Saturday, January 18, 2020

Where did the Mulekites Land?

Several lines of reasoning about the Mulekite ocean voyage across the Atlantic point to Tabasco, Mexico, as likely landing locations. The Mulekites landed twice, once in the land northward near the place where the Jaredites were destroyed Alma 22:30 and a second time in the land southward near the local land of Zarahemla where Mosiah I discovered their descendants who had not moved from the area their forefathers settled Alma 22:31, Omni 1:16. Mulek (Critical Text orthography Muloch) was a son of Zedekiah, King of Judah, who was captured Omni 1:15 by Nebuchadnezzar II (ca. 630 - 561 BC), blinded, and taken in chains to Babylon where he died in prison. Before he blinded the Jewish monarch, Nebuchadnezzar killed all of Zedekiah's older sons in their father's presence Helaman 8:21, 2 Kings 25:7. It has long been assumed by Book of Mormon scholars that Mulek was very young, perhaps even an infant, and that he came to the Americas in a Phoenician vessel. The Phoenicians were world class sailors and traders ca. 586 BC Ezekiel 26:15-17 while the Jews had few maritime assets. For an article describing an ancient stamp seal potentially belonging to the young son of Zedekiah, see the Book of Mormon Central KnoWhy #103 published May 19, 2016 entitled "Has An Artifact That Relates to the Book of Mormon Been Found?"

The Mulekite capital, the city of Zarahemla, was west of a dominant river called Sidon Alma 2:15, 34. Sidon was a major port in ancient Phoenicia. The modern Sidon, Lebanon, is midway between Beruit and Tyre.
The Mediterranean Port City, Sidon, in Context
The Book of Mormon Onomasticon etymology for Sidon suggests the Mulekite/Nephite river got its name from the ancient Phoenician seaport. Could the Phoenicians have reached the Americas ca. 586 BC? Briton Philip Beale just demonstrated that yes, they could have.
Philip Beale, British Banker Turned Explorer
Beale had a shipwright on Arwad Island, Syria, build a working replica of an ancient Phoenician sailing ship from ca. 600 BC. For models, he used stone carvings of ancient ships plying Mediterranean waters and the shipwreck Jules Verne 7, dated to ca. 600 BC, discovered in Marseille harbor, France. Beale sought to prove two things:
  1. Phoenicians could have circumnavigated Africa ca. 600 BC just as Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 484 BC - ca. 425 BC) says they did.
  2. Phoenicians could have sailed from the Old World to the Americas ca. 600 BC. 
His ship, Phoenicia, is a 50 ton, 65 foot vessel with a single mast and a single square-rigged sail.
Phoenicia, Working Phoenician Ship Replica
In 2009-2010, Beale skippered Phoenicia from Lebanon through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, through the Gulf of Aden into the Arabian Sea, around the Cape of Good Hope, up the Atlantic, and back to Lebanon. My friend, Warren Aston, was a volunteer deckhand on board Phoenicia during part of her voyage around the Arabian Peninsula. This is a map of the 2009-2010 journey.
Phoenicia Circumnavigation of Africa 2009-2010
Phoenicia then docked in southern England for a decade where she was a tourist attraction. On July 4th, 2019, she left Gosport, Hampshire, and sailed to Tunis, Tunisia, anciently known as Carthage, one of the Phoenicians' principal trading colonies in the Mediterranean. She left Tenerife, Canary Islands, on November 23, 2019, and 39 days later, on December 31, 2019, she docked to a festive reception at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. My friend, Boyd Tuttle, was a volunteer deckhand on board Phoenicia during the Mediterranean leg of her voyage.
Phoenicia Transatlantic Crossing 2019 has videos about the Phoenicians Before Columbus Expedition. Philip Beale knew he would spend time in the Canary Islands. They have been ports of call for Mediterranean ships since Greek and Roman times. After the Canaries, though, he did not know exactly where in the Americas Phoenicia would land. That would depend on the winds and ocean currents. Phoenicia followed the Canary Current south, skirted Cape Verde, then followed the North Equatorial Current almost due west and made landfall in the Caribbean at about 18 degrees north latitude.
Ocean Currents per National Geographic
The Sorenson/Norman/Hauck/Allen/Aston/Potter/Magleby/Tovar (SNHAAPMT) Book of Mormon geography model that scored 100% on a strict audit (see the article "Auditing Book of Mormon Geography Models) places the Mulekite landfall in the land northward at about 18 degrees north latitude 2,560 kilometers due west of Santo Domingo.
Proposed Mulekite Landfall, Settlement in Context
Compared with Phoenicia December 31, 2019 Landfall
The ocean current that brought the Phoenicia to the southern coast of the Dominican Republic could take her westward past Jamaica and on to Yucatan. Not only did Philip Beale dramatically demonstrate that the Phoenicians could have reached the New World, he also showed a likely route the Mulekites may have taken.

After staying in Santo Domingo for 19 days, Beale and crew sailed around Haiti, then northward to Florida, but this leg of their journey required auxiliary power from an emergency motor to get through the tempestuous strait between Haiti and Cuba. Phoenicia landed in Fort Lauderdale on February 4, 2020.

Philip Beale and Phoenicia followed many other seafarers who traveled similar routes. This map shows the four voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492 - 1502 and two voyages of Thor Heyerdahl in working replicas of ancient reed vessels. All six voyages passed through the Canary Islands and ended up in or near the Caribbean.
Columbus, Heyerdahl, and Phoenicia Expeditions
All Following Similar Routes
From 1969 to 2019, the Ocean Rowing Society International recognized 93 solo rows across the Atlantic. These small vessels with a single person aboard had no choice but to follow the surface winds and ocean currents. The vast majority of them began in the Canary Islands and ended in the Caribbean.
93 Human Powered Voyages that Followed Transatlantic Ocean Currents
First Line of Reasoning
Known historical examples of transatlantic ocean voyages made under circumstances similar to those the Mulekites would have encountered strongly suggest passage through the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.
The land southward was divided into the land north where Mulek landed and the land south where Lehi landed Helaman 6:10. Most serious Book of Mormon geographers consider the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas to be part of the land southward along with Guatemala and Belize. This map shows locations per the SNHAAPMT Book of Mormon geography model.
Proposed Mulekite Landings in Context
In this proposal, the Mulekites landed first near the site of La Venta which in Olmec times was at the mouth of the Grijalva River. They then moved eastward to the mouth of the Usumacinta River where they settled a wilderness Alma 22:31 and remained in situ for more than 350 years until Mosiah I discovered them. The proposal for Lehi's landing is the Soconusco coast of southern Mexico/western Guatemala which is the seashore explicitly west (per Alma 22:28) of the area many identify as the lesser land of Nephi (valley of Guatemala).

Second Line of Reasoning
Tabasco is in the northern portion of what many consider the land southward, which fits Helaman 6:10.
Ancient iconography at La Venta strongly supports the idea of foreign visitors about the time the Mulekites would have landed. This is the famous La Venta Stela 3 dubbed the "Uncle Sam" stela which dates to 600 - 550 BC.
La Venta Stela 3 Excavated by Matthew Stirling in 1943
Philip Drucker, a member of the excavation team, said this stela depicts "a meeting of Olmec and non-Olmec personages." A typical Olmec figure on the left is meeting a decidedly non-Olmec figure on the right. See Philip Drucker, "On the Nature of Olmec Polity" in The Olmec and Their Neighbors: Essays in Memory of Matthew W. Stirling, Elizabeth P. Benson, Editor, Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1981, p. 44. Drucker said non-Olmec foreigners visiting the site are also depicted on La Venta Monuments 13 and 19.
Bearded Foreigner Depicted on La Venta Monument 13, Photo by Linda Schele
Tatiana Proskouriakoff was even more explicit, calling the person on the right of Stela 3 "...a bearded man with a conspicuously aquiline nose." She went on to call the figure a "bearded visitor" and a "bearded stranger." Like Drucker, she interpreted the La Venta carvings as depicting "two racially distinct groups of people." Tatiana Proskouriakoff, "Olmec and Maya Art: Problems of their Stylistic Relation" in Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec October 28th and 29th, 1967, Elizabeth P. Benson, Editor, Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1968, p. 122.

Third Line of Reasoning
If La Venta stone carvings do not represent Mulekite/Olmec interaction, they show people with physical features similar to those we would expect in a Mulekite population visiting the Olmec capital at about the time the Mulekites arrived in the New World.
Ca. 600 BC, the Phoenicians and the Greeks were in a major competition to settle the entire Mediterranean shoreline and establish trading colonies. This map shows Greek colonies in blue and Phoenician colonies in red.
Greek (Blue) and Phoenician (Red) Colonies ca. 550 BC
Notice where these two colonial powers established settlements: along the sea coasts with cities at good harbors or along large navigable rivers. Theirs were maritime rather than inland empires. This tells us something about where a joint Mulekite/Phoenician expedition to the Americas would likely establish a capital city such as Zarahemla. Ocean-going vessels could sail up navigable rivers. In fact, ships through the ages have purposely sailed upstream on large rivers to rid their hulls of barnacles. Barnacles die and fall off in freshwater. Rivers, though, are only navigable to the fall line which is the place, usually at an escarpment, where severe rapids or a waterfall prevent upstream boat travel.

The SNHAAPMT model correlates the city of Zarahemla with the ancient pre-classic site of Nueva Esperanza/Calatraba in northern Chiapas. The site is riverside west of the Usumacinta in the coastal plain upstream from the perennial flood zone and downstream from the fall line.
Proposed Zarahemla in the Coastal Plain Between Swamps and Mountains
Fourth Line of Reasoning
Given what we know of Phoenician settlement patterns in the Old World, we would expect them to favor a city site close to the seacoast at a good harbor or along a large river downstream from the fall line. The Usumacinta in Tabasco and northern Chiapas is such a setting.
The Jaredite final battles had a massive casualty count. Ether 15:2 talks of 2 million slain. The bones mentioned in Alma 22:30 and the bones, ruins, plates, breastplates, swords, etc. mentioned in Mosiah 8:8-11 were likely strewn over a sizable area in the general vicinity of hill Ramah/Cumorah. The proposed site of the Mulekites first landing, the mouth of the ancient Grijalva, modern Tonala, is 60 air kilometers from the most likely Ramah/Cumorah - Cerro San Martín Pajapan.
Proposed Mulekite Landfall 60 Air Kilometers from Likely Ramah/Cumorah
Could this area anciently have supported a population in the millions? Yes. This is the center of the densely-populated Olmec heartland. Olmec civilization collapsed about the time the Book of Mormon records the annihilation of the Jaredite nation (ca. 300 BC).
Dozens of Known Archaeological Sites in the Olmec Heartland
Fifth Line of Reasoning
The proposed first Mulekite landing near La Venta in the Olmec heartland could reasonably have been proximate to the massive destruction mentioned in Alma 22:30 and Mosiah 8:8-11.
Some Book of Mormon modelers over the years have tried to correlate La Venta with the city of Mulek based on the likely Mulekite/Olmec interaction in the Olmec capital recorded on stone monuments such as Stela 3 and the Nephite cultural pattern of naming cities after their founder Alma 8:7. There are three problems with this logic. First, La Venta was the Olmec capital ca. 800 BC and was a thriving city long before Mulek arrived on the scene. Second, Royal Skousen continually reminds us that the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon spells the name of the son of Zedekiah "Muloch" rather than "Mulek" which is the name of the city on the Nephite east coast near the city Bountiful. And third, Muloch was a Mulekite, not a Nephite. The Mulekites arrived in the New World ca. 586 BC and Mosiah I did not lead a group of Nephites from the city of Nephi to the lesser land of Zarahemla until ca. 200 BC. So, any name La Venta carried in Book of Mormon times is much more likely to have been Jaredite or Mulekite than Nephite. The name "Sidon" for instance, was probably applied by the Phoenicians/Mulekites to their dominant river and then simply adopted by the Nephites.
So, in summary, the SNHAAPMT model which has passed a rigorous audit with a perfect score of 100% places the first Mulekite landfall at the mouth of the ancient Grijalva, modern Tonala river not far from La Venta. The model predicts the second Mulekite landfall was at the mouth of the Usumacinta which led to settlement immediately upstream of the permanent wetlands. This correlation represents a convergence of several lines of reasoning:
  1. The Caribbean is an overwhelmingly likely landing place for any ancient voyage passing through the Straits of Gibraltar and the Canary Islands on its way to the Americas.
  2. Tabasco is in the northern tier of a viable land southward as the text requires and the Usumacinta area had wilderness characteristics when the Mulekites first arived.
  3.  Monuments at La Venta dating to the Mulekite time period record the visit of foreign people whose beards and facial features would have been at home in ancient Jerusalem.
  4.  Known Phoenician settlement patterns in the Mediterranean during Mulekite times accommodate an initial landfall in Tabasco with a capital city on a large navigable river.
  5. The proposed first landing near La Venta is in the Olmec heartland which can reasonably accommodate the Jaredite destruction narrative including a likely hill Ramah/Cumorah.
Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which makes the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world. Book of Mormon Central publishes the exciting new free app ScripturePlus.
April 20, 2020. I have just learned after readiing Kees Noreen, et al. "The Usumacinta-Grijalva beach-ridge plain in southern Mexico: a high-resolution archive of river discharge and precipitation" in Earth Surface Dynamics, 5 (2017) pp. 529-556 that until ca. AD 1,050 the apex flow of the Usumacinta discharged where the San Pedro y San Pablo distributary flows tdoay, at Barra San Pedro. This would put the proposed Mulekite second landing 23 kilometers further east along the Tabascan coast than the maps above show. For more details on the movement of streamflows along the coast of Tabasco from Jaredite times to the present, see the blog article "Wandering River."

Article last updated April 20, 2020