Thursday, October 8, 2015

Founding Civilizations

On April 2, 2014, Richard Hansen of the University of Utah gave the seventh Kislak Lecture at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. This is a prestigious lecture series. The fifth Kislak Lecture was given by David Stuart of UT Austin. Hansen's presentation was entitled "The Origins and Collapse of the Preclassic Maya in the Mirador Basin, Guatemala: Cultural & Natural Dynamics in the Cradle of the Maya Civilization."
Artist's Reconstruction of El Mirador, Peten, Guatemala
A product of BYU who spent much of career on the faculty at Idaho State, Hansen is generally regarded as one of the world's top archaeologists. He heads the massive Mirador Basin Project in Guatemala's northern Peten. 62 universities from many nations work together collaboratively in the Basin.

According to Hansen, there are only five "founding civilizations" in world history. They are:
  • the Chinese
  • the Harappan, Indus Valley societies
  • Mesopotamia
  • Egypt
  • Mesoamerica
Founding civilizations independently developed written script, the high-water mark of human accomplishment. All other civilizations are derivative from or subsidiary to these five pioneers.
Five Founding Civilizations of the World
The Book of Mormon describes high level literacy in both Jaredite Ether 12:24 and Nephite/Lamanite Mosiah 24:6 societies. This is a determinative point anchoring the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica.

It is worth noting that the five founding world civilizations all developed in the drainage basins of major rivers: the Yellow, Indus, Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Usumacinta, and Coatzacoalcos. We should pay particular attention to the Usumacinta and Coatzacoalcos river systems as we look for Book of Mormon locations within Mesoamerica.

Hansen described a pre-classic writing system found in Mirador Basin texts. Clearly related to later Mayan, the texts are currently unreadable even by leading Mayan epigraphers such as David Stuart and Stanley Guenter.
Preclassic Writing System, Precursor to Mayan
One is reminded of the Isthmian script on La Mojarra Stela 1 and the Tuxtla Statuette whose interpretation is still very much in dispute. The Book of Mormon describes multiple mutually unintelligible scripts Omni 1:20Mosiah 21:27-28.