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 Chivelas 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: