Thursday, December 22, 2011


The name Ammonihah is a Book of Mormon toponym referenced 26 times in the text. 1 of those references is in the book of Helaman. The other 25 citations are all in the book of Alma. Ammonihah first appears by name in Mormon's compendium in the 10th year of the reign of the judges (ca. 82 BC). The city was obliterated in a brutal Lamanite invasion in the 11th year of the reign of the judges (ca. 81 BC) and it lay unoccupied and in ruins for several years as required by the law of apostate cities in Deuteronomy 13:12-16. (See John W. Welch, "The Destruction of Ammonihah and the Law of Apostate Cities" in Reexploring The Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book & FARMS, 1992, chapter 50. By the 19th year of the reign of the judges (ca. 72 BC) the city had been partially rebuilt. It figures in the war with the Lamanites under Amalickiah and is never mentioned again except as an historical referent. Another name for Ammonihah is "Desolation of Nehors" Alma 16:11. Nehor and his successor, Amlici, are both important in the discussion. The locus of their power base centered in Ammonihah Alma 15:15. The recent realization (by Royal Skousen) that all 19 occurrences of the word "Amalekites" in the 1981 LDS text should read "Amlicites" (see the blog article entitled "Peripatetic Amlici") opens up a number of interesting implications for Ammonihah that have yet to be fully explored. The city of Ammonihah was in the land of Ammonihah Alma 8:18.

Careful reading of the text yields a number of insights about the city and its surrounding land of Ammonihah. The numbers 1 - 29 in aqua are criteria we will use to help locate this Nephite territory on the modern map.
  • Departing from the northern boundary of the land of Melek, the city of Ammonihah was 3 days journey further north Alma 8:6. 1
  • Ammonihah was not far distant from the Nephite center. 2 The citizens knew they were part of a larger political entity encompassing many parts Alma 8:11. They were informed about events in the capital city. Alma 8:12. They depended on the central government for their defense Alma 16:3 while remote outposts such as Manti were more militarily self-sufficient Alma 43:26.
  • The city of Aaron was a significant distance from Ammonihah 3 because Alma2 "took his journey" toward it after being rejected in Ammonihah Alma 8:13. The phrase "take his journey" and its multiple variants imply a long, arduous trip requiring advance preparation (see the article entitled "Melek" in this blog). After traveling part of the way to Aaron, Alma was instructed by his angel to return to Ammonihah. By the time Alma met Amulek, he had been traveling for many days Alma 8:26 even though he chose a relatively direct route back to Ammonihah Alma 8:18.
  • Ammonihah was far enough from the seat of power in the city of Zarahemla 4 that seditious plots could go unnoticed for some time Alma 8:17. Raising an army to defend the land of Ammonihah also took some time Alma 16:3.
  • The principal entrance into the city of Ammonihah was not from the south. 5 When Alma2 came into Ammonihah the second time he entered from the south which was unusual enough to be noteworthy. Alma 8:18.
  • Ammonihah was a cosmopolitan city with both Nephite and non-Nephite citizens. This implies a trade route location 6 with non-Nephite enclaves or proximity to a major non-Nephite region. Alma 8:20. Amulek's comment also reflects the Amlicite partition Alma 2:11 five years earlier and its aftermath Alma 3:11 with religious connotations.
  • The economy was flourishing in Ammonihah. This is evidenced by Amulek's comment that he had neglected spiritual matters because he was so busy making money. Alma 10:4, 5. It is further evidenced by the extreme hubris of the natives Alma 16:9 and the strength of the local legal profession Alma 10:31, 32.
  • Nehor was executed for the murder of Gideon in the first year of the reign of the judges (ca. 91 BC) Alma 1:15, but his apostate belief system survived him Alma 1:16. At the time of his death, Nehor had recently founded a church Alma 1:6. Where was Nehor's church located? It was in the city of Ammonihah Alma 14:16, 18; Alma 15:15; Alma 16:11. Therefore, when Nehor was travelling to preach to his believers & supporters Alma 1:7, he was headed to Ammonihah. We previously established that Nehor slew Gideon in the valley of Gideon (see the article entitled "Gideon" in this blog) because Gideon was a church leader Alma 1:7 in his eponymous valley defending his fellow church members from heresy and apostasy. We know that Gideon was one of the seven churches founded by Alma1 ca. 120 B.C. (see the blog article "The Church in Zarahemla"). From this we deduce that the valley of Gideon was en route from the local land of Zarahemla to Ammonihah. 7 This means Ammonihah was east of river Sidon 8. See the article "The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation" in this blog for a great deal more information about Ammonihah east of Sidon and the implications of that important discovery first noted by V. Garth Norman.
  • Nehor tried to make converts in the valley of Gideon Alma 1:7. Did he intend to plant a new church in Gideon like the one he had recently established in Ammonihah? Or did he hope to expand the membership of his existing church in Ammonihah? We do not know, but either way the implication is that Gideon and Ammonihah were geographically proximate. 9
  • An earthquake leveled the prison in Ammonihah where Alma & Amulek were incarcerated Alma 14:27. This means Ammonihah is located in an earthquake zone. 10
  • The implication of Alma 1:5 is that Nehor preached intensively in the same area rather than extensively across a broad territory. As we have seen above, that area where Nehor could make a living as a preacher was Ammonihah. This means that the true Church was also established in Ammonihah Alma 1:3 at an early date (at least by 91 B.C.). And that means Ammonihah was one of the earlier Nephite polities to come under Zarahemla's control, 11 further reinforcing the notion of geographic proximity to the Nephite center (see the blog article entitled "Expansion of the Nephite Nation"). Some level of church presence must have pre-dated Alma & Amulek's preaching ca. 82 B.C. because people in Ammonihah had copies of the scriptures Alma 13:20, Alma 14:8 the Amlicites/Nehorites found objectionable. A further discussion of Ammonihah as one of the original seven churches founded by Alma1 ca. 120 B.C. is in the blog article "The Church in Zarahemla". 
  • The critical text (Alma 2:15) clarifies that both the Amlicites coming from Ammonihah and the Nephites coming from the local land of Zarahemla had to go up Alma 2:16 in elevation 12 to reach the battleground on hill Amnihu.
  • The citizens of Ammonihah were very proud of their imposing city Alma 9:4. The city of Ammonihah was not a small place. 13 
  • The land of Ammonihah must also have had a sizable population. 14 No other place in the greater land of Zarahemla is explicitly associated with the Nehorite/Amlicite apostasy prior to 87 B.C., and that rebellion was large enough to be a serious threat to the Nephite republic Alma 2:2
  • After their miraculous liberation from prison, Alma & Amulek both departed and "came out" of the city of Ammonihah Alma 15:1. Why two verbs to describe the act of leaving the city? We interpret this passage to mean the city of Ammonihah was located in a lowland depression surrounded by higher ground. 15
  • After leaving Ammonihah, the two prophets went "into" the land of Sidom Alma 15:1. They did not "take their journey," so it was not a long, arduous trip. 16 They did not cross "over" anything, so we would not expect large rivers or mountains 17 as travel obstacles en route. They did not go "up" or "down" so we would expect the lands of Ammonihah and Sidom to be at similar average elevations. 18 No "round about" is mentioned, so we would expect Ammonihah and Sidom to have a relatively straight line relationship with each other. 19 
  • On the other hand, even though many days had transpired Alma 14:23, the believers forcibly expelled from Ammonihah had no news of their families' tragic fates Alma 15:2. This implies a distance of  perhaps 3 days travel 20 from the city of Ammonihah to the land of Sidom.
  • The city of Ammonihah was near the edge 21 of the Nephite nation ca. 81 B.C. Beyond that boundary lay wilderness. 22 Furthermore, there was an obvious "wilderness side" 23 that offered the Lamanites a logical invasion route 24 facilitating a surprise attack when coming from the greater land of Nephi Alma 16:2.
  • After destroying Ammonihah, the Lamanite armies terrorized the borders of the land of Noah and then retreated with captives into the wilderness Alma 16:3. This means the land of Noah was along the Lamanite escape route 25 from Ammonihah back to the greater land of Nephi.
  • While the Lamanite armies were making their way back home with Nephite hostages, the Nephite commander, Zoram, visited with Alma2 in Zarahemla Alma 15:18 and the prophet told  Zoram and his sons precisely where to intercept the enemy and liberate their captives Alma 16:6. Zoram assembled his troops, crossed the river Sidon Alma 16:7, marched to the wilderness south of Manti, and engaged the enemy immediately east of Sidon. The Lamanites had a huge head start, but Zoram's army traveled so much faster east of Sidon 26 than the Lamanites did west of it that the two of them ended up in the same place at the same time.
  • The land of Ammonihah, while densely populated (see point #14 above) must have had a relatively small surface area 27 because the Lamanites annihilated every single person in the land Alma 16:9.
  • The distance from Ammonihah to Aaron must be roughly comparable to the distance from Zarahemla to Melek. 28 Mormon uses the same language "took his journey" Alma 8:3, Alma 8:13 to describe Alma2's contemporaneous travels to both places. There was a major difference in the two journeys, though. Whereas the trip from Zarahemla to Melek involved going "over" an intervening barrier or obstacle, the trip from Ammonihah to Aaron was more pedestrian. 29
We propose that The Book of Mormon city of Ammonihah is the site known today as El Hormiguero II in Peten, Guatemala on the south bank of the San Pedro River about midway between the Rio Escondido confluence on the east and the Mexican border on the west. We propose that the ancient land of Ammonihah was the level ground south of the San Pedro and north of the highlands stretching for about 55 kilometers along the river east of the Mexico line.
Proposed city and land of  Ammonihah in Peten, Guatemala
Zooming out shows our proposed Ammonihah in a broader context. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Proposed land of Ammonihah in the land southward
1. We have deduced a rule of thumb (15 kilometers) for air miles traveled per day in the region The Book of Mormon calls the land southward. See the blog article entitled "Land Southward Travel Times." Applying that metric we see that our proposed city of Ammonihah is precisely 3 days north of the northern boundary of our proposed land of Melek.
Our city of Ammonihah 3 days travel north of our land of Melek
Criterion 1 satisfied.

2. We let Google Earth measure the distance from our proposed city of Ammonihah to the local land of Zarahemla.
Straight line distance from the proposed local land of
Zarahemla to the city of Ammonihah 
The two are close to 60 air kilometers distant - about 4 days travel. Criterion 2 satisfied.

3.  From El Hormiguero II (Ammonihah) to Ceibal (Aaron), on the other hand, is a "far piece" as they say in Appalachia. 
Proposed city of Ammonihah 122 air kilometers
distant from likely city of Aaron
This would have been about an 8 day trip for  Alma2. The Book of Mormon term "took his journey" fits comfortably in this scenario. Criterion 3 satisfied.

4. Our proposed city of Zarahemla is the large Nueva Esperanza - Calatraba site west of the Usumacinta River in the extreme northeast corner of the state of Chiapas. It is 112 air kilometers from our candidate for the city of Ammonihah.
Proposed city of Zarahemla 112 air kilometers
distant from candidate city of Ammonihah
This distance is about right for the events and conditions described in The Book of Mormon text. Criterion 4 satisfied.

5. We now zoom in to see the landscape around our suggested site of Ammonihah.
Closeup of terrain around El Hormiguero II (possible Ammonihah)
3 features dominate this terrain: a) the large San Pedro River flowing from east to west with tributaries La Profundidad coming in just across the river from our site and Arroyo El Hormiguero flowing parallel to the river, b) the flats along the river, and c) the heavily forested hilly uplands south of the river. In this environment, it is obvious that most traffic in and out of Ammonihah would be coming from the east or the west along the river. A south entrance into the city would communicate with the mountainous wilderness along the southern edge of town, so it would be used much less frequently. This fits The Book of Mormon text precisely. Criterion 5 satisfied.

6. We show our candidate Ammonihah surrounded by Maya archaeological sites known to have significant preclassic occupations.
Preclassic  Maya sites around our Ammonihah
Was El Hormiguero II on a trade route? Yes. The San Pedro River was one of the major trade routes in the  southern lowland Maya world. The site of Moral-Reforma downstream from El Hormiguero was a very important Maya trading center in the classic era because it handled goods coming from the sea lanes at Aguacatal (via the Usumacinta) and from the San Pedro. Was our proposed Ammonihah near a major non-Nephite region? Yes. The region shown in the yellow polygon above was ground zero for Maya civilization in the late preclassic. The region we have identified as the land of Ammonihah was only 56 air kilometers from the large site of Xulnal, one of the powerful polities associated with El Mirador in the northern Peten.
Criterion 6 satisfied.

7, 8, 9. How would Nehor have traveled from the local land of Zarahemla to his newly planted church in Ammonihah?
Nehor's likely route from the local land of Zarahemla
through the valley of Gideon to Ammonihah
Nehor would have crossed the Usumacinta (Sidon) somewhere between Boca del Cerro and the modern town of Tenosique. The valley of Gideon would then have been a comfortable way to go eastward to the flats along the San Pedro River. In our proposed correlation, the valley of Gideon is en route from Zarahemla to Ammonihah, Ammonihah is east of Sidon, and the lands of Gideon and Ammonihah share a common border. Criteria 7, 8 & 9 satisfied.

10. Guatemala and southern Mexico are very seismically active. The famous "ring of fire" runs along the Pacific coast of both countries. The North American and Caribbean plates come together in a tectonic zone right where we have identified The Book of Mormon narrow strip of wilderness shown in green below.
Major plate tectonic boundary across Guatemala, Chiapas
The Peten has fewer earthquakes than highland Guatemala. This sesimic hazard map from the US Geological Survey (USGS) shows earthquake risk getting smaller as one goes north into the Yucatan Peninsula, but every part of Guatemala is subject to seismic events.
USGS Seismic Hazard Map for Guatemala
The site we have tentatively identified as the city of Ammonihah is less than 20 air kilometers from the epicenter of a 4.3 magnitude earthquake that shook the area on March 9, 2011.
Epicenter of March 2011 earthquake reported by USGS
Our Ammonihah is indeed in an earthquake zone. Criterion 10 satisfied.

11. The Book of Mormon text does not specify the precise year most lands and cities were incorporated into the growing Nephite nation. Using the best data we have - the date of first mention in the text - we can plot the orderly growth of the Nephite polity out from the local land of Zarahemla. Ammonihah first appears in the text in 82 B.C. along with Melek & Aaron.
Early Nephite lands & cities plotted by date of first mention in the text
As this map demonstrates, Ammonihah was one of the first lands brought under Zarahemla's control, which makes sense in this correlation due to relative geographic proximity and ease of access along the San Pedro River. Criterion 11 satisfied.

12. Alma chapter 2 describes the Nephite - Amlicite war ca. 87 B.C. The initial battle took place on hill Amnihu directly east of Sidon. Both armies had to go up in elevation to reach the battleground.
Amlici's route Ammonihah to hill Amnihu with elevation profile
Departing from their capital city of  Ammonihah, the Amlicite army had to climb from an elevation of 45 meters to 366 meters at the summit of hill Amhihu to engage enemy forces. Note that elevation profiles in Google Earth often have their directionality inverted, as in this case. 
Alma's route Zarahemla to hill Amnihu with elevation profile
Departing from their capital city of Zarahemla, the Nephite army ha to climb from an elevation of 48 meters to 365 meters at the summit of hill Amnihu to engage enemy forces. Both armies went up, just as the text indicates. Criterion 12 satisfied.

13. The EAAMS database, closely affiliated with the Middle American Research Institute (MARI) at Tulane, classifies archaeological sites by relative size and importance in the ancient Mesoamerican world. They identify 11 rank 1 sites in the southern Maya lowlands and Maya highlands including Kaminaljuyu, Copan, Caracol, Tikal, Nakbe, El Mirador, Calakmul, Yaxchilan, Piedras Negras, Palenque & Comalcalco. Their 80 Rank 2 sites in the same geography include such notables as Uaxactun, Quirigua, Takalik Abaj, La Venta, Chama (our Manti), El Ceibal (our Aaron), Itzan (our Noah), Altar de Sacrificios, Lamanai (our Jershon), Altun Ha (our Omner), Becan & Kohunlich. In this schema, our proposed city of Ammonihah, El Hormiguero II, is a rank 3 site. This makes it of medium size and importance in the Mesoamerican big picture. To put this ranking in perspective, the EAAMS editors consider Chiapa de Corzo, Mirador, Santa Rosa, and La Libertad (our Cumeni) rank 4 (small) sites. El Hormiguero II is the anchor site of a cluster of ancient settlements.
El Hormiguero II (Ammonihah) surrounded by
9 other nearby archaeological sites 
In this cluster, El Hormiguero II is the only rank 3 (medium-sized) site. The other 9 are all rank 4 (small) or rank 5 (tiny). Our candidate for Ammonihah was large enough to justify its citizen's hubris, at least within their local area. Criterion 13 satisfied.

14. Zooming out to our proposed land of Ammonihah, we see 12 known archaeological sites within its boundaries.
12 ancient sites within the borders of our
proposed land of Ammonihah
The land of Ammonihah as we have outlined it above, covers a surface area of 842 square kilometers. It has 12 documented archaeological sites within its borders. This works out to a site coverage factor of 1 site per 70 square kilometers. In our proposed land of Gideon, the number is 1 site per 230 square kilometers. In our proposed land of Melek, the number is 1 site per 112 square kilometers. So, the area we have identified as Ammonihah was relatiively densely populated compared with surrounding regions. Furthermore, 3 of the 12 sites within our Ammonihah were rank 3 sites - El Hormiguero II, Moctun & La Reina. (See our discussion of the EAAMS ranking system in point #13 above.) The area we have identified as the land of Ammonihah did have a sizable population anciently, most of it close to the San Pedro River which largely defines the local topography. Criterion 14 satisfied.

15. The site we have identified as a strong candidate for the city of Ammonihah is right on the San Pedro River, the lowest point in the vicinity. Here is a map of the area overlaid on the Google Maps terrain layer.
Terrain around El Hormiguero II (Ammonihah)
It is easy to see the higher ground north, south, east and west of the candidate site. To further emphasize the point, we set a terrain plane at an altitude of 55 meters so all the ground below that elevation displays white.
55 meter elevation terrain plane around proposed city of Ammonihah
Our Ammonihah is in a river valley with higher ground all around. The highlands south of the river are particularly dramatic, rising to elevations above 460 meters. There are many ways Alma & Amulek could have traveled from the city of Ammonihah to the land of  Sidom that would have required them to "come out" of the river valley onto higher ground. This terrain fits the text. Criterion 15 satisfied.

16, 17, 18, 19.We plot a likely route, shown in white below, for Alma & Amulek to come out of Ammonihah and travel into the land of Sidom.
Likely travel route city of Ammonihah to land of Sidom 
Length of travel: 50 kilometers, or about 3 days based on our standard rule of thumb. Criterion 16 satisfied. The line traverses relatively level, dry territory. Maximum vertical rise is 62 meters. There are no large rivers to cross en route. Criterion 17 satisfied. Elevation at origin: 45 meters. Elevation at destination: 49 meters. The lands of Ammonihah and Sidom are at roughly similar average elevations. Criterion 18 satisfied. We see little circularity in this route. Criterion 19 satisfied. 

20. Plotting the straight line distance between our proposed city of Ammonihah and the land of Sidom, it comes in at 46 kilometers, right in the sweet spot for three days travel.
3 days travel city of Ammonihah to land of Sidom
Criterion 20 satisfied.

21, 22. Based on lands and cities mentioned in the text, the Nephite nation looked more or less like this ca. 81 B.C.
Nephite nation ca. 81 B.C.
The area within the white-shaded polygon represents territory under Nephite control. Pretty much everything else was "wilderness" as far as the authorities in Zarahemla were concerned. See the article entitled "A Note About Wilderness" in this blog for important insights into the Nephite meaning of that term. Like the term "Lamanites," The Book of Mormon authors sometimes used "wilderness" in broad, comprehensive ways and other times in more discrete, precise ways. It is indisputable that The Book of Mormon is describing far-flung Nephite settlements surrounded by pockets of embedded wilderness. Settlement patterns were often dictated by military defensive strategy. The Usumacinta/Sidon correlation we are following fits this scenario nicely as it posits gradual Nephite expansion along major rivers. In the map above, we see Nephite settlement along the Usumacinta (Zarahemla, Gideon, Minon, Melek, Manti); the San Pedro (Gideon, Ammonihah, Sidom); the Lacantun (Melek) and the Pasion (Noah, Aaron). Does this mean the Nephites controlled every kilometer of the large rivers within the white-shaded area above? No.  We know the Amlicite rebellion ca. 87 B.C., for example, resulted in a breakaway territory loyal to King Amlici in and around the city of Ammonihah Alma 2:9. We know the land of Ammonihah was essentially obliterated by invading Lamanites ca. 81 B.C. before the Nephite military establishment could muster an effective defense Alma 16:3, Alma 25:2. It is doubtful the Nephites ever effectively controlled the areas around Piedras Negras and Altar de Sacrificios, thriving Maya centers in preclassic times.
Piedras Negras & Altar de Sacrificios areas relative
to the Nephite nation ca. 81 B.C.
Our proposed Ammonihah was on the Nephite frontier ca. 81 B.C. Criterion 21 satisfied. It was also surrounded by large tracts of wilderness. Criterion 22 satisfied.

23. The site of El Hormiguero II (city of Ammonihah) has an unmistakable "wilderness side." We set a terrain plane at 150 meters elevation and the line between the river bottom lowlands and the hilly folded uplands to the south and west could hardly be more stark.
Highland - lowland line south and west of the San Pedro River
The uplands form a wall of mountains that rise abruptly to elevations in excess of 460 meters. This terrain fits The Book of Mormon text precisely. Criterion 23 satisfied.

24, 25. The Lamanite + Amulonite force that laid waste the city and land of  Ammonihah probably followed a route that looked like the white line below, skirting west of Manti and shooting the gap between Melek and Noah. Keep in mind that the Nephites probably never controlled the strategic Altar de Sacrifricios/Dos Pilas area at the confluence of the Pasion with the Salinas (the point at which the modern Usumacinta begins).
Likely Lamanite invasion route from Nephi to Ammonihah
This route does in fact come into the city from its southern wilderness side. Criterion 24 satisfied. It also passes by the borders of our proposed land of Noah. Criterion 25 satisfied.

26. The Nephite army under Captain Zoram was unable to mobilize quickly enough to prevent the destruction of Ammonihah and Lamanite marauding in the borders of Noah. While the Lamanite forces were marching southward with captives, Zoram and his men, with prophetic direction, traveled southward on the east side of Sidon. The two armies met in the wilderness east of Sidon and south of Manti Alma 16:7-8 and had a number of battles Alma 25:3. Here is a plausible map of the routes the two groups took to arrive at their first military engagement. The Lamanites crossed Sidon from west to east just before the battle Alma 16:6, so they must have traveled west of Sidon to avoid the Nephite settlements in the land of Manti.
Proposed routes of Lamanite invasion force and Nephite
defense force, destruction of Ammonihah ca. 81 B.C. 
The Lamanite invasion route in white moving through the land of Ammonihah and then terrorizing the borders of the land of Noah is 452 kilometers in length, but the Lamanite retreat route in blue to the battlefield is only 154 kilometers in length. The Nephite defense route in red is 380 kilometers in length. The Lamanites had a head start and they had less than half as far to travel. How did the Nephites arrive at the battle field south of Manti before the Lamanites? Even if the Nephite armies mustered at Boca del Cerro rather than the city of Zarahemla, they still had to travel 326 kilometers. Some factors to consider:
  • The Nephites were in a hurry. The Lamanites, thinking they were secure in their wilderness fastness, would not have had the same sense of urgency.
  • The Nephites had only their own military force to move. The Lamanites were transporting captives and spoils from Ammonihah/Noah.
The primary reasons why the Lamanites traveled more slowly, though, are probably topographical and cultural. 
  • The Lamanite route crosses over mountainous terrain in excess of 1,000 meters elevation. The highest point on the Nephite route does not exceed 480 meters.
  • There are more than 30 known archaeological sites within 15 kilometers east of the Salinas and Chixoy Rivers (the Usumacinta is known as the Salinas upstream from the Pasion confluence, and it is called the Chixoy upstream from the point where Chiapas, El Quiche, Alta Verapaz and Peten come together) between the Pasion confluence on the north and the proposed battle site on the south. Furthermore, a number of those sites are rank 2 (large) and rank 3 (medium-sized). See point #13 in this article for more information about EAAMS site rankings. On the other hand, along that same stretch west of the rivers, there are only 5 known ancient sites, and they are all rank 4 (small) or rank 5 (tiny). The Lamanite route traversed veritable wilderness with few roads, trails or settlements en route to facilitate travel.
The Lamanites were not as highly motivated and more heavily laden. They had higher mountains to scale and were moving through much wilder country. Criterion 26 satisfied.
27. Our proposed land of Ammonihah has a surface area of 842 square kilometers. It is about 1/5 the size of Rhode Island (4,002 square kilometers), the smallest state in the US. It is about 9% larger than Davis County (774 square kilometers), the smallest county in the state of Utah. Most of the population lived near the river. The events described in The Book of Mormon are plausible in this modest-sized territory. Criterion 27 satisfied.

28, 29. The straight line distance between our proposed city of Zarahemla and land of Melek is 135 kilometers (about 9 days travel according to our derivation of the Nephite standard measure). The distance between our Ammonihah and Aaron is 122 kilometers. Criterion 28 satisfied. Both measurements are show as white lines on the map below.
Zarahemla to Melek roughly the same distance as Ammonihah to Aaron
It is obvious from the satellite imagery above that a journey from Zarahemla to Melek would cross over mountainous country in the Chiapas highlands, while the gentler trip from Ammonihah to Aaron would pass through the comparatively flat terrain of the northern and central Peten. Criterion 29 satisfied.  

29 of 29 textual criteria fit our proposed terrain well. So, have we found Ammonihah? Not necessarily. We have a viable candidate. The fact that other proposed correlations (Melek, Sidom, Gideon) near Ammonihah also fit the text well strengthens our case. Our identification will remain tentative, though, until we get comprehensive archaeological field reports from professional excavations at El Hormiguero II. The site has suffered looting, but remains essentially unexcavated. See the blog article "The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation" point #26 for a linked list of other mapped Book of Mormon toponyms.

Article updated October 31, 2012.