Sunday, September 22, 2019

Seasons of War

The Book of Mormon states that war among the Nephites was seasonal Omni 1:3. In an often-cited study, John L. Sorenson demonstrated that warfare in the Book of Mormon generally took place in months 11 - 3, occasionally in months 4, 5, and 10, and seldom in months 6 - 9. See John L. Sorenson, "Seasonality of Warfare in the Book of Mormon and in Mesoamerica" in Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, editors, Warfare in the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990). See also John L. Sorenson, "Seasons of War, Seasons of Peace," in John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, editors, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991). Assuming the Nephite new year began on or about the winter solstice (December 21 or 22), a reasonable assumption given the pattern in most ancient cultures, Nephite battles were generally not fought in the time period roughly corresponding to our June through September.

Southern Mesoamerica has well-defined rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season generally begins in May and runs through October. The dry season generally begins in November and runs through April. Crops are typically planted at the onset of the rainy season and harvests are generally over by the onset of the dry season.

NASA Blue Marble imagery shows the surface of the earth in natural color. In other words, this is what the planet really looks like from high altitude with no cloud cover. There is a dramatic visual difference between the dry season and the rainy season in southern Mesoamerica.
Southern Mesoamerica in April at the End of the Dry Season
In April, streams run low, wetlands have shrunk, paths are hard packed, and ground cover is sparse.
Southern Mesoamerica in October at the End of the Rainy Season
In October, streams run high, wetlands are overflowing, paths are muddy, and ground cover is dense.

In Mesoamerica, the dry season was when agriculturalists were mobilized into fighting forces, surplus food supplies were available for provisions, infantry marches were feasible, and conditions in field camps were tolerable. Battles in southern Mesoamerica were generally not fought in the season corresponding to our June through September, the height of the rainy season.

Numerous war events recorded in Mayan inscriptions can be securely dated, and they follow the expected seasonal pattern. The Maya went to war in the dry season and stayed home tending their crops in the rainy season. See Stephen Houston's blog post "Watery War" in the blog Maya Decipherment, June 17, 2019, where he references data from Simon Martin.

The Book of Mormon in Alma 53:7 references this dry season fighting/rainy season farming pattern.