Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Test #6 Relative Distances

We have deduced a likely value for the Nephite standard unit of distance measure called "one days journey" Helaman 4:7. In the New World that value was probably close to 15 air or straight-line kilometers per day. See the article "Land Southward Travel Times." In the Old World, that distance was greater. Camel caravans plying the sands of Arabia routinely travel 25 - 40 air kilometers per day (Warren Aston reports that 20 - 25 miles per day is typical). In this article we will investigate all instances of the term "day" with variants used in a travel context. We have previously analyzed the likely meaning of the terms "near," "not far," and "far" in the text. See the article "Things Near and Far." In Nephite usage, "near" probably meant a distance not to exceed 5 air kilometers. Distances of 5 - 10 air kilometers were "not far," and distances of 10 - 200 air kilometers were probably considered routine, neither near nor far. Our study shows a distance in excess of 400 air kilometers would have been considered "far" in Nephite terminology. Our model was shown to be in complete accord with this understanding of the distances implied by these words. Our recent analysis of the term "by" in spatial contexts (see the article "By and By") led us to conclude two entities that were by each other would probably not have been more than 25 air kilometers distant, with a high likelihood they were immediately adjacent. After some modifications to our model to accommodate newly-acquired insights (we extended the land of Jershon to the seacoast to comply with our new understanding of Alma 27:22) our model is now 100% compatible with this interpretation.

Corroboration of our Old World metric comes from Aharon Shemesh of Bar-Ilan University in an article entitled " 'Three-Days' Journey from the Temple': The Use of this Expression in the Temple Scroll", Dead Sea Discoveries 6,2 (1999). He says one day's journey from Jerusalem was defined as Ayelet to the south, Akrabah to the north, Lod to the west, and the Jordan to the east. I have been unable to locate Ayelet, but the other locations can be plotted.
Places Anciently Considered One Day's Journey from Jerusalem
30 - 40 air kilometers was the distance the ancient Jewish scribes meant by one day's journey. Shemesh goes on to explain that three days' journey (90 - 120 air kilometers) was a routine distance in ancient Israel and only journeys considerably longer than three days were considered "far."

With this background, we are prepared to test our correlation against passages in the text where relative distance is either expressed or implied in terms of a day's travel.

1 Nephi 2:6 says Lehi and family traveled three days in the wilderness from the shores of the Red Sea to the valley of Lemuel. We correlate the shores of the Red Sea with the area around modern Aqaba, Jordan and follow George Potter's and Craig Thorsted's suggestion that the valley of Lemuel is a steep canyon about 2.5 air kilometers west of Tayyib al Ism, Saudi Arabia.
109 Air Kilometers from Shores of Red Sea to Valley of Lemuel
109/3 = 36.33 air kilometers per day which is feasible in the Near East.

1 Nephi 16:13 describes a four day journey from the valley of Lemuel to Shazer. Applying the same 36.33 air kilometer per day metric derived above, we locate Shazer along the 5 kilometer Saudi coastline between Wadi Maharish on the north and Wadi al Ghal on the south, about 15 air kilometers NW of modern Duba. The desert oasis Ra's Abu Sharirah is located precisely at this point.
146 Air Kilometers Valley of Lemuel to Shazer
1 Nephi 16:17 says the Lehites and Ishmaelites then traveled "many days" to the camp where Nephi broke his fine steel bow. Based on 1 Nephi 16:30 we site the camp of the broken bow at the foot of the most prominent mountain range along the coastal corridor between Duba on the north and Jeddah on the south. 2,279 meter Jabal Jar and 2,210 meter Jabal Radwa are peaks in this range. These mountains are home to the Nubian Ibex, a big game species still hunted today.
428 Air Kilometers from Shazer to Camp of the Broken Bow
428/36.33 = 11.78 days travel which fits the textual description of many days.

The next camp along the Arabian Red Sea coastal plain was Nahom in modern Yemen, "many days" south southeast 1 Nephi 16:33 of the camp of the broken bow. Nahom correlates well with Naham on the modern map, 51 air kilometers NE of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.
1,179 Air Kilometers from Camp of the Broken Bow to Nahom
1,179/36.33 = 32.45 days, in line with what the Nephite text considers "many days" Mosiah 7:4.
At this point, it is appropriate to celebrate the astonishing accuracy of the Nephite scribes. We went to some trouble to analyze cardinal and ordinal directions in the text. See the article "Test #5 North, South, East and West." But, in that study we failed to properly note the subtle nuances of directionality in 1 Nephi 16:13-14, 33. The three legs of this long journey:
  • Valley of Lemuel to Shazer was "nearly a south-southeast direction." Our mapped azimuth is 147.93 degrees, only 9.57 degrees off true south-southeast (157.5 degrees). Nephi's description could hardly be more exact.
  • Shazer to Camp of the Broken Bow was "following the same direction." Our mapped azimuth is 140.91 degrees, only 7.02 degrees from the Valley of Lemuel to Shazer heading. Nephi's subsequent comment shows he observed even that minor difference.
  • Camp of the Broken Bow to Nahom followed "nearly the same course as in the beginning." In other words, the vector from Camp of the Broken Bow to Nahom was closer to the original Valley of Lemuel to Shazer heading (147.93) than was the second leg (140.91). Our mapped azimuth for the third leg is 144.95 degrees, only 2.98 degrees off the original Valley of Lemuel to Shazer metric. Nephi's description is strikingly precise.
The Lehite voyage from Bountiful in modern Oman to first nheritance in modern Chiapas or Guatemala consisted of three segments:
A typical path through the Indian Ocean, skirting the north of Australia and across the Pacific would have been about 25,000 kilometers in length or about 63% of the circumference of the earth.
25,012 Kilometer Proposed Lehi Ocean Voyage
1 nautical mile = 1 minute of longitudinal arc = approximately 1.852 kilometers at the equator. 1 knot = travel speed of 1 nautical mile per hour. A rule of thumb in the sailing world is that a typical ship under favorable wind can travel at a speed of 5 knots. 5 knots = approximately 9.26 kilometers per hour or 222.24 kilometers in a 24 hour day. If the Lehites averaged 5 knots on their circumnavigation, their voyage would have required 25,012/222.24 = 112.54 days. Factoring in the four days of tempest when they went backward, 120 days at sea seems like a reasonable estimate for their length of voyage. That easily fits the textual description of "many days" followed by another leg of "many days."    

2 Nephi 5:7-8 says the early Nephites journeyed "many days" from the land of first inheritance to the local land of Nephi. We correlate first inheritance with the coastal plain near the site of Izapa and Nephi with the area around Guatemala City.
 203 Air Kilometers from First Inheritance to Local Land of Nephi
203/15 = 13.53 days travel which qualifies as a journey of many days.

Mosiah chapter 7 tells the story of Ammon and 15 strong men who traveled from the local land of Zarahemla up into the wilderness Mosiah 7:3 and then up again from the wilderness to the local land of Nephi Mosiah 7:4. They wandered around disoriented for 40 days before finally arriving at the hill north of Shilom. What should have been about a 20 day trip based on air kilometers took twice as long. The circles on the map below represent quandary points, places where it would have been very easy for Ammon & company to take a wrong turn and get lost for a few days.
289 Air Kilometers from the Boca del Cerro Wilderness to the
Hill North of Shilom with Possible Detour Points Circled
This is a closeup of the Lacantun confluence.
Confluence of the Lacantun with the Upper Usumacinta
The Pasion Confluence.
Confluence of the Pasion with the Salinas to form the Usumacinta
And the Salama Confluence showing water backed up behind the Chixoy Dam.
Confluence of the Chixoy Negro with the Salama to form the Chixoy
This wild country could temporarily confuse travelers even today. The story of Ammon and his reconnaissance party is plausible given the terrain they traversed.

A more dramatic story of 43 strong men getting lost in the wilderness is told in Mosiah chapter 8. King Limhi's exploring party left the local land of Nephi bound for Zarahemla, but ended up at hill Ramah/Cumorah in the land northward. They were lost in the wilderness for "many days" Mosiah 8:8. This map shows the two known points on their epic journey.
664 Air Kilometers from Nephi to Ramah/Cumorah
We presume the Limhite explorers were not lost on their return trip back to Nephi, so the phrase "many days" applies to their outbound leg. 664/15 = 44.26 days, very close to the number the text explicitly calls "many" Mosiah 7:4.
I can't resist a little aside here. Even though first hand knowledge of the trail between Zarahemla and Nephi had been lost for two generations Mosiah 7:1, the people of Limhi almost certainly knew a few things about their former home:
  • approximate distance from Nephi to Zarahemla
  • general relationship to river Sidon
  • general relationship to the seacoast at the mouth of Sidon
  • approximate elevation of Zarahemla, whether it was in the highlands or the coastal plain
  • approximate distance from the fall line where the mountains give way to the coastal plain
  • approximate distance from Nephi through the mountains to the fall line
  • approximate direction northward from Nephi
When they finally returned to their homes in Nephi, everyone including King Limhi thought the exploring party had discovered the ruins of Zarahemla Mosiah 7:14, 21:26. This map shows our correlation for Zarahemla, Nueva Esperanza; the leading candidate for Zarahemla on the Grijalva, Santa Rosa; and the known end points of the Limhi explorers' journey.
374 Air Kilometers Nephi to Zarahemla Candidate on the Usumacinta
256 Air Kilometers Nephi to Zarahemla Candidate on the Grijalva
Comparing the two candidates for Zarahemla:
  • 664/374 = 1.78. If Zarahemla is Nueva Esperanza, the Limhi explorers overshot the correct distance by a factor of 1.78. 664/256 = 2.59. If Zarahemla is Santa Rosa, the Limhi explorers overshot the correct distance by a factor of 2.59. Would diligent Mosiah 8:8 men have overshot their goal by more than  a factor of 2.5? Our candidate on the Usumacinta better fits this criterion.
  • The Limhi explorers clearly left the mountains and traveled a considerable distance through the coastal plain. They were looking for Zarahemla in the lowlands toward the seacoast. Our candidate at 25 meters elevation in the piedmont zone, 76 air kilometers from salt water satisfies this criterion. Santa Rosa at 475 meters elevation in the Central Depression of Chiapas, surrounded by high mountains and more than 260 air kilometers from the Gulf Coast simply does not fit this textual scenario.
  • The Limhites' general line of travel (the wrong way to Zarahemla) closely paralleled the Grijalva for over 200 kilometers from the confluence of the Cuilco with the Selegua (the point geographers identify as the head of the Grijalva) to the great bend at the La Venta confluence. Clearly, the Grijalva is much more likely to have been the wrong river.
Zeniff and his followers spent "many days" wandering in the wilderness. This map shows a straight-line route from the wilderness south of the local land of Zarahemla to the wilderness north of the local land of Nephi.
296.14 Air Kilometers in the Wilderness between
Zarahemla on the North and Nephi on the South
296.14/15 = 19.74 days which certainly qualifies as many days.

When Ammon and his brethren helped King Limhi and his people escape from their Lamanite overlords, the group traveled in the wilderness for many days before reaching the land of Zarahemla Mosiah 22:13.This map shows a likely route of travel skirting around the land of Shilom through the wilderness of Mormon Mosiah 18:4, eastward down the Motagua, and then taking a sharp bend northward through the Salama Valley to the area around Coban, Alta Verapaz and from there down the Icbolay or San Roman (probably the San Roman because they did not pass through the land of Helam), Salinas, and Usumacinta to Boca del Cerro. We consider Boca del Cerro the spectacular interface point between the local land of Zarahemla on the north and the higher elevation wilderness on the south.
Limhi's Likely Route from Nephi to Zarahemla
325 Air Kilometers, 498 Trail Kilometers
325/15 = 21.66 which fits the text's description of many days in the wilderness.

The Lamanite army dispatched to pursue Limhi probably mustered from the land of Shemlon, source of other recent military activity Mosiah 10:7, 19:6. The wilderness north of Lamanite territory ca. 121 B.C. we think was north of the Motagua. The Lamanite pursuit force probably lost the people of Limhi's tracks Mosiah 22:16 somewhere in the Salama Valley. The black arc on the map below shows the approximate distance (30 air kilometers) the army would have traveled in 2 days' march.
30 Air Kilometer Arc from Lamanite Army Likely Muster Point
We next meet this Lamanite army Mosiah 23:30 in the land of Helam where Alma1 and his converts were busy making the jungle blossom as the rose. While wandering around lost for "many days" the Lamanites had come upon the priests of Noah newly-settled in the land of Amulon Mosiah 23:31. In one of the most curious plot twists in the Nephite narrative, neither the Lamanites nor the Amulonites knew the way back to Nephi Mosiah 23:35. The Amulonites had recently been night raiders preying on the people of Limhi in the land of Nephi Mosiah 21:21. Their transition from social parasites Mosiah 11:6 to farmers must have been jarring. They were only too happy to find new victims to exploit Mosiah 24:8. Based on Mosiah 24:1-2 we would expect Amulon to be more than a village. Based on Mosiah 18:35, 23:19 we would expect the population of the land of Helam to be on the order of 500 inhabitants. Our placement of the land of Helam is based on Mosiah 23:3. See the article "Helam." This map shows the straight-line distance from the north bank of the Motagua across from our land of Shemlon to our candidate for Amulon and then Helam. 91 + 47 = 138 air kilometers.
138 Air Kilometers Wilderness North of Shemlon to Amulon and Helam
138/15 = 9.2 days which qualifies as many days to be lost in the wilderness.

Mosiah 23:3 is one of the anchor points of Book of Mormon geography, the first leg of Alma1's tripartite journey from the local land of Nephi to the local land of Zarahemla. The 8 days' distance did not originate in Nephi proper. It was the distance the Nephites traveled after they entered the wilderness which we correlate with the Sierra de las Minas north of the Motagua River. The distance on the map below is 120.70 air kilometers from the north bank of the Motagua to our correlate for the land of Helam.
120.70 Air Kilometers in the Wilderness to Helam
The model predicts 8 X 15 = 120 air kilometers for this distance.

Mosiah 24:20 implies a long travel day as the Nephites fled to escape their captors. The distance on the map below is 20.03 air kilometers from our land of Helam to a point in the proposed valley of Alma.
20 Air Kilometers from Proposed Land of Helam to
Plausible Valley of Alma Downstream on the Sidon
20 air kilometers is in line with the distance we would expect for this transect.

The third leg of Alma1's journey was a 12 day trip from the valley of Alma to the local land of Zarahemla Mosiah 24:25. The model predicts a distance of 12 X 15 = 180 air kilometers. The measured straight-line distance between the two points shown below is 186.89 air kilometers, a reasonably good fit to the text.
186.89 Air Kilometers Valley of Alma to SE Corner
of the Local Land of Zarahemla
Alma 8:6 is another anchor point in the study of relative Nephite distances. This map shows our interpretation of the passage. See the articles "Ammonihah" and "Melek" for textual criteria under girding our correlations. 
City of Ammonihah 3 Days' Journey North of Land of Melek
45.03 Air Kilometers Distant
Our model predicts 3 X 15 = 45 air kilometers distance.

Alma chapter 8 describes Alma2's departure from Ammonihah, his travel toward the city of Aaron, and his angelic instruction to return to Ammonihah. We are not told how far the prophet traveled, but we do know he had "fasted many days" Alma 8:26 before Amulek provided hospitality. We correlate Ammonihah with the site of El Hormiguero II and Aaron with El Ceibal, both in Peten, Guatemala.
121 Air Kilometers from Ammonihah to Aaron
If Alma2 had traveled 2/3 of the way to Aaron before his special angel Alma 8:15 turned him around, his round-trip journey would have been 161 air kilometers long. 161/15 = 10.73 days travel which qualifies as a journey of many days.

The sons of Mosiah and their entourage journeyed "many days" in the wilderness to go up to the land of Nephi from the local land of Zarahemla Alma 17:9.
296.14 Air Kilometers Wilderness South of Zarahemla
to Wilderness North of Nephi
296.14/15 = 19.74 days which qualifies as many days.

Alma 22:32 says the boundary line between the land of Desolation on the north and the land of Bountiful on the south ran for a day and a half's journey from a point in the east to the west sea. Our model predicts 1.5 X 15 = 22.5 air kilometers. The use of the word "only" in this passage implies a modest distance.
23.02 Air Kilometers on the East-West Bountiful Desolation
Line from 522 Meters Elevation to Sea Level
Our map shows a very similar distance rising to an elevation of 522 meters up the slopes of the Sierra Madrea de Chiapas. The Nephites defended this line, trying to prevent Lamanite Alma 22:33, 52:9 or dissident Alma 50:34 incursion across it into the land northward. For detailed discussion of this highly strategic area, see the articles "The Narrow (Small) Neck of Land" and "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage." 

Helaman 4:7 describes a similar line further south, entirely contained within land Bountiful. According to our model this line should be about 15 kilometers from a point in the east to the west sea which at this point includes a saltwater lagoon behind a sandbar.
14.92 Air Kilometers from Salt Water to an Elevation of 516 Meters
From Laguna de la Joya to a point up the slopes of the Sierra Madre, 14.92 air kilometers is very close to our derived distance of one day's journey.

Ether 6:11 says the Jaredites were in their barges crossing the ocean for 344 grueling days. If the Jaredites crossed the north Pacific, their route would look something like the 2 images below.
Possible Jaredite Voyage from Origin
The origin point near Wenzhou in modern China was selected based on Ether 6:2. This is one of the few places along the entire Chinese coast with a 600+ meter peak seaside.
Possible Jaredite Voyage to Termination
This route is 13,658 kilometers long. 13,658/344 = 39.70 kilometers per day. The computerized drift model maintained by the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at the University of Hawaii tracks debris crossing the Pacific driven by surface currents and winds. 40 kilometers per day is toward the high end of the range, but certainly not unheard of for debris riding high in the water with significant wind exposure. Ether 6:5 describes just such a condition. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake struck northeastern Japan, killing 16,000 people and causing a huge tsunami. According to the IPRC, buoyant debris from that tsunami first washed ashore in the continental U.S. 280 days later, lending credibility to our model of the Book of Mormon account.

The text uses the term "distance" three times. We illustrated our correlation for Alma 22:32 above. Alma 56:37 is quite interesting. This is a deliberate attempt on the part of Helaman1 to describe a distance greater than the standard Nephite unit of measure. The Nephite army marched for two full days and part of a third with hordes of the enemy in hot pursuit. After their feint was finished, they traveled in a relatively straight line northward. Their campsite on the first night was a "considerable distance" from the Lamanite bastion, Antiparah. This map shows our current correlation.
Helaman's First Campsite 23.69 Air Kilometers from Antiparah
If our deduced value for a routine Nephite travel day, 15 air kilometers, is correct, then 23.69 air kilometers in one day qualifies as a "considerable distance." Our estimate of the stripling warrior's first day's march from Judea, skirting Antiparah, toward the city beyond on the seashore, and then northward to their first campsite is 41.8 trail kilometers, definitely a considerable distance. An army of young men with adrenaline pumping will travel further in one day than an emigrant party. The terrain along the Pacific coastal plain of Chiapas is flat, with many small rivers. Hostile military travel in excess of 40 trail kilometers per day for two days in a row would have been strenuous, but not unreasonable.

A region of lakes in Central Mexico fits the description in Helaman 3:4 and Alma 50:29. The eastern portion of this territory has many rivers, particularly in the Papaloapan Basin which we correlate with the waters of Ripliancum Ether 15:8 and the Tuxtla Mountains which we correlate with the land of Cumorah Mormon 6:4.
Region of Lakes and Rivers in Land Northward
In the ca. 46 B.C. time period Helaman 3:4 refers to, Teotihuacan was in ascendancy near modern Mexico City. Teotihuacan was by the shores of a system of 5 ancient lakes that together covered a surface area of approximately 1,450 square kilometers.
  • Lake Chalco in the southeast
  • Lake Xochimilco in the southwest (the small remaining lake area tourists visit today)
  • Lake Texcoco in the center
  • Lake Xaltocan in the northeast
  • Lake Zumpango in the northwest
A transect from the Bountiful Desolation line which was also the boundary between the lands northward and southward to modern Mexico City is 686.17 air kilometers long. That certainly qualifies as an "exceedingly great distance" in the Nephite world.

Summary. We previously analyzed all occurrences of the terms "near" and "far" used in a spatial context in the Book of Mormon. See the article "Things Near and Far." We also analyzed every instance of the word "by" used in a spatial context. See the article "By and By." We just illustrated all 22 uses of the word "day" as a Nephite unit of measure for distance. We then looked at all instances of the word "distance" in the text. Our model is reasonable, 100% consistent with textual usage of these terms. Any viable model of the Book of Mormon should show similar text to map consistency.

We have not yet examined all terms with distance implications. At some point we still need to look at all occurrences of the words "journey" and "march" with variants and refine our understanding of "many" and "exceeding."
As of November, 2017, we have finally analyzed the likely Nephite meaning of the English term "many days" used in a travel context. It turns out to be a minimum of about 60 air kilometers. See the article "How Many were Many and Few?"

Article last updated November 24, 2017.