Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Water Fight on the River - Round Two

2. Question. Where were the Mulekites most likely to have founded their capital city? See the article "Asking the Right Questions" in this blog.

2. Answer. The most likely place for the Mulekites to have founded their city was in a coastal plain, on the navigable portion of a major river, upstream from the seasonal floods in the delta but not beyond the head of navigation at the fall line.
2. Exhibits. The lower Mezcalapa-Grijalva fits both criteria. It is in the coastal plain downstream from the fall line. We can safely rule out this portion of the river, though, because it has radically changed course so many times in the last 2,500 years (See the article "Wandering River" in this blog) and that violates another Book of Mormon textual requirement (See the article "Asking the Right Questions" question #14 in this blog). We have created a graphic that shows some of the major movements of the Mezcalapa-Grijalva since Book of Mormon times. Our sources included works from and private conversations with Tabascan scholars Maximo Carrera Sosa (Geological Engineer), Judith Guadalupe Ramos Hernandez (Hydrologist), and Augustin Somellera Pulido (Geological Engineer). Other important sources were publications by Christopher L. von Nagy including his 2003 PhD dissertation at Tulane entitled "Of Meandering Rivers and Shifting Towns: Landscape Evolution and Community within the Grijalva Delta."
Lower Mezcalapa-Grijalva showing the eastward movement
of the river since Jaredite-Mulekite times.

The peripatetic nature of the lower Mezcalapa-Grijalva helps explain why in January-June, 1953, Gareth W. Lowe, Ramon PiƱa Chan, William T. Sanders and John L. Sorenson found no large pre-classic sites in the area around Huimanguillo (See the article "Book of Mormon Lands 1830 - 1985" in this blog).
The lower Usumacinta does not fit the first criterion. The delta area is innundated much of the year and therefore ill-suited for large-scale human settlement. NASA satellite imagery graphically shows standing water in the Usumacinta flood plain.
Satellite imagery showing standing water in Tabasco & Campeche.
The middle Usumacinta, on the other hand, hits the bulls-eye. It fits both criteria nicely. We have superimposed EAAMS data on our map of the middle Usumacinta to show the extent of documented ancient settlement in the area.
The middle Usumacinta with known archaeological sites,
the most famous of which is, of course, Palenque.
Robert Rands is one of the archaeologists who has worked in this area. He contributed two articles to the 1973 University of New Mexico publication The Classic Maya Collapse edited by T. Patrick Culbert. In Rands' article entitled "The Classic Maya Collapse: Usumacinta Zone and the Northwestern Periphery," he says that occupations in this area were most vigorous during the pre-classic (Book of Mormon times) with a partial hiatus followed by extensive occupation again in the post-classic (900 AD to European contact). In September, 2006, V. Garth Norman and I spent some time in this area. At the site of Nueva Esperanza II, we saw dozens of unexcavated mounds scattered through cattle pastures. Clearly this relatively unexplored area supported a large population in antiquity.
Some of the dozens of mounds visible at Nueva Esperanza II downstream
from Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco. Photo by Kirk Magleby, September 2006.
2. Conclusion. Like San Lorenzo on the Coatzacoalcos and La Venta on the Mezcalapa-Grijalva (today the Blasillo/Tonala), the Mulekites likely sited Zarahemla in the coastal plain of a major river, upstream from the permanent flood plain but downstream from the head of navigation. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva is incompatible with this criteria during the relevant time period. The Usumacinta conforms well with this criteria.

2. Running Score. Mezcalapa-Grijalva 0. Usumacinta 2.