Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mulekite Zarahemla

2 Nephi 1:9 mentions other people the Lord would bring out of the land of Jerusalem (the Mulekites). When he uttered this prophecy, Father Lehi was already in the Americas. The next to leave the Near East would be Mulek and his party. This passage contains details that can help us locate the Mulekites in time and space.
  • they would be kept from all other nations
  • they would possess their land unto themselves
  • their righteousness would bring blessings
  • none would molest them to take away the land of their inheritance
This isolation narrative agrees with Alma 22:31 which says after making landfall in the land northward, the Mulekites settled a wilderness in the land southward. Omni 1:16 adds that the Mulekites, once settled, stayed put until the Nephites under Mosiah I discovered them ca. 200 BC. The term "discovered" implies the two groups had no prior knowledge of each other.

The Mulekite capital, the city of Zarahemla, will be found in an area that was relatively isolated during the nearly 400 year period from ca. 580 BC to ca. 200 BC.

Serious proposals for the city of Zarahemla in Mesoamerica include:
  • Yaxchilan, Chiapas (RLDS candidate since Louis Edward Hills, 1917)
  • Santa Rosa, Chiapas (John L. Sorenson followed by Joseph & Blake Allen)
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, Alta Verapaz (F. Richard Hauck followed by Joe V. Andersen, Stanford S. Smith, and Lenard C. Brunsdale)
  • Santa Cruz, Chiapas (Gareth W. Lowe)
  • Ceibal, Peten (Robert Roylance & Richard Terry)
  • Nueva Esperanza, Chiapas (V. Garth Norman followed by Kirk Magleby & Javier Tovar) 
See the map in the article "Toward Consensus on Nephi and Zarahemla."

We can test the various Zarahemla candidates against this isolation narrative. We know from the work of Barbara Arroyo, Lucia Henderson, Takeshi Inomata, and others that all 3 candidates for the city of Nephi were within early Kaminaljuyu (KJ)'s sphere of influence. We also know that 4 of the 6 candidates for the city of Zarahemla were within this same sphere of influence that reached along the Grijalva to Chiapa de Corzo, along the Usumacinta to Chama, and along the Pasion to Cancuen and Ceibal.
Attested Diplomatic and Trade Relations with Early KJ
ca. 600 - 200 BC
Only Zarahemla candidates Nueva Esperanza and Yaxchilan pass this KJ influence test.

We can plot known Olmec and Olmec-influenced sites.
Zarahemla Candidates with Known Olmec & Olmec-Influenced Sites
Since the Olmec (ca. 1,200 - 400 BC) generally preceded the Mulekites, areas with large numbers of Olmec or Olmec-influenced sites are incompatible with the isolation narrative we are testing. Only Zarahemla candidates Nueva Esperanza, Yaxchilan, and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros pass this Olmec influence test. Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Ceibal were all Olmec or Olmec-influenced sites themselves, and in close proximity to other Olmec sites.

Bruce R. Bachand with BYU's NWAF has extensively studied Chiapa de Corzo. He documents a Zoque sphere of influence centered on Chiapa de Corzo that extended southeastward to La Lagunita and eastward to the Usumacinta ca. 1,000 to 400 BC.
Zoque Sites and Sphere of Influence ca. 1,000 - 400 BC
Sites within the area shaded blue in the map above are incompatible with the isolation narrative we are testing. Only Zarahemla candidates Nueva Esperanza and Ceibal pass this Zoque influence test.

The results of these 3 isolation narrative tests:
  • Nueva Esperanza passes all 3 tests.
  • Yaxchilan passes 2 tests.
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros passes 1 test.
  • Ceibal passes 1 text.
  • Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa fail all 3 tests.
The article "Obsidian Trade Patterns" documents a fourth test that produced similar results, validating Nueva Esperanza while ruling out Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros.

Among the Mesoamerican proposals we have considered for the city of Zarahemla, Nueva Esperanza best fits the isolation narrative described in 2 Nephi 1:9.

This is the first slide of John E. Clark's powerful presentation at the Library of Congress Worlds of Joseph Smith Conference in 2005. The conference commemorated the bicentennial of the prophet's birth in 1805.
John Clark's Joseph Smith Bicentennial Presentation Title Slide 
The site pictured is Nueva Esperanza, Chiapas, just west of the Usumacinta in Palenque municipality. John Clark told Garth Norman about the site which motivated Garth and me to visit it in 2006. It has about 200 mounds similar to the ones shown above. Garth did a little surface scavenging and found preclassic pottery shards. We saw no evidence of excavation or looting except for a couple of backhoe gashes in larger mounds. Robert L. Rands (1922 - 2010) wo(rked at this site and the backhoe trenches were probably dug under his direction. He was the recognized expert on the preclassic built environment around Palenque. Rands spent time with George (1935 - 2014) and David Stuart at the former's Boundary End Archaeology Research Center in North Carolina prior to the publication of the Stuart's Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya in 2008.

Rands published an article entitled "Palenque and Selected Survey Sites in Chiapas and Tabasco: The Preclassic" in Damien B. Marken, editor, Palenque: Recent Investigations at the Classic Maya Center (Lanham, MD: Altamira Press Division of Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). In his article, Rands discusses Nueva Esperanza, aka Zapatillo. Based on his study of ceramics, he says the site had limited external relationships in the Early Preclassic prior to 950 BC. It's relationships were mainly with the Olmec and Zoque areas to the west during the Middle Preclassic (950 - 400 BC). Relationships with the Maya Lowlands to the east strengthened in the Late Preclassic (400 BC - AD 250). Rands finds stylistic links with ceramics from such far-flung places as Tres Zapotes (390 air kilometers to the NW), Oaxaca (535 air kilometers to the SW), and Ceibal (230 air kilometers to the SE). 

Based on Rands' results at Nueva Esperanza and nearby sites, the Stuarts reported in their 2008 joint masterwork that Nueva Esperanza was the archetype of a unique early cultural tradition that was neither Olmec nor Maya. Palenque did not evolve from Nueva Esperanza 40 air kilometers up the road toward the Usumacinta. (Nueva Esperanza was the riverside port on the shortest route between Palenque and the sea.) Palenque evolved from the early Maya culture in the Mirador Basin 225 air kilometers to the east. The Nueva Esperanza development, coterminous with El Mirador and Nakbe, was less ornate than the great early Maya centers, and it died out without ever becoming classic Maya as did Palenque. See the article "Palenque." Cultural anomaly Nueva Esperanza is an A-list candidate for the Mulekite and later Nephite capital city, Zarahemla.

Another test we can use to determine best fit to the text is the distance narrative described in the articles Plotting Alma, The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation, and Test #6 Relative Distances. For a variety of reasons, we believe 15 air kilometers is a reasonable approximation for the value of the standard Nephite distance measure "one day's journey." See the article "Land Southward Travel Times." The text is so explicit on the distance between Nephi and Zarahemla (Mosiah 23:3, Mosiah 24:20, Mosiah 24:25 total 21 days) one senses Mormon is leaving bread crumb clues in his record so we moderns can locate these landmark locations 1,600 years later. This is how the various Nephi to Zarahemla candidates measure up in ascending distance order:
  • Tzalcam to Salinas de los Nueve Cerros 105 air kilometers or 5 km/day
  • Tzalcam to Ceibal 162 air kilometers or 7.7 km/day
  • San Juan to Yaxchilan 201 air kilometers or 9.6
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Rosa 258 air kilometers or 12.3 km/day
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Cruz 318 air kilometers or 15.1 km/day
  • Kaminaljuyu to Nueva Esperanza 376 air kilometers or 17.9
But, closely reading the text, it is clear the 21 day distance is not from city to city, but rather from the wilderness outside Nephi/Shilom to the wilderness border of the lesser land of Zarahemla. This reduces the linear distance Alma and his people traveled to a value closer to these numbers:
  • Tzalcam to Salinas de los Nueve Cerros 83 air kilometers or 4 km/day
  • Tzalcam to Ceibal 120 air kilometers or 5.7 km/day
  • San Juan to Yaxchilan 188 air kilometers or 9 km/day
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Rosa 220 air kilometers or 10.5
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Cruz 305 air kilometers or 14.5
  • Kaminaljuyu to Nueva Esperanza 322 air kilometers or 15.3
Salinas de los Nueve Cerros and Ceibal fail the distance test. People simply traveled  further than 4 - 6 air kilometers per day in southern Mesoamerica. Historically attested travel contradicts such short distances. Yaxchilan and Santa Rosa are marginal. 9 - 11 air kilometers per day is shorter than we would expect after examining known pre-industrial travel patterns in the area. Santa Cruz and Nueva Esperanza are right in the sweet spot. These two pass the distance test and are the Zarahemla candidates that best fit the text based on the day's journey criterion.
Teal Lines are Longer City to City Transects
White Lines are Wilderness Border to Wilderness Border
The Limhi Explorer Narrative offers three additional ways for us to test the various Zarahemla candidates. See the articles Ramah/Cumorah and Test #8 Limhi Expedition for context. Basically, the 43 men dispatched by King Limhi thought they knew where Zarahemla was and how to get there. Overshooting Zarahemla, they found remains of the once-mighty Jaredite nation in the general vicinity of Hill Ramah/Cumorah. Returning to King Limhi in the city of Nephi, they reported that they had found Zarahemla and the King believed them until Ammon and his party from the real Zarahemla showed up. Limhi, himself a record-keeper, had access to his grandfather, Zeniff's records, so he had some knowledge of these matters.

We map four proposed Ramah/Cumorah hills associated with the six Zarahemla correlations we are testing.
Black Lines from Candidate Cities of Nephi to Hills Ramah/Cumorah
The first Limhi Explorer Narrative test determines how close to its Zarahemla a proposed Nephi to Ramah/Cumorah transect passes. If the 43 men could have passed right by the Zarahemla they were searching for on their way to the final Jaredite battleground, that scenario is not as believable as if they probably passed dozens or hundreds of kilometers distant from the Zarahemla they sought. The black lines in the map above are straight line transects from a candidate Nephi to its corresponding Ramah/Cumorah. When we measure the distance from each straight line transect to its corresponding Zarahemla, the data shows in ascending order:
  • Santa Rosa - transect passes 9 air kilometers away
  • Santa Cruz - transect passes 10 air kilometers away
  • Ceibal - transect passes 45 air kilometers away
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros - transect passes 62 air kilometers away
  • Yaxchilan - transect passes 122 air kilometers away
  • Nueva Esperanza - transect passes 165 air kilometers away
Yaxchilan and Nueva Esperanza pass this transect proximity test. If the Limhi explorers traveled more than 100 air kilometers distant from their intended target, Zarahemla, they were unlikely to find it and the textual scenario fits. Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz fail this test. Traveling within 10 air kilometers of their intended target, the explorers should have found Zarahemla. Ceibal and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros neither pass nor fail this test. Traveling within 45 to 62 air kilometers from their intended target, the explorers could have found Zarahemla, but contrary scenarios are more likely with increased distance.

The second Limhi Explorer Narrative test measures how far they actually traveled versus how far they should have traveled. The greater the proportional distance, the less likely the scenario becomes. Suppose someone sets out from Salt Lake City, Utah expecting to travel to Moab, Utah which is an air distance of 315 kilometers. When they get to Flagstaff, Arizona, which is an air distance of 619 kilometers, they will have traveled 1.97 times their intended distance. They are highly likely to realize by that point that they overshot Moab and went too far. Here are the Mesoamerican Zarahemla candidates ranked by proportional distance from Nephi to Zarahemla versus Nephi to Ramah/Cumorah:
  • Nueva Esperanza - should have traveled 376 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, actually traveled 604 air kilometers to Cerro San Martin Pajapan - overshot target by a factor of 1.61
  • Santa Cruz - should have traveled 318 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, actually traveled 664 air kilometers to Cerro Vigia - overshot target by a factor of 2.09
  • Ceibal - should have traveled 162 air kilometers from Tzalcam, actually traveled 354 air kilometers to Achotal - overshot target by a factor of 2.19
  • Santa Rosa - should have traveled 258 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, actually traveled 664 air kilometers to Cerro Vigia - overshot target by a factor of 2.57
  • Yaxchilan - should have traveled 201 air kilometers from San Juan, actually traveled 755 air kilometers to Cerro Rabon - overshot target by a factor of 3.76
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros - should have traveled 105 air kilometers from Tzalcam, actually traveled 655 air kilometers to Cerro Vigia - overshot target by a factor of 6.24
Nueva Esperanza passes this expected distance test. Yaxchilan and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros fail spectacularly. Santa Cruz, Ceibal, and Santa Rosa neither pass nor fail this test.

The third Limhi Explorer Narrative test discriminates between land forms. The 43 men traveled from the highlands, through the coastal plain, back into the highlands, and announced they had found Zarahemla. This implies Zarahemla was in the coastal plain. Nueva Esperanza passes this test. It is the only one of the six Zarahemla candidates in the coastal plain. Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, Ceibal, and Yaxchilan neither pass nor fail this test. They are in the lowlands, but not in the coastal plain. Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz are in the highlands, so they fail this test.

Another test we can apply to the various Zarahemla candidates derives from the incommunicado narrative. The Nephites in Nephi and the Mulekites in Zarahemla were unaware of each other's existence for nearly 400 years. This scenario is plausible if a great distance separates the two, or if the area between them is sparsely populated. This is a map of Mesoamerican Nephi/Zarahemla candidates overlaid with ancient American archaeological sites known to science.
Nephi - Zarahemla Combinations in Context with Archaeological Sites
Several patterns emerge from this data. Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa fail the Nephi to Zarahemla incommunicado test. There were simply too many ancient settlements in between them - so many that the teal lines we have drawn on the map are almost blotted out. Tzalcam and Ceibal neither pass nor fail the test. They both have a paucity of intervening sites, but their distances are so modest the 400 years without contact scenario seems unlikely. Yaxchilan and Nueva Esperanza pass the test nicely. Significant distances separate them from their corresponding Nephis, and there are multiple areas between each pair of sites with relatively low ancient settlement densities such that the teal lines show through more or less intact.

In summary, we have documented 9 tests that determine how well a particular Zarahemla candidate fits the text.
  1. Isolation Narrative KJ Influence
  2. Isolation Narrative Olmec Influence
  3. Isolation Narrative Zoque Influence
  4. Isolation Narrative Obsidian Trade Patterns
  5. Nephi to Zarahemla Distance Narrative
  6. Limhi Explorer Transect Proximity
  7. Limhi Explorer Expected Distance 
  8. Limhi Explorer Land Forms
  9. Nephi to Zarahemla Incommunicado Narrative
Nueva Esperanza passes 9/9 tests.
Yaxchilan passes 4/9 tests.
Ceibal passes 1/9 tests
Salinas de los Nueve Cerros passes 1/9 tests
Santa Cruz passes 1/9 tests
Santa Rosa passes 0/9 tests