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Not so easy? 3


Bill Hamblin

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Many anti-Mormon critics wonder why we haven't identified BOM cities in Mesoamerica.

The only way I know of to identify an ancient site is inscriptional evidence giving a phonetically intelligible name of the site.

So, based on available archaeological and inscriptional evidence from before AD 400, could the anti-Mormons who see this as decisive evidence against the BOM please tell the the names of ten Mesoamerican cities. They must provide pre-400 AD inscriptional evidence for the pronunciation of those city names.

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Phonetically, Lamoni, but spelled Lamanai

That's a good one, but its got to be based on phonetic transliterations of pre-400 AD inscriptional evidence (that is, contemporary with the BOM).

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This is rediculous. If Athens disapeared for 1500 years would we need to see the word "Athens" written on the Parthenon to know it for what it is? Did anyone need to see "Pompeii City Limits" written anywhere to know it was Pompeii?

Of course not. It was where it was supposed to be. It was buried in ash. It had Roman paintings on the all. It was Pompeii, even if its location had been long forgotten.

We should be able to find the same for Nephite ruins. Were they Christians? The Mayans sure weren't. Somewhere there should be obvious signs. So far - there are not.

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Dr. Hamblin is correct in that (to the best of my knowledge) we don't know what it sounded like when Maya said glyph.jpg

and have no reason to believe it was pronounced "tee-kal," which means "Place of Ghosts" in the language of the post-Conquest Maya who lived near its ruins. However:

The only way I know of to identify an ancient site is inscriptional evidence giving a phonetically intelligible name of the site.

"Identify" it how? I feel like the place we call Tikal can be pretty confidently identified as "A Maya city that was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century," or "Not Cleveland, Ohio."

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This is rediculous. If Athens disapeared for 1500 years would we need to see the word "Athens" written on the Parthenon to know it for what it is? Did anyone need to see "Pompeii City Limits" written anywhere to know it was Pompeii?

Of course not. It was where it was supposed to be. It was buried in ash. It had Roman paintings on the all. It was Pompeii, even if its location had been long forgotten.

OK. Let's try something easier and Bible related: Abraham's Ur of Chaldees.

Where was it located and how do we know what it's name was at the probable time of Abram?

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This is rediculous. If Athens disapeared for 1500 years would we need to see the word "Athens" written on the Parthenon to know it for what it is? Did anyone need to see "Pompeii City Limits" written anywhere to know it was Pompeii?

Of course not. It was where it was supposed to be. It was buried in ash. It had Roman paintings on the all. It was Pompeii, even if its location had been long forgotten.

We should be able to find the same for Nephite ruins. Were they Christians? The Mayans sure weren't. Somewhere there should be obvious signs. So far - there are not.

This is a good point, however I see a couple of problems with this argument

1)the book of Mormon does not give specific geographical locations for any of their cities

2)The book of Mormon does not provide examples of nephite art for comparison

3)We don

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"Identify" it how? I feel like the place we call Tikal can be pretty confidently identified as "A Maya city that was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century," or "Not Cleveland, Ohio."

I mean know its ancient name. That is to say: You come to an ancient uninhabited ruin. You ask the modern people what is the name of that ruin. They say, "Tel Mardikh." The only way you can learn that its ancient name was Ebla is to discover a phoenitic inscription that gives the name (as they did at Tel Mardikh).

Thus, unless we are able to identify a large corpus of pre-400 AD Mesoamerican phonetic toponyms, how are we supposed to test the possibility of correlation of a particular site with a BOM name?

In point of fact, although we might be able to guess at the Maya pronunciation of some pre-400 typonyms, as far as I am aware, we KNOW the ancient pronunciation of precisely none of them. (And this is even if we ignore dialectical variations in Maya, assume the ancient Maya pronounced their words them same as post-conquest Maya, and assume that different linguistic groups in Mesoamerica all had the same names for cities, and assume that they pronounced the names the same, each of which is a dubious proposition.)

Thus, if we do not know the pre-400 AD names for ANY Mesoamerican site, how are we supposed to correlate them with BOM toponyms. It simply can't be done, and therefore it is not a meaningful test for BOM historicity. Yet despite these problems, this is one of the supposed proves of a non-historical BOM that is most loudly trumpeted by anti-Mormons.

Hence, my challenge, which, as yet, no one except A Random Catholic has engaged. (Thanks RC for actually sticking to the point.)

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If Athens disapeared for 1500 years would we need to see the word "Athens" written on the Parthenon to know it for what it is?

Actually, we would. We do not know the ancient names for the vast majority of ancient human settlements. This is especially true when there has been massive cultural and linguistic dislocation.

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Thus, if we do not know the pre-400 AD names for ANY Mesoamerican site, how are we supposed to correlate them with BOM toponyms? It simply can't be done, and therefore it is not a meaningful test for BOM historicity. Yet despite these problems, this is one of the supposed proofs of a non-historical BOM that is most loudly trumpeted by anti-Mormons.

Well, yeah, if anybody ever says, "I looked up 'Zarahemla' in an archaeology textbook and found nada, so the Book of Mormon is untrue," that's pretty whack. But conversely, if some interesting murals depicting those barges or whatever turn up at Santa Rosa and Brant Gardner categorically states, "Santa Rosa is Zarahemla," he'd be justifiably a little miffed if it was dismissed out of hand because there's no evidence that ancient Americans ever said or wrote a place-name pronounced "Zarahemla." Maybe I'm missing something, but toponyms should be a non-issue either way, no?

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A very few names are known, but I don't know how many of them can be assuredly dated to pre- A. D. 400. Interestingly enough, Tikal's real name is one of them. There is a phonetic glyph that renders the pronunciation Mutal. Palenque (later than the Book of Mormon) is Lakamha.

Of course that tells us what the phonetics are for the language of the location, not what someone else called it. I don't know Chinese at all, but I do know that Beijing and Peking are supposed to be the representation of the same sound. I can see the linguistic connections at the beginning and ending, but I don't know how to reconcile /j/ with /k/.

Quite apart from that issue is when the name is self-referencing as opposed to other-referenced. Then we have Santa Cruz del Quiche (Spanish), Utatlan (Nathuatl) and K'umarkaaj (Quiche) which are all the same city depending upon whose text you read.

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I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong, but place-names are among the last places you go when reconstructing dead languages. Ya wanna know what nouns stay the most constant for millenia across the spectrum of humanity? Numbers and body parts. Sorta interesting...

Isn't it possible that most of the sites where there could possibly be proof have already been destroyed or paved over? I mean who really cared about archaelogy in the 1800s and 1900s except maybe the english and egypt. In Arizona they have to petition the government to step in and protect certain Navajo indian sites or they just bulldozed over.

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Quite apart from that issue is when the name is self-referencing as opposed to other-referenced. Then we have Santa Cruz del Quiche (Spanish), Utatlan (Nathuatl) and K'umarkaaj (Quiche) which are all the same city depending upon whose text you read.

In Switzerland they frequently post three different names for the same town as German, French and Italian are all national languages (as is Romanish). So Grenchen is has Grenchen, Grange, and the Italian name (which I don't remember) on the sign. Neuchatel is also called Neuenburg (again, I don't remember the Italian.)

If you go to Germany and ask for Munich they may look at you a bit funny since the name of that city is Munchen.

Scott

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Along the same lines, I was once driving in Belgium, headed toward the French border. I kept looking for a sign to Lille, and there wasn't one. I was beginning to wonder if I had turned the wrong direction, but no, there was the sign to Kortrijk (Courtrais) on the left and Yperen (Ypres) on the right, but in front was yet another Flemish name (which I have now forgotten). Sure enough, it was actually Lille itself (and unrecognizably different)!

In China, the j and k represent a slip in modern Mandarin (from k to j) from a more archaic dialect that is still prevalent in the south.

Beowulf

Sorry I can't be of more assistance in Mayan phonetic shifts. :P

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I remember visiting Cyprus many years ago, when my wife and I were living in Egypt. As we drove from Larnaca Airport toward our hotel in the capital city of Nicosia, I kept looking to see how far we still had to drive. But all I could see was the distance, in kilometers, to a place called Lefkosia (in Greek characters, of course). It turns that Lefkosia is Nicosia, as the local Greek-speakers know it.

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My favorite example of silliness in place names, though, is in the United States, where the capital of South Dakota is pronounced in the local patois as a ONE-SYLLABLE word, rather than the two-syllable version known in France and elsewhere.

Beowulf

(You don't believe me? Tune in to a radio station from that town as you drive through, and listen to the DJs.)

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My favorite is the Yucutan peninsula.

As the story goes, when Francisco Hernandez came ashore, he was greeted by the local natives. He asked (in spanish, of course) what they called this land. The natives replied with something vaguely similar to "Yucutan," which, in their tongue, meant "I don't understand you."

No idea if that story is true. Saw it on PBS. Sure makes a great story, though, mmmm?

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