Sunday, June 30, 2019

Large Bodies of Water

Alma 50:29 talks about a land which was northward covered with large bodies of water. Helaman 3:4 describes migrations from the land of Zarahemla to an exceeding great distance into the land northward which had large bodies of water. A large body of water probably refers to an inland lake. Many have suggested Teotihuacan adjacent to the very large ancient Lake Texcoco is a good candidate for the area being described in Alma 50 and Helaman 3.

I was at Cholula a few years ago and was interested to learn that it, like Teotihuacan, was built aside a large ancient lake. There is no lake near the ruins of Cholula today. It is a heavily-populated part of the state of Puebla and the local water table has been dramatically drawn down over the years through stream diversion and pumping. Ditto Lake Texcoco, The modest floating gardens of Xochimilco on the extreme south of sprawling Mexico City are all that is left of what once was a very large lake. Actually, Texcoco was five adjoining lakes: Chalco, Xochimilco, Texcoco, Xaltocan, and Zumpango, with a combined surface area of about 1,400 square kilometers. That is more than 3 times the size of Utah Lake which has a surface area of about 380  square kilometers.

On June 29, 2019, I spent time with Mexican historian Diego Velazquez near his home in Lerma east of Toluca. I asked about Lake Lerma south of the city. He said anciently it was considerably larger, covering much of the Toluca Valley, with settlement sites around the shores. Its ancient name was "Chignahuapan" which means "place of nine lakes." There were also shallow lakes called Chimaliapan and Chicnahuapan. So, Mexico City, Toluca over the mountains to the west, and Cholula over the mountains to the east, were all once part of a land northward with large bodies of water.

Further research has shown that Tlaxcala, too, once had sizable lakes along the upper course of the Zahuapan River. Cantona, a site closely affiliated with Teotihuacan, had two ancient lakes nearby, Tepeyahualco and Totoncingo. Lake Zacapu, 50 kilometers NW of Morelia, Michoacan, is now dry but once covered 350 square kilometers. Remnants remain of what was once a band of lakes through Central Mexico from Lake Chapala, the largest inland lake in Mexico today at 1,100 square kilometers, to lovely Lake Catemaco in the Tuxtla Mountains of Veracruz (72 square kilometers).
Region in Central Mexico that Anciently had Many Large Lakes
This region, through central Jalisco, northern Michoacan, southern Guanajuato, the state of Mexico, Mexico City, southern Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, central Puebla and south central Veracruz could reasonably have been described anciently as a land far northward with large bodies of water.

This band of ancient lakes roughly corresponds to the area Mexican geographers call the "Cinturón Volcánico Transmexicano" or CVT.

Monday, June 10, 2019

1921 Book of Mormon Geography Hearings

In April, 1928 General Conference, Pres. Anthony W. Ivins (1852 - 1934) of the First Presidency discussed Hill Cumorah. The Church had just purchased Hill Cumorah from the Pliny T. Sexton (1840 - 1924) estate a few weeks before. Pres. Ivins reported on that land acquisition and then waxed poetic about the ancient battles that supposedly had been fought on and around that hill. In 1928, practically every Latter-day Saint in the world thought the final Jaredite and Nephite battles took place on the same glacial drumlin in western New York where Moroni buried the plates. An alternative view with a battle site in Mexico and Moroni traveling during his 35 years of solitude was beginning to take root in Reorganization circles following the 1917 publication of Louis Edward Hills’ influential Geography of Mexico and Central America from 2234 BC to 421 AD in Independence, MO. A similar discussion would not take place among Latter-day Saint scholars until Hugh W. Nibley (1910 - 2005), M. Wells Jakeman (1910-1998), Thomas Stuart Ferguson (1915 - 1983), and Milton R. Hunter (1902-1975) met at Berkeley in the 1930’s. So, Pres. Ivins in 1928 was voicing what essentially everyone in the Church believed at that time.
Pres. Anthony W. Ivins from Washington County Historical Society
But, where did Pres. Ivins think most of the Book of Mormon took place? On Monday, January 24, 1921, then Apostle Anthony W. Ivins reported to the “Book of Mormon committee” chaired by fellow Apostle James E. Talmage (1862-1933). The Book of Mormon committee had overseen the successful publication of the 1920 edition and due to great interest around the Church, decided to convene a series of Book of Mormon geography hearings. Those hearings were held on Friday, January 21 through Monday, January 24, 1921. Three people presented their views:
  • Joel E. Ricks (1858 - 1944), author of maps and booklets popular throughout the Church, advocated for the land southward in northern South America and the land northward in Central America. A college professor in Logan, he had spent many summers travelling throughout Latin America.
  • Willard Young (1852 - 1936), Brigham’s son who attended West Point, favored a location in Honduras and Guatemala. He was an engineer who had worked on construction projects in Mexico and Central America.
  • Anthony W. Ivins of the Quorum of the Twelve thought the setting was Mexico and Yucatan. He served his second mission in Mexico City and helped establish the Mormon colonies in northern Chihuahua. His son, Antoine R. Ivins (1881 - 1967), presided over the Mexico Mission and was a member of the Seventy.  
That was it. Those were the only three theories considered by the Book of Mormon committee in January, 1921. No official conclusion was reached. Some of the best minds in the Church in that era envisioned Book of Mormon lands in Mesoamerica with the final battles in upstate New York. It would be a few more years before close reading of the text convinced a growing consensus of Latter-day Saint scholars that the lands being described by Mormon and Moroni could not have exceeded 1,000 kilometers in maximum extent which precludes New York in most models.

See James E. Talmage Journals, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University: MSS 229, Box 6, Folder 2, Journal 24.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Auditing Book of Mormon Geography Models

Several years ago, Jack Welch challenged me to devise a methodology to reasonably evaluate any Book of Mormon geography model no matter its setting. It has taken years of work and involved dozens of people, but we now have an audit tool, an Excel spreadsheet, that can be easily configured to accommodate a variety of different assumptions about the text and the surprisingly divergent interpretations that flow from those assumptions.

The only a priori assumption the audit procedure makes is that the Nephite text is consistent. Since virtually every scholar who has ever analyzed the text has come to this conclusion, we are on solid ground with this presumption of consistency.

The audit looks at every occurrence in the text of these key terms that are generally acknowledged by most modelers to be significant and relevant:
  • up & down (63 instances)
  • north, south, east & west with variants (northward, southward, south south east, etc.) (133 instances)
  • day's journey (22 instances)
  • cross over (28 instances)
That's a total of 246 textual instances of these key terms in a spatial context. Every one of these key terms involves a from and to relationship between two locations on the Book of Mormon map. That is a total of 492 from and to locations. Netting out duplicates yields 229 potentially different locations (some modelers conflate locations which is fine) that are required to pass all 246 tests.

The audit allows each modeler a great deal of flexibility in the way they interpret the text based on their assumptions. It measures completeness, internal consistency, and degree of fit to the text.
Audit Template Created by Lynn McMurray and LaMar Layton
The first model was audited last night, June 6, 2019. With a robust audit procedure in place, I predict rapid progress solving the Book of Mormon geography puzzle. There is no time to waste. Many BYU professors, even on the religion faculty, do not believe the Book of Mormon is historical and are not convinced that historicity matters.

June 11,  2019 Second audit completed today in Puebla, Mexico. Results agreed with the 6/6 audit.

June 18, 2019 Third audit completed today in Arizona. Results agreed with the 6/6 audit.

June 29, 2019 Reports have come in from several additional independent auditors in three countries, all of whom have confirmed the 6/6 audit results.

August 22, 2019 In working through an audit of the Pasión River Model, Bob Roylance found an error in version 20 of the audit spreadsheet. One instance of from location 177, Sidom, should have been from location 150, river Sidon. This error was corrected in spreadsheet version 21. The error did not affect the results of any previously reported audit, but auditors going forward should use the latest version of the audit tool because this correction will impact some models.

August 28, 2019 The Spanish translation of the audit spreadsheet was certified correct. Audits in Spanish can now proceed.

August 31, 2019 A Spanish version of the audit went online to aid those Hispanic members who do not have access to or do not wish to learn Microsoft Excel.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Many Waters

I had Jeff Faulkner from Phoenix in my office today. His study of the Nephite text convinces him the phrase "many waters" means salt water ocean. I took a look at the term "waters" back in 2014 in the article entitled "OED on Waters." Jeff's interpretation is certainly within the pale of possibilities.
National Geographic Photo of an Ocean Wave
"Many waters" is one of the few terms actually defined by the editor in the text itself. 1 Nephi 17:5 is explicit. Irreantum or many waters refers to the sea. The Book of Mormon Onomasticon entry for "Irreantum" gives possible Semitic and Egyptian etymologies for this word.

1 Nephi 13:10, 12-13, 29 is equally explicit. The term "many waters" in these verses refers to the Atlantic Ocean which separates Europe from the Americas.

1 Nephi 14:11-12 is unmistakable. The great and abominable church is a global institution whose dominion extends from sea to sea. "Many waters" in this context means the world's salt water oceans. See the blog article "What is the Great and Abominable Church?" for insights into this nexus of evil.

Ether 2:6 is clear. Jaredites crossed "many waters" in barges which traversed a sea Ether 2:7 and these barges were nearly identical Ether 2:16 to those that were sometimes submerged beneath the waves of the sea Ether 6:7.

The term "many waters" occurs 11 times in the text. The 9 instances described above all refer to one or more salt water oceans. What does that imply for the other two instances? The text of the Book of Mormon is so consistent in its usage patterns Royal Skousen coined the term "systematic phraseology" to describe its orderly repetition. The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), Editor's Preface p. xlv. Every time we see the phrase "many waters" in the text it likely refers to a salt water ocean. This means we should look for hill Ramah/Cumorah seaside.

Mosiah 8:8 says the land of Cumorah was located "among many waters" and Mormon 6:4 says Cumorah was a "land of many waters..." That probably means Cumorah had a salt water coastline. The fact that Ablom by the seashore is due east of hill Ramah/Cumorah Ether 9:3 strengthens this marine interpretation.

In 2016 and 2017, Warren Aston spent months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala on multiple trips exploring many of the candidates that have been seriously proposed for hill Ramah/Cumorah. After looking carefully at more than half a dozen hills, he narrowed the list to two: Cerro Vigía and Cerro San Martín Pajapan, both in southern Veracruz. In my mind, 1,160 meter Pajapan is the stronger candidate. See the article Ramah/Cumorah. If the "many waters" phrase in Mormon 6:4 really does refer to the open ocean, then Pajapan is almost certainly hill Cumorah.
The Summit of San Martín Pajapan is 7 Air Kilometers from Salt Water
The NE slopes of Pajapan are ancient volcanic lava flows that extend right to the water's edge. The red arrow in the image below points to one of these lava flows jutting into the ocean.
Lava Flow from Eye Distance of 13 KM. Flowing Streams in Yellow
 And this is what that lava flow looks like from just offshore.
Ancient Lava Flow with San Martín Pajapan in the Background
Photo by Kirk Magleby, February, 2017 
The Olmec (and Aztecs) considered this particular hill the site of earth's original creation. According to Linda Schele, Complex C (The Great Pyramid) at La Venta was built as a model of San Martín Pajapan. San Martín Pajapan Monument 1, now in Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, was set atop the hill ca. 1,000 BC (the article "Linguistic Cumorah" includes a photo). This particular hill is clearly among and in a land of many (sea) waters.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Las Vegas Odds

The father/son team of Bruce and Brian Dale, both PhD engineers, published a sensational 110 page article in Interpreter on May 3, 2019 that uses Bayesian statistical analysis to demonstrate a) the Book of Mormon is historical and b) it is set in ancient Mesoamerica.

Bruce Dale, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, Michigan State
Brian Dale, BioMedical Engineer, Siemens
Joseph Smith: The World's Greatest Guesser - Highly Recommended
The Dales analyzed 137 statements of fact from Michael D. Coe and Stephen D. Houston, The Maya (Ninth Edition), Thames & Hudson (2015), a gold standard reference work on ancient Mesoamerica.
Current, Authoritative Scholarly Source
They compared and contrasted these 137 statements of fact with corresponding statements of fact in the Book of Mormon.
Nephite Text - An Ancient American Codex
They found 131 points of agreement and 6 points of disagreement between The Maya and the Book of Mormon. Running the math, this works out to odds of billions upon billions to one that the Book of Mormon peoples shared common political, cultural/social, religious, military/warfare, physical/geographical, and technological/miscellaneous characteristics with the ancient Maya.

The smart folks at Interpreter (Dan Peterson, Allen Wyatt, Brant Gardner) anticipated a blockbuster, so they kept this article in peer review for over a year where it was polished by both Mesoamericanists and statisticians. When the provocative piece was finally published a month ago, reactions were fast and furious. Anti-Mormons masquerading behind pen names went ballistic trying to do damage control. Hyper skeptical cultural Mormons went nuts trying to invent counter explanations. True believers like me cheered loudly and long to see our favorite book so convincingly vindicated. The Dales managed the comment parade with aplomb. What is not to like about a genuine intellectual free-for-all with eternal salvific overtones?

And the comments, 300+ and counting, just keep comping. This is the most heavily commented article Interpreter has ever published. A response has just been posted (agrees with the conclusion, disagrees with the statistical methodology). This is a terrific article that will have a lasting impact on Book of Mormon studies. At 110 pages with appendices, footnotes, logic, and math, it is not for the faint of heart, but it is well worth the effort.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

PreColumbian Honey Bees

We previously noted evidence that beekeeping and honey production were important economic activities in ancient Mesoamerica. See the articles "Titulo de Totonicapan" and "Komkom Vase". A scholarly article recently came to our attention that shows images of ancient Maya beehives and provides interesting details about Mesoamerican beekeeping.

Jaroslaw Zralka (Jagiellonian University, Kraków), Laura Sotelo (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Christophe Helmke (University of Copenhagen), and Wieslaw Koszkul (Jagiellonian University, Kraków) wrote "The discovery of a beehive and the identification of apiaries among the ancient Maya" published in Latin American Antiquity 29(3) (June, 2018) pp. 514-531. The page numbers that follow are from this article.

514 A ceramic beehive was discovered in a dedicatory cache at Nakum, Peten, Guatemala by Polish archaeologists who worked the site from 2006 - 2016. The artifact dates to the late Preclassic (ca. 100 BC - AD 250/300).
Nakum, Guatemala in Context
515 Nakum was first settled in the middle Preclassic 1,000 - 700 BC.

518 A photo of the beehive fashioned in pottery to look like a hollow log with ceramic end caps made to look like mud plaster and a single bee hole.
Ancient Maya Beehive from Nakum
Now in the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Guatemala City

520 Cozumel Island was an important center of native American beekeeping and honey production at European conquest. This censer figurine from Cozumel shows a bee-like "diving god" holding honeycomb cells in his hands. Two beehives similar to the Nakum example flank the sides of the censer.
Post-classic Figurine, Drawing by Christophe Helmke
Now in Museo Palacio Cantón, Mérida
 Another figurine, also from Cozumel, shows a deity wearing a miniature beehive as a necklace.
Post-Classic Figurine, Drawing by Christophe Helmke
Now in National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
520 The article illustrates another ancient Maya iconographic portrayal of a cylindrical beehive.

521 kaab was one of the variant names for "bee" in Mayan languages.

521 Species of stingless bees endemic to the New World include Geotrigona acapulconis, Melipona beecheii, Partamona bilineata, and Tetragonisca angustula. All 4 species were domesticated by the ancient Maya and other Mesoamericans.

521 Ceramic jars and bottle gourds were also used as beehives in ancient Mexico and Guatemala.

522 There is evidence of large-scale intensive farming of stingless bees in the Yucatan Peninsula in precolumbian times.

524 Diego de Landa (1524 - 1579) and Tomás López Medel (1520 - 1582) both described the extensive honey industry that existed among the ancient Maya at European contact.

524 The Madrid Codex discusses beekeeping on pp. 103 - 112. This section is often called the "Beekeeping Almanac."

525 Maya deities associated with beekeeping according to the Madrid Codex include Itzamnaj, Cháak, and Yax Báalam. Goddess I is depicted as a beekeeper.

525 The Mayan difrasismos or diphrastic kennings uk'-we' "drink-eat" meaning "feasting" and yax-k'an "green-yellow" or "unripe-ripe" meaning "abundance" are associated with bees and honey. This may be significant. The Book of Mormon associates honey with feasting 2 Nephi 17:22, 2 Nephi 26:25 in the sense of a land flowing with milk and honey. Honey is explicitly associated with the abundance of land Bountiful 1 Nephi 17:5 which in the Spanish edition of the Book of Mormon is called "Abundancia."
Difrasismo for Abundance, Madrid Codex, p. 110 Middle Register
526 The Madrid Codex, generally dated ca. AD 1450, depicts many bees with cylindrical beehives that resemble the Nakum example.
Bee Image from Madrid Codex, p. 103
527 In Mayan languages, the same word means "bee" and "honey." The Book of Mormon explicitly uses the term "honey bee" Ether 2:3.

Bees, honey, and beekeeping are mentioned in the Book of Mormon in both Jaredite and Nephite contexts. Bees, honey, and beekeeping are now attested archaeologically in the Peten at Nakum during Nephite times. Nakum was originally settled in the Jaredite era.

This is an image of bees flying out of a ceramic container.
K2284 Rollout Photograph by Justin Kerr
Contemporary Native Americians in Campeche are known to use similar ceramic jars as beehives.