Friday, March 27, 2020

Light from St Paul

The Maya Society of Minnesota regularly invites eminent Mesoamericanists to present lectures and labs on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul. The 2019 - 2020 speakers were intriguing and we have grandchildren in Minneapolis, so I joined the society and managed to make it to two meetings. This is a synopsis of what I found interesting in the presentations from a Book of Mormon perspective. My Book of Mormon insights are bolded.

September 20, 21, 2019 Andrew K. Scherer is a colleague of Stephen D. Houston at Brown Univeristy. Scherer was a student at Hamline who went on to get his PhD from Texas A&M. He taught at Wagner and Baylor before joining the Brown faculty. Bioarchaeology is his focus and he has received funding from NSF, NGS, and NEH. Much of his research has been in collaboration with Charles W. Golden from Brandeis. The two of them are leading authorities on the Usumacinta River area around Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán. Anything they publish has potential relevance because the Book of Mormon geography correlation I consider most likely to be correct (it was the first to pass a strict audit with a perfect score of 100%) locates the land of Melek in and around Yaxchilán. In Community of Christ/Restoration Branch circles, Book of Mormon scholars for over 100 years have correlated Yaxchilán with the city of Zarahemla. M. Wells Jakeman in the 1950's thought El Cayo may have been the city of Zarahemla.
Major Sites in the Area Scherer and Golden Have Studied
Scherer, Golden, Houston, and other collaborators published a major article entitled "Centering the Classic Maya Kingdom of Sak Tzi'i'" in Journal of Field Archaeology, Volume 45, 2020 - Issue 2, pp. 67-85. Sak Tzi'i' (white dog) was known from inscriptions, but archaeologists were not sure which site it was until Scherer et al. positively identified it as the site of Lacanja Tzeltal at the headwaters of the Lacanja River. Sak Tzi'i' was first settled ca. 750 BC.

Notes from Scherer: More than 2,000 ancient human remains have been recovered from Piedras Negras burials. Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán were peers and enemies. Sak Tzi'i' was a smaller site in the orbit of these two giants. Sak Tzi'i' had an Ajaw (lord) while the larger sites had a K'uhul Ajaw (holy lord). La Mar was another site that only had an Ajaw and it was subordinate to Piedras Negras. Piedras Negras Stela 26, Bonampak Lintel 2, and Toniná Monument 8 all mention taking captives from Sak Tzi'i'. Major sites in this area included Palenque, Toniná, Piedras Negras, and Yaxchilán.
About a dozen inscriptions from AD 608 through 864 mention Sak Tzi'i'. It was heavily looted in the 1960's and pieces from Sak Tzi'i' are now in major museum collections such as Denver, Brussels, New York, etc. The site dynasty endured for 300 years from AD 564 to 864.

An inscription from Sak Tzi'i' mentions och bi (road entering) which is a well-known ancient Mayan expression meaning "death." This reminds us of Lehi's words when his demise was imminent that he "must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth." 2 Nephi 1:14.

Stelae in this Upper Usumacinta region are mortuary monuments. This reminds us of the large stone Coriantumr carved to memorialize his life described in Omni 1:20-22.

An inscription from Sak Tzi'i' mentions a deluge event that happened in the remote past. The Maya believed the current world age which began on August 11, 3114 BC (4 ahau 8 kumk'u), was created after a universal flood. The Book of Mormon mentions the flood of Noah three times, in Alma 10:22, 3 Nephi 22:9, and Ether 6:7. See the blog articles entitled "Base Dates" and "Primordial Flood" for additional context.

Sak Tzi'i' was protected by steep riverbanks on one side and defensive walls on the other. The walls were 1 meter wide foundations for wooden palisades. This matches the Book of Mormon precisely. Alma 50:2-3 and 53:4 describe cities surrounded by earthen walls topped with wooden pickets.

UNAM and UADY were excavation partners. Sak Tzi'i' had a triadic group more or less following the pattern of the cross group at Palenque. The Usumacinta sites all had ballcourts in polity capitals. Sak Tzi'i' had a single altar ballcourt like Plan de Ayutla. One carving shows 2 bound captives. Flint and obsidian lance or spear points were deposited in a cache. In other words, this was a typical middle-sized classic Maya city state with 24 stelae, 11 altars, 1 panel, and 11 stone "squat monuments." Rulers are depicted holding serpent bars and some stelae are columnar. This map shows relative site locations.
Sites with Sak Tzi'i' Relationships
Sak Tzi'i' was a large center in the pre-classic. Early pots date from the middle to the late pre-classic. This makes it likely relevant to the Book of Mormon which took place largely in the pre-classic.

Many Sak Tzi'i' rulers had a Te' (tree) element in their names. K'ab' kan Te' is attested AD 628. K'ab' chan Te' is dated AD 636. Another K'ab' chan Te' has a date AD 722. Ye te' K'inich is dated AD 787 and another K'ab' chan Te' is attested AD 864. This is interesting because the idea that humans can become trees as described in Alma 32:28-43 is found throughout Mesoamerican art and iconography.
Pakal Ancestor K'an Joy Chitam as a Tree
Sarcophagus, Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque
Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson
For more information, see the blog article "Anthropomorphic Trees."

Takeshi Inomata has the most exciting site (Aguada Fénix) in Mesoamerica. See the article "Usumacinta Olmec" for more information. Aguada Fénix will almost certainly re-write the book on Olmec - Maya interaction in the 1,000 - 700 BC time frame. For example, at the same time (ca. 700 BC) that Izapa on the south had over a dozen smaller copies of itself in its orbit (see the blog article "Izapa"), Aguada Fénix on the north had over a dozen smaller copies of itself in its area of influence, all following the "Middle Formative Usumacinta" site layout plan.

The agriculture that supported Piedras Negras was on the Mexican side of the Usumacinta. They used drained fields like the chinampas in Central Mexico. Yaxchilán collapsed AD 810. We see defensive fortifications (earthen walls) at Piedras Negras, Yaxchilán, and La Mar. Moroni commented ca. AD 400 that war was endemic among the Lamanites Mormon 8:8.

Scherer presented at a 2018 Tulane conference on warfare. In the 1940's, Experts thought the Maya were a peaceful people. Sir J. Eric S. Thompson wrote that warfare came late to the Maya area from Central Mexico, and that the Maya were astronomers, theologians, and timekeepers. Sylvanus Morley thought the "old empire" sculpture lacked militarism. In 1949, Life Magazine published an article about the murals at Bonampak that clearly showed warriors fighting. It was largely dismissed because archaeologists had not found fortifications or defensive structures.

The picture began to change when Stephen D. Houston wrote his dissertation at Yale (PhD 1987) describing defensive walls at Dos Pilas. Arthur Demarest published an article in National Geographic showing walls at Dos Pilas and a moat around Punta de Chimino. Chaak Ak' al, occupied from 300 BC to AD 150, had large scale defensive fortifications built ca. 75 BC, precisely at the time the Book of Mormon describes Captain Moroni fortifying cities throughout the greater land of Zarahemla Alma 50:1. The leading Book of Mormon geography correlation (the one that successfully passed a strict audit) identifies Noah with Chaak Ak' al. Scherer's grad student, Omar Andrés Alcover Firpi, studied fortifications at Becan which date from AD 100 - 250. Ceibal also has fortifications that date to ca. 75 BC. The leading Book of Mormon geography correlation places Aaron at Ceibal. Richard Terry and Bob Roylance identify Ceibal with the city of Zarahemla.

La Pasadita was a site subordinate to Yaxchilán. La Pasadita Lintel 1 is in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin. It is among a fortified ring of sites north of Yaxchilán that took advantage of natural barriers such as swamps and hills. La Pasadita is surrounded by low, short, linear rubble mounds built with rough, irregular rocks. The Book of Mormon says the Nephites built stone walls as fortifications Alma 48:8. Yaxchilán border settlements were typically on hilltops. Most of the people in Yaxchilán lived in low lying areas on the Guatemalan side of the Usumacinta. This supports the leading Book of Mormon geography correlation which has Alma II preaching in Melek adjacent to wilderness west of Sidon Alma 8:3, then crossing over Sidon and traveling 3 days journey (about 45 air kilometers) north to Ammonihah Alma 8:6. The correlation we are following places Ammonihah at El Hormiguero II on the Guatemalan San Pedro 7 air kilometers from the Mexican border.

This map shows Becan in the north and Izapa in the south, about 500 air kilometers distant from each other.
Archaeological Sites with Becan in the NE and Izapa in the SW
And this map shows the sites mentioned so far in the upper and middle Usumacinta areas.
Sites from Aguada Fénix in the North to Punta de Chimino in the South
Richard Terry (BYU Plant & Wildlife Sciences, Emeritus) determined that the main market at Piedras Negras was in the southern portion of the site. Helaman 7:10 verifies that Nephite cities had chief markets.

Yaxchilán was surrounded by a defensive ring of fortified settlements that included Chicozapote and Nuevo Guerrero on the Mexican side of the river and Tecolote, La Pasadita, and Oso Negro on the Guatemalan side. They protected Yaxchilán from Piedras Negras, its perennial enemy to the north. The Usumacinta north of Añaite is treacherous with rapids and the steep Chicozapote Canyon. There is an area of marshland around Laguneta Lacandon that is a natural chokepoint and border between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán. About every 3 kilometers in this area a creek flows into the big river. There are travel routes both east and west of the Usumacinta. To go from Palenque to Piedras Negras to Yaxchilán you would travel east of the Usumacinta. This agrees precisely with the leading Book of Mormon correlation and the text. Palenque is thought to be in the lesser land of Zarahemla and the text says people traveling from Zarahemla to points south typically crossed over Sidon to Gideon and traveled southward from there Alma 6:7Alma 16:7, Alma 17:1.
Book of Mormon Lands According to the Leading (Audited) Correlation
This map zooms in on the heavily fortified border area between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilán.
Piedras Negras, Yaxchilán, Natural Barriers and Fortified Border Sites
West of Piedras Negras are the Cola del Diablo Rapids where the Busiljá River enters the Usumacinta. The Chicozapote Rapids, aka Chicozapote Falls, aka Añaite Rapids, are between Yaxchilán and El Cayo. Arroyo Macabilero by Laguneta Lacandon is the border area. The Usumacinta in this area rises and falls by 10 meters from the dry season to the rainy season and back again. Streamflow varies from just under 500 cubic meters per second at low flow to as much as 5,500 cubic meters per second at peak flow in a wet year. The foliage is so thick and inclines so steep around Tecolote it can take up to 12 hours to travel 3 kilometers. On the other hand, you can walk the gentle slopes from Yaxchilán to La Pasadita in one day. The distance from Yaxchilán to La Pasadita is 15 air kilometers. 15 air kilometers is exactly the distance the leading (audited) Book of Mormon model deduces for the standard measure the text calls a "day's journey." See the blog article "Land Southward Travel Times."

There are low walls south of Arroyo Macabilero in the saddles between hills. 14 walls have been identified at Tecolote, 2 at La Pasadita, and 1 at El Tunel. 1 wall has been discovered at Yaxchilán and  that served as a foundation for wooden palisades or barricades. Bernal Diaz del Castillo in his The True History of the Conquest of New Spain translated by A.P. Maudslay and published by the Hakluyt Society of London in four volumes, 1908 - 1916, at approximately p. 300, talks about indigenous American's use of defensive barricades. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan which depicts Alvarado's conquest of Central America shows native defensive barricades. A restored copy of the Lienzo is in the Museo Popol Vuh in Guatemala City. Some of the Guatemalan barricades had gates. The Lienzo also shows spiked pit horse traps.
Lienzo de Quauhquechollan Painted ca. 1530 Showing Wooden Palisades
Universidad Francisco Marroquín Digital Restoration
In an article entitled "Tecolote, Guatemala: Archaeological Evidence for a Fortified Late Classic Maya Political Border" published in Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 34, 2009, pp. 285-305, Scherer and Golden show a drawing of what defensive wooden palisades looked like anciently in this part of Guatemala.
Andrew Scherer's Drawing of Defensive Wooden Palisades at Tecolote
Andrew Restall in an article entitled "Invasion: The Maya at War, 1520's to 1540's" published in Embattled Bodies, Embattled Places: War in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and the Andes, Andrew K. Scherer and John W. Verano, editors (Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2014) says Maya defensive structures, including wooden barricades, were often designed to funnel and route invading warriors into designated killing fields or alleys.

In the Tecolote area, settlements were on hilltops with defensive structures including palisade-topped walls between the hills. Watch towers have been discovered around Tecolote, La Pasadita, and El Tunel. The Book of Mormon describes watch towers as part of Captain Moroni's defensive fortification strategy Alma 50:4.
Watch Towers Overlooking Defensive Walls in the Tecolote/La Pasadita Area
Map by Andrew K. Scherer published in Scherer and Golden 2009
This is a diagram of what the hilltop watch towers looked like from the air compared with a typical hilltop residential settlement.
a Watch Tower and b Hilltop Residential Patio in the Tecolote/La Pasadita Area
Diagram by G. Valle published in Scherer and Golden 2009
El Kinel is located inside a bend in the Usumacinta. A circular moat was constructed on the other side of the site so it was surrounded by water. This moat is almost identical to the one at Punta de Chimino. Bernal Diaz del Castillo in his The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, Maudslay translation, p. 305, describes very deep fosse (ditches or moats) used by native Mesoamericans in defensive fortifications. Large ditches were part of Captain Moroni's defensive fortification strategy Alma 49:18,22; 53:3-4.
Remains of Ancient Circular Moat Visible in Aerial Photography
El Kinel, 10 Air Kilometers SE of Yaxchilán
Zancudero is a pre-classic site with a high defensive wall 5 air kilometers east of Yaxchilán. Macabilero has good evidence of pre-classic warfare. On the Guatemalan side of the river are cut stone blocks 15 to 20 feet tall. This kind of megatlithic defensive architecture is rare in Mesoamerica. Megalithic blocks of granite may have been Mormon's defensive architecture strategy at the city of Desolation Mormon 3:6, 4:4. See the blog articles "French Connection" and "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage."

At Macabilero, excavators found quantities of small round sling stones. They are about the size of tennis balls. Houston and Garrison found similar stocks of small round sling stones at La Cuernavilla Fortress west of Tikal. The Book of Mormon says both the Nephites and Lamanites commonly used stones as weapons Alma 49:2,4,19,22. Alma 50:5 says the Nephites cast stones from their defensive towers which probably means they used slings.

This is a screen capture from the video "Dr. Stephen Houston - Recovering a Lost World" of a presentation the noted Mayanist gave at BYU on Monday, October 28, 2019. It shows a Maya warrior on attack.
Maya Warrior Armed with a Stone in His Hand
And these are some of the tennis ball-sized stones found at La Cuernavilla from the same video.
Sling Stones Excavated at La Cuernavilla Fortress near El Zotz, Peten
There are 13 walls in saddles between hills around La Mar, Chiapas. The walls clearly show post holes where wooden palisades once stood. Wall fill includes dart points and bi-faces rather than the pot shards commonly found at other sites.
Post Molds in Defensive Wall from El Kinel, Peten
This photo was published in Golden and Scherer, "Border Problems: Recent Archaeological Research Along the Usumacinta River," The PARI Journal, Vol. VII, No. 2, Fall 2006. I thank my friend, Richard Terry, for bringing this to my attention.

10 defensive walls have been discovered at Piedras Negras, north of the site center. They date to the early classic. 2 defensive walls have been discovered by Yaxchilán in addition to the one in the city. Lacanja Tzeltal (Sak Tzi'i') was fotified. There were late pre-classic fortresses at Macabilero and Zancudero. Chinikiha also dates to the pre-classic, although no fortifications are presently known from the site. Some walls, such as those at La Mar, protected the city. Other walls, such as those at La Pasadita and Oso Negro, protected the greater polity (in this case, Yaxchilán).
Sites Referenced in the Greater Yaxchilán Area
These are sites referenced in the Greater Piedras Negras Area.
Sites Referenced in the Greater Piedras Negras Area
Andrew Scherer closed out his presentation talking about sacrifices. The Maya sacrificed themselves, animals, children, and captives. Auto-sacrifice was generally done by piercing the tongue or genitals with a stingray spine, obsidian blade, or sharpened bone handle. Yax ch'ab was the royal imperative to feed the gods and placate the supernaturals. Royal blood was dripped on paper which was burned and the ascending smoke was thought to provide divine nourishment, forestall divine ire, and ensure human well-being. Well-known iconographic portrayals include Dos Pilas Panel 19, Yaxchilán Lintel 3, Yaxchilán Throne 1, and a monument from Palenque Temple XXI. The Hauberg Stela references god G1 and depicts a young royal's first bloodletting.
Hauberg Stela, Princeton Museum of Art
The Book of Mormon references the Mesoamerican cultural practice of royal bloodletting in Alma 34:11.

Animals sacrificed by the Maya included bobwhites. The Book of Mormon says the Nephites offerred animal sacrifices Mosiah 2:3.

Child sacrifices are depicted on El Cayo Altar 4 and Piedras Negras Stela 11. El Zotz Burial 9 contained the remains of six children in ceramic vases. They ranged in age from six months to 4 years. El Zotz Burials 6 and 15 also contained sacrificed children whose remains were in ceramic offering vessels.
Child Sacrifice in a Cache Vessel Atop a Tripod, Justin Kerr Photo K1645
The Book of Mormon describes Lamanites sacrificing children Mormon 4:14, 21.

Sacrificing captives was a widespread practice among the Maya.
Captive Prisoners Awaiting Decapitation, Justin Kerr Photo K680
The Book of Mormon describes Lamanites killing Nephite prisoners of war Alma 56:12 and sacificing war captives Mormon 4:14, 21.
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On October 19-20, 2019, I was privileged to hear Takeshi Inomata discuss his recent work at Aguada Fénix. He enntitled his presentation "Large Ceremonial Constructions at the Dawn of Maya Civilization." Inomata typically teams up with Daniela Triadan. He directed the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project from 2005 - 2017 in Peten, Guatemala and currently directs the Middle Usumacinta Archaeological Project in Tabasco, Mexico. He thrives on paradigm shifts. He received his PhD from Vanderbilt. My notes from a lecture he gave at BYU on March 8, 2016 are in the blog article "Takeshi Inomata."

Maya origins were explosive, not gradual. From 330 BC to AD 250 sites in the Mirador Basin rose to great heights. During the early pre-classic, prior to 1,000 BC, those same sites were pre-ceramic. in 1,200 BC, artisans at San Lorenzo erected an enormous artificial plateau. By the middle pre-classic, 1,000 BC, La Venta was just beginning to develop. Aguada Fénix began at 1,000 BC. It had no direct Olmec influence. La Venta had an E Group. It has been said that La Venta was part of the Middle Formative Chiapas cultural tradition widely attested throughout the Grijalva Basin. That nomenclature is not necessarily accurate. There were E Groups throughout the Maya area. It has been said that greenstone and centerline caches were not present in the Maya area but were characteristic of the Middle Formative Chiapas sites such as La Venta, San Isidro, Chiapa de Corzo, and La Libertad. That is expressly not true. Inomata began working at Ceibal in 2005. They found a cache, then more greenstone caches along the E-W centerline axis of an E Group. They found an Olmec carving in the early Ceibal construction phase from 1,000 to 700 BC. 176 C-14 dates have been analyzed from Ceibal with Bayesian statistical techniques, making it the most accurately-dated Maya site.

Ceramics first appear at Ceibal at 950 BC. They first appear at La Venta 1,000 - 900 BC. La Venta was a large center by 800 BC. Ceibal was founded in the gap after the collapse of San Lorenzo and before La Venta became powerful. La Carmelita, west of the Usumacinta on the outskirts of Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco, dates to 900 BC. It shows both Middle Formative Chiapas (MFC) and Middle Formative Usumacinta (MFU) characteristics. MFC and MFU are planned site layout patterns.
MFC (White Pins) and MFU (Yellow Pins) Sites, San Lorenzo
Aguada Fénix (AF) is only 3 kilometers from the site of El Tiradero which follows the MFC pattern. AF and most of the other MFU sites were discovered with LiDAR. It has ramps, reservoirs, north south causeways, and a 15 meter high artificial platform. It has a 5 kilometer causeway to the north that is 200 meters wide. It has an E Group and a small pyramid. The site is as large as central Tikal or central Teotihuacan. Excavators found a floor with a checkerboard pattern made from different colored clays. It looks like the floral carpets you see in Antigua, Guatemala during Semana Santa.

1,200 BC AF was nothing but a midden. The plateau was built beginning 1,000 BC, which makes AF slightly older than Ceibal. Construction stopped at AF 800 BC. Some of the construction was with large stones. The causeways were built 900 - 800 BC. Some of them have multiple floors. Some comparative sizes:
  • Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan 1,600,000 cubic meters
  • Platform, Aguada Fénix 2,800,000 cubic meters
  • La Danta, El Mirador 2,800,000 cubic meters
  • Platform, San Lorenzo 4,000,000 cubic meters
Some comparative dates:
  • 1,400 - 1,100 BC San Lorenzo
  • 1,000 - 800 BC Aguada Fénix
  • 950 BC - AD 950 Ceibal
  • 800 - 400 BC La Venta 
Comparative characteristics:
  • San Lorenzo had artificial plateaus and no pyramids
  • Aguada Fénix had an artificial plateau and a small pyramid
  • Ceibal had multiple pyramids
  • La Venta had no plateau and pyramids
These sites show movement over time from horizontal monumentality to vertical monumentality. There was not much maize cultivated prior to 1,000 BC. Beginning 1,000 BC, maize was prevalent. The Book of Mormon says the Jaredites raised grain Ether 9:17, 10:12.

Maize agriculture provided the caloric base to support large populations. The Book of Mormon says the Jaredites had large populations Ether 15:2.

Ceramics were well-established in the Olmec heartland by 1,200 BC. They entered the Maya area at 1,000 BC. The clay is similar at San Lorenzo, Ceibal, and AF. No caches have been discovered yet at AF. One cache at Ceibal had greenstones with depictions of the Olmec maize god. The main north south axis at AF is 9 degrees east of true north. The MFC pattern dates from 800 - 400 BC. The Grijalva centers declined in 400 BC along with La Venta. The MFU pattern pre-dates MFC.

Inomata's lab on Saturday focused on LiDAR and then covered a miscellany of topics. Arlen and Diane Chase who dig Caracol were the first to use LiDAR. Inomata followed at Ceibal. LiDAR flights are done at the end of the dry season. Dense vegetation at ground level in northern Yucatan makes LiDAR less effective. You can change from near infrared to intermediate infrared to far infrared depending on the tree canopy cover. Besides Caracol and Ceibal, LiDAR has now been done at Teotihuacan, Aguada Fénix I and II, Izapa, Dzibanche, Peten (PACUNAM I and II), El Mirador, a Belizean consortium funded by the Alphawood Foundation, Mayapan, Chichen Itza, the Coba causeway, Tres Zapotes, Palenque, and Yaxchilán. LiDAR is effective in primary forest, less so in secondary forest.

The Petexbatun E groups end ca. 300 BC, just after the MFC sites in the Grijalva Basin. Around Ceibal, structures were built on high ground. The structural density at Ceibal is 450 structures per square kilometer. Ceibal was abandoned between AD 900 - 950.

Aguada Fénix is oriented 9 degrees E of true N. El Tiradero 3 kilometers away is oriented precisely N S. Aguada Fénix (AF) got its name from Rancho Fénix whose land surrounds it. Balancan, 45 air kilometers west of AF,  has Olmec iconography. Sediment analysis from cores drilled in Lake Pajonal 10 kilometers east of Villahermosa shows data patterns almost identical with those from La Venta. It is possible the Villahermosa area was part of greater La Venta from 800 - 400 BC. This is interesting because La Venta was likely part of the Jaredite land northward. If La Venta extended all the way to Villahermosa, we may have to re-think the current proposal for the land northward/land southward boundary.
La Venta, Villahermosa, and Current Proposed Jaredite Boundary
The Usumacinta at Boca del Cerro pre-dates the mountains which is why it cut right through the ridge. Inomata is impressed with Boca del Cerro. So am I. It is one of the most dramatic physical features I have seen anywhere on earth. It is the point where a lush coastal plain, big river, steep canyon, and high jungle mountain all come together. In the leading (audited) Book of Mormon correlation, Boca del Cerro is the boundary between the lesser land of Zarahemla on the north and the upland wilderness on the south that eventually leads travelers to the land of Nephi.
Boca del Cerro, Tabasco, a Geographical Inflection Point
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I did not make it to hear Ruud van Akkeren who is a Research Associate with the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala City, but his material is useful to students of the Book of Mormon, so I include a brief note here. A handful of people over the years have spent so much time with the Maya they have practically gone native which makes them invaluable resources for understanding Maya thought processes, speech patterns, and lifeways. Dennis Tedlock is one of these people and he has produced a splendid library of works including the very important Rabinal Achi (See the blog article "Rabinal Achi" for Book of Mormon connections). Allen Christenson is another and he has produced the quintessential Popol Vuh. My friend, Kerry Hull, is another and he has produced dictionaries of Ch'orti' Mayan as well as studies of Maya poetry. Ruud van Akkeren is one of these exceptional Mayanist/ethnographers and he is working on the Kaqchikel Memorial de Sololá.

Dr. Akkeren contends that the division academic specialists make between highland and lowland Maya is artificial and misleading. For him, the Popol Vuh and other Maya documents are highly relevant to our understanding of the classic Maya inscriptions from the lowlands. He emphasizes lineage connections over ethnic or language groups and believes Maya writings are best understood as lineage histories. In other words, blood is thicker than water. The Book of Mormon is a lineage history. Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh Alma 10:3 which tied him into Abraham through Joseph 1 Nephi 5:14. Ammon was a descendant of Zarahemla Mosiah 7:3 who was a descendant of Mulek Mosiah 25:2. Lamoni was a descendant of Ishmael Alma 17:21. Ammoron was a descendant of Zoram Alma 54:23. Before Amulek preached to his fellow citizens in his home town of Ammonihah, he recited an 8 step genealogy that tied him into Joseph who was sold into Egypt, a heroic figure who had lived approximately 1,500 years earlier Alma 10:2-3. We could go on and on. The book of Ether is organized genealogically around the descendants of Jared. After the founding epic, Jared's famous brother gets basically ignored because his descendants were not the Jaredite kings. At the end of his father's record, Moroni stated his lineage Mormon 8:13, like his father before him had done two times 3 Nephi 5:20, Mormon 1:5. The seven founding linages of the Book of Mormon appear near the beginning of the record Jacob 1:13 and twice near the end 4 Nephi 1:37-38, Mormon 1:8. Like Maya writings, the Book of Mormon is best understood as a lineage history.

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to people everywhere. Book of Mormon Central publishes the remarkable new scripture study app ScripturePlus.