Monday, October 16, 2017

Top 10 Literary and Linguistic Evidences for the Book of Mormon

In an article begun in May, 2017, I summarized the ten archaeological evidences for the Book of Mormon I find most convincing. This article will summarize the ten literary and linguistic evidences for the Book of Mormon I find most compelling.

1. Chiasmus. Ancient literary traditions in largely oral cultures used narrative structures as mnemonic devices in their texts. One of the best known is chiasmus, aka reverse parallelism, associated primarily with Semitic texts and in recent decades widely recognized throughout both the Old and New Testaments. . In a chiasm, narrative motifs build up to a climactic center, then repeat themselves in reverse order in the second half of the pericope. A good example is Mosiah 5:10-12. This beautiful six-element chiasm, the first one recognized in the Book of Mormon in modern times, was discovered by Jack Welch in the early morning hours of August 16, 1967 while he was serving as an LDS missionary in Regensburg, Germany:
A whosoever will not take upon him the name of Christ
      B must be called by some other name;
            C therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
                  D And I would that ye should remember also,
                        E that this is the name ...that never should be blotted out,
                              F except it be through transgression;
                              F therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress,
                         E that the name be not blotted out of your hearts
                  D ...I would that ye should remember to retain the name ...
            C that ye are not found on the left hand of God,
      B but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called
A and also, the name by which he shall call you.
There are dozens of impressive chiasms in the Book of Mormon, including the masterful Alma 36 which may be the most elegant chiastic structuring of any passage known from any ancient literature.
See the article entitled "Recent Book of Mormon News" for links to excellent videos shown during and resulting from the remarkable Chiasmus Jubilee held on BYU Campus on August 16, 2017. The Jubilee followed the first-ever academic conference on chiasmus where eminent scholars from Jewish, Catholic, Evangelical, and Latter-day Saint faith traditions presented their research.

2. Paronomasia. Ancient writers were masters of puns and other plays on words deployed for rhetorical effect. In recent years, many profound examples have been found in the Book of Mormon. Matthew Bowen, a member of the BYU-Hawaii Religion faculty, has led this scholarly endeavor, publishing several influential articles in Interpreter. See for example "Father Is a Man: The Remarkable Mention of the Name Abish in Alma 19:16 and its Narrative Context." Here are some examples of naming word play I find particularly insightful:
  • Alma in Hebrew means "youth." When Almais first introduced in Mosiah 17:2, he is described as "a young man."
  • Alma can also carry the connotation "hidden" and in Mosiah 18:5 he explicitly hides from King Noah's troops.
  • Noah in Hebrew means "rest" with the pejorative connotation "lazy." Mosiah 11:6 accuses Noah and his priests of laziness.
  • Jershon in Hebrew means "inherit." The first time Jershon is mentioned in the text the land is given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi for their inheritance Alma 27:22-24.
These gems are just the tip of the iceberg. More are being discovered all the time. According to Taylor Halverson and Brad Wilcox, such plays on words demonstrate the "brilliant literary sophistication" of the Book of Mormon authors. See "The Surprising Meanings Behind 'Enos' and 'Noah': Insights into Book of Mormon Names."

3. Early Modern English. Through the diligent efforts of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack, we now know that the language of the earliest Book of Mormon translation was closer to the Early Modern English spoken when Shakespeare was a youth than the Jacksonian American English codified in the 1828 Websters Dictionary. See the articles "Early Modern English" and "English in the Book of Mormon." Without help from an external (divine) source, a mono-linguist simply cannot dictate a long (268,000 words) and complex text over the course of approximately 65 working days in a language that neither his mother nor his father nor their mothers nor their fathers spoke.

4. Stylometry. Computerized statistical tests run against blocks of text can often distinguish the words of Author A from the writings of Author B. Authors have writing styles that consciously or sub-consciously pervade their work. Many such tests run by different teams over decades demonstrate with high degrees of confidence that the Book of Mormon was written by multiple authors whose varied styles differ in statistically significant ways. The work that launched this area of inquiry was published by Wayne A. Larsen, Tim Layton, and Alvin C. Rencher. See "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints" in BYU Studies 20:3, Spring, 1980. Layton, a friend of mine, is currently serving as Mission President in California, Bakersfield.

John L. Hilton, a physicist who taught at UC Berkeley and worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, took up the challenge of verifying the Larsen, Layton, Rencher results using improved statistical techniques. He worked for years with an interfaith team of colleagues in the East Bay area. In the end, they not only verified but strengthened the 1980 results. See "On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship" in Noel B. Reynolds, editor, Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited (Provo: FARMS, 1997).

The current standard-bearer in this area is Paul J. Fields, a statistical analyst who holds a PhD from Penn State. See Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, and G. Bruce Schaalje, "Stylometric Analyses of the Book of Mormon" in Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 21/1 2012.

5. Intertextuality. Book of Mormon authors had access to a version of the Hebrew Bible contained on the plates of brass 1 Nephi 5:10-13. When the Savior visited the Nephites in land Bountiful after his resurrection, he shared additional scriptures with them 3 Nephi 23:6 which were recorded in official national annals. Therefore, it should not be too surprising that Book of Mormon writers quote, allude to, echo, and expand upon biblical passages. The Book of Mormon is remarkable for the sheer volume of intertextual references, and for the creative, significant ways the Nephite record weaves the two texts together. David J. Larsen is an Old Testament scholar who holds a PhD from the University of St Andrews (Scotland). His 104 page "Overview of the Use of Biblical Psalms in the Book of Mormon Text" is currently in private circulation. Larsen has identified 60 instances of intertextuality between the Book of Mormon and the Psalms, many of which also interweave phrases and concepts from additional sources such as Proverbs, 2 Samuel, and Ezekiel.

Some "Royal Psalms" extol David. The writers on the small plates (Nephi and Jacob) tend to avoid them and seem influenced by the Deuteronomistic reforms that had recently been introduced in the Jerusalem of Lehi's day. Psalms generally attributed to the exilic or post-exilic period in Judaism are far less frequently referenced in the Book of Mormon than earlier compositions, as we would expect.

6. Semitic and Egyptian Influences in Uto-Aztecan. Brian Stubbs is a noted linguist, one of the world's experts on the Uto-Aztecan language family which includes Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.   

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ear Ornaments

The Book of Mormon mentions "ear-rings" 2 Nephi 13:20 in an Isaiah citation. The text uses the word "heavy" to describe ears 2 Nephi 16:10, also in a passage from Isaiah. The Book of Mormon associates some variant of the word "open" with ears as in 1 Nephi 20:82 Nephi 7:5Mosiah 2:9, and 3 Nephi 11:5.

Elites throughout Mesoamerican history wore circular ear spools aka ear flares or ear plugs that literally opened ear lobes, made ears heavy, and could easily be described as ear-rings.

La Venta Offering 4 now in the Museo Nacional de AntropologĂ­a, Mexico
Notice that all these Olmec figurines from ca. 800 BC are wearing ear spools.

Copan Stela A in the Museo de Esculturas, Copan, Honduras
Photo by Kirk Magleby December 28, 2015
Copan Stela A depicts Waxaklajun Ub'aah K'awiil (18 Rabbit), the 13th ruler, wearing large ear spools. This stela was dedicated on Maya Long Count date (January 30, AD 731).

Mixtec Ear Spools
These greenstone (jadeite) ear spools from Oaxaca ca. AD 1200 are in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Similar artifacts are found throughout Mesoamerica in almost all time horizons. See, for example, Thomas A. Lee, Jr. "The Artifacts of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico," Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, Number 26 (Provo: BYU-NWAF, 1969) page 191.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Flammable Books

The Book of Mormon describes writing on flammable materials in the city of Ammonihah ca. 82 BC Alma 14:8. Our current correlation places the city of Ammonihah at the site of El Hormiguero II in the NW corner of Peten, Guatemala. Writing on plaster coated amate bark-paper (from Ficus [fig] or Morus [mulberry] trees) is attested archaeologically from two southern Mesoamerican sites in early to middle classic time horizons.

1. Two congealed codex fragments were recovered from Mounds 9 (burial 22) and 10 (burial 30) at Mirador, Chiapas. Both date to the Laguna-Nuti phase (AD 300 - 500).
Deteriorated Codices from Mirador, Chiapas
Pierre Agrinier, Mounds 9 and 10 at Mirador, Chiapas, Mexico, Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, Number 39 (Provo: BYU NWAF, 1975). These fragments are now in the custody of INAH in Mexico City.

2. Fragments of a congealed codex were recovered from structure A-1, pyramid C, burial A6 at Uaxactun, Peten, Guatemala. The burial dates to AD 400 - 600. Structure A-1 itself was begun in the late Pre-classic (AD 1 - 250).
Deteriorated Codex from Uaxactun, Peten
Nicholas P. Carter and Jeffrey Dobereiner, Multispectral imaging of an Early Classic Maya codex fragment from Uaxactun, Guatemala, Antiquity, 90 351 2016. The Uaxactun fragments are now in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. These fragments had 2 different plaster layers applied, the only known attestation of the early Maya scribal practice of erasure and re-inscription on codices. Resurfacing and repainting on murals is well-attested. Writing on plaster overlaid gourds is known from the UNESCO World Heritage site of CerĂ©n, El Salvador (volcanic ash fall covered an entire village, leaving unusually well-preserved remains a la Pompeii); Baking Pot, Belize; and a royal tomb at El Zotz, Peten, Guatemala dating to AD 300 - 400.  

All codex fragments and some of the gourds were found in mortuary contexts. See for example the Uaxactun image in the blog article "Partake of the Fruit." The Book of Mormon explicitly correlates words and death Mosiah 17:20.
Relative Locations of Referenced Sites
Some depictions of bark-paper codices on stone, painted ceramic vessels, and murals are much earlier than these decayed fragments. See, for example, the Olmec bound screen-fold codex illustrated in the article Cylinder Seals. Mayan epigraphic inscriptions reference 'paper' or 'books' (hu'n) and 'writers' (aj tz'ib).

Friday, October 6, 2017

Cylinder Seals

The Book of Mormon uses some form of the word "seal" more than two dozen times. Writings are sealed to come forth unadulterated at a later date 1 Nephi 14:26, 2 Nephi 26:17. Writings are sealed to keep them hidden from unworthy readers 2 Nephi 27:7-8. Writings are sealed to place them in divine hands for safekeeping 2 Nephi 30:3. Things are sealed or bound and then later loosed 2 Nephi 30:17. Prophets seal their words as testimony that will be used later in court proceedings 2 Nephi 33:15. Righteous people can be sealed to God Mosiah 5:15. Martyrdom seals the truthfulness of a prophet's words Mosiah 17:20. Wicked people can be sealed to Satan Alma 34:35. Priesthood power can seal things reciprocally on earth and in heaven Helaman 10:7. Authors personally sealed epistles delivered to political rivals. 3 Nephi 3:5. Accompanying objects could be sealed along with writings Ether 3:22-23. Writings, Interpretation of writings, and holy objects could all be sealed together Ether 4:5. Sealing physical objects was a caching, archival or repository function Ether 5:1. Sealing was an act of completion or finality Moroni 10:2.

The act of sealing something, particularly writing, was important enough in the Nephite worldview that it would not be surprising to find seals in the Mesoamerican archaeological record, and we do. This collection of roller stamps or cylinder seals is housed in the Snite Museum on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The seals were used to make impressions in plastic materials such as wax or clay, and to ink patterns on paper, skin or fabric. Most of these seals came from a single cache at the Olmec site of Las Bocas, Puebla.
Olmec Cylinder Seal with Net Design, Unknown Provenience
This seal has an image of the sun god in profile.
Olmec Roller Seal from Las Bocas, Puebla ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
This seal shows the stylized earth monster.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Pubela, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with floral motif.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with serpent and Venus symbols.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with net and serrated panel.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with flaming eyebrow motif.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with opposed paws design.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with waves and checkerboard motif.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with serrated lines and squares.
Late Classic Veracruz Roller Seal, ca. AD 600 - 900
Seal with harpy eagle symbolism.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with triangles and arcs.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Seal with stylized toads.
Olmec Roller Seal, Las Bocas, Puebla, ca. 1,500 - 1,000 BC
Even more germane to the Book of Mormon is this ceramic bowl depicting a bound, tied, or sealed screen-fold codex.
Olmec Earthenware Pot, Tlapacoya, Mexico, Mexico
Ayotla Phase, ca. 1,500 - 1,300 BC
This map shows the locations of Las Bocas, Puebla and Tlapacoya, Estado de Mexico.
Locations of Tlapacoya and Las Bocas
Cylinder Seals were used extensively in Mesopotamia where nearly every elite person carried one around their neck or attached to their arm. In that culture, a seal was used much like a person's signature nowadays. Some cylinder seals had handles like a rolling pin. Others had concave surfaces on either end for holding between one's fingers. Most were hollow in the center so a stick or cord could be inserted as an axle. In Mesoamerica, cylinder seals are known from Yucatan, Patzcuaro (Michoacan), Xochimilco (Mexico City), and Tlatilco (Mexico City). Tim Tucker, working for BYU's New World Archaeological Foundation, excavated a cache of cylinder seals inside a stone box at Chiapa de Corzo. See Thomas A. Lee, The Artifacts of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico (Provo: BYU New World Archaeological Foundation Paper #26, 1969). Other cylinder seals have been found at Tres Zapotes, La Venta, and Kaminaljuyu.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ancient Ocean Crossings

I just finished reading an excellent new 508 page book by Stephen C. Jett entitled Ocean Crossings: Reconsidering the Case for Contacts with the Pre-Columbian Americas, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2017.
Important New Book
Jett is an emeritus professor of geography, textiles, and clothing at the University of California, Davis. He holds a PhD in geography from Johns Hopkins. He is the founding editor of Pre-Colombiana: A Journal of Long-Distance Contacts.

Jett acknowledges the pioneering work of his friend, John L. Sorenson (BYU emeritus), and Sorenson's collaborators, Martin H. Raish (BYU Idaho) and Carl L. Johannessen (University of Oregon emeritus).

Diffusionist literature is often scientifically shallow. Not this volume. Jett is source critical, balanced, and logical. This work is clearly a capstone to a lifetime of careful scholarship. The bibliography runs for 60 pages. The author lines up many standard isolationist arguments and knocks them over like pins in a bowling alley. Along the way, his erudition and common-sense practicality seldom fail to impress. His command of nautical terminology and the details of vessel design is extraordinary.

A 2012 blog article describes a most interesting book by Stephen C. Compton entitled Exodus Lost. Compton marshals dozens of evidences to demonstrate a cultural connection between the Olmec of southern Mexico and the Hyksos who ruled Egypt between 1650 and 1550 BC.

Two 2015 blog articles talk about the important book from Brian D. Stubbs entitled Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan. The article "Uto-Aztecan" introduces Stubbs' thesis and the article "Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan" shows the book.

Compton's 2011 book, Stubbs' 2015 book, and now Jett's 2017 book combine to offer compelling evidence from multiple disciplines that ancient cultural contacts occurred between the Old World and the New.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Recent Book of Mormon News

July 19, 2017 an important new edition of the Book of Mormon began appearing on bookstore shelves. Entitled A New Approach to Studying The Book of Mormon, this edition organizes the text episodically into 214 events. Every word appears just as it does in the LDS 2013 edition, but in a re-formatted structure that honors narrative boundaries rather than dividing the text up as Orson Pratt did when he published the 1879 edition with our modern chapter and verse designations. So, for instance, Jacob's extended olive tree metaphor (event 36) includes all of Jacob chapters 4, 5, and 6. This edition also highlights quoted passages typographically and shows narrators, speakers, locations, and dates in the margins. Click here for an animated demo.
Re-formatted Edition of the Book of Mormon
The result is aesthetically pleasing and intuitive reading. An advanced binding system allows this paperback book to lay flat on a reading surface. The father son team of Lynn and Dave Rosenvall (The Olive Leaf Foundation) have been pre-eminent scriptural scholars for decades. They wrote the original Gospel Library Scriptures app (now distributed and maintained by the Church) most of us use regularly on our mobile devices. They are also the force behind the highly original and very thoughtful Baja model of Book of Mormon geography.
August 16, 2017 was the 50th anniversary of Jack Welch's discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon and we had quite a celebration.
Robert Pack Painting of Paul Gaechter and Jack Welch in Innsbruck in 1968
Click here to watch the entire 2 hour program held in the JSB Auditorium on BYU Campus.
Click here for Jack's son Greg's clever 10 minute video of the discovery.
Click here for Book of Mormon Central's moving 8 minute video of the discovery narrated by Jack himself.
Click here for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's brilliant closing remarks entitled "The Greatness of the Evidence."
September 1, 2017 The first 137 Book of Mormon Central KnoWhys, published as a handsomely-illustrated book by Covenant Communications, began appearing on bookstore shelves.
Knowing Why by Book of Mormon Central
September 23, 2017 was going to be Book of Mormon Central's first-ever conference in Mexico City. Nearly 1,500 people had registered. Then a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico on September 19, killing 363 people in Oaxaca, Puebla, the state of Mexico, Morelos, Guerrero, and Mexico City. While Brant Gardner and I (Kirk Magleby) were in the air en route, the government of Mexico City declared 3 days of mourning and banned large public gatherings. We re-grouped, helped serve earthquake victims, trained our staff, and visited the sites of Cholula, Tula Hidalgo, and Teotihuacan.
Book of Mormon Central Visit to Tetitla Compound, Teotihuacan September 23, 2017
In the back row from L to R are Javier Tovar of Atotonilco de Tula, Hgo; Adan Rocha of San Luis Potosi, SLP; and Benjamin Monroy of Salt Lake City, UT. To the left is Noe Correa of Eagle Mountain, UT. In the front row from L to R are Jesus Inda of San Quintin, BC; Brant Gardner of Albuquerque, NM; and Kirk Magleby of American Fork, UT.

The Mexico City conference is re-scheduled for November 18, 2017.
September 20, 2017 the LDS Church acquired the printer's manuscript from the Community of Christ (known as the RLDS Church from 1872 until the year 2000) for $35 million. The sale price set a new world record for a manuscript. The Book of Mormon is not as important today in Community of Christ affairs as it was in previous generations. It continues to be a vital part of religious life in many Restoration Branch congregations who have dissociated themselves from the Community of Christ.
Printer's Manuscript of 1 Nephi Chapter 1
September 30, 2017 Pres. Russell M. Nelson gave a great talk about the Book of Mormon in the Saturday afternoon session of LDS General Conference. "The full power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period."
October 1, 2017 Elder Tad R. Callister gave a terrific talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon in the Sunday afternoon session of LDS General Conference. "This book is the one weight on the scales of truth that exceeds the combined weight of all the critics' arguments."
Warren Aston will travel soon to the Hill Cumorah in New York with a geologist. They will attempt to shed light on the stone box that Moroni built ca. AD 421 to hold the plates.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Top 10 Archaeological Evidences for the Book of Mormon

A friend recently shared a story about a young man in his ward. The student graduated from high school and enrolled at Utah State University in Logan. Midway through his freshman year at college, he announced to his parents that he was leaving the Church because "there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon." I decided to compile a list of the 10 evidences I find most convincing. A few months ago, I received an email from John L. Sorenson who asked that I share some of his thoughts on the subject. Citing salient points from his 2013 magnum opus, Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book, John concludes that those who maintain there is no archaeological evidence for Mormonism's keystone scripture "remain ignorant of the actual situation." This article derives from my experience, John's thoughts, and Book of Mormon Central's superb KnoWhy series, the first 137 of which are now available in a new book from Covenant Communications entitled Knowing Why.

1. The Book of Mormon mentions Mulek (Yale 2009 Muloch), son of Zedekiah (ca. 618 - 587 BC), King of Judah deposed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon Helaman 6:10, 8:21. A variant of the name Mulek as royal son is now attested in Levantine archaeology from a clay seal dating from the time of Zedekiah. See KnoWhy #103 published May 19, 2016.
Clay Seal Excavated in Jerusalem in the 1980's
2. The Book of Mormon mentions a pre-existing place called Nahom on the Red Sea side of the Arabian Peninsula. Ishmael was buried at Nahom 1 Nephi 16:34, his family mourned there 1 Nephi 16:35, and Lehi's party changed direction at that place and traveled almost due east 1 Nephi 17:1 until they came to Bountiful 1 Nephi 17:5 by the sea. A place called Nihm/Naham does exist on the Red Sea side of the Arabian Peninsula in modern Yemen. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Naham Tribal Area between Sana'a and Marib in Yemen 
Naham is home to the largest ancient cemetery in Arabia. The Semitic root of the term implies sorrow or mourning. The name in this geographic area is attested from Lehi's era.
My friend, Warren Aston, pointing out the name NHM on an altar that pre-dates Lehi
And, travelling almost due east from the Naham Tribal Area brings one to Khor Khofot, the one place on the south Arabian coast that meets all of the Book of Mormon criteria for Bountiful.
Nearly Eastward from the Naham Tribal Area to Likely Bountiful
See KnoWhy #19 published January 26, 2016.
See also this great new YouTube video published June 17, 2017.

3. The Book of Mormon says Lehi and his family used an amalgamation of Hebrew and Egyptian language elements 1 Nephi 1:2. A similar compound system was in use 1,000 years later at the end of the Nephite era Mormon 9:32-33. We now know that a form of Egyptian script known as Palestinian Hieratic was in use by Hebrew-speaking Judean scribes in Lehi's day. Nearly 200 examples of this Hebrew/Egyptian amalgam have been found.
Ostracon from Tel Arad ca. 597 BC with Both
Hebrew and Egyptian Language Elements
See KnoWhy #4 published January 5, 2016.

4. The Book of Mormon says the people of Zarahemla (commonly called Mulekites) sailed across the sea from the ancient Near East ca. 588 BC and made landfall in the land northward, then settled permanently in a sparsely-populated part of the land southward Alma 22:30-31, Omni 1:15-16. This means they must have sailed past the Olmec capital, La Venta, which was going strong in 588 BC. The presence of Jewish/Phoenician seafarers in what is today Tabasco, Mexico would have been sensational news to the Olmec and we have good evidence that they memorialized the inter-cultural encounter in stone on La Venta Stela 3 excavated in 1943 by Matthew W. Stirling and Philip Drucker. This sculpture is generally dated ca. 600 - 550 BC and is sometimes euphemistically called the "Uncle Sam Stela."
La Venta Stela 3 in 1943, Then Newly-Excavated
Drucker said "... the principal figures on this monument represent a meeting of Olmec and non-Olmec personages." Philip Drucker, "On the Nature of Olmec Polity" in The Olmec and Their Neighbors: Essays in Memory of Matthew W. Stirling, Elizabeth P. Benson, Editor, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1981, p. 44. He goes on to say that La Venta Monuments 13 and 19 also depict non-Olmec foreigners arriving at the site.

Tatiana Proskouriakoff called the person on the right "... a bearded man with a conspicuously aquiline nose." She called the figure a "bearded visitor" and a "bearded stranger." She said "... these figures represent two racially distinct groups of people." Tatiana Proskouriakoff, "Olmec and Maya Art: Problems of Their Stylistic Relation" in Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec October 28th and 29th, 1967, Elizabeth P. Benson, Editor, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1968, p. 122

This map shows La Venta with Mulek's likely sea voyage route.
Mulek's Likely Route in White Passing by La Venta
5. The Book of Mormon describes the first Nephite capital, the city of Nephi, in some detail. As John L. Sorenson and others have pointed out, the site of Kaminaljuyu (KJ) within the confines of modern Guatemala City matches the textual description of the city of Nephi remarkably well on point after point. The article "Kaminaljuyu" analyzes the latest scholarship on KJ from Lucia Ross Henderson (PhD, UT Austin, 2013) and finds more than 100 points of tangency between descriptions in her doctoral dissertation and the Nephite record. The article "Art and Iconography I" illustrates several sculpted scenes from KJ with direct textual corollaries in the Book of Mormon. Among the Nephi/KJ correspondences I find compelling are:
  • In every reference to the city of Nephi one goes up to approach the city and down to travel away from it (See the article "Test #1 Ups and Downs"). KJ is on the very summit of the continental divide. King Noah could view multiple surrounding lands from a prominence in the ceremonial precinct of his capital Mosiah 11:12, Mosiah 19:6.
  • The only point mentioned in the text at an elevation higher than the city of Nephi is a hill north of Shilom Mosiah 7:5-6 which is generally northward (toward Zarahemla Mosiah 11:13) from the city. A plausible candidate hill (Cerro Tuncaj) exists.
Proposed City of Nephi (Kaminaljuyu) with candidate hill north of Shilom:
Kaminaljuyu in Topographical Context
More correspondences:
  • The city of Nephi was the principal urban area in its region Alma 47:20. Ditto KJ.
  • A sister city, Shilom, was very close to Nephi Mosiah 9:8 generally in a northward direction (toward Zarahemla Mosiah 22:11). KJ was closely affiliated with the site of Naranjo 3 kilometers to the north.
  • The institution of kingship was established in Nephi 2 Nephi 5:18, 2 Nephi 6:2, Mosiah 11:8-9. KJ clearly had kings. By ca. 500 BC state-level societies in highland Guatemala had begun organizing around kings (Brant A. Gardner, personal communication).
  • Nephi had a wall around it Mosiah 9:8 that deteriorated over time. A team of  Japanese archaeologists discovered a sizable (25 foot high) wall around KJ made primarily of clay (John L. Sorenson, personal communication.)
6. Ca. 72 BC after a spectacular victory in the fortified city of Noah Alma 49:23 Captain Moroni began a massive public works project to fortify every city in greater Zarahemla Alma 50:1. This kind of large-scale earth movement should show up in the archaeological record and it does. See the article "75 BC" for documentation on fortifications in the area we correlate with greater Zarahemla that date precisely to Captain Moroni's time period. 

7. Helaman 3:3-5 describes a large migration into the land northward ca. 46 BC. People migrated an unusually long distance to a land less heavily forested than greater Zarahemla where lakes were an important feature of the landscape. Alma 50:29 ca. 67 BC presaged this migration. This kind of large-scale movement of people from distant lands should show up in the archaeological record and it does. The first century BC is precisely when Teotihuacan in Central Mexico began its ascent based on in migration from many parts of southern Mesoamerica. Tens of thousands of people were involved. Teotihuacan is over 770 air kilometers distant from our proposed city of Zarahemla, a number that is consistent with the Book of Mormon terminology "exceedingly great distance" (see the article "Things Near and Far" for context on relative distances in the text).
Teotihacan 772 Air Kilometers from Proposed Zarahemla
Nasa's Blue Marble imagery shows the true color of the earth's surface in different months of the year. This is the image for April, the height of the Mesoamerican dry season.
Earth Surface Colors in April
Central Mexico is far less forested than southern Mesoamerica.

Anciently, a band of lakes stretched through Central Mexico from Chapala in Jalisco to Catemaco in Veracruz.
Ancient Band of Lakes in Central Mexico
Both Teotihuacan and Cholula were originally built on the shores of large lakes. Now, of course, this is the most heavily populated part of Mexico and most of the lakes have been drained or pumped dry. Archaeology shows that in the first century BC large numbers of people migrated from southern Mesoamerica into Central Mexico, a less forested area with many large lakes.

8. Ancient cement can last for thousands of years, so the widespread use of cement in the land northward described in Helaman 3:7 and subsequent verses should show up in the archaeological record, and it does.
Tetitla, Teotihuacan photo taken by Kirk Magleby September 23, 2017
Architectural cement as a primary building material is attested throughout Central Mexico in the Book of Mormon time period. See KnoWhy #174 published August 26, 2016.

9. The Lamanites were the Nephites' quintessential nemesis for a thousand years, but as the Nephite nation was in the throes of extinction, another formidable foe appeared on the scene. The Nephites at the end were fighting a two-front war, against not only the Lamanites but also the Gadianton robbers Mormon 2:8, 27-28. The Gadiantons built a powerful city far to the north 3 Nephi 7:11-13, 9:9. At the final battle, the Nephites were caught in a vise between the Lamanites coming up from the south and the Lamanite  allies, the Gadiantons, who controlled the far north. Many serious Book of Mormon scholars believe the final battle took place in the Tuxtla Mountains of southern Veracruz. And what do we see in the archaeology of this area precisely at the time the Nephites were destroyed? We see an assertive Teotihuacan as a dominant force allying itself with others all over Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon description fits remarkably well into this world.
Sites with Teotihuacan Influence ca. AD 380
Pushpins on this map show our correlation of Nephite sites mentioned in the final war narrative, caught between Teotihuacan-allied Lamanites to the south and east and Teothihacan with its allies in the north and west. And when was this Teotihuacan expansion taking place? The famous Stela 31 at Tikal dates the "entrada" of Teotihuacan forces to AD 378, contemporary with the final battle described in Mormon chapter 6.
Tikal Stela 31 Front
El Peru Stela 15, Naachtun Stela 24, and the Tikal Marcador all document the entrada of 378.

10. Beards. In 1979, I authored a paper entitled "A Survey of Mesoamerican Bearded Figures" which was later published as a FARMS preliminary report. It keeps showing up, most recently in Stephen C. Jett's excellent Ancient Ocean Crossings: Re-considering the Case for Contacts with the Pre-Columbian Americas (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2017).

At European contact, almost all native Americans were beardless or had scant facial hair. The earliest Spaniards argued that this beardlessness showed the natives were not real men, did not possess souls, and could therefore be enslaved with impunity (in explicit fulfillment of Mormon 5:9).

In the archaeological record, in contrast, bearded human portrayals are quite common in pre-classic and proto-classic (Book of Mormon) times, tapering off somewhat in the late classic and then becoming much less common in the post-classic. In my 1979 study, I looked at nearly 200 examples of beards in art. F. David Lee in his 2008 "The Bearded Ones: A Context for Bearded Populations in Mesoamerica" analyzed 554 examples. I have visited dozens of museums throughout Mesoamerica. Rarely do I not find at least one bearded figure on display in any given museum.

Bearded Figure from Tres Zapotes Excavated by Matthew Stirling
The Book of Mormon describes immigrants coming from the Old World to the New who eventually suffered genetic bottlenecks as war decimated their populations and destroyed their polities. This narrative is explicitly consistent with the portrayal of bearded human figures we see from Mesoamerican archaeology.

Article last updated October 1, 2017.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Los Horcones

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

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

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

Additional things we learn from the Garcia-des Lauriers paper with possible Book of Mormon implications:
  • The extent of Los Horcones' trade networks was remarkable. This was a nexus, a connecting point. The Book of Mormon consistently describes the Bountiful/Desolation west sea border as a transit point between the lands northward and southward Alma 22:32-34Alma 50:34, Alma 63:5, Mormon 3:5.
  • Los Horcones had close ties to Teotihuacan during the Early Classic (AD 200 - 450). Ca. AD 350, the Nephites forever abandoned the land southward to Lamanite control Mormon 2:29.
  • Los Horcones also maintained strong connections with Veracruz and the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Southern Veracruz is where we place Nephite territories in the land northward. Pacific coastal Guatemala we correlate with the greater land of Nephi in the land southward.
  • Los Horcones was occupied from AD 200 - 700. Apogee was probably AD 400 - 600. From the Book of Mormon we would expect a modest Nephite garrison stationed in the general area ca. 90 BC Alma 22:33 with much more substantial population by ca. AD 328 Mormon 2:6-8.
  • Large numbers of prismatic blades recovered from excavations at Los Horcones evidence militarism in the area which is precisely what the Book of Mormon describes Mormon 2:8.
  • Obsidian at Los Horcones came from Pachuca, Oyameles/Zaragoza, El Chayal, San Martin Jilotepeque, Otumba, and Guadalupe Victoria.
This map shows the sources of Los Horcones obsidian.
Obsidian from Six Sources Found at Los Horcones
Other observations from Claudia Garcia-des Lauriers:
  • The amount of obsidian recovered from Los Horcones is quite large relative to other sites in the area. The Book of Mormon points to the land northward/southward border region as a focus of military activity Alma 50:34-35, Mormon 3:7-8, Mormon 4:19.
  • Obsidian sources in Central Mexico controlled by Teotihuacan are disproportionately represented at Los Horcones. We correlate Teotihuacan with the Gadianton robber capital established by King Jacob 3 Nephi 7:12. Mormon says the Nephites were fighting an alliance of robbers and Lamanites Mormon 1:18, Mormon 2:8, Mormon 2:27.
  • Teotihuacan was a military power, but even more importantly it was a trading empire. The Gadianton robbers were distinguished as intense traders 4 Nephi 1:46.
  • After AD 300 there was a disruption in trading patterns at sites in the southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Whereas up to that point, obsidian had come into the area from Guatemalan quarries, from that point on the Guatemalan material does not appear and all obsidian comes from Central Mexican sources, particularly Oyameles/Zaragoza. The Book of Mormon describes significant political shifts at precisely this time that drew a sharp dividing line between the lands northward and southward Mormon 2:28-29. The annihilation of the Nephites may also have opened up this region to a Teotihuacan trading monopoly controlled from Matacapan. See the article "Matacapan."
This map shows the southern Isthmus region.
Southern Isthmus in Context
Two travel and trade routes came from Central Mexico into Los Horcones. One went through the Ishtmus of Tehuantepec at Chivela Pass, the other through the Central Depression of Chiapas. Both of them communicated between our proposed city Desolation and our proposed Ramah/Cumorah.
Two Routes from Central Mexico to Los Horcones
A rough Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 322 the war of annihilation began in the borders of the greater land of Zarahemla beside river Sidon Mormon 1:10. Mormon was 11 years old Mormon 1:6. Proposed location: The Chama, Alta Verapaz area which we correlate with the land of Manti on the southern border of the greater land of Zarahemla.
  • ca. AD 322 - 326 four years of peace Mormon 1:12.
  • ca. AD 327 Mormon assumed command of the Nephite armies at age 16 Mormon 2:2.
  • ca. AD 327 Nephite retreat towards the north countries Mormon  2:3. Proposed location: Between Chama, Alta Verapaz and Pijijiapan, Chiapas.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Angola fortified ("with our might") then lost. This had not previously been a Nephite city because they had to "take possession" of it. Mormon 2:4 Proposed location: La Libertad, Huehuetenango. 
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 David lost Mormon 2:5. Proposed location: Motozintla, Chiapas area. 
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Nephites gathered into land of Joshua on the west sea Mormon 2:6-7. Proposed location: The Pijijiapan area on the Pacific coast of Chiapas.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Ubiquitous robbers and Lamanites were dual enemies Mormon 1:18, Mormon 2:8.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Widespread witchcraft Mormon 1:19, Mormon 2:10.
  • ca. AD 331 Nephites victorious in battle in land of Joshua Mormon 2:9.
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites retreated from land of Joshua to land of Jashon which was near land of Antum where hill Shim was located Mormon 2:16. Proposed location for Jashon: Laguna de los Cerros, Veracruz area. Proposed location for Antum: Tres Zapotes, Veracruz area. Proposed location for hill Shim: Cerro Vigia between Tres Zapotes and Santiago Tuxtla. 
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites driven northward from Jashon to land of Shem Mormon 2:20. Proposed location: Alvarado, Veracruz area, east of the Papaloapan River.
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites gathered, fortified city of Shem Mormon 2:21. Proposed location, El Meson, Veracruz. This was the northernmost Nephite advance.
A proposed map of Nephite movements ca. AD 322 - 345.
Proposed Manti, Angola, David, Joshua, Jashon, Antum with Hill Shim, & Shem
More Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 346 - 349 From their fortified base in Shem, the Nephite army numbering 30,000 with Mormon in command defeated the numerically superior Lamanite/Robber forces and re-possessed lands they believed were rightfully theirs Mormon 2:22-27.
  • ca. AD 350 The Nephites negotiated a treaty with the combined Lamanite/Robber forces. The line of demarcation was the narrow passage on the Bountiful/Desolation border Mormon 2:28-29. The Nephites occupied the land northward and the Lamanites/Robbers controlled the land southward.
A proposed map contextualizing the strategic narrow passage area.
Proposed Narrow Passage in Green
The Bountiful/Desolation border, which was also the land southward/northward border, we interpret as the east-west line described in Alma 22:32 and 3 Nephi 3:23 and the border described in Alma 63:5. We read Mormon 2:28-29 as describing this same east-west line. It is represented by the longer of the two red lines on the map above. The narrow passage we correlate with the "narrow natural corridor" Garcia-Des Lauriers describes between Cerro Bernal and the Sierra Madre. This corridor is where Mexican Federal Highway 200 runs today. It is represented by the green line on the map above.
Google Street View of Proposed Narrow Passage Area
This image was taken on Mexican Federal Highway 200 headed northbound at about Nuevo Morelos near the La Polca ruins. The Sierra Madre is on the right, Cerro Bernal on the left.

Continuing with the Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 351 - 360 The Nephites enjoyed 10 years of peace in their land northward territory. Mormon kept the people busy building fortifications and manufacturing weapons Mormon 3:1.
  • ca. AD 361 With knowledge that another round of fighting was imminent, Mormon gathered the entire Nephite nation into a single city - Desolation, just north of the land northward/southward border Mormon 3:4-5. We correlate Desolation with the ruins of Paredon on the eastern shore of Mar Muerto. The city of Desolation was very near the narrow pass that led into the land southward. We correlate the narrow pass with the railroad route represented by the orange line on the map above.
  • ca. AD 361 The city of Desolation was in an area where the Nephites had a reasonable expectation of preventing the larger Lamanite/Robber forces from breaking through their defensive lines Mormon 3:6. This is precisely how Garcia-Des Lauriers describes the narrow corridor between the Sierra Madre and Cerro Bernal - that because of its unique topography it could have been "easily controlled" by Los Horcones. Something else interesting was going on in the city of Desolation and environs. Mormon was building extraordinary fortifications "we did fortify against them with all our force."
Mormon had supervised construction of other fortifications. At Angola, he was only 16 years old when he oversaw major defensive public works. The Nephites were quickly defeated, notwithstanding having fortified Angola "with our might" Mormon 2:4. At Shem, Mormon was 34 years old when construction began and those fortifications were successful enough that the Nephite military not only defended Shem, but also went on the offensive and drove the enemy from some Nephite lands. During Mormon's fifth decade (age 40 - 49), he directed the Nephites as they prepared their lands which presumably meant building fortifications Mormon 3:1. When Mormon was 50 years old, he led his people in an unprecedented defensive construction project. They fortified the city of Desolation "with all our force" Mormon 3:6. Those fortifications were so effective that the Nephites could have remained on the defensive, protected in their city of refuge indefinitely Mormon 4:4. We believe the fortifications at Desolation were impregnable when adequately manned because they were built with large granite blocks like those visible today at the site of Iglesia Vieja. See the articles "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage" and "French Connection." Mormon took personal credit for his brilliant military engineering accomplishment Mormon 3:13. When the city of Desolation finally fell, Mormon went out of his way to explain the reason (shortage of defensive manpower) this well-fortified place eventually became vulnerable Mormon 4:13.
Proposed Correlations for Mormon's 3 Fortified Cities
More Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 361 Lamanite invaders came down to the city of Desolation and were defeated. Mormon 3:7.
  • ca. AD 362 Lamanite invaders came down again to the city of Desolation and were soundly defeated. Lamanite dead were cast into the sea Mormon 3:8. This is one of the reasons we site Desolation on the coast. 
  • ca. AD 362 The Nephites grew overconfident after their decisive victory and determined to leave their own lands, go on the offensive into enemy territory, and take the fight to the Lamanites and robbers Mormon 3:9-10. Captain Moroni had threatened to do this 425 years earlier Alma 54:12, but it had never happened. The Nephites had never before been the aggressors beyond the bounds of their lawful territory. The military expedition Zeniff participated in almost engaged the Lamanites, but the wording of verse 1 ("the land of our father's first inheritance) makes it clear those Nephites considered the recently-abandoned city of Nephi still rightfully theirs and available via treaty Mosiah 9:1-2. 3 Nephi 3:20-21 describes the divine mandate that the Nephites always remain on the defensive, even against irregular or extralegal forces occupying wilderness areas.
  • ca. AD 362 At age 51, Mormon relinquished his military command. He refused to be part of a punitive expeditionary raid that violated what he considered a fundamental tenet of the Nephite covenant with God Mormon 3:11-16.
  • ca. AD 363 The Nephite military left the city and land of Desolation, invaded territory rightfully belonging to Lamanites and robbers, mounted a surprise attack, were repulsed, then driven back into their own land of Desolation Mormon 4:1-2. Once the survivors were back across the land of Desolation border, a new Lamanite army engaged the spent Nephite forces and nearly obliterated them. This allowed the invaders to take the unusually well fortified city of Desolation Mormon 4:2. Nephite survivors fled to the neighboring coastal city of Teancum Mormon 4:3. At this time I do not know of a suitable candidate for Teancum. It is a coastal site probably only a few kilometers distant from Desolation.
  • ca. AD 363 Mormon points out the turning point in the war - the disastrous Nephite invasion into Lamanite lands. There would be fleeting Nephite victories, but the die was cast. This was the moment when the Nephites "began to be smitten" Mormon 4:4. Had the Nephites not lost most of their fighting force in an offensive blunder, they could have remained secure in and around the city of Desolation the rest of their lives.
  • ca. AD 364 The Lamanites, still controlling Desolation, attempted to take Teancum and were defeated. Heartened by their successful defense, the Nephites drove their weakened enemies out of Desolation as well Mormon 4:7-8. The implication is that the Nephites applied the lessons they had learned at Desolation about defensive fortification architecture to Teancum. There appears to be a numbers game going on here. A fortified city could hold out against superior forces until troop strength relative to the invaders dropped below a certain critical mass.
  • ca. AD 367 The Lamanites invaded Desolation again with overwhelming force and took control of the city Mormon 4:13. The Lamanites marched on neighboring Teancum and took control of that city as well Mormon 4:14. Both sides had descended into unprecedented depths of utter depravity.
  • ca. AD 367 The remaining Nephites, stirred up into a vicious frenzy by Lamanite atrocities, re-took control of both Teancum and Desolation and re-enforced the boundary established by treaty 17 years earlier Mormon 4:15.
  • ca. AD 367 - 375 The Nephites resided in peace in the Desolation - Teancum area for 8 years Mormon 4:16.
  • ca. AD 375 The Lamanites invaded the city of Desolation for the 5th time in 15 years. The Lamanite army was enormous - unprecedented up to that point in the war, and the out manned Nephites were forced to retreat Mormon 4:17-19. By this time it was clear to Mormon that the end was near.
  • ca. AD 375 The Nephites made a valiant stand in the city of Boaz and defeated the first Lamanite army that attempted to invade Mormon 4:20. Where is Boaz? There is so little context for this city in the text that we may never know for sure. The double site of La Soledad in Chiapas NW of Arriaga is a likely candidate.
This map shows our proposed location for Boaz.
La Soleada, Chiapas, Possible Nephite City of Boaz
Continuing Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 375 The Lamanites attacked Boaz a second time and routed the Nephites. The Nephites began a general evacuation and retreat not just from their headquarters, but from all of their settlements Mormon 4:20-22.
  • ca. AD 375 - 379 Mormon describes a major political upheaval "the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land" Mormon 4:23. This is one of the most remarkable statements in the Book of Mormon. Precisely at this time, political upheaval took place all over Mesoamerica with well-documented regime changes in the Maya lowlands. AD 378 was the famous "entrada" or entry of Teotihuacan-allied forces into the Peten that shaped politics for the next two hundred years and ushered in the resplendent Maya classic era.
This map shows sites with significant Teotihuacan influence. Many of them experienced political convulsion right at the time period Mormon describes. Key sites in the Peten such as Waka (El Peru) and Tikal are shown as black pyramid symbols, but their names do not appear because so many sites are densely packed that Google Earth does not render all the names.
Sites with Known Significant Teotihuacan Influence
Two areas of Teotihuacan influence draw our attention. The first is the Pacific coast of Chiapas around Los Horcones.
Proposed Book of Mormon Locations near Los Horcones and Fraccion Mujular,
both of which were under Teotihuacan Iinfluence ca. AD 378
The second is the Tuxtlas Region of Southern Veracruz.
Proposed Book of Mormon Locations near Tres Zapotes, Matacapan, and Piedra Labrada,
all three of which were under Teotihuacan Influence ca. AD 378
So, at precisely the moment Mormon says the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, we believe the Nephites had been driven from the Los Horcones, Fraccion Mujular area and the Nephite repository buried in hill Shim was no longer secure because Teotihuacan was intensifying its control of the Matacapan area.

More Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 375 - 379 Mormon aged 64 - 68 resumed command of the Nephite military after an absence of at least 13 years Mormon 5:1.
  • ca. AD 375 - 379 Under Mormon's leadership, the Nephites gathered at Jordan and several other nearby cities. These cities were fortified because the text calls them strong holds. This cluster of cities guarded the route into more expansive lands still under Nephite control. The Nephites successfully repulsed two Lamanite attacks on Jordan and environs Mormon 5:3-4.
There are natural choke points around Chivela Pass where travelers ancient and modern have crossed over the continental divide. We propose Jordan was in the general vicinity of Chivela Pass. With the Sierra Madre on either side, the Nephites at this place would have been in an advantageous position to control enemy movements northward through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This is the place Mexican Federal Highway 185 and the railroad run today.
Proposed Location of Jordan at Chivela Pass
Green represents Continental Divide, Turquoise Highway 185, and Orange Railroad
Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 380 The Lamanites came a third time against Jordan with overwhelming force and drove the Nephites into full evacuation and retreat Mormon 5:6.
  • ca. AD 380 - 384 Mormon wrote an epistle to the Lamanite king asking for time to gather all remaining Nephites to the land of Cumorah Mormon 6:2. The Nephite nation came together around the hill Ramah/Cumorah which we correlate with San Martin Pajapan on the eastern extreme of the Tuxtlas Mountains in southern Veracruz.
  • ca. AD 385 At age 74 Mormon hid up the Nephite record repository in hill Cumorah Mormon 6:6.
  • ca. AD 385 230,000 Nephites were massacred in and around hill Ramah/Cumorah Mormon 6:7-15.
Topographic view of our proposed Ramah/Cumorah:
San Martin Pajapan in Context
For additional insights into the last years of the Nephite nation, see the blog articles Ramah Cumorah, Linguistic Cumorah, and Matacapan.

This map shows our correlation for places mentioned in Mormon's record of his career as prophet, historian, and supreme commander of Nephite forces.
Proposed Locations for Mormon's Eye-Witness Account
This helps us visualize Mormon in space and time. See the 2012 article Captain Moroni in Space and Time for a similar treatment of the other quintessential Nephite military hero.

If our correlation is correct, Mormon as commander ranged over territory 628 air kilometers in extent between ca. AD 327 and 385.
628 Air Kilometer Distance Proposed Manti to Shem
As a point of comparison, if our correlation is correct, Captain Moroni as commander ranged over territory 591 air kilometers in extent between ca. 74 and 61 BC.
591 Air Kilometers Distance Proposed Judea to Bountiful
I occasionally hear objections from thoughtful students of the text that distances on the order of 600 air kilometers are too large, that the Nephites could not have ranged over that vast a territory. This map puts distances on that scale into perspective.
596 Air Kilometers Cornwall to Norfolk
Another perspective.
591 Air Kilometers Dorset to Northumberland
Article last updated May 15, 2017.