Thursday, January 29, 2015

Test #10 Crossing Sidon

Seven passages in the text use a variant of the word "cross" to describe movement over Sidon. The word "ford" is not attested. All passages are in the book of Alma and all describe large groups in a military context. See the blog article "Crossing Things." These are the movements in textual order.
  • Nephite forces under Almacrossed Sidon from east to west from Gideon into the local land of Zarahemla just north of its border with Minon Alma 2:27, Alma 2:34-35
  • Lamanite forces crossed Sidon from west to east in wilderness south of Manti Alma 16:6
  • Zoramand his Nephite forces crossed Sidon from west to east from the local land of Zarahemla into Gideon, then marched south to the wilderness south of Manti Alma 16:7
  • Lamanite forces under Zerahemnah came around the north side of hill Riplah, down a valley and crossed Sidon from east to west. Lehi2 and his men engaged the Lamanites from their rear, while across Sidon Moroniand his forces engaged them at their front. Alma 43:35, Alma 43:40
  • Lamanite forces dug in along the southwestern border of Nephite lands were afraid to cross over the head of Sidon to mount an attack on Nephihah Alma 56:25
Large rivers typically have a limited number of places where crossing is practical. Steep canyon walls, swift currents or lateral wetlands make crossing difficult and hazardous. Because of this, the battlefield where Zoramengaged the Lamanite invasion force returning from Ammonihah + Noah and the valley where  Lehi2 drove Zerahemnah's men into the river are almost certainly the same place. Both are described as the wilderness south of the land of Manti Alma 16:6, Alma 43:27, 32. By the same token, the place where Nephite forces under Alma2 crossed from Gideon into the local land of Zarahemla and the place where Nephite forces under Zoram2 crossed from the local land of Zarahemla into Gideon are almost certainly the same crossing.

This leaves us with only 3 actual river crossing locations.
  1. Local land of Zarahemla just north of Minon to the west, land of Gideon to the east
  2. Opposing valleys west and east of the river in wilderness south of Manti
  3. Head of Sidon
This is our correlation showing all 3 crossings as stars on the modern map.
Three River Crossing Points Described in the Text
In our age, when people want to cross a river regularly, they build a bridge. There are 11 bridges over the Chixoy/Salinas/Usumacinta river from the head of the Chixoy to the mouth of the river at Frontera, Tabasco. The map below shows the bridges, marked with a square icon. Some archaeologists are convinced the Maya built a suspension bridge over the Usumacinta at Yaxchilan. 10 meter foundation platforms that may have supported bridge towers are still visible in the river at low water. We call this tantalizing possibility the "Ancient Yaxchilan Bridge." See point #15 in the blog article "The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation" for an artist's rendering of the hypothesized 7th century A.D. bridge.
1 Possible Ancient & 11 Modern Bridges over the Proposed Sidon
Zooming in, we see that a modern bridge has been constructed at each of the 3 precise locations where our model predicts a Book of Mormon river crossing.
Boca del Cerro Bridge
Boca del Cerro is on the fall line where the mountains end and the coastal plain begins.
La Union Bridge
La Union is north of Cerro Pampajche which we correlate with Hill Riplah and south of the site of Chama which we correlate with Manti.
Bridge over Chixoy Dam
Chixoy Dam is where the Chixoy - Negro, Salama, Carchela and Santa Gertrudis all come together to form the Chixoy.

These were strategic places in Book of Mormon times. They are strategic places today which is why bridges have been built there.

In addition, the text describes other river crossings whose locations we can deduce.
  • Nephite forces under Alma2 crossed Sidon from west to east from the local land of Zarahemla to Gideon to engage the Amlicites on Hill Amnihu Alma 2:16-17. This is the same crossing location as #1 in the list above.
  • Amlicite survivors of the battle on Hill Amnihu crossed Sidon from east to west from Gideon to Minon to rendezvous with their Lamanite allies Alma 2:24. This location is not far from the valley of Gideon which itself was not far from Hill Amnihu. It has to be upriver from the main drainage basin in the Valley of Gideon because the Nephite army was encamped for the night in the Valley of Gideon and their retinue would have monitored the path from the army campsite back to the local land of Zarahemla.
  • On his first missionary journey beyond the local land of Zarahemla, Alma2 crossed Sidon from west to east from the local land of Zarahemla to Gideon Alma 6:7. This is the same crossing location as #1 in the list above. Upon his return from Gideon, Alma2 crossed Sidon from east to west, again in the same location Alma 8:1
  • After Alma2 & Amulek finished their missionary work in Sidom they crossed over Sidon from east to west and resided for a time in the local land of Zarahemla Alma 15:18. We know Sidom was in the east (see the blog article "Ammonihah, Noah & Sidom all East of Sidon"). It was close to Ammonihah Alma 15:1. We know Ammonihah was east of Gideon because Nehor was passing through Gideon to return to Ammonihah to preach Alma 1:7 when he murdered Gideon in the elderly hero's eponymous city. This means it is likely the local land of Zarahemla, Gideon, Ammonihan and Sidom were at similar latitudes. And this means Alma2 & Amulek probably crossed over Sidon at the same crossing location as #1 in the list above.
  • Alma2 was journeying southward from Gideon to Manti when he met the sons of Mosiah2 returning from their 14 year mission to the Lamanites Alma 17:1. Since Alma2 had his home in the local land of Zarahemela Alma 8:1, Alma 15:18 he crossed over Sidon from west to east at the same crossing location as #1 in the list above to begin his southward journey from Gideon.  Alma2 returned to his home in the local land of Zarahemla with his old friends, the sons of Mosiah2, by crossing yet another time across Sidon from east to west Alma 27:20 at the same crossing location. It is worth noting that Zarahemla east over Sidon to Gideon and then south to Manti seems to have been a standard route at this time in Nephite affairs. Zoram2 and his men took this same route to travel from the local land of Zarahemla to Manti Alma 16:7. The fact that Alma2 and the sons of Mosiah2 met on the trail going in opposite directions shows that the Gideon to Manti route had become standardized by ca. 77 B.C.
  • Korihor traveled from the local land of Zarahemla over Sidon eastward  to Jershon Alma 30:19 which was in the NE corner of Nephite lands just south of land Bountiful Alma 27:22. This makes it likely Korihor crossed Sidon to the NE through the most capital parts of the land en route to Jershon just as Coriantumr did about 23 years later en route to the city of Bountiful Helaman 1:23.
  • The people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehi) traveled from Jershon by the east sea across Sidon from east to west into the land of Melek Alma 35:13. There was a river crossing at Melek because Alma2 went from Melek west of Sidon north across the NW flowing river to Ammonihah east of Sidon Alma 8:6.
  • The Lamanites under Zerahemnah came in a sweeping motion southward from Jershon into the wilderness south of Manti. They intended to cross over Sidon from west to east at Manti to mount a surprise attack Alma 43:24. That is why they had to cross Sidon from east to west in the wilderness south of Manti Alma 43:35
  • The 4,000 Lamanites captured by Moroniand Parhoran (Yale text orthography) NW of Nephihah were sent to live with the people of Ammon in Melek Alma 62:17. They likely crossed over Sidon from east to west at Melek.
This gives us four more crossing points to add to our list. Sidon crossing locations attested or implied in the text from north to south:
  1. NE of the city of Zarahemla toward the most capital parts of the land
  2. Local land of Zarahemla just north of Minon to the west, Gideon to the east
  3. Amlicites from Gideon west to Minon
  4. Melek
  5. Manti
  6. Opposing valleys in the wilderness south of Manti
  7. Head of Sidon
This is a map of our correlation of the 7 river crossings described in the text shown as stars.
Seven River Crossing Locations Described in the Text
We saw above that three of the proposed Book of Mormon river crossings are right where a modern bridge stands today. That pattern continues.
Chama Bridge
Our proposed Manti crossing is at Chama Bridge.
Ancient Yaxchilan Bridge
Our proposed Melek crossing is right where some archaeologists place the Ancient Yaxchilan Bridge.
Puente Usumacinta
And, finally, our proposed Northeast Zarahemla crossing is precisely where the largest bridge over the Usumacinta River stands today, the Puenta Usumacinta that carries Mexican Federal Highway 186 coming from Villahermosa and going to Chtumal on the Caribbean. The ruin we correlate with the Nephite city of Bountiful, by the way, is in a suburb of Chetumal.

The only one of our Book of Mormon river crossings without an ancient or modern bridge is the point south of the Valley of Gideon where the Amlicites went over the river to join their Lamanite comrades who had come undetected up the central Sidon corridor into Minon.

See point #40 in the blog article "Test #9 River Sidon" for a description of Ron Canter's 2004 Rio Usumacinta Navigation Survey. Experienced rivermen scientists found six places along the upper Usumacinta where wear patterns from ropes on mooring stones indicated canoes tied up in that location during Maya times. On the map blow we call these six places "bollards." The survey also found six places where cross currents made for easy canoe transit back and forth across the river. On the map below we call these six places "ferries."
Bollards and Ferries along the Usumacinta from Yaxchilan to Pomona
Our proposed Amlicite crossing is precisely where the 2004 Rio Usumacinta Navigation Survey found ancient bollards and excellent crossing conditions at San Jose Usumacinta.
San Jose Usumacinta Bollards & Ferry
The survey also found many bollards and very good crossing conditions at Yaxchilan. So, all 7 of our proposed Book of Mormon river crossing points have one or more of the following validations:
  • an ancient or modern bridge
  • ancient mooring stones where canoes were tethered
  • cross currents and eddys that allowed easy paddling across the river
When Cortez came through Tabasco and the Peten in 1524 en route to Honduras, he and his large military entourage including cavalry and cannon crossed many rivers. In every case they crossed on hastily-constructed pontoon bridges. The Spaniards marveled how quickly their native allies were able to construct such bridges, and how sturdy the structures were as heavy loads passed over them. When the Spaniards conquered Guatemala, they found many rope suspension bridges in use by the indigenous peoples. When Europeans first entered the Soconusco (Pacific coast of Chiapas & western Guatemala) they found vast numbers of canoes stationed at river crossings that were available as a public utility similar to the way European cities provide fleets of bicycles for public use. So how did Nephites and Lamanites cross over Sidon? They absolutely did not wade across. The notion that Book of Mormon peoples forded the river like Mormon Handcart Pioneers crossing the Sweetwater is utter nonsense. Many smaller streams in Mesoamerica are too large for pedestrian fording. let alone the mighty Usumacinta. The Nephites and Lamanites crossed Sidon the same way the ancient Maya did and their descendants still do, in fleets of small watercraft or on bridges.

One more important point needs to enter our discussion of river crossings. There are certain places, typically inside steep canyons, where river crossings are rarely attempted. The terrain is simply too rough. Here is a map showing seven reaches of the Chixoy/Salinas/Usumacinta where crossings are unlikely.
Seven Canyons on the Chixoy/Salinas/Usumacinta
The 2004 Rio Usumacinta Navigation Survey found no evidence of ancient boat harboring along these difficult sections of the river. They did find one mooring stone that would have served to warp boats (pull them upstream with a rope tied to a stationary object) up Chicozapote Falls. None of our proposed Book of Mormon crossing locations fall within these problematic reaches of the river.

From the text we identified 7 unique places where Nephites and Lamanites crossed Sidon. We then compared these 7 points with the locations of 1 ancient and 11 modern bridges, 6 places with ancient canoe mooring stones, and 6 places where currents and eddies favor river crossings. We then compared our 7 Book of Mormon locations with 7 canyons where river crossings would be difficult and hazardous. We found 100% correspondence between proposed Book of Mormon locations and known likely locations for river crossings. We found zero correspondence between proposed Book of Mormon river crossings and difficult canyon terrain. We submit that any viable Book of Mormon map should show a similarly high degree of fit to the text with compelling external validation.