Saturday, February 4, 2017

75 BC

Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona is one of the top dirt archaeologists currently working in Mesoamerica. He specializes in the sites of Aguateca and Ceibal in the Petexbatun region of Guatemala. Inomata lectured at BYU on March 8, 2016. My report of his lecture is in the article entitled "Takeshi Inomata." Since 2005 the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project led by Inomata and a talented team has been working at Ceibal. They analyzed 154 radiocarbon dates, more than  we have from any other Maya site. (As volunteer Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central, I just authorized a handful of radiocarbon tests to be conducted by the University of Arizona. See the BMC Blog post entitled "New Evidence for Horses in America." I am paying about $400 per test. Inomata is relatively well-funded as archaeologists go.) They used Bayseian inferential statistical techniques for state-of-the-art precision. Correlating absolute dates with ceramic sequences, they created a very accurate dating sequence for Ceibal. Inomata's team just published a major article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, entitled "High-precision radiocarbon dating of political collapse and dynastic origins at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala."

Ceibal at the Great Bend of the Pasion River, Peten, Guatemala
In our January, 2016 correlation, Itzan is Noah and Ceibal is Aaron. Bob Roylance and Richard Terry correlate Ceibal with Zarahemla. Several Mesoamerican correlations include Ceibal among Nephite cities in the greater land of Zarahemla.

Here is what we learn about Ceibal from Inomata's latest article:
  • ca. 75 BC population decline, intense warfare, fortifications built
  • ca. AD 150 regional population decline
  • ca. AD 300 dramatic population decline, abandonment
  • ca. AD 400 new dynasty based on divine kingship, probably under the influence of an external power, likely Tikal which was itself under the influence of Teotihuacan
Archaeologists are now calling the period from AD 150 - AD 300 the "Preclassic collapse." El Mirador fell between AD 150 and 175. Ceibal declined from AD 125 - 175 and fell ca. AD 300. Cerros declined from AD 150 - 175 and may have fallen ca. AD 300.

Other sites where fortifications were built in the late or terminal Preclassic (100 BC - AD 100) include El Mirador, Becan, Edzna, Cerros, Muralla de Leon, Cival, Chaak Ak'al, and multiple hilltop sites along the upper Usumacinta such as Piedras Negras.
Late or Terminal Preclassic Sites with Fortifications
I recently heard John E. Clark of the BYU Anthropology faculty say that in his opinion, the presence of many fortified sites throughout the Maya lowlands in the late Preclassic is some of the strongest evidence in favor of the Usumacinta as Sidon. For additional evidence, see the article The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation.

An historically-recorded dynasty emerged at Tikal in the first century AD. San Bartolo also has epigraphic evidence of a dynasty founded by this time. Many Maya sites such as Palenque, Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan, Ceibal, and Copan have historically- recorded dynasties by the fourth century AD.
Early Dynasties Attested Historically
One date stands out. When Inomata finally got enough radiocarbon dates from a single site to determine events with temporal precision, he found that ca. 75 BC was the time when fortifications first appeared at Ceibal in response to intensified warfare. What was going on in the Nephite world ca. 75 BC? Captain Moroni became commander of Nephite forces, he fortified every city in the land, and fought continual wars from ca. 74 BC to ca. 61 BC. See the article entitled "Captain Moroni in Space and Time." These are the war chapters in the Book of Mormon from Alma 43 to Alma 62.

After reading Inomata, et. al., I am changing my correlate for Noah from Itzan to Chaak Ak'al about 3 kilometers to the north. Why? Because Chaak Ak'al, capital of a regional polity, has fortifications dated to ca. 75 BC which is precisely the kind of thing we read about in Alma 49:14.
Drawing of Chaak Ak' al 600 Meter Wall
The fortification wall was built with crudely hewn limestone blocks at its base.
Photo of Chaak Ak' al 600 Meter Wall
The Chaak Ak' al images are from Kevin J. Johnston (2006). Preclassic Maya Occupation of the Itzan Escarpment, Lower Rio Pasion, Peten, Guatemala in Ancient Mesoamerica, 17, pp 177-201. I appreciate Dave Gray of Warwick, Queensland, Australia who sent me a copy of this article.

The mention of Cerros also rings mental bells. Cerros is Joe & Blake Allen's correlate for the city of Mulek on the east coast. The January 2016 map follows the Allens on this point. Inomata says Cerros had fortifications dating to about the same time period as Ceibal (ca. 75 BC) which matches the kind of thing we read about in Alma 52:17.

Inomata identifies a pan-regional collapse between AD 125 - 175 which correlates well with the social turmoil described in 4 Nephi 1:20 that began right about that time. Inomata also identifies site abandonment ca. AD 300 which correlates fairly well with the final Nephite Lamanite war that began ca. AD 322 Mormon 1:8. Nephites began moving toward the land northward about this time.

Why has Takeshi Inomata generated such spectacular results from Ceibal? Because he has spent more than 10 years excavating several parts of the site down to bedrock and has had the budget to submit more than 150 samples for radiocarbon date testing. He also had very good results from the Harvard Project (1964 - 1968) that laid an excellent foundation for his more detailed work. The more we learn about Ceibal, the better the Book of Mormon looks in comparison. As similar resources are expended at other sites, we will likely find exciting comparisons with them as well.

Dave Gray shared his notes from the January 2016 Maya Meetings in Austin, TX. Inomata's work at Ceibal has implications for dating sequences at Kaminaljuyu (KJ) (See the article "Kaminaljuyu.") Lucia Henderson's current timeline for KJ:
  • 700 BC - 400 BC Olmec influence
  • 400 BC to 100 BC Highland regional culture
  • 100 BC to AD 200 Lowland culture importation
  • AD 200 to AD 300 Hiatus
  • AD 300 to  AD 600 Teotihuacan influence
This provides strong support for the January 2016 Book of Mormon Lands Map which places the city of Nephi at KJ and the city of Zarahemla in the Southern Maya Lowlands. Here is what was happening in the Book of Mormon during these times:
  • Jaredite collapse 400 BC - 250 BC Ether 15:2, Mosiah 8:8.
  • City of Nephi capital of expansive Nephite regional polity 550 BC - 200 BC Jarom 1:6-8.
  • Mosiahled many Nephites from the city of Nephi to the city of Zarahemla ca. 200 BC Omni 1:13
  • Zeniff, Noah and Limhi temporarily re-occupied the lesser land of Nephi and the land of Shilom ca. 200 BC - ca. 121 BC Mosiah 9:6-8, Mosiah 22:11-13.
  • Amulon & other priests of Noah ignited a revolution in Lamanite culture by teaching them the Nephite written language ca. 120 BC Mosiah 24:4-7.
  • Amlicites with headquarters at Ammonihah established their belief system in outposts throughout the greater land of Nephi ca. 100 - 90 BC Alma 21:14 (Yale 2009 orthography).
  • Sons of Mosiah ministered throughout the greater land of Nephi ca. 91 BC - ca. 77 BC Alma 17:4.
  • Intense Nephite/Lamanite interaction ca. 74 BC - ca. AD 200 Alma 43:3, Helaman 6:7-8, 4 Nephi 1:17.
  • Nephite collapse ca. AD 322 - ca. AD 385 Mormon 1:8, Mormon 8:7.
Very interesting chronological correlations.

Article updated February 5, 2018.