Friday, May 8, 2015

Light from L.A.

On April 10 - 11, 2015, luminaries from the worldwide fellowship of Mayanists gathered on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles CSULA for a significant conference in honor of Linda Schele (1942 - 1998). Entitled "In the Realm of the Vision Serpent: Decipherments and Discoveries in Mesoamerica, A Symposium in Homage to Linda Schele", the gathering featured presentations from such noted scholars as:
Scholars not on the program but referred to regularly included Nikolai Grube, Stephen D. Houston, David H. Kelley (1924 - 2011), Simon Martin and William Saturno. All were colleagues, students, or friends of Linda Schele. Peter Mathews is the only surviving member of the group of three [Floyd Lounsbury (1914 - 1998), Linda Schele (1942 - 1998), Peter Matthews] whose collaboration led to the magic moment at the first Palenque Roundtable in December, 1973, when modern Mayan decipherment really began. The three identified the names of 8 Palenque rulers in 3 hours and the world has never looked back. In 1984 Matthews was named a MacArthur Fellow and received one of the so-called "genius grants." David Stuart was also named a MacArthur Fellow in 1984 when he was only 18 years old, the youngest person ever to receive the award. Houston was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2008.

Freidel, Mathews, and Miller co-authored books with Schele:
The Blood of Kings, 1986, Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller
A Forest of Kings, 1990, Linda Schele and David Freidel
Maya Cosmos, 1993, David Freidel, Linda Schele, Joy Parker
Hidden Faces of the Maya, 1997, Linda Schele and Jorge Perez de Lara
The Code of Kings, 1998, Linda Schele and Peter Mathews

Everyone had their Linda Schele story to tell. Many presenters said it almost felt like they were back in Austin at Linda's famed Maya Meetings. Video clips of interviews with Schele directed by David Lebrun were interspersed between presentations. Schele signed off on Christenson's PhD dissertation on her deathbed. Stuart was at Palenque on April 18, 1998, the day she died of pancreatic cancer. He planted a ceiba tree in her honor on the plaza in front of the Temple of the Inscriptions. Her remains are interred on a hillside overlooking Lake Atitlan.

An overtone of spirituality pervaded the conference. Aguilar-Moreno was a Catholic priest in Mexico when he began to study with Schele. Her prophetic counsel to him shortly before her death led to his remarkable legacy as an art historian in Los Angeles, including the 2015 conference. There was a time in her life when Schele recognized she was addicted to alcohol. Her journey to sobriety was a spiritual one. When she knew she had only weeks to live, she said, "I am going to become an ancestor" and she seemed to genuinely relish the prospect. David Stuart gave a powerful presentation about the Maya pantheon and suggested that contemporary humans could benefit greatly by learning to think like the Maya thought with the physical and spiritual worlds inextricably intertwined. The vision serpent, for whom the conference was named, was a source of spiritual enlightenment among the Maya.
Vision Serpent from Yaxchilan Lintel 15
Now in the British Museum
After the presentations on Friday, attendees viewed an excellent museum exhibit entitled "Eternal Realms of Revelry: The MAW Collection of Pre-Columbian Art" curated by John M.D. Pohl. Pohl had the same problem museologists all over the world face when dealing with antiquities. Some of the best pieces were looted, offered for sale on the global art market, and acquired by private collectors, so their provenience will be forever tentative.
Teotihuacan-style Ceramic Vessel
I will not summarize the conference proceedings. There was simply too much material presented. I will, however, highlight some data points potentially relevant to the Book of Mormon.

1. Palenque is the most important site in the Maya world.
Palenque is the lodestone. David Freidel.
The Tablet of the Foliated Cross from Palenque depicts death and resurrection, themes of utmost importance to the Maya. Allen Christenson.
Piers B & E from the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, show the god K'awiil being cradled as an infant. The Dumbarton Oaks Tablet from Palenque shows Lord Pakal as a diminutive K'awiil. Jennifer Scheper Hughes, UC Riverside. Some Palenque rulers are shown with an infant K'awiil. David Stuart.
Pakal died as the maize god, K'awiil. He is then shown rising up the life tree. Mary Miller.
God L, the merchant, is represented at Palenque. Andrew Turner, UC Riverside.
Palenque was a society built around art. It was a society where art was central to the existence of the society. We use science to explain reality. Palenque was a society where art explained reality. Linda Schele.
"In 1973 at the mesa redonda (round table) Floyd Lounsbury, Peter Mathews and I deciphered the names of 8 Palenque kings in 3 hours. That was the moment when we began to read Mayan." Linda Schele.
"On my first visit to Palenque, I could sense this site was an especially powerful source of the sacred." Linda Schele. Palenque is noted for the high quality of its glyphic texts.
Some of the figurines found on Jaina Island actually came from Palenque. Mary Miller.
Complex poetical devices such as chiasmus are found in the Popol Vuh and in Mayan texts from Palenque. Jamie Lynn, Texas Tech.
The Palenque cross group (Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Foliated Cross, Temple of the Sun) are the most important structures in Mesoamerica. David Stuart.
Triadic gods (G1, G2, G3) are found at Palenque and Caracol. David Stuart.
Book of Mormon connection 1 a. According to the geographic model developed since 2011 in this blog, Palenque was in the local land of Zarahemla, the Nephite culture core. V. Garth Norman was the first to publish this correlation in 2006.

1 b. Death and resurrection were themes of utmost importance to the Nephites. They appear dozens of times in the Book of Mormon Alma 11:42, Mosiah 15:21.

1 c. Jesus Christ's infancy is attested in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 11:20.

1 d. Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon asked men to become like him, to develop god-like attributes 3 Nephi 12:48.

1 e. The tree of life is amply attested in the Book of Mormon Alma 5:34.

1 f. Merchants were prominent in Nephite life 3 Nephi 6:11.

1 g. The records kept by Nephite scribes were an especially powerful source of the sacred 4 Nephi 1:48.

1 h. Complex poetical devices such as chiasmus are found in the Book of Mormon Alma 36.

1 i. For many years the temple at Zarahemla was the most important structure in the Nephite world Mosiah 1:18.

1 j. A triad of gods is mentioned prominently in the Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 11:27.

2. Maya writing is art.
What was said was controlled by tradition. Couplets, triplets and other forms of expression were the real Maya art forms. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 2 a. What was said in the Book of Mormon was controlled by tradition. The text is highly regular in its phraseology. See the blog article "English in the Book of Mormon," particularly the synopsis of Royal Skousen's presentation.

2 b. Couplets, triplets and other forms of expression are the Nephite art forms that have endured to our day. The Book of Mormon is so rich in parallelism that a new edition was published to highlight its literary structures. See Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns (Provo: FARMS, 1992, 2002).

3. History is treasure.
History is a precious gift.It provides identity, resilience, examples of how to cope. Without the past we don't know who we are. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 3 a. The Book of Mormon is a precious gift of great worth to the Lamanites 2 Nephi 28:2.

3 b. The Book of Mormon informs Lamanites of their identity Mormon 7:2.

3 c. The Book of Mormon has examples of resilience, of how to cope in difficult situations 3 Nephi 6:14.

4. Science is the method.
Gather data, wait for it to pattern, and when it patterns follow it wherever it wants to go. Let the data drive the model. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 4. This blog is a reasonably good example of letting the data drive the model. Its approach to the text is highly empirical and data-driven.

5. Humanity is the goal.
To understand humans, we need to understand the New World. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 5. The Book of Mormon champions the Western Hemisphere among the nations of the world 2 Nephi 29:12-13.

6. Directional cardinality. The Maya and the Olmec before them conceived of a quadrilateral heaven and a quadrilateral earth, each with four sides and four corners, all oriented to the cardinal directions.
Throughout the Maya world we see a four part cosmology, four cardinal directions, and four year bearers. There is a four fold organization of space and time. Julia Guernsey.
West was associated with the color black. Kawak years brought warfare & drought. South was associated with the color yellow and Kan years.East was associated with the color red and Muluk years. Gabrielle Vail.
Among the Ch'orti' the infernal world has four corners oriented to the four cardinal directions with the fifth cardinal direction being the navel, heart, or center. In each of the four directions is a sea. The white sea is represented by milk, the red sea by blood. A fifth sea lies at the center. Hull's diagram of the five seas was a classic quincunx with four points laid out like a cross and a fifth at the center.
Ch'orti' Conception of the World of Spirits
A square milpa (cornfield) represents cosmic space. The Ch'orti' dig a hole in the center of a milpa. The world has four or five pillars and four portals. East and west are the primary points of entry. In their travels, spirits follow the sun. Kerry M. Hull, BYU. For another example of four seas at the four cardinal directions with a fifth sea at the center, see the blog article "Quichean Directionality."
Symbols 19 - 22 of the Cascajal Block have recently been interpreted as motifs representing the four cardinal directions and the sun's path as it crosses the sky.
Cascajal Block with Symbols 19-22 Highlighted
Similar symbols appear in directional contexts in classic Maya art. La Venta is oriented 8 degrees west of north to align with the principal 30 meter high mound shaped like an artificial volcano . Celsiana Gera, UCLA.
Izapa is oriented 21 degrees east of north, but a secondary alignment is 8 degrees west of north to align with Tacana and Tajumulco, the two tallest volcanoes in Central America, which dominate the horizon. V. Garth Norman, BYU.
The Initial Series Group, south of the main Chichen Itza site, is oriented north, south, east and west. Karl Taube.
Teotihuacan is oriented 15 degrees east of north. An azimuth plotted from the Temple of the Sun to the Temple of the Moon is oriented 2 degrees east of north. The city is laid out on a true grid pattern with the east west axes perpendicular to the north south vectors. Matthew H. Robb, de Young Museum. Vincent H. Malmstrom demonstrated in his Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: The Calendar in Mesoamerican Civilization (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997) that Teotihuacan's alignment is based on the August 13th sunset point viewed from the Pyramid of the Sun. August 13th is the day the Maya calendar began. August 13th is one of two solar zenith passage days at Izapa (14.8 degrees north latitude) when the sun casts no shadow at high noon.
La Venta was a four directional symbol of the earth's surface. A four directional diagram of the world with a center was typical of Olmec art. The world tree, four directions, earth platform and sacred mountain are standard Mesoamerican motifs. Carolyn Tate.
Chichen Itza shows the Maya idea of solar-based four directions defining a quadripartite earth's surface. The center was the fifth direction. Cenote Holtun at Chichen Itza has a four-sided opening oriented to the four cardinal directions. This opening is oriented so the sun shines into the cenote on solar zenith passage days. The opening is thus a zenith sight tube. Francesca Vega, Texas Tech.
Book of Mormon connection 6. There are six Book of Mormon geographers whose work I consider serious. They are, in order of publication:
  • John L. Sorenson 1985, 2013
  • F. Richard Hauck 1988
  • Joseph L. Allen & Blake J. Allen 1989, 2008
  • Aric Turner 2004
  • V. Garth Norman 2006
  • Kirk Magleby (this blog) 2011
Five of the six interpret the words "north, south, east, and west" in the Book of Mormon text to mean the four solar, lunar and Venus-based cardinal directions used by most cultures on earth. John L. Sorenson introduces his own system of directionality in an attempt to justify his placement of Nephite lands and cities in the Central Depression of Chiapas and along the western Gulf of Campeche. Every data point that came to my attention during the April 10, 11 Cal State L.A. symposium supports four Mesoamerican astral-based cardinal directions. Nothing presented in my earshot supports Sorenson's fringe interpretation. For more data supporting the mainstream interpretation of Book of Mormon directions see the blog articles "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten," "Test #5 North South East and West," and "Quichean Directionality."

7. Maya descendants. Linda Schele made it a priority to bring living Maya to the Maya Meetings in Austin. In their texts, the Maya are speaking to their posterity, not to us. Allen J. Christenson.
Book of Mormon connection 7. In their texts, the Nephites are speaking to their posterity and to us Mormon 5:10.

8. Polity founding. El Peru, aka Waka, was founded ca. 100 B.C. It was conquered in the fourth century and again in the seventh century. David Friedel.
Book of Mormon connection 8 a. In the Book of Mormon model elaborated in this blog, El Peru is just a few kilometers north of the Nephite land of Sidom.
El Peru aka Waka near the Proposed Land of Sidom
Since Almafounded a church in the land of Sidom ca. 81 B.C. Alma 15:13, the land at that time was probably newly-settled by the Nephites. A 100 B.C. date for the beginning of El Peru works well with our current concept of Nephite settlement in this area.

8 b. Nephite annals record a major war in this region beginning in the fourth century A.D. Mormon 1:10.

9. Dave Kelley. David H. Kelley and Linda Schele were good friends. Peter Matthews was Kelley's student at the University of Calgary, as was Marc Zender.
Book of Mormon connection 9. John L. Sorenson cites David H. Kelley often. See Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book pp. 111, 180, and 222-223. Kelley was much more open to the likelihood of trans-oceanic migrations than most other Mesoamericanists, a trait that endeared him to Sorenson. Kelley proposed a relationship between the letters of the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet and the 20 Mayan day names. Stephen C. Compton took Kelley's thesis and developed it further. See the blog article "Book Notice - Exodus Lost by Stephen C. Compton." Compton cites Kelley as he lays out a strong case for Olmec origins in Hyksos Egypt.

10. Cerros. Material symbol systems were elaborated at Cerro Maya (aka Cerros near the mouth of the New River in Belize). David Friedel. Cerros reached apogee in the late preclassic. Ceremonial architecture began about 50 B.C. Structure 5C-2nd contains stucco mask reliefs depicting the hero twins from the Popol Vuh.
Book of Mormon connection 10. In our Book of Mormon model, Cerros is the city of Mulek just south of the city of Bountiful on the Nephite east coast. Joseph L. Allen suggested this correlation in 1989.
Proposed City of Mulek on the Nephite East Sea
The Book of Mormon says Mulek was settled in the first century part of the wave of Nephite expansion that pushed the boundaries of the greater land of Zarahemla east to the sea Alma 51:26. See the blog articles "Expansion of the Nephite Nation," "Sidon East then West," and "Captain Moroni in Space and Time." Mulek did not remain in Nephite hands for more than a few decades. It is last mentioned in the Book of Mormon ca. 30 B.C. Helaman 5:15.

11. Winged Deities. Izapa Stela 4 depicts Itzamna, the creator deity, transformed into a bird with wings. Kaminaljuyu Stela 11 shows rulers dressed as birds. Heather Hurst's drawings of the San Bartolo murals show a twisted serpent bird - Itzamna's avian alter-ego. Justin Kerr's K3413 image shows Itzamna with the wings of a bird. This is the avian Itzamna. Julia Guernsey. The Olmec portray a sky serpent. Jesse Nowak, Texas State.
Book of Mormon connection 11. The Nephite text describes a deity with wings 2 Nephi 25:13 symbolized by a serpent 2 Nephi 25:20.

12. Solar Deities. Itzama, the creator god, and the maize gods were associated with the east and the sun. Gabrielle Vail.
Book of Mormon connection 12. The Nephite creator god was associated with the east 1 Nephi 21:13 and the sun 1 Nephi 1:9.

13. Rain. The annual world renewal ceremony in the spring among the Maya is attested in the Dresden (D25-28), Madrid (M34-37) and Paris Codices. Gabrielle Vail. The purpose of the world renewal ceremony was to bring life-giving rains. Easter is now celebrated as the world renewal ceremony in the Guatemalan Highlands. Allen Christenson. May is when the rainy season generally begins in most of southern Mesoamerica.
Book of Mormon connection 13. The Nephites recorded an instance when divine aid was required to bring life-giving rains at the appropriate season Helaman 11:17.

14. Raised tree. As part of the annual world renewal ceremony, the ancient Maya raised a world tree and made offerings to it. Gabrielle Vail. World trees are called Itzam trees. Itzam trees helped the dry reason transition to the rainy season Dresden Codex 25c. In contemporary Guatemala, the world tree has now become the cross raised at the end of holy week. Anciently a turkey was decapitated to nourish the world tree with its blood Dresden Codex 26c. Modern Maya water their raised cross with turkey blood. Allen Christenson.
Book of Mormon connection 14. The four motifs of raising 1 Nephi 11:33, tree 1 Nephi 11:25, cross 1 Nephi 11:33, and blood 1 Nephi 12:10-11 are conjoined in the Nephite record as well 3 Nephi 27:14, 19.

15. Cradling. The San Bartolo murals dated ca. 100 B.C. show an infant maize deity being cradled. Cradling as a devotional posture or ritual embrace is depicted on Olmec monuments from La Venta, Las Limas, and Rio Pesquero. Jennifer Scheper Hughes. The Las Limas Monument depicts the infant maize deity at the center of a four-sided world with four cosmic corners. J. Grant Stauffer, Texas State.
Book of Mormon connection 15. Nephi saw in vision the infant Christ being cradled 1 Nephi 11:20.

16. Spiritual media. The Ch'orti' Maya associate spirits with fire and water. This makes a lake in the caldera of a volcano a spiritually active place. Kerry Hull.
Book of Mormon connection 16. The spirit is associated with fire Helaman 5:45, 3 Nephi 9:20 and with water 1 Nephi 13:12-13, Mosiah 18:12-14 in the Nephite text.

17. Spiritual healing. Among the Ch'orti' healing consists of sweeping away evil spirits. The wind god can sweep away evil spirits. Kerry Hull.
Book of Mormon connection 17. The Nephites, too, associated healing with casting out evil spirits 1 Nephi 11:31, 3 Nephi 7:22.

18. Traders. The maize god is a hero. God L, a trader, is a toothless, cigar-smoking villain who has access to wealth. The maize god and god L are in eternal conflict. They represent two great forces of power - settled agriculturists and traders. Mary Miller.
Book of Mormon connection 18. Nephite scribes lionized settled agriculturists 1 Nephi 18:24, Mosiah 6:7 and vilified traders Mosiah 24:7, 4 Nephi 1:46.

19. Ditto. Doubling dots on Mayan glyphs mean "ditto." Marc Zender.
Book of Mormon connection 19. There are several places in the text where repetitive phrasing implies the use of a "ditto" character or linguistic function 3 Nephi 2:4, 3 Nephi 5:7.

20. Los Horcones and Fraccion Mujular have Teotihuacan influence in the early classic period. Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers.
Book of Mormon connection 20. The geographic model developed in this blog since 2011 plots the fortified line described in Helaman 4:7 through the site of Los Horcones. Ric Hauck was the first to propose this correlation in 1988.
Cerro Bernal Sites in Context with Proposed Nephite Locations
We believe Mormon led the Nephites in this area during the early classic period. The Nephite demise was probably due to pressure from Lamanites in the land southward allied with Teotihuacan forces coming from the north and the west.

21. Cacaxtla and its predecessor site, Xochitecatl 1 kilometer to the west, are in southern Tlaxcala in Central Mexico. Cacaxtla is well-known for its colorful murals painted in Maya style. Maya art and iconography 500 kilometers from traditional Maya territory makes Cacaxtla an outlier and something of an enigma. Ceremonial architecture began at Xochitecatl ca. 800 B.C. Occupation at the site was continuous until ca. A.D. 150 when an eruption of the volcano Popocatepetl 38 kilometers to the southwest forced its abandonment. Settlement at Cacaxtla began ca. A.D. 400. Cacaxtla reached apogee ca. A.D. 650 - 900. God L, the aged toothless Maya merchant surrounded by luxury textiles, jade, and jewels, is represented prominently at the site as he is at Palenque and sites in Campeche. Stylistic analysis of the Cacaxtla murals evidence strong cultural affinities with the Tabascan coast. Cacaxtla was also closely connected with Cholula 21 kilometers to the south.Cacaxtla rose to prominence as a long-distance trading center importing luxury goods from the tropics into Central Mexico after the fall of Teotihuacan. The Maya influences at Cacaxtla came from Yaxchilan and the Chontal cities along the Gulf Coast such as Xicalango, Potonchan, and Ahualulco. Andrew Turner, UC Riverside.
Book of Mormon connection 21 a. Lists of luxury goods in the text include textiles among other precious things 1 Nephi 13:7-8, Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17. The Maya depiction of God L features costly clothing.

21 b. Yaxchilan we correlate with the land of Melek. Xicalango, Potonchan and Ahualulco we correlate with the central part of land Bountiful.
Cacaxtla in Context with Proposed Book of Mormon Lands
We know that the war begun near the local land of Zarahemla ca. A.D. 322 Mormon 1:10 eventually drove the Nephites into the land northward with the Lamanites in pursuit. That some of those Lamanites could have migrated to Cacaxtla ca. A.D. 400 following the annihilation of the Nephite nation ca. A.D. 385 in the land of Cumorah is not unreasonable. The white line on the map above is the principal modern highway linking Mexico City, Distrito Federal, with Minatitlan, Veracruz. This route has been a trade and travel corridor since Olmec times.

22. The Cascajal Block was discovered near San Lorenzo in 1998. Some considered it an example of Olmec writing. That idea is now largely discredited. It is generally accepted that the Cascajal Block is a series of ideograms where each pictorial element represents a concept. The 62 graphemes include animal pelts, open and closed divining bags, maize ears, jade celts, etc. Aztec-Nahuatl and Mixtec are other systems considered primarily ideographic in nature (although some proper names do have phonetic components). There are three scripts known from Mesoamerica that likely qualify as phonetic writing systems. Mayan is well-known. The others are Zapotec and Isthmian (La Mojarra). F. Kent Reilly, III.
Book of Mormon connection 22. The Nephites had a writing system Mormon 9:32-33 which the Lamanites adopted Mosiah 24:6. The Jaredites also had a writing system Mosiah 8:9 which ordinary Nephites could not read Mosiah 21:27-28, Mosiah 28:11-13. So, the Book of Mormon attests multiple writing systems. If our geographical correlations are correct, the Nephites and Lamanites prior to ca. 55 B.C. lived primarily in the land southward Alma 63:4 which is Maya territory. The Jaredites lived primarily in the land northward Ether 10:21 which is Olmec territory.

23. Birth privilege. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of identity, legitimacy, and right to property. Jesse Nowak.
Book of Mormon connection 23 a. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of identity among the Nephites Alma 10:3, Mormon 8:13.

23 b. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of legitimacy to rule among the Lehites 2 Nephi 5:3, Mosiah 10:15Mosiah 25:13.

23 c. Ancestral origin was a powerful source of right to property among the Nephites Mosiah 10:16Mosiah 11:6, Mosiah 11:13, Mosiah 19:26.

24. Avian serpent wind deity. Ehecatl - Quetzalcoatl is a duck-billed post-classic wind god. The plumed serpent wind god is a fisherman. Ehecatl is a man bird. The plumed serpent is a vision serpent that brings visions during blood letting. Yaxchilan has a duck-billed wind god. Seibal has a duck-billed wind god that is the origin of the central Mexican Ehecatl. San Bartolo depicts a duck-billed wind god. The Olmec had a duck-billed wind god. Ehecatl migrated from the Maya region into central Mexico at a late date. The bird man was born out of a cracked egg. The Madrid Codex shows a man emerging from a cracked egg. Ehecatl lives in a floral paradise. Codex Borgia shows birds diving into floral bowls. Karl Taube.
Book of Mormon connection 24 a. Jesus Christ among the Nephites had avian characteristics 2 Nephi 4:25, 2 Nephi 25:13, 3 Nephi 10:4-6. 3 Nephi 25:2.

24 b. He was represented by a serpent 2 Nephi 25:20, Helaman 8:14-15.

24 c. Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon was also a wind god 1 Nephi 18:21, 2 Nephi 21:15, Ether 2:24.

25. Deity at the ball game. The Gulf Coast is the origin and home of the ball game. The ball game was used in the transfer of power, of political accession to high office. You get a cape and a baton as you accede ot the throne. Ehecatl, the duck-billed wind god, presides over the ball game. Rex Koontz.
Book of Mormon connection 25. The Nephites invoked deity when they transferred power to a new ruler Mosiah 1:10, God himself appointed their new king Mosiah 2:4.

26, Wheels. Tres Zapotes Mounds E & F contained wheeled animal toys in child burial urns. Wheeled figurines were found in Tres Zapotes Trench 23. They are now in the (Matthew W.) Stirling Collection in the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian. Wheeled vehicles are on display in the Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa (MAX) Veracruz. Cherra Wyllie, SUNY FIT.
Wheeled Toy from Classic Veracruz Culture
MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
Book of Mormon connection 26. The Nephite text mentions wheels in an Old World prophetic context 2 Nephi 15:28 quoting Isaiah 5:28. The word "cart" implies wheels in 2 Nephi 15:18 quoting Isaiah 5:18. Mention of horses and chariots in the New World Alma 18:9-12,  3 Nephi 3:22 means the Nephites and Lamanites used wheels.

27. Beards. Bearded figurines were found in Tres Zapotes, Veracruz Trench 20. Cherra Wyllie. A bearded figure came from Aguateca, Peten. Mary Miller.
National Geographic Society Photo of Olmec Head
Excavated by Matthew Stirling at Tres Zapotes
Book of Mormon connection 27. Beards were endemic in the Old World cultures from which the Jaredites, Lehites and Mulekites emigrated. The word "beard" occurs in the Nephite text in an Old World context 2 Nephi 17:20 quoting Isaiah 7:20. Indigenous New World populations generally have scant if any facial hair and do not suffer from male pattern baldness. The thousands of beards depicted in pre-columbian art are therefore alien to known New World physiology. This anomaly is best explained by ancient bearded foreigners whose biological profile did not survive in the much larger Mesoamerican gene pool due to population bottlenecks. The Book of Mormon describes two such population bottlenecks: one ca. 400 B.C. when the Jaredite nation was annihilated in a massive civil war Omni 1:21-22 and another ca. A.D. 385 when the Lamanites destroyed the Nephites Mormon 8:7.

28. Distances. Jaina is famous for its figurines, but Jaina is a style rather than necessarily a place of origin. Figurines excavated from burials on Jaina Island actually came from Nopiloa, Santiago Tuxtla, Comalcalco, Jonuta, Los Guarixes, and Xcambo. They made their way to Jaina via long distance trade networks. Mary Miller. This map shows known origin sites of figurines found in Jaina burials.
Origin Sites of Jaina Figurines
Book of Mormon connection 28. The 778 air kilometers from Nopiloa to Xcambo is similar to the distances we envision for Nephite and Lamanite fields of action. The distance from our proposed city of Nephi, Kaminaljuyu, to our proposed hill Ramah - Cumorah, Cerro El Vigia, is 664 air kilometers. The distance from our proposed city Bountiful, Bugambilas, to our proposed hill Ramah - Cumorah is 744 air kilometers. The distance from our proposed city of Moroni, Tiger Mound, to our proposed hill Ramah - Cumorah is 750 air kilometers.
Proposed Book of Mormon Cities Relative to Hill Cumorah
29. Slaves. Many female figurines represent captives or slaves. They are bound, they hold un-spun cotton, and they are depicted wearing the same dress that gets recycled over and over. Diego Duran (1537 - 1588) and Bernardino de Sahagun (1499 - 1590) wrote descriptions of slave markets that match what we see in the figurines. Slavery was much more common in ancient Mesoamerica that we have formerly realized. Self-determination was relatively rare. Mary Miller.
Book of Mormon connection 29. Bondage and captivity are common themes in the text. Slavery was much more common in the Book of Mormon world than many have formerly realized.Mosiah 7:22, Mosiah 9:12, Alma 48:11, Alma 53:17. Self-determination was precious Mosiah 29:38, Alma 46:13.

30. Sovereignty. The Maya had their history and mental sovereignty taken away for 500 years. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 30. The text describes the seed of Lehi being driven and scattered Mormon 5:20, smitten 1 Nephi 13:14, besieged and brought low in the dust even that they are not 2 Nephi 26:15, cast out and trodden under feet 3 Nephi 16:8, and counted as naught Mormon 5:9.

31. Living Maya. Allen Christenson deserves special mention for his sensitive and caring work among the living Maya. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 31. Allen Christenson first developed his great love for the Maya while serving an LDS mission in Guatemala. Christenson's work partially fulfills 1 Nephi 22:8.

32. Reciprocity. The supernatural and human world co-exist and co-depend. Linda Schele.
Book of Mormon connection 32. King Benjamin agrees Mosiah 2:21-22. So does AlmaAlma 5:15-16, Alma 42:5.

33. Parentage. There is a pattern in the way royal genealogies are recorded in the glyphs. The living ruler references the preceding ruler, usually his father, and a second person, usually his mother. The pattern can be generalized as person 1, relationship, person 2, relationship, person 3. The male/female order can change. The dynastic line goes from male to male, usually from father to son. Chris Jones first noticed this pattern in 1970 at Tikal. It is found at Yaxchilan, Palenque, Tikal, Naranjo, Piedras Negras, Dos Pilas, Copan, El Tortuguero, and Bonampak. Palenque shows a ruler flanked by his parents. Peter Matthews.
Book of Mormon connection 33. Nephite scribes often introduce a new person as the son of his father Omni 1:10, Mosiah 7:9, Alma 10:2.

34. Egyptian analogues. Palenque and Yaxchilan are similar to Egypt in the sense that they had long dynastic king lists carved on public monuments that can be correlated with external timelines. Peter Matthews.
Book of Mormon connection 34. If our geographic correlation is correct, Palenque and Yaxchilan are upstream on the Sidon from the swampy wilderness of Hermounts. Hugh W. Nibley said the term Hermounts was clearly derived from the Egyptian name of the swampy wilderness Per-month, Greek Hermonthis, modern Armant on the upper Nile just upstream from Thebes.
Palenque & Yaxchilan Relative to Proposed Wilderness of Hermounts
See the blog article "Hermounts." See also the Book of Mormon Onomasticon entry for "Hermounts." In the Onomasticon, Robert F.Smith and Paul Y. Hoskisson cite Lawrence L. Poulsen's speculation that Hermounts may be related to the Nahuatl Tehuantepec. That association does not hold up under scrutiny. See the blog article "Isthmuses" for an image of the Oaxacan hill the Aztecs named tecuani tepec and a discussion of the name's origin.

35. Rulers. With the well-established king lists from Palenque and Yaxchilan, 28 years is a good number for the average length of one generation. 28 years works well for Egyptian royal dynasties as well. 15 Maya rulers have both their birth and death dates recorded in the long count. More than 400 other rulers are mentioned, many with father-son relationships specified, but without complete long count dates recorded. Using the derived metric of 28 years per generation, we can infer dynastic dates in the king lists from other sites. This calculation has the Kanul (Kan) dynasty at Calakmul beginning ca. 393 B.C. and extending for 1,300 years with 58 rulers in 46 generations (46 X 28 = 1,288). It has the dynasty at Naranjo beginning ca. 200 B.C. This technique helps establish tentative dates for Nakbe, El Mirador, Dzibanche, Waka - El Peru, and Tikal in addition to Calakmul and Naranjo. Peter Matthews.
Book of Mormon connection 35 a. We know the names of about 425 Maya rulers. We have birth and death dates recorded for 15, or about 3.5% of the total. We know the names of 207 people mentioned in the Book of Mormon text. We have enough information to establish birth and death dates for 4 of them (Alma1 ca. 173 - 91 B.C., Moronica. 99 - 56 B.C., Mosiahca. 154 - 91 B.C., and Jesus Chirst ca. 0 B.C. - A.D. 33), or about 1.9% of the total.

35 b. The inferred dynastic founding dates for Calakmul (ca. 393 B.C.) and Naranjo (ca. 200 B.C.) fall within Nephite times (ca. 592 B.C. - A.D. 385). Nephite chronology is a complex subject. See Randall P. Spackman, "The Jewish/Nephite Lunar Calendar" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 7 No. 1, 1998. For purposes of simplicity, this blog uses the approximate dates published as footnotes in the LDS 1981, 2013 editions of the text.

35 c. When we look at inter generational longevity, the Book of Mormon is not even in the same ballpark as the 28 years per generation number that works so well at Maya sites. Our data comes from John W. Welch, "Longevity of Book of Mormon People and the 'Age of Man'" in The Journal of Collegium Aesculapium, Vol. 3 (1985) and John W. Welch & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon, (Provo: FARMS, 1999). Four genealogies are among those recorded in the text.
  • Lehi's Lineage. If we estimate Lehi's birth ca. 655 B.C. and Amaleki's death ca. 138 B.C. the text records 7 generations spanning 517 years for an average length of 74 years/generation.
  • Mosiah's Lineage. If we estimate Mosiah's birth ca. 230 B.C. and take his grandson Mosiah's known death ca. 91 B.C. the text records 3 generations spanning 139 years for an average length of 46 years/generation.
  • Alma's Lineage. If we take Alma's known birth ca. 173 B.C. and then estimate Ammaron's death ca. A.D. 320 the text records 9 generations spanning 493 years for an average of 55 years/generation.
  • Jaredite chronology is complicated by uncertainty around the Tower of Babel date. Believing scholars place it as early as 3,100 B.C. or as late as 2,200 B.C. Estimates for the date of the Jaredite civil war of annihilation on Hill Ramah - Cumorah range from 550 B.C. to about 200 B.C. This blog generally uses a 400 B.C. date for the Jaredite demise. Students of the text agree that the book of Ether records 30 generations from Jared through the prophet Ether, although some chronological lacunae may be implied by the word "descendant" which occurs 3 times in the king list Ether 1. A maximum longevity would estimate the Tower of Babel ca. 3,100 B.C. and the Jaredite collapse ca. 200 B.C. for an elapsed length of 2,900 years. Dividing 2,900 years by 30 generations equals an average length of 97 years/generation. A minimum longevity would estimate the Tower of Babel ca. 2,200 B.C. and the Jaredite collapse ca. 550 B.C. for an elapsed length of 1,650 years. Dividing 1,650 years by 30 generations equals an average length of 55 years/generation.
Welch offers several additional ideas that could help explain the extraordinarily long-lived generations recorded in the Book of Mormon.
  • Nephite years may have had only 360 days rather than the 365.25 days that approximate a solar year.
  • Some elderly fathers chose younger sons, even youngest sons, as their successors. This is explicit in Ether 7:3, Ether 7:7, Ether 7:26, Ether 9:14, and Ether 10:13-14. Favoring younger sons may have been a cultural proclivity among the  Lehites based on Lehi - Nephi and reminiscent of Jacob - Joseph. The practice would have reduced the likelihood of an older son usurping his father's throne prematurely. 
  • Some men mentioned in the text lived very long lives. Jacob and Enos both lived to be about 95 and Enos was probably born when his father, Jacob, was in his late 70's. Amos was probably about 20 when he took responsibility for the plates and he kept the records for 84 years 4 Nephi 1:10, which means he lived to be about 104. Amos was probably born ca. A.D. 90 when his father was at least 60. Amos, son of Amos, was probably born ca. A.D. 174 when his father was in his 80's. Amosand his brother, Ammaron, both lived to be about 129 years of age. The longest-lived person mentioned in the text, Coriantum, died at age 142 Ether 9:24 after outliving his first wife and then marrying a young maid.
  • Polygamy was more common among the Nephites Jacob 1:15, Mosiah 11:2 than it was among the Lamanites Jacob 3:5.
  • Some kings in the record did not begin having children until they were older. King Benjamin, for example, was in his late 30's when his first son was born. 
  • The words "son" and "brother" may have more expansive meanings than we currently assume. The word "grandson" never appears in the text and the word "nephew" only occurs as a concept 2 Nephi 24:22. See Genesis 29:10-15 for two examples where "brother" actually means "nephew." Biologically, Laban was Jacob's uncle and Rachel his first cousin. 
  • The terse language in 4 Nephi may be Mormon's attempt to shoe horn his history into the 400 year and 4 generation prophetic paradigm foretold by Alma2 Alma 45:10-12 and Samuel the Lamanite Helaman 13:9-10. Language such as 4 Nephi 1:18 and 4 Nephi 1:22 implies Mormon was not counting the next generation until the previous generation had practically all died off.  
On the other hand, looking at the Zeniff colony in the land of Nephi, Zeniff became king ca. 200 B.C. Mosiah 9 and his grandson Limhi re-united with the Nephites in Zarahemla ca. 120 B.C. Mosiah 22. Here we have 3 kings who reigned for about 80 years for an average of 27 years/generation which works well with Peter Matthews' rule of thumb. Furthermore, among the 3, Zeniff died of natural causes, Noah was violently killed, and Limhi abdicated the throne after his kingdom came under the control of a stronger polity. All 3 scenarios occurred in the often turbulent Maya world.

Applying this same formula to Mosiah1's lineage yields results somewhat closer to Matthews' norm. Analysis of Omni 1:23 indicates that Mosiah1 acceded to the throne ca. 210 B.C. Mosiah2 would have anointed his son, Aaron, king shortly after his plebiscite on the matter Mosiah 29:2, so ca. 92 B.C. becomes our end date. 118 elapsed years divided by 3 generations yields an average length of 39 years/generation. Had Mosiah2 transferred power to Aaron ca. 92 B.C., Mosiah2's reign would have lasted for 32 years Mosiah 29:46. Mosiah1 probably reigned for at least 51 years which means Benjamin was likely king for about 35 years.

The reign of the judges during the years of the Nephite republic are quite another matter. Almawas appointed first chief judge ca. 91 B.C. Mosiah 29:42. Lachoneuswas assassinated ca. A.D. 30 3 Nephi 7:1. 13 chief judges served over a 121 year span for an average tenure of 9 years. The judgeship often passed from father to son Alma 50:39, Helaman 3:37 but a normal inter generational succession pattern never developed because 6 of the 13 chief judges were either killed by invaders Helaman 1:21 or assassinated in office Helaman 1:9, Helaman 6:15.

36. Toponyms. Emblem glyph place names first appear in the texts ca. 150 B.C. Carolyn Tate.
Book of Mormon connection 36. The first location in the greater land of Zarahemla appears in the Nephite record ca. 200 B.C. Omni 1:12.

37. Coatzacoalcos. Ann Ciphers has documented 32 archaeological sites along the Coatzacoalcos. One of those is El Manati oriented on the San Martin/Santa Martha volcanic peaks 90 kilometers distant. Jordann Davis, Texas Tech.
Book of Mormon connection 37 a. In our geographic model, the Coatzacoalcos forms a major part of the boundary between the lands northward and southward.

37 b. San Martin/Santa Martha volcanoes are in the Tuxtlas which we correlate with the land of Cumorah. As you drive along Mexican federal highway 145D Santa Martha stands out prominently on the horizon. This prominence when viewed from a distance makes it a candidate for Hill Ramah - Cumorah.
Coatzacoalcos Sites & Tuxtlas Mountains
38. Man Tree. The Xiu Family Tree from western Yucatan shows a man with a tree growing from his body. This man, and the woman nearby, wear symbols of the four cardinal directions plus the center on their apparel. This drawing was done in colonial times based on earlier Mayan glyphic and pictographic sources. Francesca Vega, Texas Tech.
Man Tree from Xiu Family Papers, Mani,Yucatan
Book of Mormon connection 38. Lehiused a tree to symbolize people 1 Nephi 10:14 as did Jacob quoting Zenos Jacob 5:3. Alma 33:23 describes an anthropomorphic tree growing inside one's body.
Alma 26:36 explicitly calls the house of Israel a tree.
39. Heartlands. Mesoamerica consists of heartlands and hinterlands or periphery. The heartlands are Central Mexico, Olman (the Olmec Heartland), the Maya Lowlands, the Valley of Oaxaca, the Soconusco and the Maya Highlands. These areas were central to the development of classical Mesoamerican civilization. Other regions were periphery. The paradigm of the periphery states that people erected big stelae in the center or heartland and small stelae in the hinterlands. F. Kent Reilly, III.
Book of Mormon connection 39. The geographic model developed in this blog locates Book of Mormon events primarily in the various heartlands. Blank spots on our Book of Mormon map include Yucatan, the Gulf of Campeche, the Central Depression of Chiapas, the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, Western Mexico and the Northern Gulf Coast, all of which Reilly considers hinterlands.
Heartlands in White, Black Pins are Hinterlands
Now we overlay our proposed Book of Mormon lands.
Proposed Book of Mormon Lands in Various Colors
If our Book of Mormon geographic correlation is accurate, areas that were peripheral to the development of classical Mesoamerican civilization were also peripheral to the polities described in the Nephite text. The degree of fit is quite remarkable.

40. Maya gods. David Stuart is perhaps world's greatest living Mayanist. His specialties include Copan, Palenque, Piedras Negras and San Bartolo with emphasis on Palenque. Maya religion is a true theology - ordered and systematic. The Maya said they had 8,000 gods. That is their metric. It is like saying "innumerable gods." For decades Maya scholarship has ignored religion. That is like trying to understand the Greeks without philosophy. We talk about gods A, B, C, D, E, G, K, L, M and O from the Dresden Codex. B is Chac, god of rain and storms. C is god in general. E is the maize god. K is K'awiil.
Maya gods can be classified into four categories:
  • K'uh is God with a capital G. He is holy, the sun, the brilliance of the heavens. K'uh is the word for sun. San Bartolo shows the origin of K'uh in a mural. Divine power is portrayed as wafting scrolls. There is an aura of wafting scrolls. 
  • K'awiil is East West North & South - all four cardinal directions. K'awiil winik or K'awiil person can be an effigy of K'awiil, but it can never capture the essence of K'awiil. K'awiil is never depicted in narrative circumstances. His is a generic or abstract idea of power. He is the force of lightning, a powerful spirit. K'awiil refers to other beings, both divine and human. At Yaxchilan a new king conjures the K'awiil of war.
  • Wahy are demonic beings, spooks. They are not natural. Animals and other transformers represent them. They are the animate forms of diseases. They are the ik blak underworld gods, the death gods. A mosquito can be Wahy. Chac can be Wahy. They represent institutionalized sorcery, the dark side of Maya kingship.
  • Win(i)kiil winiq (Winkil) are sacred beings, divine persona. They have human or semi-human form. They are special persons, abstracted persons.The name is related to the Chorti winkir which is an owner of power, a supernatural patron.
Triads of gods appear at Palenque and Naranjo - G1, G2, & G3. We see different sets of gods at different sites.They are triadic in form but different gods. The triad has a late preclassic origin. We have no name for Palenque G1 yet. He has both K'uh and Winkil attributes.

There are heavenly gods and earthly gods. This dualism is all through Copan. A vessel from Copan has the inscription "8,000 heavenly gods and 8,000 earthly gods."

Gods had personal connections to royals. Rulers had patron gods. Kings could become gods.

There is a vase of the 7 gods and a vase of the 11 gods, both from Naranjo. The list of gods was ordered at the beginning of the long count. The sun god is part of a set of 9 deities. David Stuart.
Book of Mormon connection 40 a. The Nephite religion as described in their text is a true theology - ordered and systematic. Stephen H. Webb explores some of the richness of Book of Mormon theology in his 2013 Oxford University Press book Mormon Christianity. See the blog article "Mormon Christianity" for my notes on a lecture Webb gave at BYU in May, 2014. Jan J. Martin gave a stimulating presentation in March, 2015 about the Book of Mormon's contribution to the Tyndale/More debate that divided English Christianity in the 16th century. A summary of her remarks are in the blog article "English in the Book of Mormon."

40 b. Susan Easton Black wrote an important piece entitled "Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon" that was published in the July, 1978 Ensign. She found 100 different names among the 3,923 references to deity in the text. In the Nephite record, God has many different aspects and attributes.The Book of Mormon also quotes Isaiah and Malachi, calling God "Lord of Hosts" 2 Nephi 23:13, 3 Nephi 24:10. Other biblical translations render this phrase "Lord of Heaven's Armies" implying large numbers of celestial beings. The universal controversy between monotheism and nuanced polytheism is attested in the Book of Mormon Alma 11:35, Alma 14:5. Nephites described Lamanites worshipping multiple deities Alma 17:15, Mormon 4:14.

40 c. Stuart's four categories of supernaturals have clear analogues in the Book of Mormon.
40 d. God appears in the Book of Mormon in triadic form 3 Nephi 11:36, 3 Nephi 28:11.

40 e. Heaven/earth dualism is found throughout the Book of Mormon text. Mosiah 4:9, Alma 22:10, Helaman 10:7.

40 f. The Book of Mormon describes a close personal relationship between humans and deity 3 Nephi 11:14, Ether 3:6.

40 f. In Nephite scripture, humans can become like God 3 Nephi 12:48.

40 g. God in the Book of Mormon is closely associated with the sun 1 Nephi 1:9, Helaman 14:4, Helaman 14:20, 3 Nephi 12:45.

41. Cotton armor. Ancient Mesoamericans in battle used protective body armor made of tightly woven cotton. One name for it was ichcahupilli. This is a modern reconstruction from Oaxaca.
Ichcahupilli, MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
Book of Mormon connection 41. Nephite body armor included thick clothing Alma 43:19.

42. Prisoners. Enslavement was a prime purpose of military raids in ancient Mesoamerica. Warriors escorted their bound captives on the sad trail to their new homes. This ceramic piece from the Shaft Tomb Culture of Western Mexico shows five soldiers with head dresses and weapons leading four captives in procession.
Warriors with Captives, MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
Book of Mormon connection 42 a. Alma 57:15 is a written description of the scene portrayed above.

42 b. In Nephite military affairs, it required a great deal of manpower to control prisoners of war Alma 57:16.

42 c. An obvious key difference between captor and captive: captives were unarmed Alma 55:16, Alma 57:14, Alma 62:15.

43. Incensario. This Teotihuacan-style ceramic incense burner is from the Escuintla region in Guatemala.
Classic Period Incensario, MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
Book of Mormon connection 43 a. The figure wears a large plate hanging from his nose. Nose ornamentation is attested in the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 13:21 quoting Isaiah 3:21.

43 b. The compass rose on the front of the vessel is a common Mesoamerican motif. Like their contemporaries, the Nephites also divided their world up into four quarters Mosiah 27:6, Alma 52:10 oriented to the cardinal Helaman 1:31 and ordinal 1 Nephi 16:13 directions.

44. Armor. This seated warrior is wearing a barrel-shaped breastplate and protective headgear. He has a weapon in his hand. This hollow ceramic piece is from the Shaft Tomb Culture of Western Mexico.
Late Preclassic Warrior Figurine
MAW Collection, Cal State L.A.
Book of Mormon connection 44. Mormon's Codex mentions breastplates Mosiah 8:10, Alma 43:21, head shields Alma 43:19, and head plates Alma 43:38, Helaman 1:14. It also mentions wounds to legs without protection Alma 49:24.

Conclusion. After spending two exhilarating days rubbing shoulders with some of the best people in the discipline, the Book of Mormon fared pretty well. No glaring contradictions arose and dozens of correspondences emerged that corroborate points in the text.