Saturday, October 8, 2011

Water Fight on the River - Round Eighteen

18. Question. Were the territories in modern-day Belize and Quintana Roo part of The Book of Mormon picture? See the article "Asking the Right Questions" in this blog.

18. Answer. Yes. Most of the New World events described in The Book of Mormon happened in the Land Southward. The Caribbean coastal areas of Quintana Roo and Belize were important during Jaredite (Olmec and Epi-Olmec), Nephite-Mulekite (Izapan and Maya pre-classic), and Lamanite (Maya pre-classic, classic and post-classic) times.
18. Exhibit. We begin by identifying Quintana Roo, the Mexican state that occupies the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula, and Belize, the small English-speaking country on the Caribbean coast south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. Before independence, Belize was known as British Honduras. Some of the principal rivers flowing into the Caribbean in this area include (from north to south):
  • Rio Azul - Rio Hondo that forms the border between Quintana Roo on the north and Belize on the south
  • Belize River with its major tributary, the Rio Mopan
  • Rio Sarstun that forms the border between Belize on the north and Guatemala on the south
  • Rio Polochic that empties into Lake Izabal with its major tributary, the Rio Cahabon
  • Rio Motagua that runs for 437 kilometers across most of Guatemala and forms the border between Guatemala on the north and Honduras on the south at its extreme eastern end.
Major rivers flowing eastward into the Caribbean
through Quintana Roo, Belize, and Guatemala.
We then overlay EAAMS data on top of a zoomed in view of this Caribbean coast. Hundreds of important sites were located anciently in the eastern Mesoamerican areas of Quintana Roo and Belize. Note for example the heavy concentration of sites where the Rio Mopan joins the Belize River just upstream from Belmopan.
Large concentrations of ancient archaeological sites
along the Caribbean coast.
Mayanists recognize three major settlement regions - the highland Maya in the south, the southern lowland Maya in the middle, and the northern lowland Maya in Yucatan. Orange lines on the map below represent the approximate boundaries of these three regions. The white lines show the Mezcalapa-Grijalva and Usumacinta drainage basins. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva River system is in blue. The Usumacinta River system is in red. The eastward-flowing rivers that drain into the Caribbean are in yellow. Known archaeological sites are in black. This is the most cluttered map we have yet shown, but remember what we said at the beginning of our river trip: solving The Book of Mormon map puzzle requires best fit analysis. It is a multivariate calculus problem rather than a simple a + b = c equation. See the article "The Book of Mormon Map as of September, 2011" in this blog. We must control multiple data sets simultaneously in 3 dimensions to accurately model what was going on with millions of people across millenia on an extraordinarily diverse landscape. Google Earth is our essential tool.
Orange lines demarcate the rough boundaries between the
Highland Maya in the south, the Southern Lowland Maya
in the middle, and the Northern Lowland Maya in Yucatan.
Some of the largest, most important and best known Maya sites are shown below within the highland, southern lowland, and northern lowland regions.
Some of the most noteworthy Maya sites.
The southern lowland Maya sites, including those in Quintana Roo and Belize, formed a cultural continuum. They shared many common traits including language, architecture, belief systems, land use patterns, etc. This is largely explained by topography. Rivers, as major communication and transportation arteries, facilitated contact, trade, and conquest. Note how the San Pedro River provides a direct route from the Usumacinta into the Tikal, Uaxactun area in the Peten. That explains why the site of Moral-Reforma at the confluence of the San Pedro with the Usumacinta was a major Mayan trading center. Sea-borne trade also went from the Caribbean coast around the top of the Yucatan Peninsula to another major Mayan trading center at Xicalango (Aguacatal) near Ciudad del Carmen in the Laguna de Terminos.
Usumacinta and Caribbean coastal river systems as
interlinked avenues of communication and trade.
The Mezcalapa-Grijalva River system, on the contrary, was remote from the rivers and sites along the Caribbean coast.
Mezcalpa-Grijalva river system far removed
from the Caribbean area.  
The Book of Mormon clearly states that the Land of Nephi extended from the west to the East Sea, which must be the Caribbean Alma 22:27, Alma 50:8.
Lamanite lands extending from the west to the East Sea.
If the Caribbean is the East Sea of the Lamanites, it follows that it is also the East Sea of the Nephites Alma 50:9, Helaman 3:8, Helaman 11:20.
Notice there are no important Maya sites along the Mezcalapa-Grijalva River on the previous map. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva was home to many sites, but most of them, particularly in Book of Mormon times, were Zoque (or to a much smaller degree, Zapotec) rather than Maya. This image from BYU faculty member Bruce R. Bachand's excellent article "Chiapa de Corzo: Rise of a Zoque Capital in the Heart of Mesoamerica," in Popular Archaeology, Vol. 3, June 2011 shows the Mixe-Zoque (Olmec) region of influence during early formative (Jaredite) times in green. It also shows the later Zoque area of influence centered on Chiapa de Corzo during middle formative (late Jaredite, early Nephite-Mulekite) times in red. After 400 BC, Zoque territory receded as the Maya moved westward and supplanted them throughout the Usumacinta River basin and the Guatemalan highlands.
Mixe-Zoque and Zoque areas prior to 400 BC.
Mayan encroachment from 400 BC to the European Conquest limited the earlier Zoque to the Mezcalapa-Grijalva River basin as this map of the approximate Native American language distributions in 1500 AD shows.
Mayan Language Distribution ca 1500 AD.
18. Conclusion. The Caribbean coastal areas of Quintana Roo and Belize were integral parts of the southern lowland Maya culture core, linked to important Mayan sites throughout the Usumacinta River basin. The Usumacinta from Book of Mormon times to the Spanish Conquest was a Mayan river. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva, on the other hand, was generally a Zoque river during and after The Book of Mormon era. The Book of Mormon East Sea lands along the Caribbean were linked topographically and culturally with the Usumacinta. They were remote, both geographically and linguistically, from the distant Mezcalapa-Grijalva.
Advantage Usumacinta.
18. Running Score. Mezcalapa-Grijalva 0. Usumacinta 18.