Plural Was in the Earliest Text" all in 2016. Skousen corroborated by Carmack is becoming impossible to ignore. This means yea clauses explicate the subject of the previous clause, which helps an exegete correctly match pronouns with their antecedent nouns in compound sentences such as the important geographical passages Alma 22:28 and Alma 50:11.
  3. The Book of Mormon authors meant for us to take their text at face value. This is the intent of 2 Nephi 25:4, 7Alma 13:23, and Moroni 7:15. Words and phrases should be interpreted the way they would have been generally understood on the streets of London when Shakespeare was a youth, Up and down describe relative elevation. North, south, east and west refer to cardinal directionality.
  4. We should interpret the text consistently. This means we apply the same interpretive standards in the Old World and the New. All geonyms are physical rather than selectively metaphorical. There are no double  definitions. Singular instances apply. All features are equally important. We account for all contextualized referents rather than engage in selective suppression of inconvenient polities or natural features. We extrapolate parallel meaning based on prior usage and cognate passages. This is Royal Skousen's notion of "systematic phraseology." Hence, a Nephite was a member of the polity, an average citizen or soldier. East or west of Sidon was riverside. Wilderness was territory beyond political or military control. Nephite metrics such as a day's journey were standard units of measure.
  5. Parallelism is an important formatting construct that can help shed light on difficult passages.
  6. The text is precise rather than ambiguous. There should be no atextual assumptions, no forced readings, no false attributions, and no conclusions based on lacunae. There is an excellent interview with Warren Aston in the Book of Mormon Central Arvhive. At about minute 37 in that interview, I ask Warren whether in his experience the text of the Book of Mormon is precise or ambiguous. He responds, "the impression I have now is that it's a very precise, detailed account." That has been my experience as well.
  7. The text is historical. We can and should correlate space and time. Alma 22 describes the geo-political situation ca., 90 BC. The parallel text in Alma 50 describes the very different geo-political situation ca. 72 BC.
  8. Neither Nephites nor Lamanites exercised exclusive sovereignty over their territory the way a modern state does. They had strings of affiliated settlements with intervening wilderness and many unaffiliated polities. Large extents of territory were simply not directly referenced in the text. Mormon pioneers in the western US offer an instructive analogue. Brigham settled the Saints in a vast territory from San Bernardino, CA to Salmon, ID, Pueblo, CO and Deming, NM, but he lacked the manpower to defend such an extensive realm and gentile incursion quickly marginalized the believers throughout their range.
  9. Both Nephites and Lamanites were capable of projecting power and maintaining supply lines across space hundreds of kilometers distant from their respective capitals.
  10. The text explicitly applies multiple meanings to these terms: a) Bountiful - a discrete land and the entire land southward, b) Desolation - a discrete land and the entire land northward, c) Nephi - lesser Nephi was a discrete land while greater Nephi was the entire land southward south of the narrow strip of wilderness, d) Zarahemla - lesser Zarahemla was a discrete land while greater Zarahemla was the entire land southward between Bountiful on the north and the narrow strip of wilderness on the south.
  11. Lehi-Nephi was a politically correct term used only during the Zeniff - Noah - Limhi era.
  12. Cities and eponymous lands can generally be distinguished in the text.
  13. Borders and centers of lands can generally be distinguished in the text.
I have compiled a list of problematic passages whose disparate interpretations cause much of the confusion and disharmony among students of Book of Mormon geography. Applying the textual assumptions enumerated above sheds considerable light on these vexatious passages. In all cases, the interpretation followed in the January, 2016 map is the second of the two options presented in the list.

Applying my interpretations based on my assumptions, I have come up with eleven tests I believe any viable Book of Mormon New World correlation should pass.
  1. The text describes 37 places where you go up in elevation from point a to point b, and 41 places where you go down in elevation from point a to point b. See the article "Test #1 Ups and Downs." I believe a viable model will get all 78 of these relationships right. The January, 2016 model scores 100% on this test, using Google Earth to make the results explicit and reproducible.
  2. The text describes 3 different ways Nephite lands were divided into two roughly equal halves. See the article "Test #2 One Half of Nephite Lands." I believe a viable model will show similar surface areas between the paired halves in all 3 cases. The January, 2016 model does show nearly equal surface areas between the halves in all 3 cases, using Google Earth to make the results explicit and reproducible.
  3. The text describes the boundary between Nephites and Lamanites and the boundary between the lands Zarahemla and Bountiful as cultural borders. See the article "Test #3 Cultural Boundaries." I believe a viable model will show evidence that these littorals described in the text are known to science and did exist anciently. The boundaries in the January, 2016 model satisfy this criterion.
  4. The text describes 3 ecological borders that should show up on satellite imagery. See the article "Test #4 Ecological Boundaries." The 3 borders in the January, 2016 model do show up clearly on satellite photos. Google Earth makes the results explicit and reproducible.
  5. The text uses the terms north, northward, northern, and northernmost. 39 discrete from and to locations should plot a northerly vector. The text uses the terms south, southward, and south-southeast. 36 discrete from and to locations should plot a southerly vector. The text uses the terms east and eastward. 30 discrete from and to locations should plot an easterly vector. The text uses the term west. 28 discrete from and to locations should plot a westerly vector. See the article "Test #5 North South East and West." I believe a viable model will show all 133 vectors within their appropriate compass quadrant. The January, 2016 model scores 100% on this test, using Google Earth to make the results explicit and reproducible.
  6. The text uses some variant of the term "day" 22 times to describe distance measure. See the article "Test #6 Relative Distances." I believe a viable model will derive a reasonable value for the standard unit of Nephite distance measure "one day's journey" and then apply that value consistently in all 22 cases. The January, 2016 model first derives 15 air (straight-line) kilometers as a reasonable value for the Nephite metric (see the article "Land Southward Travel Times"), then applies that measurement consistently in all 22 instances where the text describes distance in this way.
  7. In addition to continental-scale lands such as Bountiful and greater Zarahemla, the Book of Mormon describes 31 lesser lands such as Melek and Ammonihah Alma 8:6-7. These lesser lands were regional polities, often described in the text as city states Mosiah 7:21, Mosiah 23:25. The city state form of administrative organization is well-known from many areas of the world throughout history. Furthermore, city state land areas tend to fall within typical size ranges based on common-sense limits such as the distance a man on horseback traveled in one day or the territory a local, militia could reasonably defend. See the article "Test #7 Land Areas." I believe a viable model will show mean Book of Mormon land areas that fall within the size ranges typical of city states known to history. The average area of lesser lands in the January, 2016 model is very consistent with mean city state land areas recognized by historical geographers in many parts of the world. The total number of named lands in the Book of Mormon (33 greater and lesser lands) compares favorably with the number of Maya city states currently known to science (16 in the northern Maya lowlands, 31 in the southern Maya lowlands). See a brief discussion in the article "Hansen and Coe."
  8. Two of the most widely-supported correlations in the Mesoamerican theory are Nephi in the Guatemalan Highlands and Ramah - Cumorah in southern Veracruz. All 8 of the Mesoamerican maps referenced in this article propose Nephi within a 100 kilometer radius of Guatemala City and Ramah - Cumorah in the Tuxtlas or the nearby Papaloapan delta. If these Nephi and Ramah - Cumorah correlations are in the right geographic ballpark, we can draw some strong inferences about the location of Zarahemla from the account of King Limhi's expedition. Limhi's 43 explorers traveled from Nephi to Ramah - Cumorah, then returned to Nephi bearing artifacts. They reported that they had found Zarahemla, and King Limhi, custodian of the Zeniff colony records, believed them. See the article "Test #8 Limhi Expedition." for a list of Zarahemla criteria implied by the Limhi explorer's travels. I believe the location of Zarahemla on a viable Book of Mormon map will satisfy these criteria. The Zarahemla correlation in the January, 2016 model (Nueva Esperanza - Calatraba) does comfortably satisfy all of the criteria, using Google Earth to make the results explicit and reproducible.
  9. The text has a surprising amount of detail, both explicit and inferred, about river Sidon. The article "Test #9 River Sidon" lists 44 criteria for Sidon. I believe a viable candidate for Sidon will satisfy these criteria. The January, 2016 candidate for Sidon, the Usumacinta, satisfies all 44 criteria with flying colors, using Google Earth to make the results explicit and reproducible.
  10. The text describes 7 places where armies and others crossed over Sidon. See the article "Test #10 Crossing Sidon." Because of swamps, canyons, swift currents, etc. people generally cross large rivers at certain favorable points and avoid dangerous crossing locations. I believe a viable Book of Mormon correlation will show Sidon transit points at locations amenable to river crossing. The river crossing points in the January, 2016 model are all attested either by a modern bridge at that location, or rope bollards discovered by archaeologists that were used anciently to ferry canoes across the river. Google Earth helps make the results explicit and reproducible.
  11. The text describes 10 large-scale characteristics of the Book of Mormon land mass that should be observable via satellite imagery. The article "Test #11 The Big Picture" itemizes them. I believe a viable Book of Mormon map will convincingly show all 10 characteristics. The January, 2016 model does clearly demonstrate all 10 features, using Google Earth to make the results explicit and reproducible.
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Any map that can run the gauntlet of these 11 tests deserves serious consideration, but there are many more textual criteria to analyze. The January, 2016 model also satisfies 100% of the following criteria with Google Earth helping make the results explicit and reproducible.
A. Ammonihah 29 criteria outlined in the article "Ammonihah."
B. Gideon 23 criteria outlined in the article "Gideon."
C. Helam 10 criteria outlined in the article "Helam."
D. Hermounts 11 criteria outlined in the article "Hermounts."
E. Manti 25 criteria outlined in the article "Manti."
F. Melek 14 criteria outlined in the article "Melek."
G. Minon 7 criteria outlined in the article "Minon."
H. Narrow (Small) Neck of Land 15 criteria outlined in the article "The Narrow (Small) Neck of Land."
I. Narrow Pass 16 criteria outlined in the article "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage."
J. Narrow Strip of Wilderness 32 criteria outlined in the artlcle "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness."
K. Sidom 13 criteria outlined in the article "Sidom."
L. Sidon must flow northward. See the article "River Sidon South to North."
M. Sidon 28 criteria outlined in the article "The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation."
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The Book of Mormon Onomasticon is a marvelous resource for possible Old World etymologies of Book of Mormon names. Paul Y. Hoskisson, Robert F. Smith, Stephen D. Ricks and John Gee have invested thousands of hours creating this unique contribution to Book of Mormon scholarship. Two names, Ripliancum and Riplah, deserve special mention because Moroni himself explicitly defined the term Ripliancum in Ether15:8. Both Ripliancum and Riplah carry the meaning of large or abundant. See the article "Hill Riplah." I believe a viable Book of Mormon map will locate both Ripliancum and Hill Riplah in places appropriate to their names. The January, 2016 model correlates Ripliancum with the Papaloapan river delta in southern Veracruz, the largest wetlands in our land northward. The January, 2016 model correlates Hill Riplah with Cerro Pampache in Alta Verapaz, the largest detached hill in Guatemala.
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If a proposed Book of Mormon correlation is correct, it will shed light on otherwise enigmatic passages in the text. Here is one example. Mormon 4:4 must refer to some kind of military advantage unique to the Nephite city of Desolation. Other possible interpretations of that verse are explicitly contradicted by Mormon elsewhere in his eponymous book. The article "French Connection" point #6 describes the significant military advantage gained by building defensive walls with hard granite rather than soft limestone. The January, 2016 model locates the city of Desolation in the vicinity of Tonala, Chiapas. Tonala is the only area in Mesoamerica where we find large-scale use of hard architectural granite in the AD 300 - 400 time frame. The article "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage" further discusses this interesting point.

Article updated January 30, 2016

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Norman's Clincher

While talking with Garth Norman recently he recounted the moment he realized the Usumacinta must be the Sidon. He first determined that Moroni on the east coast just north of the narrow strip of wilderness Alma 50:13 had to be one of the known submerged ruins (such as Tiger Mound) in the Bay of Amatique that straddles the Caribbean coast of Guatemala and Belize.
Proposed Fortified Cities Moroni to Manti and Beyond
There are six serious Mesoamerican Book of Mormon correlations. They are, in order of first publication: Sorenson (1985), Hauck (1988), Allen (1989), Turner (2004), Norman (2006), and Magleby (this blog, 2011). Five of the six place Moroni (white pin) and the narrow strip of wilderness about where they are shown on the map above. The only outlier is Sorenson who places Moroni (black pin) on the Gulf Coast. So, Norman has solid support for his Moroni correlation.

Ca. 72 BC Captain Moroni fortified a string of cities at key points along the southern flank of Nephite lands. They ran from Moroni on the east Alma 50:13 to Antiparah on the west Alma 56:31. Going from east to west, the cities were Manti, Zeezrom, Cumeni, and Antiparah Alma 56:14. Westward from Moroni the next fortified city was Manti which was near the head of river Sidon Alma 22:27. Antiparah, Cumeni and Zeezrom were in the south west quadrant of Nephite lands Alma 52:11, Alma 53:22. The Sidon itself was in the center of Nephite territory Helaman 1:26. Ca. 72 BC the greater land of Zarahemla north of the narrow strip of wilderness extended from sea to sea Alma 50:11-13. So, moving westward from Moroni, Manti was the next in line of Captain Moroni's fortified cities. It was not far from the head of the river at the approximate center of the greater land of Zarahemla. The Usumacinta fits this scenario beautifully and for Norman, that was the clincher.