Sunday, March 12, 2017

Los Horcones

Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers wrote an article in 2007 entitled "The Early Classic Obsidian Trade at Los Horcones, Chiapas, Mexico" that was published by Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI) in 2008. We cited her article in the blog post entitled "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage." This is her map of the area. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge.
Los Horcones in Context
As she explains, this is a unique spot along the coast of Chiapas. It is the only place from Guatemala to Oaxaca where a spur of the Sierra Madre (Cerro Bernal) cuts through the coastal plain and comes right to the seacoast. Los Horcones is located in the passageway between Cerro Bernal and the Sierra Madre where Mexican Federal Highway 200 runs today. Garcia-Des Lauriers, describing Cerro Bernal, says "its foothills on the inland side constrict the terrestrial pass forming a narrow natural corridor that could have been easily controlled by Los Horcones."

We identify this constricted terrestrial pass forming a narrow natural corridor with the narrow passage mentioned in Mormon 2:29. We correlate quite a number of Book of Mormon geographic features with places shown on Garcia-Des Lauriers' map:
  1. Pacific Ocean - west sea Alma 22:27
  2. Mar Muerto Outlet - place where the sea divides the land Ether 10:20
  3. Sandbar containing Puerto Arista and Boca del Cielo - narrow (small) neck of land Ether 10:20, Alma 63:5, Alma 22:32
  4. Olmec site Tzutzuculi - city of Lib Ether 10:19-20
  5. Paredon - city Desolation Mormon 3:5-6, Mormon 3:8
  6. Eastern edge of Mar Muerto - Hagoth's port Alma 63:5
  7. South side of Cerro Bernal where Estacion Mojarras is today - narrow pass Alma 50:34, Alma 52:9, Mormon 3:5
  8. Pacific Ocean on the west and Laguna la Joya on the east - the singular west sea that also had an easterly component Alma 50:34
This is the area where we site the border between land Desolation on the north and land Bountiful on the south. The east west line mentioned in Helaman 4:7 that ran from a point in the east to the west sea we trace right through the site of Los Horcones. In our view, the point in the east was uphill in the Sierra Madre and the west sea mentioned was the saltwater lagoon Laguna La Joya. F. Richard (Ric) Hauck was the first to identify Los Horcones as part of the fortified border in the area between Bountiful and Desolation in his 1988 book Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon.

If this correlation is correct, much of the Book of Mormon narrative took place right here where the lands northward and southward intersected. This was the one place where the greatly outnumbered Nephites could hope to contain the Lamanites because topography worked to their advantage. As Garcia-des Lauriers says, at this place there was a narrow pass that "could have been easily controlled by Los Horcones."

Additional things we learn from the Garcia-des Lauriers paper with possible Book of Mormon implications:
  • The extent of Los Horcones' trade networks was remarkable. This was a nexus, a connecting point. The Book of Mormon consistently describes the Bountiful/Desolation west sea border as a transit point between the lands northward and southward Alma 22:32-34Alma 50:34, Alma 63:5, Mormon 3:5.
  • Los Horcones had close ties to Teotihuacan during the Early Classic (AD 200 - 450). Ca. AD 350, the Nephites forever abandoned the land southward to Lamanite control Mormon 2:29.
  • Los Horcones also maintained strong connections with Veracruz and the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Southern Veracruz is where we place Nephite territories in the land northward. Pacific coastal Guatemala we correlate with the greater land of Nephi in the land southward.
  • Los Horcones was occupied from AD 200 - 700. Apogee was probably AD 400 - 600. From the Book of Mormon we would expect a modest Nephite garrison stationed in the general area ca. 90 BC Alma 22:33 with much more substantial population by ca. AD 328 Mormon 2:6-8.
  • Large numbers of prismatic blades recovered from excavations at Los Horcones evidence militarism in the area which is precisely what the Book of Mormon describes Mormon 2:8.
  • Obsidian at Los Horcones came from Pachuca, Oyameles/Zaragoza, El Chayal, San Martin Jilotepeque, Otumba, and Guadalupe Victoria.
This map shows the sources of Los Horcones obsidian.
Obsidian from Six Sources Found at Los Horcones
Other observations from Claudia Garcia-des Lauriers:
  • The amount of obsidian recovered from Los Horcones is quite large relative to other sites in the area. The Book of Mormon points to the land northward/southward border region as a focus of military activity Alma 50:34-35, Mormon 3:7-8, Mormon 4:19.
  • Obsidian sources in Central Mexico controlled by Teotihuacan are disproportionately represented at Los Horcones. We correlate Teotihuacan with the Gadianton robber capital established by King Jacob 3 Nephi 7:12. Mormon says the Nephites were fighting an alliance of robbers and Lamanites Mormon 1:18, Mormon 2:8, Mormon 2:27.
  • Teotihuacan was a military power, but even more importantly it was a trading empire. The Gadianton robbers were distinguished as intense traders 4 Nephi 1:46.
  • After AD 300 there was a disruption in trading patterns at sites in the southern Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Whereas up to that point, obsidian had come into the area from Guatemalan quarries, from that point on the Guatemalan material does not appear and all obsidian comes from Central Mexican sources, particularly Oyameles/Zaragoza. The Book of Mormon describes significant political shifts at precisely this time that drew a sharp dividing line between the lands northward and southward Mormon 2:28-29. The annihilation of the Nephites may also have opened up this region to a Teotihuacan trading monopoly controlled from Matacapan. See the article "Matacapan."
This map shows the southern Isthmus region.
Southern Isthmus in Context
Two travel and trade routes came from Central Mexico into Los Horcones. One went through the Ishtmus of Tehuantepec at Chivela Pass, the other through the Central Depression of Chiapas. Both of them communicated between our proposed city Desolation and our proposed Ramah/Cumorah.
Two Routes from Central Mexico to Los Horcones
A rough Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 322 the war of annihilation began in the borders of the greater land of Zarahemla beside river Sidon Mormon 1:10. Mormon was 11 years old Mormon 1:6. Proposed location: The Chama, Alta Verapaz area which we correlate with the land of Manti on the southern border of the greater land of Zarahemla.
  • ca. AD 322 - 326 four years of peace Mormon 1:12.
  • ca. AD 327 Mormon assumed command of the Nephite armies at age 16 Mormon 2:2.
  • ca. AD 327 Nephite retreat towards the north countries Mormon  2:3. Proposed location: Between Chama, Alta Verapaz and Pijijiapan, Chiapas.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Angola fortified ("with our might") then lost. This had not previously been a Nephite city because they had to "take possession" of it. Mormon 2:4 Proposed location: La Libertad, Huehuetenango. 
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 David lost Mormon 2:5. Proposed location: Motozintla, Chiapas area. 
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Nephites gathered into land of Joshua on the west sea Mormon 2:6-7. Proposed location: The Pijijiapan area on the Pacific coast of Chiapas.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Ubiquitous robbers and Lamanites were dual enemies Mormon 1:18, Mormon 2:8.
  • ca. AD 327 - 330 Widespread witchcraft Mormon 1:19, Mormon 2:10.
  • ca. AD 331 Nephites victorious in battle in land of Joshua Mormon 2:9.
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites retreated from land of Joshua to land of Jashon which was near land of Antum where hill Shim was located Mormon 2:16. Proposed location for Jashon: Laguna de los Cerros, Veracruz area. Proposed location for Antum: Tres Zapotes, Veracruz area. Proposed location for hill Shim: Cerro Vigia between Tres Zapotes and Santiago Tuxtla. 
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites driven northward from Jashon to land of Shem Mormon 2:20. Proposed location: Alvarado, Veracruz area, east of the Papaloapan River.
  • ca. AD 345 Nephites gathered, fortified city of Shem Mormon 2:21. Proposed location, El Meson, Veracruz. This was the northernmost Nephite advance.
A proposed map of Nephite movements ca. AD 322 - 345.
Proposed Manti, Angola, David, Joshua, Jashon, Antum with Hill Shim, & Shem
More Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 346 - 349 From their fortified base in Shem, the Nephite army numbering 30,000 with Mormon in command defeated the numerically superior Lamanite/Robber forces and re-possessed lands they believed were rightfully theirs Mormon 2:22-27.
  • ca. AD 350 The Nephites negotiated a treaty with the combined Lamanite/Robber forces. The line of demarcation was the narrow passage on the Bountiful/Desolation border Mormon 2:28-29. The Nephites occupied the land northward and the Lamanites/Robbers controlled the land southward.
A proposed map contextualizing the strategic narrow passage area.
Proposed Narrow Passage in Green
The Bountiful/Desolation border, which was also the land southward/northward border, we interpret as the east-west line described in Alma 22:32 and 3 Nephi 3:23 and the border described in Alma 63:5. We read Mormon 2:28-29 as describing this same east-west line. It is represented by the longer of the two red lines on the map above. The narrow passage we correlate with the "narrow natural corridor" Garcia-Des Lauriers describes between Cerro Bernal and the Sierra Madre. This corridor is where Mexican Federal Highway 200 runs today. It is represented by the green line on the map above.
Google Street View of Proposed Narrow Passage Area
This image was taken on Mexican Federal Highway 200 headed northbound at about Nuevo Morelos near the La Polca ruins. The Sierra Madre is on the right, Cerro Bernal on the left.

Continuing with the Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 351 - 360 The Nephites enjoyed 10 years of peace in their land northward territory. Mormon kept the people busy building fortifications and manufacturing weapons Mormon 3:1.
  • ca. AD 361 With knowledge that another round of fighting was imminent, Mormon gathered the entire Nephite nation into a single city - Desolation, just north of the land northward/southward border Mormon 3:4-5. We correlate Desolation with the ruins of Paredon on the eastern shore of Mar Muerto. The city of Desolation was very near the narrow pass that led into the land southward. We correlate the narrow pass with the railroad route represented by the orange line on the map above.
  • ca. AD 361 The city of Desolation was in an area where the Nephites had a reasonable expectation of preventing the larger Lamanite/Robber forces from breaking through their defensive lines Mormon 3:6. This is precisely how Garcia-Des Lauriers describes the narrow corridor between the Sierra Madre and Cerro Bernal - that because of its unique topography it could have been "easily controlled" by Los Horcones. Something else interesting was going on in the city of Desolation and environs. Mormon was building extraordinary fortifications "we did fortify against them with all our force."
Mormon had supervised construction of other fortifications. At Angola, he was only 16 years old when he oversaw major defensive public works. The Nephites were quickly defeated, notwithstanding having fortified Angola "with our might" Mormon 2:4. At Shem, Mormon was 34 years old when construction began and those fortifications were successful enough that the Nephite military not only defended Shem, but also went on the offensive and drove the enemy from some Nephite lands. During Mormon's fifth decade (age 40 - 49), he directed the Nephites as they prepared their lands which presumably meant building fortifications Mormon 3:1. When Mormon was 50 years old, he led his people in an unprecedented defensive construction project. They fortified the city of Desolation "with all our force" Mormon 3:6. Those fortifications were so effective that the Nephites could have remained on the defensive, protected in their city of refuge indefinitely Mormon 4:4. We believe the fortifications at Desolation were impregnable when adequately manned because they were built with large granite blocks like those visible today at the site of Iglesia Vieja. See the articles "The Narrow Pass and Narrow Passage" and "French Connection." Mormon took personal credit for his brilliant military engineering accomplishment Mormon 3:13. When the city of Desolation finally fell, Mormon went out of his way to explain the reason (shortage of defensive manpower) this well-fortified place eventually became vulnerable Mormon 4:13.
Proposed Correlations for Mormon's 3 Fortified Cities
More Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 361 Lamanite invaders came down to the city of Desolation and were defeated. Mormon 3:7.
  • ca. AD 362 Lamanite invaders came down again to the city of Desolation and were soundly defeated. Lamanite dead were cast into the sea Mormon 3:8. This is one of the reasons we site Desolation on the coast. 
  • ca. AD 362 The Nephites grew overconfident after their decisive victory and determined to leave their own lands, go on the offensive into enemy territory, and take the fight to the Lamanites and robbers Mormon 3:9-10. Captain Moroni had threatened to do this 425 years earlier Alma 54:12, but it had never happened. The Nephites had never before been the aggressors beyond the bounds of their lawful territory. The military expedition Zeniff participated in almost engaged the Lamanites, but the wording of verse 1 ("the land of our father's first inheritance) makes it clear those Nephites considered the recently-abandoned city of Nephi still rightfully theirs and available via treaty Mosiah 9:1-2. 3 Nephi 3:20-21 describes the divine mandate that the Nephites always remain on the defensive, even against irregular or extralegal forces occupying wilderness areas.
  • ca. AD 362 At age 51, Mormon relinquished his military command. He refused to be part of a punitive expeditionary raid that violated what he considered a fundamental tenet of the Nephite covenant with God Mormon 3:11-16.
  • ca. AD 363 The Nephite military left the city and land of Desolation, invaded territory rightfully belonging to Lamanites and robbers, mounted a surprise attack, were repulsed, then driven back into their own land of Desolation Mormon 4:1-2. Once the survivors were back across the land of Desolation border, a new Lamanite army engaged the spent Nephite forces and nearly obliterated them. This allowed the invaders to take the unusually well fortified city of Desolation Mormon 4:2. Nephite survivors fled to the neighboring coastal city of Teancum Mormon 4:3. At this time I do not know of a suitable candidate for Teancum. It is a coastal site probably only a few kilometers distant from Desolation.
  • ca. AD 363 Mormon points out the turning point in the war - the disastrous Nephite invasion into Lamanite lands. There would be fleeting Nephite victories, but the die was cast. This was the moment when the Nephites "began to be smitten" Mormon 4:4. Had the Nephites not lost most of their fighting force in an offensive blunder, they could have remained secure in and around the city of Desolation the rest of their lives.
  • ca. AD 364 The Lamanites, still controlling Desolation, attempted to take Teancum and were defeated. Heartened by their successful defense, the Nephites drove their weakened enemies out of Desolation as well Mormon 4:7-8. The implication is that the Nephites applied the lessons they had learned at Desolation about defensive fortification architecture to Teancum. There appears to be a numbers game going on here. A fortified city could hold out against superior forces until troop strength relative to the invaders dropped below a certain critical mass.
  • ca. AD 367 The Lamanites invaded Desolation again with overwhelming force and took control of the city Mormon 4:13. The Lamanites marched on neighboring Teancum and took control of that city as well Mormon 4:14. Both sides had descended into unprecedented depths of utter depravity.
  • ca. AD 367 The remaining Nephites, stirred up into a vicious frenzy by Lamanite atrocities, re-took control of both Teancum and Desolation and re-enforced the boundary established by treaty 17 years earlier Mormon 4:15.
  • ca. AD 367 - 375 The Nephites resided in peace in the Desolation - Teancum area for 8 years Mormon 4:16.
  • ca. AD 375 The Lamanites invaded the city of Desolation for the 5th time in 15 years. The Lamanite army was enormous - unprecedented up to that point in the war, and the out manned Nephites were forced to retreat Mormon 4:17-19. By this time it was clear to Mormon that the end was near.
  • ca. AD 375 The Nephites made a valiant stand in the city of Boaz and defeated the first Lamanite army that attempted to invade Mormon 4:20. Where is Boaz? There is so little context for this city in the text that we may never know for sure. The double site of La Soledad in Chiapas NW of Arriaga is a likely candidate.
This map shows our proposed location for Boaz.
La Soleada, Chiapas, Possible Nephite City of Boaz
Continuing Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 375 The Lamanites attacked Boaz a second time and routed the Nephites. The Nephites began a general evacuation and retreat not just from their headquarters, but from all of their settlements Mormon 4:20-22.
  • ca. AD 375 - 379 Mormon describes a major political upheaval "the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land" Mormon 4:23. This is one of the most remarkable statements in the Book of Mormon. Precisely at this time, political upheaval took place all over Mesoamerica with well-documented regime changes in the Maya lowlands. AD 378 was the famous "entrada" or entry of Teotihuacan-allied forces into the Peten that shaped politics for the next two hundred years and ushered in the resplendent Maya classic era.
This map shows sites with significant Teotihuacan influence. Many of them experienced political convulsion right at the time period Mormon describes. Key sites in the Peten such as Waka (El Peru) and Tikal are shown as black pyramid symbols, but their names do not appear because so many sites are densely packed that Google Earth does not render all the names.
Sites with Known Significant Teotihuacan Influence
Two areas of Teotihuacan influence draw our attention. The first is the Pacific coast of Chiapas around Los Horcones.
Proposed Book of Mormon Locations near Los Horcones and Fraccion Mujular,
both of which were under Teotihuacan Iinfluence ca. AD 378
The second is the Tuxtlas Region of Southern Veracruz.
Proposed Book of Mormon Locations near Tres Zapotes, Matacapan, and Piedra Labrada,
all three of which were under Teotihuacan Influence ca. AD 378
So, at precisely the moment Mormon says the Lamanites were about to overthrow the land, we believe the Nephites had been driven from the Los Horcones, Fraccion Mujular area and the Nephite repository buried in hill Shim was no longer secure because Teotihuacan was intensifying its control of the Matacapan area.

More Nephite chronology:
  • ca. AD 375 - 379 Mormon aged 64 - 68 resumed command of the Nephite military after an absence of at least 13 years Mormon 5:1.
  • ca. AD 375 - 379 Under Mormon's leadership, the Nephites gathered at Jordan and several other nearby cities. These cities were fortified because the text calls them strong holds. This cluster of cities guarded the route into more expansive lands still under Nephite control. The Nephites successfully repulsed two Lamanite attacks on Jordan and environs Mormon 5:3-4.
There are natural choke points around Chivela Pass where travelers ancient and modern have crossed over the continental divide. We propose Jordan was in the general vicinity of Chivela Pass. With the Sierra Madre on either side, the Nephites at this place would have been in an advantageous position to control enemy movements northward through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This is the place Mexican Federal Highway 185 and the railroad run today.
Proposed Location of Jordan at Chivela Pass
Green represents Continental Divide, Turquoise Highway 185, and Orange Railroad
Nephite chronology at the end:
  • ca. AD 380 The Lamanites came a third time against Jordan with overwhelming force and drove the Nephites into full evacuation and retreat Mormon 5:6.
  • ca. AD 380 - 384 Mormon wrote an epistle to the Lamanite king asking for time to gather all remaining Nephites to the land of Cumorah Mormon 6:2. The Nephite nation came together around the hill Ramah/Cumorah which we correlate with San Martin Pajapan on the eastern extreme of the Tuxtlas Mountains in southern Veracruz.
  • ca. AD 385 At age 74 Mormon hid up the Nephite record repository in hill Cumorah Mormon 6:6.
  • ca. AD 385 230,000 Nephites were massacred in and around hill Ramah/Cumorah Mormon 6:7-15.
Topographic view of our proposed Ramah/Cumorah:
San Martin Pajapan in Context
For additional insights into the last years of the Nephite nation, see the blog articles Ramah Cumorah, Linguistic Cumorah, and Matacapan.

This map shows our correlation for places mentioned in Mormon's record of his career as prophet, historian, and supreme commander of Nephite forces.
Proposed Locations for Mormon's Eye-Witness Account
This helps us visualize Mormon in space and time. See the 2012 article Captain Moroni in Space and Time for a similar treatment of the other quintessential Nephite military hero.

If our correlation is correct, Mormon as commander ranged over territory 628 air kilometers in extent between ca. AD 327 and 385.
628 Air Kilometer Distance Proposed Manti to Shem
As a point of comparison, if our correlation is correct, Captain Moroni as commander ranged over territory 591 air kilometers in extent between ca. 74 and 61 BC.
591 Air Kilometers Distance Proposed Judea to Bountiful
I occasionally hear objections from thoughtful students of the text that distances on the order of 600 air kilometers are too large, that the Nephites could not have ranged over that vast a territory. This map puts distances on that scale into perspective.
596 Air Kilometers Cornwall to Norfolk
Another perspective.
591 Air Kilometers Dorset to Northumberland
Article last updated May 15, 2017.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


In 2000 INAH convened the 2nd Teotihuacan Round Table with the proceedings published in 2004. Christopher A. Pool (University of Kentucky, Anthropology) and Wesley Stoner (University of Arkansas, Anthropology) presented at the round table and their paper was included in the proceedings. Their paper is entitled "El Fenomeno Teotihuacano en Tres Zapotes y Matacapan: Una Discusion Comparativa." They reference Teotihuacan, of course, and the three major Teotihuacan-influenced sites in the Tuxtlas.
Teotihuacan, Tres Zapotes, Matacapan, & Piedra Labrada
This is what we learn from their paper:
  • Tres Zapotes, Matacapan, and Piedra Labrada all show significant Teotihuacan influence, with that influence strongest at Matacapan.
  • Matacapan was probably the site from which Teotihuacan influence spread throughout the Tuxtlas.
  • The classic period Matacapan was founded after AD 300.
  • Between AD 300 and AD 450, Matacapan extended over approximately 50 hectares.
  • In the terminal formative period (0 BC - AD 200) Matacapan was covered by a thick ash layer from a volcanic eruption (Nixtamalapan) that caused the site to be temporarily abandoned.
  • Soon after AD 300 immigrants from Teotihuacan settled in Matacapan and began manufacturing pottery that was a fusion of local material & technology with Teotihuacan style & iconography.
  • During the AD 300 - AD 450 time period, green obsidian from Pachuca, Hidalgo (an obsidian source under Teotihuacan control in that era) was present at Matacapan.
  • Between AD 450 and AD 650 Matacapan grew rapidly, extending over approximately 700 hectares.
  • Between AD 650 and AD 800 Matacapan diminished in size to approximately 460 hectares. The site was abandoned ca. AD 800.
  • Teotihuacan influence at Matacapan reached its zenith between AD 450 and AD 550.
  • Between AD 300 and AD 450, Matacapan had a much stronger relationship with Teotihuacan than it did with neighboring sites in the Tuxtlas. After AD 450, even as Teotihuacan stylistic influence became more pronounced, Matacapan began developing strong ties with their neighbors.
  • Tres Zapotes was an Olmec site that continued into the epi-Olmec period (300 BC - AD 200).
  • Between AD 300 and AD 600 Tres Zapotes experienced a dramatic decline in population after a volcanic eruption (ca. AD 200 - 300) covered it in a thick ash layer. This was a different volcano than the one that covered Matacapan 100 - 200 years earlier.
  • Even though it is only 30 kilometers west of Matacapan, Tres Zapotes was not abandoned in the 0 BC - AD 200 time frame like Matacapan was.
  • 855 obsidian artifacts were recovered from Tres Zapotes by Drucker & Weiant in their excavations reported in 1943. 4,155 obsidian artifacts were recovered from Tres Zapotes by Pool & Stoner in their 1995 - 1997 excavations.
  • The obsidian Pool & Stoner found at Tres Zapotes was dated strati graphically with the following results: 1,328 pieces in the late formative (500 BC - 0 BC), 1,092 pieces in the terminal formative (0 BC - AD 200), 720 pieces in the early classic (AD 200 - AD 450), no pieces in the middle classic when the site was in serious decline (AD 450 - AD 600), and 638 pieces in the late classic (AD 600 - AD 900).
If the land of Cumorah and hill Ramah/Cumorah were in the Tuxtlas, as we propose, there are some potentially striking Book of Mormon correlations with these data.
  1. The eruption of Nixtamalapan that covered Matacapan with ash may correlate with the destruction in the land northward reported in 3 Nephi 8:5-23.
  2. Teotihuacan may be the great city, Jacobugath, in the northernmost part of the land, inhabited by Gadianton robbers 3 Nephi 7:12, 3 Nephi 9:9.
  3. If Teotihuacan was the robber capital, that explains why Mormon was fighting a two-front war against the Lamanites coming up from the south and the robbers coming down from the north Mormon 2:27-28. It also explains why Mormon and the Nephites could not simply continue retreating northward out of harm's way, and why survivors of the holocaust at Cumorah fled southward Mormon 6:15.
  4. Hill Shim is probably in the same general vicinity as hill Ramah/Cumorah. Ammaron was inspired to hide the Nephite repository in hill Shim, and he fully expected it to remain their securely until the latter days 4 Nephi 1:48-49. He explicitly told Mormon that he had deposited the Nephite records unto the Lord, and that Mormon was to remove the plates of Nephi, but leave all the other records in Ammaron's repository Mormon 1:3-4. If Cerro Vigia was Shim and Cerro San Martin Pajapan was Cumorah as we suggest, that explains why Mormon expressly disobeyed Ammaron's instructions and moved the Nephite archives from Shim to Cumorah Mormon 6:6. Teotihuacan's abrupt presence at Matacapan after AD 300 dramatically changed the balance of power in the western Tuxtlas in favor of the enemy. A previously underpopulated place suddenly became a stronghold. 
This map shows the 3 sites in the Tuxtlas with Teotihuacan influence in relationship to our proposed hills Shim and Ramah/Cumorah.
Proposed Shim (Vigia) and Ramah/Cumorah (Pajapan)
Relative to Teotihuacan - Influenced Sites
Tres Zapotes, Cerro Vigia, and Cerro San Martin Pajapan were all Olmec sites during the Jaredite era. The presence of obsidian in quantity at Tres Zapotes in the late formative works well with the Jaredite warfare narrative in the book of Ether. The rapid expansion of Matacapan after the pesky Nephites were eliminated ca. AD 385 fits well with known relationships between Teotihuacan and virtually all of southern Mesoamerica at this precise time period (for example, the famous "entrada" at Tikal in AD 378).

Significant Teotihuacan presence at Matacapan from AD 300 - 385 makes a Cerro Vigia - Ramah/Cumorah correlation a la David A. Palmer & John L. Sorenson highly problematic from a strategic military point of view.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Moroni first appeared to seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith the evening of September 21, 1823. The next day the young prophet had his first of five annual interviews with the angel at Hill Cumorah and got his initial glimpse of the plates. On September 22, 1827, Joseph and Emma took the plates from the hill. By July 1, 1829, Joseph Smith had finished translating the Book of Mormon, the U.S. copyright application had been filed, and Egbert B. Grandin had published the title page as a "curiosity" in the Wayne Sentinel weekly newspaper. About nine months later, copies of the Book of Mormon were available for purchase in Palmyra, NY. See the excellent Joseph Smith Chronology published by BYU Studies.

In the Lord's timing, accurate information about literate high civilization in ancient America began to come forth via scientific means at precisely the same moment when accurate scriptural records from ancient America were being revealed. What began as a trickle of sketchy information about the Maya in the early 1820's gradually grew to a small stream. A steady flow of publications appeared after the Book of Mormon went on sale to the public on March 26, 1830. And then, while the Prophet was building the City of Joseph in Nauvoo, the floodgates opened. American archaeology as a modern science began during his lifetime.

Information began flowing from the Americas to Europe with the voyages of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492. Spanish military men, civil servants, and clerics authored a few dozen treatises containing valuable ethnographic information about post-classic cultures such as the Aztec, Inca, and Toltec. Conquistadores left lively descriptions of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan and the Inca capital Cusco. Most of these documents, now collectively called the Spanish and Indian Chronicles, were little-known outside of the Iberian sphere of influence. In an attempt to protect their treasure fleets, the Spanish crown maintained a veil of secrecy over their American colonies that lasted from the 1500's through the early 1800's. These conditions characterized Spanish America during those three hundred years:
  • Indigenous cultures and antiquities were routinely ignored or suppressed. Spanish priorities were economic exploitation justified through Roman Catholic evangelism.
  • Speculation about native American origins generally tried to fit the New World into the Biblical narrative of the flood, Tower of Babel, etc.
  • Spanish accounts that did reach London, Philadelphia, or New York were often considered unreliable and little attention was paid to them.    
1688 Franciscan Diego Lopez de Cogulludo (1613 - 1665)'s work in Spanish entitled Historia de Yucathan was published in Madrid. John L. Stephens carried a copy of Cogolludo's book with him on his second journey around Yucatan (1841 - 1842).
Historia de Yucathan Title Page
1777 William Robertson (1721 - 1793) published his 3 volume History of America in Dublin. In Volume 2, Book IV he said "The inhabitants of the New World were in a state of society so extremely rude as to be unacquainted with those arts which are the first essays of human ingenuity in its advance toward improvement." He argued that the Spanish exaggerated what they found in the Americas, that the so-called temples were simple mounds of earth and their "houses were mere huts, built with turf, or mud, or the branches of trees, like those of the rudest Indians."
Principal William Robertson
1780 Francisco Javier Clavijero Echegaray (1731 - 1787) published La Historia Antigua de Mexico in Italian. An English translation by Charles Cullen was published in 1787. American editions were published in Richmond, Virginia in 1806 and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1817. This work dealt mainly with the Aztec empire and its Toltec predecessors. It was the first serious attempt to establish a native American cultural chronology.
Jesuit Francisco Clavijero
1814 Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) published the English translation of his 2 volume 1810 French Vues des Cordilleres et monuments des peuples indigenes de l'Amerique as Researches concerning the institutions and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of America: with descriptions and views of some of the most striking scenes in the Cordilleras with Longman, Hurst, Rees, et al. in London.  Humboldt reproduced an image of the Aztec calendar stone, unearthed in 1790, a figure from Palenque he incorrectly attributed to Oaxaca, and five pages from the Dresden Codex. He recognized artistic and historical merit in pre-columbian structures and artifacts, but ultimately concluded that the indigenous peoples in the Americas had been despotic and barbaric.
Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt
1821 Mexico and Guatemala (which then included Chiapas, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) achieved independence from Spain. Suddenly, the world's attention was focused on these former colonies which were shrouded in mystery because they had been off-limits to most foreigners for centuries.
Mexican Flag
Guatemalan Flag
1822 Jose Antonio del Rio (1745 - 1789)'s brief report to the Spanish crown about his 1787 excavations at Palenque, illustrated by Ricardo Almendariz' drawings, were published in English translation by Henry Berthoud in London. Del Rio described Palenque, Tonina, and Uxmal. The booklet was entitled Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City Discovered near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala, in Spanish America. The volume, first published 33 years after del Rio's death, was met with astonishment, curiosity, and skepticism in the English and American presses. The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. on Saturday, November 9, 1822, No. 303 called the book "about as fanciful an antiquarian hypothesis as we ever met with." The highly disparaging review continued "To talk of medallions, figures in stucco, relievos, devices, etc. etc. at the assigned period, is little short of the grossest absurdity." "The whole work is obscure, and in parts altogether unintelligible." A few years later, after additional corroborating reports had been published, the same London Literary Gazette on Saturday, January 19, 1828, No. 574, said under the heading of "American Antiquities" that the earthen mounds found throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys were made by people more advanced than the Indians at European contact. The North American earthworks, though, were "trifling compared with the civilisation of the ancient inhabitants of Palenque. The remains found in [then Guatemala, now Chiapas, Mexico] prove that its monuments must have rivaled those of the greatest cities of Europe; and that its people must have arrived at a high cultivation of the intellectual faculties ... The monuments of Palenque are certainly the most astonishing discovery that has been made in America."
Rendering of the Tablet of the Cross from Captain del Rio's Report
1823 Domingo Juarros (1752 - 1820) wrote a history of Guatemala that was published in Guatemala City in 1808, then three years after his death in English translation in London by J. Hearne. Entitled A Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala, Juarros described the ruins of Palenque and Tonina in opulent terms, comparing them with Egypt.
Juarros' History Title Page
1824 Politician John Van Ness Yates (1779 - 1839) and Attorney Joseph White Moulton (1789 - 1875) wrote History of the State of New York Including its Aboriginal and Colonial Annals, published in New York City by A.T. Goodrich. In it they discussed the relatively primitive earthworks built by ancient peoples in the Great Lakes area, the more sophisticated mounds along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers including the massive Cahokia complex, and the much more advanced ruins in Mexico and Guatemala including the recently reported Palenque.
Yates Moulton Title Page
1825 The 1822 London publication of del Rio's report so impressed the recently-formed Societe de Geographie in Paris that it sponsored a contest. A 2,400 franc prize was authorized for the first person to produce a comprehensive report on Palenque and other Maya ruins in Yucatan. Jean-Francois Champollion (1790 - 1832)'s breakthrough publications on Egyptian decipherment (aided by the Rosetta Stone) had just been published in 1822 and 1824, fueling an already-lively French interest in antiquities.  
Plaque on Society Headquarters Building in Paris
 April 7, 1829 Oliver Cowdery (1806 - 1850) began writing for Joseph Smith (1805 - 1844).
Attorney Oliver Cowdery
July 1, 1829 Translation of the Book of Mormon was completed.
Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.
March 26, 1830 The Book of Mormon went on sale to the public in Palmyra, NY.
First Edition Copy of the Book of Mormon
1830 Edward King, Lord Kingsborough (1795 - 1837), published Volume 1 of his monumental Antiquities of Mexico with Augustine Aglio in London. This large format book that ultimately would run to 9 volumes contained "fac-similes of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics, preserved in the royal libraries of Paris, Berlin, and Dresden, in the Imperial Library in Vienna, in the Vatican Library, in the Borgian Museum at Rome, in the library of the Institute at Bologna, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Together with the Monuments of New Spain, by M. Dupaix with their respective scales of measurement and accompanying descriptions. The whole illustrated with many valuable inedited manuscripts." Guillaume Dupaix had visited Tonina and Palenque in 1808 at the request of the Spanish crown.
Antiquities of Mexico Title Page
Saturday, October 15, 1831 A letter from Juan Galindo (1802 - 1840) was published in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. No. 769 describing his 1831 visit to Palenque. Galindo said the ruins with phonetic writing "rescue ancient America from a charge of barbarism." Prior to his visit, he did not believe writing existed anywhere in the ancient New World. The Maya civilization, Galindo believed, "far surpassed that of the Mexicans and Peruvians." He further reported that these "surprising people were not physically dissimilar from the present Indians."
Diplomat Juan Galindo's Letter from Palenque
February, 1833 William W. Phelps (1792 - 1872) mentioned Juan Galindo's letter to The London Literary Gazette in Vol. 1, No. 9 of The Evening and the Morning Star published in Independence, Missouri. Phelps' article was entitled "Discovery of Ancient Ruins in Central America." Phelps remarked "We are glad to see the proof begin to come, of the original or ancient inhabitants of this continent. It is good testimony in favor of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon is good testimony that such things as cities and civilization, 'prior to the fourteenth century,' existed in America."
Printer William Wines Phelps
1834 Henri Baradere (1792 - 1839), Guillaume Dupaix (1746 - 1818), et al., Antiquites mexicaines, Paris, described the ruins of Mitla, Uxmal, Palenque, etc. in a three volume set reporting on expeditions undertaken from 1805 - 1807.
Rendering of the Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal in Baradere's Book
Saturday, July 18, 1835 A letter from Juan Galindo (1802 - 1840) was published in The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, etc. No. 965 describing his 1831 visit to Palenque and his 1834 visit to Copan. Others had visited one or the other, but Galindo was the first in modern times to visit both ruins.
Diplomat Juan Galindo's Letter from Copan
1836 Mariano Fernandez de Echeverria y Veytia (1718 - 1780)'s masterwork Historia Antigua de Mexico was published by Juan Ojeda in Mexico City. Veytia helped advance knowledge of ancient American calendrical systems and astronomical observations.
Antiquarian Mariano Veytia
1837 Mordecai M. Noah (1785 - 1851) Discourse on the Evidences of the American Indians Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel: Delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, Clinton Hall published by J. Van Norden in New York. Noah cited recent discoveries (Palenque, Uxmal) to argue that ancient American civilizations "rivaled the splendor of Egypt and Syria."
Journalist Mordecai Manuel Noah
1838 Frederic de Waldeck (1766 - 1875) Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dan la province d’Yucatan (Amérique Centrale), pendant les années 1834 et 1836, Paris, described visits to Uxmal and other Yucatan ruins.
Rendering of the Nunnery, Uxmal in Waldeck's Book
1839 Parley P. Pratt (1807 - 1857) in the second edition of his influential A Voice of Warning, chapter 4, mentions del Rio's 1787 expedition to Palenque and posits that ruin as evidence of the cities described in the Book of Mormon.
Apostle Parley Parker Pratt
1841 John L. Stephens (1805 - 1852) and Frederick Catherwood (1799 - 1854), published their 2 volume blockbuster Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan with Harper & Brothers in New York. This book more than any other forever dispelled the notion that the indigenous peoples of the Americas descended from rude barbarians. Stephens is considered the father of American archaeology.
Explorer John Lloyd Stephens
1841 John M. Bernhisel (1799 - 1881) sent a copy of Stephens and Catherwood's best-selling book to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. The prophet thanked him in a personal letter dated November 16, 1841. Joseph wrote that Incidents of Travel in Central American, Chiapas, and Yucatan "to me is the more interesting as it unfolds and developes many things that are of great importance to this generation & corresponds with & supports the testimony of the Book of Mormon; I have read the volumnes with the greatest interest & pleasure & must say that of all the histories that have been written pertaining to the antiquities of this country it is the most correct, luminous & comprihensive."
Physician John Milton Bernhisel
1843 William H. Prescott (1796 - 1859) published his acclaimed History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortes with Harper & Brothers in New York. Prescott is generally considered the first American scientific historian.
Historian William Hickling Prescott