Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Early Settlement Sequence

I am reading a very good book entitled Pathways to Complexity: A View from the Maya Lowlands edited by M. Kathryn Brown (UT San Antonio) and George J. Bey III (Millsaps College).
New Book on Maya Origins
Published in 2018 by University Press of Florida, the volume contains 16 chapters authored by 27 specialists including Donald Forsyth of the BYU Anthropology faculty and BYU alum Richard Hansen of the University of Utah Anthropology faculty. This book contains a number of insights I find interesting and potentially relevant to the Book of Mormon. One is the order in which various areas in Mesoamerica began using ceramics.

Pathways Chapter 4 is entitled "The Earliest Ceramics of the Northern Maya Lowlands" authored by E. Wyllys Andrews V (PhD Tulane), George J. Bey III (PhD Tulane), and Christopher M. Gunn (PhD Kentucky). The authors summarize what is currently known of the first use of ceramics in important parts of Mesoamerica. This map shows their findings:
Dates when Ceramics First Appear in the Archaeological Record
Ceramics first appear in Oaxaca/Puebla ca. 2,000 BC, then along the Pacific coast of Chiapas and Guatemala and through El Salvador to the Mosquito Coast of NE Honduras ca. 1,900 BC. Ceramics then appear in the Olmec Heartland of southern Veracruz and western Tabasco ca. 1,500 BC followed by highland Guatemala ca. 1,200 BC. Ceramics appear in the southern Maya Lowlands ca. 1,000 BC and finally in the northern Maya Lowlands ca. 900 BC. This means that 300 years before Lehi left Jerusalem most of Mesoamerica had transitioned from mere wood, bone, stone, and fiber utensils to more sophisticated ceramic technology. The blank spot on the map in the Chiapas Highlands does not mean the Central Depression of Chiapas did not have ceramics by ca. 900 BC. The ceramic tradition was well-established in the Grijalva Basin by that time period. It simply means the authors did not consider central Chiapas as significant as the other areas in the cultural development trajectory of ceramic technology throughout the region.

This map showing settlement sequences of peoples possessing ceramics is broadly similar to our current thinking about the Jaredites. We think the Jaredites landed on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca and migrated inland to the land of Nehor and upland to the land of Moron which we correlate with the valley of Oaxaca (San José Mogote). The Jaredites then built the city of Lib which we correlate with Tzutzuculi on the Pacific coast of Chiapas. The Jaredite demise at hill Ramah we correlate with the Tuxtla Mountains in the Olmec Heartland. This map includes key Jaredite correlates.
Proposed Jaredite Locations with Dates of Ceramic Attestation
Could Yucatan be part of the land Northward? We have already concluded that the land Northward likely extended to the Tonalá River area (La Venta, Tabasco). With the exciting work Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan (University of Arizona) are currently doing at Aguada Fénix (Balancán, Tabasco), our notion of what constituted the land Northward in Jaredite times may move eastward to include the base of the Yucatan Peninsula. Couple that with the work INAH is doing at Chakanbakán, Quintana Roo, and we may have to re-consider our view of the Olmec. They may have occupied much of Mesoamerica from Central Mexico to the Caribbean by ca. 400 - 300 BC.
Aguada Fénix and Chakanbakán in Context
I have not yet seen either Aguada Fénix or Chakanbakán. The article "Usumacinta Olmec" is based on reports Inomata and Trinidan made to Balancán municipal leaders in February, 2019. I know several people who have been to Chakanbakán (special permission is required from the INAH office in Chetumal, it is not yet open to the public) and they all describe Olmec-looking masks flanking the principal temple (Nohochbalam) stairway. Local news reports from Quintana Roo describe helmeted figures with a strong resemblance to the 17 Olmec colossal heads known from San Lorenzo, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and Rancho la Cobata (Cerro El Vigía). The official INAH description of Chakanbakán mentions this unmistakable Olmec influence.