Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book of Mormon Map

The maps below will evolve as new information comes to light. They remain woefully incomplete, but there is enough substance here to help many Book of Mormon students visualize the text's New World setting. These are static images, screen captures from Google Earth. The Google Earth kmz file that created all these images is available for download at the blog article entitled "Book of Mormon Model." As research progresses, the Google Earth Model will typically be kept more current than these static maps. This article and its embedded maps were last updated April 22, 2013. As with all graphics in this blog, click to enlarge.
Book, of Mormon Map as of April 22, 2013
The Usumacinta river system is traced in red. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva river system (as it flowed in early Nephite times) is traced in blue. All other rivers are shown in yellow. Many rivers, tributaries and distributaries have not yet been traced on these maps. The eccentric land Bountiful and narrow strip of wilderness are in green. The southern lowland Maya culture core and the Chontalpa area of Tabasco (probably never under Nephite control) are in yellow outlined in black. The black circles show the Piedras Negras and Altar de Sacrificios areas, probably never part of the Nephite polity. The greater land of Nephi as it existed ca. 66 B.C. is a light white overlay. White pushpins represent cities. Black pushpins represent lands. Green pushpins represent natural features.

The map above is quite busy. Here is a simplified version that some find easier to read.
Book of Mormon Map with Land Polygons Removed
The greater land of  Nephi in white overlay was south of the mountainous narrow strip of wilderness in light green.
Closeup of Greater Land of Nephi
The greater land of Zarahemla in white overlay was north of the narrow strip of wilderness in light green and south and east of the land Bountiful in green. The Nephites at their territorial maximum (ca. 57 B.C.) had settlements scattered throughout this vast land, but they did not control their territory in the way a modern sovereign state enforces hegemony within its borders. The land Bountiful was not a political entity as much as it was an ecological zone with major coastal exposure.
Closeup of Greater Land of Zarahemla
The Nephite culture core was the area around the local land of Zarahemla. This map zooms in on this key region. The greater land of Zarahemla is represented by a white overlay. The areas outlined in black were probably never under Nephite control.
Nephite Culture Core Around the Local Land of Zarahemla
The isthmian region was the interface zone between the lands northward and southward. The continental divide is plotted in white. The trans isthmian railroad line is shown in magenta. The land Desolation is shown in brown, the land Bountiful in green, and the greater land of Zarahemla in white overlay.
Focus on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
A very important area along the west coast was home to a cluster of natural and political features that defined the principal boundary between the land northward and the land southward. The land Desolation is  in brown, the land Bountiful in green, the land between Zarahemla and Bountiful in yellow, and the land of Joshua (also known as the land near the land Bountiful Helaman 4:5) in blue. The heavy white line is the continental divide of the Sierra Madra de Chiapas. The magenta line is the route of the trans isthmian railroad. Rivers shown in blue are part of the Mezcalapa-Grijalva drainage. Rivers draining to the Pacific are in yellow. Green pushpins represent natural features. Red pyramids mark some of the archaeological sites in the area.
Closeup of the Narrow (Small) Neck of Land Area
The area shaded in white below is our vision of the Nephite republic ca. 81 B.C. We have highlighted lands and cities explicitly mentioned in the text by that time period. Growth followed major rivers and some Nephite settlements (e.g. Manti) were strategically located as defensive bastions against Lamanite invasion. The Nephites at this time period did maintain a defensive outpost along the east west Bountiful/Desolation line Alma 22:32-33 that is not shown on the map below, although it is clearly marked on the map above.
The Nephite Nation ca. 81 B.C.