Saturday, July 2, 2016

Art and Iconography 4

This post is a continuation of the material developed in the articles "Art and Iconography 1," "Art and Iconography 2," and "Art and Iconography 3." V. Garth Norman, the active Latter-day Saint Mesoamericanist most experienced at Izapa, contributed to this article.

The tree of life as a type of Christ and a tree as a symbol of the house of Israel are important themes in the Book of Mormon. This article will explore the complex iconography of Izapa Stela 5 and compare it with details in Popol Vuh, the Book of Mormon, and other ancient artistic portrayals. First, though, since Izapa Stela 5 has been controversial within Book of Mormon studies circles, we need to document the accuracy of our images.
Izapa Stela 5
1941 Matthew W Stirling Expedition Photo
The original of the image above is a large format black and white print of a photo taken on the 1941 Matthew W. Stirling National Geographic - Smithsonian expedition that examined Stela 5 in situ in the Izapa Group A plaza associated with Altar 36. The large stone had only been dug out of the ground in 1939 and in this photo was not yet severely eroded through weathering as it is today. Stirling himself gave this print to BYU Professor M. Wells Jakeman in 1961 and it lay in his (Jakeman's) files for decades. Notice the crease marks where the paper was folded. When Jakeman died in 1998, his papers passed to V. Garth Norman and Bruce W. Warren of Ancient America Foundation (AAF), successor to Jakeman's Society for Early Historic Archaeology (SEHA). I (Kirk Magleby) took this digital image of the print at Garth Norman's home in American Fork, Utah on May 24, 2011. I used it once before in the blog article entitled "V Garth Norman in Mexico City."
Stirling's Note Explaining his Gift to Jakeman
This is the image Stirling published in 1943.
Izapa Stela 5
Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 138 Plate 52
This is the NWAF image with tracing Garth Norman published in 1973.
Izapa Stela 5
New World Archaeological Foundation Paper No. 30 Part 1 Plate 10
And this is an RTI (Reflective Transformation Imaging) photo Jason Jones made in 2012 as part of the Izapa 3D digital imaging project. See the article "Imaging Izapa." This advanced visualization technique confirms the accuracy of the NWAF 1973 drawings.
Izapa Stela 5 RTI Image
Norman, Izapa Sacred Space: Sculpture Calendar Codex p. 272
For context on the seriously flawed 1999 Clark, Moreno "new artistic rendering" of Izapa Stela 5 see the articles "V Garth Norman in Mexico City," and especially "Partake of the Fruit." This article will follow the mainstream Stirling - Norman - Jones imagery and eschew the aberrant Clark, Moreno "re-interpretation." Izapa specialist Julia Guernsey took the same approach. See her 2006 Ritual & Power in Stone: The Performance of Rulership in Mesoamerican Izapan Style Art (Austin: University of Texas Press) fig. 1.3.

Current scholarship dates Izapa Stela 5 to ca. 300 BC.

Popol Vuh imagery. After their deaths in Xibalba, the Hero Twins' bones were ground up and scattered along a river. The boys resurrected as catfish before their apotheosis which transformed Hunahpu into the sun and Xbalanque into the moon. Twin terrestrial fish are facing up, each with a fruit of the tree in their mouth. After divinization they are looking down from the sky panel as gods often do in Mesoamerican pre-classic sculpted scenes. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Twin Fish Before and After Apotheosis
Lehi 1 Nephi 8:10, Nephi 1 Nephi 11:8, Isaiah 2 Nephi 16:13, Jacob Jacob 4:6, Zenos Jacob 5:3, Mormon Mosiah 18:5, Alma Alma 5:62, Ammon Alma 26:36, Jesus Christ 3 Nephi 14:18, and Moroni Ether 2:17 all mention trees. The word "tree" occurs 119 times in the text.
A Central Tree Dominates the Scene on Izapa Stela 5
This sacral tree connects heaven and earth. Its roots are in the ground panel and its branches reach into the sky panel. Nephi associates the tree with God 1 Nephi 11:25 who explicitly reigns in the heavens above and the earth beneath  Mosiah 4:9.

The Book of Mormon describes the tree of life 1 Nephi 8:10 and the tree representing Israel Jacob 5:8 as fruit-bearing.
Fruit in the Tree
Some people partook of the fruit of the tree 1 Nephi 8:16.
Figure Holding Fruit of the Tree
Others did not partake of the fruit of the tree 1 Nephi 8:35.
Figure without Fruit
Mockers pointed fingers toward people partaking of the fruit 1 Nephi 8:27.
Person Pointing Fingers toward Figure Partaking of the Fruit
The tree symbolizing the House of Israel was extensively grafted 1 Nephi 10:14Jacob 5:8.
Grafts in the Tree
The tree represented the house of Israel 1 Nephi 10:12 with its twelve tribes 1 Nephi 12:9.
Twelve Tree Roots
Isaiah associated clouds with rain 2 Nephi 15:6.
Cloud with Rain
A fountain of water was associated with the tree 1 Nephi 8:201 Nephi 11:25 and with the river 1 Nephi 12:16.
Source of River Water
Lehi and Nephi saw a river of water running near the tree 1 Nephi 8:131 Nephi 12:16.
River of Water Running Near the Tree
A similar water motif adorns a stone basin on display in the Israel Museum.
Stone Basin, Israel Museum
Photo by Kirk Magleby, June 22, 2016
The Book of Mormon describes water under the earth Mosiah 13:12 as a river representing the depths of hell 1 Nephi 12:16.
River of Water Flowing under the Ground Panel
In Lehi's and Nephi's visions, some of the people associated with the tree were blinded 1 Nephi 12:17 by a mist of darkness 1 Nephi 8:23.
Hood over Head of Blinded Person
The text describes people catching hold, clinging 1 Nephi 8:24 and feeling their way 1 Nephi 8:31.
Person Clinging, Feeling their Way
Both Lehi 1 Nephi 8:5-6 and Nephi 1 Nephi 11:21 were guided to the tree by angelic ministrants.
Winged Divine Beings Attending the Tree
Tree of Life depictions from the ancient Near East also show dual supernatural beings.
Stylized Date Palm Tree of Life Flanked by Winged Genies
Calah (Nimrud) Assyria 883-859 BC Alabaster, Reign of Ashurnasirpal II
Israel Museum, Photo by Kirk Magleby June 22, 2016
After beholding the tree, Nephi was instructed to bear witness of deity 1 Nephi 11:7.
Deity's Foot Connected to Priest's Mouth via Reverse Speech Scroll
Nephi wrote about his father's vision of the tree 1 Nephi 8:30.
Priest Holding a Brush, Chisel, or Stylus in Left Hand
Nephi engraved his record on plates 1 Nephi 9:2.
Plate or Tablet
Nephi founded a kingly dynasty Jacob 1:11.
Parasol or Canopy, Ancient Mesoamerican Royal Emblem
A similar parasol or canopy symbol represented royalty in the ancient Near East.
Bronze Coin of King Agrippa I Minted in Jerusalem ca. 42 AD
Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Photo by Kirk Magleby June 23, 2016 
Royal parasol over the head of Shalmaneser III of Assyria. Shalmaneser III reigned immediately after Ashurnasirpal II referenced above.
Black Obelisk, ca. 841 BC, British Museum
This is a well-known classic Maya example of a broken parasol in a captive's right hand as he is dominated by Bird Jaguar IV. 
Yaxchilan Lintel 16 from Structure 21 ca. AD 752
A strait (the Yale 2009 text reads "straight") and narrow path led by the head of the fountain and to the tree 1 Nephi 8:20-22.
Path Leading from the Fountain to the Tree
The path also led by a rod of iron 1 Nephi 8:20 which extended along the bank of the river and led to the tree 1 Nephi 8:19.
Rod a) by Path, b) along River, c) Leading to the Tree
Lehi offered sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord 1 Nephi 2:7, 1 Nephi 5:9, 1 Nephi 7:22.
Aged Priest Tends Flaming Altar or Incensario
Isaiah associated flaming fire and smoke with deity 2 Nephi 14:5.
Flaming Fire and Smoke Rising from Altar or Incensario
Alma taught the curious notion that humans and trees can grow together Alma 32:42. For more on this topic, see the article "Anthropomorphic Trees."
Human/Tree Fusion
Isaiah talked about a rod or branch symbolic of the Savior growing from a tree stem or roots 2 Nephi 21:1.
Rod or Branch Extending from Tree Trunk 
In the Book of Mormon, deity is described with avian characteristics 2 Nephi 4:25, 2 Nephi 25:13, 3 Nephi 10:4-6, 3 Nephi 25:2.
Supernatural Beings with Bird Beaks and Wings
The Book of Mormon explicitly mentions six mortals associated with the tree of life: Sariah, Lehi, Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam 1 Nephi 8:14-17.
Six Humans Seated on the Ground Panel 
In Lehi's dream narrative, two antagonists are disinterested in the tree and its fruit 1 Nephi 8:35-36.
Two Humans Facing Away with Backs to the Tree
The Book of Mormon records significant discourses by both Lehi and Nephi 2 Nephi 1:1.
Index Finger Gesture, Ancient Mesoamerican Speech Symbol
Lucia Henderson in her dissertation entitled "Bodies Politic, Bodies in Stone: Imagery of the Human and the Divine in the Sculpture of Late Preclassic Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala, UT Austin, 2013" discusses this pointed finger gesture on pages 215, 216. Scholars such as Julia Guernsey, Karl Taube, William Saturno, and David Stuart describe it as a convention denoting approbation, speech and discourse. This is what the motif looks like on Kaminaljuyu Monument 65.
Index Finger Gesture, Enthroned Rulers, Kaminaljuyu Monument 65
Museo Miraflores, Guatemala City, Photo by Kirk Magleby, December 27, 2015
The Book of Mormon describes girdles about loins 2 Nephi 15:27, 2 Nephi 21:5.
Girdles about Loins
We see a similar girdle or sash about the loins of Jehu, King of Israel.
Black Obelisk, ca. 841 BC, British Museum
Other similarities between Stela 5 and the Black Obelisk are obvious. For example, fringed garments as in Numbers 15:38-39, Deuteronomy 22:12.
Fringed Garments
Fringed apparel from ancient Israel.
Black Obelisk, ca. 841 BC, British Museum
We also see similar headgear consistent with Leviticus 10:6, Leviticus 21:10.
Conical Hats on Aged Priest and Acolyte
Conical Hat on Jehu, King of Israel.
Black Obelisk, ca. 841 BC, British Museum
Finally, the forward swept beards are similar cf. 2 Nephi 17:20.
Forward Swept Beard on Aged Priest
Forward swept beard on Jehu, King of Israel.
Black Obelisk, ca. 841 BC, British Museum
Additional insights into the complex symbolism on Izapa Stela 5 are found in the articles "Partake of the Fruit" and "Mesoamerican Speech Gesture."