Saturday, October 12, 2013

Test #3 Cultural Boundaries

The Nephite greater land of Zarahemla was bounded on the east by the sea Alma 50:13, 51:26. Its west boundary was also the seacoast Alma 52:11, 53:22, On the south, the boundary was the narrow strip of wilderness that ran from the sea east to the sea west with some curvature on the western side Alma 22:27. Alma 22:27 confirms this wilderness separated the greater land of Zarahemla on the north from the greater land of Nephi on the south. This fortified line Alma 50:11, 50:13 was a major cultural boundary separating the Nephites from the Lamanites. North of Zarahemla lay the land Bountiful which was also a significant boundary Alma 22:29, Helaman 1:23 in Book of Mormon times. Part of the land Bountiful had a coastline along the sea west Alma 22:32-33, 63:5. This map shows our proposed relationships. The Mezcalapa-Grijalva River is shown as it flowed in early Nephite times (see the blog article "Wandering River").
Proposed greater land of Zarahemla bounded by 2 seas, the
narrow strip of wilderness and the land Bountiful
The sea east and sea west borders are intuitive and clear. Seacoasts serve as polity boundaries in every culture on the planet. Does any evidence exist that our narrow strip of wilderness and Zarahemla/Bountiful border were major ethnic and cultural boundaries in antiquity? The answer is yes when we examine the Maya world. This map shows the extent of Maya territory as a white overlay in what the Nephites called the land southward. Except for outliers such as Cacaxtla in Tlaxcala and the Huastec region in northern Veracruz and surrounding areas, Mayan speakers lived in this part of southern Mesoamerica. The Maya, though, were a heterogeneous group. They were divided into the highland and lowland Maya, with the lowland peoples further sub-divided into northern and southern zones.
The Maya world in white with major boundaries in orange
Test #3a. Our narrow strip of wilderness is the Polochic Fault, a thin line of  cliffs with rivers running east west at the base of the escarpments (See the blog article entitled "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness". One of those rivers is the Polochic that runs for 100 air kilometers eastward to empty into Lake Izabal. The Polochic and its sister river, the Cahabon, were part of a very important ethnic and cultural boundary from Book of Mormon times to the present. The boundary between the highland Maya to the south and the southern lowland Maya to the north ran along the Polochic over part of its length, precisely where we have plotted the narrow strip of wilderness. In the map below, major Maya boundaries are in orange, the narrow strip of wilderness in green and the area immediately north of the local land of Nephi where the two boundaries coincide is obvious.
Major  Maya boundaries, including a section along the Polochic River
that parallels the Polochic Fault, our narrow strip of wilderness
Test #3b. Our greater land of Zarahemla/land Bountiful boundary is the northern fork of the Candelaria River in Campeche and the Rio Azul - Rio Hondo on the Mexico/Belize border. The head of Rio Hondo is the confluence of the Rio Azul with the Rio Bravo near Blue Creek, Belize. The boundary between the southern lowland Maya and the northern lowland Maya follows essentially this same path. In the map below, major Maya boundaries are in orange. Rivers that drain to the Usumacinta are in red. Rivers that drain to the Mezcalapa-Grijalva are in blue. All other rivers are in yellow.
Major Maya boundaries, including a section along the Candelaria
and Hondo Rivers that parallels our Zarahemla/Bountiful line
Test #3 Conclusion. The Book of Mormon says the line separating the Nephites on the north from the Lamanites on the south was an important ancient boundary. In our text to map correlation, a significant portion of that boundary is still recognized today as the line between the highland and lowland Maya. The Book of Mormon further describes a boundary between the greater land of Zarahemla on the south and the land Bountiful on the north. According to our correlation, much of that boundary is recognized today as the line between the southern lowland and northern lowland Maya. We believe any viable text to map correlation will show correspondence between major Book of Mormon boundaries and ethnic/cultural boundaries known from antiquity.