Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hill Manti

The Book of Mormon text only mentions hill Manti once, in Alma 1:15. It was the place Nehor was executed for murdering Gideon. After his crime, Nehor was apprehended by the people and taken to Alma II, chief judge over the Nephite nation Alma 1:10. Alma II at this time resided in the city of Zarahemla, the Nephite capital Alma 8:1. After Alma pronounced Nehor's death sentence Alma 1:14, the convicted murderer was taken and carried to the top of Hill Manti where he was put to death following a forced confession. What we know about hill Manti from this passage and its context:
  1. It was in the local land of Zarahemla. No travel to any other land is indicated. This means hill Manti is west of river Sidon Alma 2:15.
  2. It was a prominent hill because it had a name. Toponyms in The Book of Mormon almost always reference notable landmarks.
  3. It was high in elevation relative to its surroundings - the execution squad carried Nehor up to the summit of the hill, a place the Nephites perceived as being between heaven and earth.
    We would expect a hill with a few hundred meters, not dozens of meters of vertical rise relative to the ambient countryside. Looking in a fifty kilometer radius around our proposed city of Zarahema (Nueva Esperanza II), we find no elevations of any significance in the very flat coastal plain, but a definite piedmont line about 40 kilometers south of the city. The map below shows all elevations above 120 meters protruding above a white terrain plane.
    Flat coastal plain and piedmont line demarcating interior highlands
    near the proposed city of Zarahemla (Nueva Esperanza II).
    Removing the terrain plane, we trace the piedmont line (aka fall line) south of our Zarahemla. This line divides the low elevation, low relief coastal plain from the hilly interior highlands.
    Piedmont line south of proposed city of Zarahemla.
    We would expect to find the hill Manti along this piedmont line. It should be a prominent hill with impressive vertical rise west of the Sidon (Usumacinta). When we set a terrain plane at 400 meters elevation, a number of interesting possibilities emerge. We label them Manti A through Manti F.
    400 meter high candidates for hill Manti
    south of our city of Zarahemla. 
    Removing the terrain plane allows us to see our hill Manti candidates in context. We can eliminate D, E & F. They are behind the front range of the highlands, so their vertical rise will not be very prominent or impressive.
    Eliminating hill Manti candidates with marginal vertical rise.
    Zooming in on our hill Manti candidates B & C, we find a long ridge line with gentle slope gradients rising to a maximum elevation of 435 meters. We can eliminate these 2 candidates as well. When viewed from our Zarahemla, neither of these high points will be distinctive or prominent on the horizon.
    Eliminating hill Manti candidates with gentle slopes.
    Hill Manti candidate A fits all the criteria. It is a discrete hill about 10 kilometers long and 2.75 kilometers wide with steep slopes rising to a maximum elevation of 588 meters. When viewed from the coastal plain south and west of our proposed city of Zarahemla, this hill is very prominent on the horizon. The fact that the summit is only 2.25 air kilometers from the Temple of the Foliated Cross at Palenque adds a whole new dimension of interest. The ruins of Palenque are in the foothills at an elevation of 140 - 175 meters.
    Proposed hill Manti near the site of Palenque.
    V. Garth Norman for years has maintained that this imposing rise immediately south of Palenque could be hill Manti. Norman came to his conclusion using a completely different methodology (studying archaeological field reports and paper maps) than our 3D online topographic analysis.

    The distinctive hill rising to an elevation of 588 meters immediately south of the Maya ruins of Palenque is a viable candidate for The Book of Mormon hill Manti. It fits all 3 textual criteria very well.