Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ammonihah's South Entrance

Dennis and Barbara Tedlock describe contemporary Highland Maya Day Keeper rituals performed in cities such as Momostenango at entrances situated in the four cardinal directions from the center of town. K'ich'e ritual specialists venerate sacred mountains and lakes north, south, east and west of their towns and on appointed days they travel to these outlying mountains and/or lakes, perform rituals, then return to monuments erected at one of the four town gates oriented toward that particular directional geographic feature. So, if it is the right day for a Day Keeper to visit the north mountain, he will travel through the north city gate, burn his incense, leave his offering, and perform his chants at the north mountain shrine, then return and finish his ritual at the north city entrance. Weeks or months later he will perform similar rituals at the east mountain and east entrance to the city, then later the south, and so on. See Dennis Tedlock, Breath on the Mirror: Mythic Voices and Visions of the Living Maya (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1997) and Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya, Revised Edition (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1992).

Gabrielle Vail and Christine Hernández believe passages in the Dresden Codex refer to these directional rituals. Vail and Hernández, Re-Creating Primordial Time: Foundation Rituals and Mythology in the Post classic Maya Codices (Bolulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2013), p. 106. While reading Vail and Hernández, it occurred to me that the passage in Alma 8:18 may allude to this Mesoamerican pattern of building city entrances in each of the four cardinal directions. In the Book of Mormon, Alma II returns to apostate Ammonihah via the south entrance. The context of the passage indicates the south gate was not the only entrance into or out of the city.
Our Candidate for Ammonihah with Uplands to the South
In another indication that Book of Mormon cities may have been following Mesoamerican practice, Alma 62:21 indicates that Nephihah had an east entrance. The same chapter says the city of Nephihah had a west wall (Alma 62:22), although no entrance or gate in that direction is mentioned. It is possible a river flowed west of Nephihah which would have helped mask the sound of Captain Moroni and his men scaling and descending the west wall.
Our Candidate for Nephihah in Topographical Context
In any event, these passages describing Ammonihah and Nephihah suggest that Book of Mormon cities were laid out, like their Mesoamerican countparts, in directional quadrants.