Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Men from the East Wearing Red

Mark Wright of the BYU Religion faculty is one of the brightest Book of Mormon scholars in the contemporary Church. He holds a PhD from UC Riverside where he studied under the eminent Karl Taube. I am indebted to Mark for this color/directionality insight. I am solely responsible for the associated geographic correlation.
Mark Wright at La Danta, El Mirador, Peten, January, 2016
When the Amlicites invaded the greater land of Zarahemla via the land of Gideon, they attacked from the east. We know this because Gideon was explicitly east of Sidon Alma 6:7. They also wore red marks on their foreheads Alma 3:4. Alma attached considerable symbolic significance to this mark as a fulfillment of ancient prophecy Alma 3:13-16. This is the only place in the text where body art color is mentioned. In the Maya worldview, the color red was associated with sunrise and the cardinal direction east. The Amlicites came from the east wearing the color associated with the east.

See the article "Water Fight on the River - Round Ten" for a photo of a modern Maya floral altar from Chiapas showing the color red in the east quadrant.

This color association is one more indication that Ammonihah (home of the Amlicites) was east of Sidon as the January, 2016 Book of Mormon Lands Map proposes. See the article "Red Herrings" for a list of relevant articles examining Ammonihah's setting in the greater land of Zarahemla.

This map shows likely locations for the Alma/Amlici battle narrative per the January, 2016 correlation.
Blue Line Shows Plausible Amlicite Attack Route from the East
The Amlicites came from the east wearing red and engaged the Nephites on Hill Amnihu in the land of Gideon east of the land of Minon.
Detail of Proposed Hill Amnihu Area
If a Book of Mormon geographic correlation is accurate, future corroborative discoveries will surface.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Testimony on #BoMDay and Easter

This is a photo of me, Kirk Magleby, holding the Yale 2009 text at the Shoshone Falls lookout point near Twin Falls, Idaho on March 26, 2016.
Reading the Book of Mormon on Book of Mormon Day
Photo by Doug Christensen March 26, 2016
I know that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. I cherish the Bible. I also love the Book of Mormon which clarifies and corroborates the Bible. If Jesus of Nazareth atoned for our sins and sorrows, was crucified, and rose again on the third day as we celebrate today on Easter Sunday, then perhaps he is the Savior of mankind. Good people in non-Christian traditions may beg to differ. If Jesus of Nazareth atoned for our sins and sorrows, was crucified, rose again on the third day, came to the Americas, descended in glory, and ministered to the Nephites as the Book of Mormon records, then he is indeed the very Eternal Father of Heaven and Earth as Amulek taught Zeezrom in the city of Ammonihah ca. 82 BC Alma 11:39-40.

I testify that Amulek and the other Boook of Mormon prophets taught the truth.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ubiquitous Narrow Strip

In 2011 when I began this blog, satellite imagery was not as advanced or as widely available as it is today. When I went looking for a natural feature that matched the text's description of the narrow strip of wilderness, my first clue was a faint east - west line of lights that showed up on NASA's image of earth's lights at night. Since settlement follows rivers, that line of small population centers meant a line of streams flowed east - west across Chiapas and Guatemala. With examination, I discovered a line of east - west cliffs with rivers flowing at their bases. I then discovered this line of cliffs was caused by uplift along the boundary between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. This tectonic plate boundary is generally called the Polochic Fault and after a few weeks of weighing alternatives that distinctive fault line became my candidate for the narrow strip of wilderness. For much more detail, see the article "The Narrow Strip of Wilderness."

In 2016, shaded relief based on precise elevation data derived from satellite remote sensing is getting so good my proposed narrow strip of wilderness practically jumps off the page on many maps. Here is one example - the current CIA map of Guatemala.
CIA Geo Political Map of Guatemala
As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge. Notice the east - west line running across the middle of the country where the Cuilco, Chixoy, and Polochic Rivers flow. This line also forms the northern shore of Lake Izabal. The towns of Huehuetenango, Sacapulas, Tactic, El Estor, and Livingston are all along this line. Had a widely published map this good been available to me five years ago, my search for the narrow strip of wilderness would not have taken long.

Here is another image of the proposed narrow strip of wilderness showing curvature round about on the Pacific side as per Alma 22:27.
Unmistakable Polochic Fault in Shaded Relief 
And here is a snapshot image from the current version of Google Earth.
Polochic Fault Highly Visible in Google Earth
This is a map of obsidian sources published by Mark Golitko and Gary Feinman of the Field Museum.
Obsidian Sources, all South of the Proposed Narrow Strip of Wilderness
And this is a current image from Google Maps:
Google Maps with Terrain Layer Turned On
When a text to map correlation is accurate, future discoveries and better technology will tend to make it even more obvious.

Article updated April 11, 2016

Easter 2016

Here are a few of the outstanding things Book of Mormon Central is doing to celebrate the International Day of the Book of Mormon on March 26th, General Conference on March 26th and April 2-3rd, and Easter on March 27th. #BoMDay & #hallelujah

1. Print counter.
Interactive Counter of Copies Printed since 1830
This counter increments every 5.922 seconds. It is based on official numbers prepared by the LDS Scriptures Publication Committee and LDS Printing Division. It reflects all languages including braille and ASL (delivered as a video). It does not reflect electronic copies accessed via the web or downloaded to mobile devices.

2. Easter infographic.
Christ in the Book of Mormon
I particularly like the name cloud. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.

3. Christ in America timeline.
Sequence of Events in 3 Nephi
It is not easy sometimes to keep this chronology straight.

4. Christ collage.
Images of Christ in Book of Mormon Central KnoWhys
Book of Mormon Central has been publishing KnoWhys since January 1, 2016. KnoWhy #62 about Jacob's use of the Psalms was published today. This collage brings together images of the Savior used in the KnoWhys published to date.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lehi and Sariah in Arabia

We have all heard people say "I liked the movie, but the book is better." That is certainly the case with Warren Aston's latest publication. Information about his excellent 2015 DVD is in the article "Lehi in Arabia." I just received my copy of his superb 2015 book entitled Lehi and Sariah in Arabia: The Old World Setting of the Book of Mormon.
Sunrise over Khor Kharfot
Contemporary Book of Mormon research doesn't get any better than this. The lavishly illustrated volume is handsome with generally high production values. Aston is a good photographer and a fine writer. More importantly, he is an intrepid explorer with a careful researcher's eye for quality sources. This book belongs on every serious Book of Mormon student's shelf. Order your copy from Xlibris.

At great personal cost, Aston has put not one but two Book of Mormon place names on the map - Nahom in Yemen and Nephi's Bountiful in Oman. Quite the accomplishments for one lifetime. A November, 2015 audio with transcript Interview with Warren Aston is in the Book of Mormon Central Archive.

Book of Mormon Day 2016

Saturday, March 26th, 2016 is the 186th anniversary of the day the Book of Mormon first went on sale in Palmyra, New York. To commemorate the event, people worldwide are using hashtag #BOMDAY to:
  • post photos of themselves reading the Book of Mormon in a familiar, comfortable, or culturally significant place.
  • share their testimony of the Book of Mormon.
  • share something they learned from the Book of Mormon.
People not comfortable with hashtags are welcome to submit material here:

There is also an art contest. Details here: While on that page, notice the counter showing how many copies of the Book of Mormon have been printed worldwide since 1830. At the current rate, a new copy rolls off the press on average every 5.922 seconds. This is a delightful piece of Book of Mormon art submitted by a lovely 12 year old girl.
An Interpretation of Jesus and the Children
As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge. Happy Book of Mormon Day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book of Mormon Temples Fireside

Book of Mormon Central has been publishing terrific material since January 1, 2016. It was time for the group to produce an event. To celebrate the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple, Book of Mormon Central in collaboration with the American Fork 29th Ward hosted "Book of Mormon Temples," a fireside at 7 pm on Sunday, March 20, 2016. Approximately 175 people attended.
A Celebration of Temples Ancient and Modern
As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.

Pres. Keith Blake of the American Fork Utah East Stake Presidency presided. Taylor Halverson conducted. Taylor holds PhD's in biblical studies and instructional technology from Indiana University. He teaches adult Sunday school in the Hobble Creek 15th Ward, Springville Utah Hobble Creek Stake. He is on the BYU faculty and serves on the Book of Mormon Central Executive Committee.

Quin Barney offered the invocation. Quin is 1st Counselor in the Elder's Quorum Presidency in the American Fork 29th Ward. He teaches Seminary at Brighton High School and is a Book of Mormon Central Associate.

Nicole Shepard talked about the first international Book of Mormon Day on March 26th, 2016. Book of Mormon Day is a joint project of More Good Foundation and Book of Mormon Central. Nicole teaches Sunday school and is a Visiting Teaching Supervisor in the South Jordan YSA 3rd Ward, Riverton Utah YSA Stake. She is an editor, script writer, and layout artist with Book of Mormon Central.

Stephen Smoot is a newly set apart ordinance worker in the Provo City Center Temple. He enters the University of Toronto in the fall to pursue an advanced degree in Egyptology. He is a researcher and writer with Book of Mormon Central. You can see his presentation here.

David Larsen is 1st Counselor in the Spring Creek 4th Ward, Springville Utah Spring Creek South Stake. He has a PhD in biblical studies from University of St. Andrews (Scotland). He is a researcher and writer with Book of Mormon Central. His presentation is here.

Primary children from the American Fork 29th Ward sang "I Love to See the Temple" directed by Steve Pratt and accompanied by Erik Anderson. Steve is Primary chorister in the American Fork 29th Ward. He teaches 6th Grade at Westfield Elementary School. Eric is one of the Primary pianists in the American Fork 29th Ward. He is a student in horn performance at Utah Valley University.

Jasmin Gimenez is a member of the compassionate service committee and assistant pianist in the Provo YSA 91st Ward, Provo Utah YSA 7th Stake. Her degree is from BYU in web design and Near Eastern studies. She is a web designer and content manager with Book of Mormon Central. Her presentation is here.

Jack Welch is a sealer in the Provo Temple. He read at Oxford and received his JD from Duke. Jack is on the BYU law faculty and is Editor-in-Chief of BYU Studies. He founded FARMS and chairs Book of Mormon Central. His keynote presentation is here.

Blaine Dickerson offered the benediction. He is a ward missionary in the American Fork 29th Ward. Blaine is one of the skilled craftsmen (wood worker and welder) who built both the Ogden and Provo City Center Temples.

The fireside included a display of about 20 important books on the Book of Mormon, classic titles that have stood the test of time and been broadly influential. It also featured a small gallery of recent Book of Mormon artwork from Joseph Brickey and Glery Becerra.

Article updated March 25, 2016.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Omani Metal Bows

1 Nephi 16:18 tells the story of Nephi's broken steel bow. The incident happened ca. 600 BC along the Red Sea coast of modern Saudi Arabia. See the article "Book of Mormon Lands Lehite Old World Map January 2016." The question naturally arises, "Are metal bows attested in Arabian Peninsula archaeology during the Iron Age II?" The answer is yes. Thanks to Robert F. Smith for this gem passed along via Warren Aston.

The French Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) is the largest basic research organization in Europe. They support the French archaeological mission in central Oman which has been excavating near the town of Adam since 2007 in cooperation with Oman's Ministry of Heritage and Culture. At the site of Mudhmar est the French team found an exceptional cache of bronze weapons dating from the Iron Age II (900 - 600 BC). The collection consisted of five battle axes, five daggers, two quivers each with six arrows, about fifty arrowheads and five bows. The bows are bent at both ends and average approximately 70 centimeters (27 inches) in length. This is a photograph of one of the bows.
Bronze Bow from Central Oman
Photograph by Guillaume Gernez 
The weapons are decorative rather than functional. The string in the example above, for instance, is made of the same bronze as the bow. Archaeologists consider them scale models of the real objects.This is a photograph of the two quivers.
Copper/Bronze Quivers from Central Oman
Photograph by Guillaume Gernez
The quivers are about 35 centimeters (13 inches) long. This is the March 10, 2016 CNRS Press Release in French and English.

This map shows Mudhmar est relative to a possible site for the Lehite Camp of the Broken Bow.
Modern Arabian Peninsula with Mudhmar Est in Oman &
Proposed Camp of the Broken Bow in Saudi Arabia
These two locations are 1,980 air kilometers distant. So, a fine steel bow has not been found in a controlled context from the right time and place to have been an example typical of Nephi's weapon. Five fine bronze bows dating from Nephi's era have been found in situ by professional archaeologists in the same region where Nephi and his family traveled. Metal bows were known on the Arabian Peninsula in the Iron Age II.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Takeshi Inomata

Takeshi Inomata is one of the foremost dirt archaeologists currently excavating in Mesoamerica. He has worked extensively at the sites of Aguateca and Ceibal.
Aguateca and Ceibal in the Petexbatun Region, Peten, Guatemala
Inomata holds a PhD from Vanderbilt. He is a prolific author and National Geographic grantee on the University of Arizona faculty. This year he is on leave working at Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard's research facility in Washington, DC. I was privileged to hear him speak on Tuesday, March 8th at BYU. These are my notes from his lecture.

Don Forsyth, NWAF Director, and John E. Clark, former NWAF Director, were both in the audience. Inomata praised NWAF for the good work they have done over decades to help shed light on the Mesoamerican preclassic. He defines the middle preclassic as the time period from 1,000 BC to 350 BC. Sites like El Mirador and San Bartolo have pushed the origins of Maya civilization back in time to the beginning of the middle preclassic. In the early preclassic, not much was happening in the Maya lowlands. Maize agriculture suddenly became much more productive ca. 1,000 BC which explains the rise of major Maya centers in the lowlands.

Jade celts from Ceibal date to 950 BC. To put this into perspective, Caral on the coast of Peru is pre-ceramic and dates to 2,600 BC. (For a photo I took at Caral in 2014, see the blog article "Things Peruvian.") Watson Brake in northern Louisiana is also pre-ceramic and dates to 3,500 BC. Evolutionary theorists have traditionally held that agriculture led to sedentism which led to urbanism which led to ritual complexes. That is simply not true. We see ritual very early in the archaeological record. Neolithic Goebekli Tepe in Turkey is a good example.

San Lorenzo was followed by La Venta as the leading Olmec site. La Venta and Ceibal were linked and influence was bi-directional. In general, La Venta was primary and Ceibal was secondary. Ca. 1,000 BC the lowland Maya emergence began, fueled by maize agriculture. Ceibal was part of the Vanderbilt Petexbatun Regional Archaeological Project (1989 - 96) that investigated causes of the classic Maya collapse. Inomata's 1995 dissertation was an analysis of the way the collapse played out at Aguateca. He did fieldwork at Ceibal from 2005 - 2015. Rather than focus on the collapse, his research during the last decade has been trying to understand the origins of the site.

Inomata described what he called the middle preclassic "Chiapas pattern." An E Group was oriented on an east - west axis with the structures laid out in a particular format. Greenstone axes were placed in cruciform shaped foundation deposits aligned to the cardinal directions along the center line of the E Group. This pattern was found at La Venta, San Isidro, Chiapa de Corzo, and Ceibal. This Chiapas Pattern was evident from the very beginning of the Ceibal community. Major construction phases at Ceibal began ca. 950 BC, 700 BC, and 400 BC. Substantial construction was in place by 800 BC. We see an elite residential complex at 800 BC. From 700 - 350 BC we see the fully developed Chiapas Pattern at Ceibal and several other sites.

William Rust did important work at La Venta. La Venta was not a large center before 800 BC. El Manati also had a greenstone ax deposit, but those axes were arranged in a flower petal shape. The El Manati cache dates to 1,400 - 1,100 BC. There were many ax caches at Ceibal. Some of the earliest ones were laid out in a flower petal arrangement. We also see Olmec spoons at Ceibal, probably worn as pectorals. From 800 - 600 BC all of the ax caches at Ceibal were laid out in cruciform shape aligned to the cardinal directions. An Olmec style pyrite mirror was found at Ceibal dating to 800 BC. Olmec figurines at the site date from 800 - 600 BC. Greenstone axes in cruciform shaped caches were found at La Venta, Chiapa de Corzo, San Isidro, and Cival after 800 BC.
Five Sites with Inomata's Chiapas Pattern after 800 BC
Archaeologists love to find early dates. 1,200 BC dates have been published for Cahal Pech and Cuello in Belize. Inomata thinks those very early dates should be thrown out as outliers. Examining the C-14 data carefully, he thinks 1,000 BC is a good origin date for Cuello, Blackman Eddy, Nakbe, Cahal Pech, and Ceibal.
Five Sites Inomata Thinks Began Ca. 1,000 BC
1,000 BC is the beginning of the middle preclassic. A dramatic increase in maize consumption began at this time. By 1,100 BC San Lorenzo was in decline. At Ojo de Agua we may have a prototype of the Chiapas Pattern ca. 1,100 BC. There is evidence of cultural contact between Ceibal and Finca Acapulco as well as La Blanca. Middle preclassic cultural contact between the Central Depression of Chiapas and the Pasion River area is well established.
Other Sites with Known Cultural Contact during the Middle Preclassic
Inomata then mentioned other sites where the Chiapas Pattern is evident in the middle preclassic: Takalik Abaj, Izapa, La Libertad, Paso de Armada, Itzan, Altar de Sacrificios, Punta de Chimino, Caobal, and Tikal. Some interesting points:
  • La Blanca was aligned northward to volcano Tajumulco.
  • Takalik Abaj was aligned northward to volcano Siete Orejas.
  • Izapa was aligned northward to volcano Tacana.
  • Northward from La Venta was the ocean, so the Olmec built an artificial volcano and aligned their site to it. This is one of many examples of cultural influence coming into La Venta from the south.
  • Chiapa de Corzo, La Libertad, Finca Acapulco, La Blanca, Ceibal and Cuello all had substantial development by 800 BC when La Venta was just getting started.
  • The Chiapas pattern was fully developed at Ceibal by 700 BC.
  • Tikal had an early E Group.
  • The E Group, first documented at Uaxactun, was a Maya adaptation, not a Maya invention. The E group was invented in Chiapas.
  • In the Petexbatun, we see Itzan, Altar de Sacrificios,and Punta de Chimino all beginning to develop in the 800 - 700 BC era. 
  • Caobal, a small site near Ceibal, began 1,000 - 800 BC.
  • Paso de Amada had a greenstone ax cache in its ceremonial center.  
This image shows all the sites Inomata mentioned as having had some influence on or relationship with Ceibal in the middle preclassic.
Middle Preclassic Sites with Ceibal Relationship
Inomata then showed two very important images showing Ceibal being influenced from La Venta and Chiapas as well as the southern Maya lowlands. Cultural influences flowed both directions. La Venta had early Maya influence just as the early Maya sites had late Olmec influence. Inomata believes the Chiapas pattern originated in and around Chiapa de Corzo. Here is a composite image showing where Inomata thinks influences on Ceibal were coming from in the middle preclassic.
Middle Preclassic Relationships Documented at Ceibal
Inomata's map has profound implications for the accurate placement of river Sidon and Zarahemla. The Mulekites founded Zarahemla on the west bank of river Sidon ca. 580 BC. When the Mulekites settled Zarahemla, it was in a wilderness Mosiah 25:2, Alma 22:31. The Mulekites did not know Coriantumr when they discovered him wandering far from his homeland ca. 400 BC. Omni 1:21, Ether 13:21. No one among the Mulekites could read Coriantumr's stela until Mosiahbecame their king ca. 200 BC Omni 1:20-22. The Nephites in and around the city of Nephi and the Mulekites in and around the city of Zarahemla were unaware of each other's existence for nearly 400 years Omni 1:14-17. It was only after the Nephite - Mulekite merger ca. 200 BC that the Nephites had tangible proof positive that Jerusalem was destroyed as Lehi had prophesied Helaman 8:21. The text describes A) a wilderness motif, B) an unknown foreigner narrative, C) an undeciphered language narrative, D) a living in oblivion narrative, and E) eventual corroboration of the founding narrative. All of these criteria are incompatible with the middle preclassic Ceibal influence area shaded in light purple on the map above. In other words, if Nephi was in highland Guatemala (see the article "Kaminaljuyu"), then it is highly unlikely Zarahemla was in Inomata's middle preclassic Ceibal influence area. This expressly contradicts Sorenson's Zarahemla south of the upper Grijalva, while corroborating Norman's Zarahemla west of the middle Usumacinta.
Leading Candidates for Zarahemla Compared
with Middle Preclassic Ceibal Influence Area
The January, 2016 Book of Mormon Lands Map follows Norman on Zarahemla.

I had to leave soon after the conclusion of Inomata's lecture. Had I remained for the question and answer period, I would have asked him how his work at Ceibal correlates with Bruce Bachand's recent work at Chiapa de Corzo. See the article "Zoque Sites."

Origins of K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'

K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' (KYKM) founded a Copan dynasty that ruled for nearly 400 years from AD 426 to 820. T. Douglas Price of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and Robert J. Sharer of the University of Pennsylvania excavated his tomb and subjected his remains to isotopic analysis to determine where he grew up. They concluded that he probably spent his adolescent years at Tikal which is 268 air kilometers NNW of Copan.

Hieroglyphs at Copan deciphered more than 25 years ago referred to him as a foreigner. David Stuart of the University of Texas - Austin found an inscription in 2007 at Copan that refers to him as a lord of Caracol. Arlen & Diane Chase of the University of Central Florida - Orlando have found evidence that by AD 150 Caracol had extensive ties to settlements near Copan. Price and Sharer interpreted offerings in KYKM's tomb to mean he had strong ties to both Tikal and Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan, 1,164 air kilometers WNW of Copan, established some form of hegemony over Tikal and many other classic Maya sites beginning with the famous Entrada of AD 378.

These kinds of long-distance connections are changing the way we speak of the Maya. Long thought to be independent city states with shared cultural characteristics, current scholars are now using some form of the term "colony" to describe Maya social and political relationships.
  • Most stelae dedicated throughout the Maya colonials are plain. Elizabeth A. Newsome, "The Ontology of Being and Spiritual Power in the Stone Monument Cults of the Lowland Maya." RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, Vol. 33, Autumn 1998.
  • Copan is an example of colonial expansion from the central Maya lowlands. T. Douglas Price, James H. Burton, Robert J. Sharer, Jane E. Bulkstra, Lori E. Wright, Loa P. Traxler, and Katherine A. Miller, "Kings and Commoners at Copan: Isotopic Evidence for Origins and Movement in the Classic Maya Period," Journal of Anthropological Archaeology Vol. 29, Issue 1, March 2010.
This is all very good news for the Book of Mormon which posits politically dependent relationships between distant polities. For example, Ammonihah and Noah both depended on Zarahemla for their defense Alma 16:2-3. This is also good news for the January 2016 Book of Mormon Lands Map which assumes both the Nephites and Lamanites operated over scattered territory hundreds of kilometers in extent.

Copan, Caracol, Tikal and Teotihuacan in Context
The text of the Book of Mormon is plausible in its proposed setting.