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While preparing the eleven maps for my father's (John L. Sorenson) soon to be available Mormon's Codex, the two of us have chatted about the value of a larger set of maps for Book of Mormon study. Currently, this is what the structure of the volume looks like:

Table of Contents

Preface

Chap. 01. Introduction (page 1)

Chap. 02. Travels in the Near East and across the Ocean (7)

Chap. 03. Internal Geography: Mormon’s Map (10)

Chap. 04. Correlating Mormon’s Map with the American Scene (13)

Chap. 05. Historical Geography, Nephi to Zarahemla (31)

Chap. 06. Historical Geography, Zarahemla Area (34)

Chap. 07. More Wars

Chap. 08. Nephite Involvement in the Land Northward

Chap. 09. The Great Destruction and Beyond

Chap. 10. Final Battles of the Nephites

Chap. 11. Jaredites, Old World, and New World Correlation

Chap. 12. Possible Route of Moroni2 from Battleground to New York

Figures [number sequence may change after placement]

01. West wilderness, looking up to Nephi (2303CT) (32)

02. Land of Nephi: V. of Guatemala panorama (Images, 195) (33)

03. Land of Shilom: San Antonio Frutal (Images, 195) (1509 GT) (33)

04. Lake Atitlan (Images, 198)(Gregory or Kasteler slide) (33)

05. Possible land of Helam: Aguacatan Valley (Photo, 1311) (33)

06. Greater land of Nephi (snapshot) (34)

07. Wilderness strip (Tacaná) (Images, 201)(photo ALTI 63)

08. East wilderness, smoky Chiapas highlands (Images, 192)

09. Land of Zarahemla, near Santa Rosa (Images, 192; photo)

10. Near headwaters of Sidon (photo)

11. Grijalva/Sidon panorama (AAS, 220)

12. Land of Melek (photo 220CT, Villa Flores)

13. Mirador valley (3025 photo or 2917 photo, Ammonihah)

14. West wilderness (photo 2505, or photo, Welch, west wilderness)

15. “Line”/Coatzacoalcos (Images, 202)

16. On the narrow pass (photo)

17. Land northward: dry panorama (ALTI A-116)

18. Cumorah: El Vigia, water (Images, 210)

19. Hill Cumorah: El Vigia (Images, 211)

20. Ripliancum: waters (photo, “Alvardo”)(AAS, 347)

Maps

Map 01. Lehi Party’s Trail through Arabia (7)

Map 02. Lehi Party’s Voyage (9)

Map 03. Mulek’s Voyage (9)

Map 04. Internal Map (12)

Map 05. Mesoamerica in General (14)

Map 06. Internal Map with Critical Features (16)

Map 07. Mesoamerica with Critical Features (16)

Map 08. The Maya/Mixe-Zoque Conflict Zone (26)

Map 09: Land of First Inheritance in Relation to the Land of Nephi (32)

Map 10: Lands of Nephi and Shilom and Adjacent Lamanite Area (32)

Map 11: From Nephi to Zarahemla: Alma’s Escape (34)

Map 12: Positions in and near Nephi, and Limhi’s Escape Route (34)

Map 13: Details of Sons of Mosiah Party’s Movements to and

among the Anti-Nephi-Lehi People and Their Escape (34)

Map 14: Details around Zarahemla at the Time of the Battle in Alma 1

(including Amnihu, land of Gideon, Minon, ford, etc., AAS, 154)

Map 15: Alma’s Mission Travels (Cf. AAS, 191)

Map 16: Attacks on Ammonihah

(Cf. in part AAS, 241)

Map 17: The Amalickiahite Wars, General Setting

(Cf. AAS, 241, including around in wilderness to Manti)

Map 18: The Morianton/Lehi Affair and Teancum’s Intercept

Map 19: East Sea Coast Lamanite Attacks

Map 20: The King Men Affair

Map 21: East Sea Coast Nephite Counterattacks

Map 22: Wars in the Manti-Antiparah Sector (Cf. in part AAS, 241)

Map 23: Coriantumr2’s Attack in the Center

Map 24: North Countries and Extent of Nephite Settlements

(Mark: Mormon’s home?; land Antum?, hill Shim?, way from Zarahemla, Hagoth
.
Cf. in part
Mormon’s Map
, 116)

Map 25: Gadianton Robber’s Siege

Map 26: Last Wars in the Land Southward (Cf. AAS, 339)

Map 27: Final Wars in the Land Northward (Cf. AAS, 339)

Map 28: Jaredites’ Mesopotamian Origin and Possible Route to the Ocean

Map 29: Possible Jaredite Route across the Ocean

Map 30: Possible Key Lands of the Jaredites (see Mormon's Codex appendix)

Map 31: King Omer and Ablom, and the City by the Narrow Neck

Map 32: Final Wars and Coriantumr2 Found by Mulekites

Map 33: Possible Route of Moroni2 from Battleground to New York

Edited by cursor
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Very interesting, I'll look forward to it.

Out of interest, how much evidence is there for the cities/locations on the maps? Especially the New Workd ones.

The old world mappings I've seen in the past have the most credibility because we have Jerusalem as a 'clean' starting point. If I wanted, I could walk the trail, go to a viable NHM location and two viable Bountifuls.

On the other hand, BoM maps are dependent on finding at least one viable point on the map to plot the rest from (eg Lehi's landing point, Zarahemla, the narrow neck, river Sidon).

How confident are you in the locations of cities listed? Are there any ancient city evidences in those locations already?

Some responses to critics by FAIR and others, when they claim we have little archaeological evidence is that a) only 5% of mesoamerica has been excavated/explored by archaeologists and b) we don't really know where to start digging to make a start on the 95%.

Would you go so far as to say that for someone interested in doing a dig that your maps are accurate enough to say 'X marks the spot?'

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While preparing the eleven maps for my father's (John L. Sorenson) soon to be available Mormon's Codex, the two of us have chatted about the value of a larger set of maps for Book of Mormon study. Currently, this is what the structure of the volume looks like:

Great. Maybe it can be declared authoritative by the First Presidency.

Jim

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I think this could be called a hypothesis or generalized theory into which data, when found, would be placed.

You know, kind of like evolution. ;)

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Great. Maybe it can be declared authoritative by the First Presidency.

Jim

Not likely- not because there is anything wrong with it- just that the FP wisely "declares" virtually no scientific or historic theories "authoritative". These things should be left open to future research as it happens.

I say virtually as a hedge, but I think the actual word should be NO theories.

But it all looks very promising to me!

Edited by mfbukowski
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I'm fairly certain that it might well see the approval of some/many of the Twelve, if not some of the First Presidency. They're certainly not at all agreed on the subject of Book of Mormon geography.

It took John L. Sorenson five plus years of nearly weekly classes at the Church Office building to gain approval for the dual issue Ensign publication of "Digging Into the Book of Mormon." [ref] Hey, "Line upon line, precept upon precept." 2NE28:30

Edited by cursor
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I'm fairly certain that it might well see the approval of some/many of the Twelve, if not some of the First Presidency. They're certainly not at all agreed on the subject of Book of Mormon geography.

Can you describe the different viewpoints that you are aware of?

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Out of interest, how much evidence is there for the cities/locations on the maps? BoM maps are dependent on finding at least one viable point on the map to plot the rest from (eg Lehi's landing point, Zarahemla, the narrow neck, river Sidon).

To reasonably correlate Book of Mormon geography with a real world map a complex set of internal spacial relationships needs to be defined, including distances, directions, elevation changes, geographic features, climate, etc. Only when that thorough study is complete does it make any sense to try to identify Zarahemla, the river Sidon, or the narrow neck of land.

In John L. Sorenson's The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book (1992), he does exhaustive geographical analyses of each of the relevant 600 verses of the scripture. That led to the publication of Mormon's Map (2000), which synthesized those materials to re-create the map that Mormon evidently had in his mind when he wrote and edited his book.

In the first draft of Mormon's Atlas, John L. Sorenson writes:

Since 1830, dozens of students have proposed scores of possible correlations between their highly selective readings of the book and the actual map of the Americas. Most Church authorities had been reluctant to take a position on the issue, while most readers of the volume had simply ignored the matter.

Only in the light of a systematic comparison of the geographical data in the text could the numerous map correlations that had been produced be evaluated reliably. My 1992 work listed over 300 criteria that logically should be used to judge the accuracy of any proposed geography. It turned out that only one limited area on the modern map
—part of southern Mexico and northern Central America--corresponds to Mormon’s map without exhibiting fatal flaws. That correlation was first presented in a limited way in
An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon.
It was modified slightly and
explained in some detail in chapters 4 and 7 of
Mormon’s Codex
.

Some placements of Book of Mormon sites on the modern map might yet change slightly in the light of further consideration, but what is presented in this atlas is the most accurate correlation I have come to after almost 65 years of thoughtful consideration of the scriptural text in terms of [the] discipline of geography. What I once considered merely a “plausible” Book of Mormon map upon further study has become “very probable.” This volume establishes that the particular area in Mesoamerica here designated as the lands of the Nephites can be prudently accepted as where that people acted out their history, while no other area qualifies.

How confident are you in the locations of cities listed? Are there any ancient city evidences in those locations already? Would you go so far as to say that for someone interested in doing a dig that your maps are accurate enough to say 'X marks the spot?'

As noted above, "some placements of Book of Mormon sites on the modern map might yet change slightly in the light of further consideration." On the other hand, a number of geographic assignments are "very probable."

Edited by cursor
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Would you go so far as to say that for someone interested in doing a dig that your maps are accurate enough to say 'X marks the spot?'

Preliminary Peek:

Chapter 1. Introduction

As a student of the Book of Mormon and of archaeology at Brigham Young University under Professor M. Wells Jakeman from 1949 to 1953 I learned that the question of that scripture’s geography was still unsettled. It had never been fixed by authoritative declaration from Church authorities, and by the mid-twentieth century it was not even something most people felt free to discuss. Periodically it had been a topic of interest to be quietly considered by hobbyists for over a century, but rocking the boat through overt discussion was quietly discouraged from Salt Lake City.

Most Latter-day Saint readers of the Nephite scripture at that time never
questioned the “obvious” folk tradition that Lehi’s descendants had settled throughout the entire New World and that the Nephites were exterminated in New York around AD 400. Some, perhaps most, supposed that the matter was settled by Joseph Smith, Jr. What I learned from Jakeman was that no such claim stood up; indeed, early church leaders actually held little-thought-out views on the geography that disagreed with each other. Jakeman made a convincing general argument that only some area within southern Mexico and northern Central America (that is, Mesoamerica) could qualify.

As BYU graduate students of archaeology in Huimanguillo, Tabasco, Mexico, in 1953 during the first field season of the embryonic New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF), Gareth Lowe and I spent many evening hours struggling to bring light to the obscure matter of Book of Mormon geography. Jakeman had taught us a version that satisfied him, but we found it unconvincing. Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson, the prime mover behind the private foundation, had persuaded three prominent Mesoamerican archaeologists (Alfred Kidder of the Carnegie Corporation, Gordon Willey of Harvard, and Gordon Ekholm of the American Museum of Natural History in New York) to support the NWAF as a way, Ferguson maintained to them, to bring new financial backing (from LDS donors), to fund research on “the origin of Mesoamerican civilization,” an issue of primary concern to them. They were willing to put up with the arms-length ‘contamination’ of a Mormon connection if it meant that funds came to hand for actual fieldwork conducted on scientific principles. Ferguson had concluded, along with Ph. D. historian Milton R. Hunter who was also an LDS Church general authority,
that the city of Zarahemla had been located in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, on the basis of their interpretation of native traditions. That area had been little examined by archaeologists, so the first NWAF project was planned in the hope of discovering there remains of “a major center of ancient American civilization.”

In short order our exploration of the area showed that there was no major center to be found. This made no particular difference to the non-LDS archaeologists involved, notably field director Dr. Pedro Armillas and graduate students Bill Sanders and Román Piña Chan (the latter two, along with Lowe, over the next half century would become premier Mesoamerican archaeologists). But Ferguson had little hope of obtaining new donor money for a second year if we did not get noteworthy results in the first season.

Our probing of the geography of the Book of Mormon led me to suggest to Ferguson that Zarahemla had a better chance of lying up-river in central Chiapas. Among efforts to find new locations that might rescue the season’s activities from obscurity, Ferguson and I spent 10 days scouting for sites in the upper basin of the Río Grijalva, one of the largest rivers of southern Mexico. We found numerous sites that over the following 50 years of investigation showed the presence of a previously unrecognized center of Mesoamerican civilization.

The NWAF spent decades excavating under private and LDS Church/BYU funding. The labors of their archaeologists (most of them non-Mormons) were explicitly carried out as contributions to science without reference to the Book of Mormon. They revealed what, I became convinced from the sidelines as it were, was the prime seat of ancient Nephite culture.

So the study of Book of Mormon geography had for me concrete meaning. Either the Foundation was going to work in an area that promised to contribute both to science and to the potential interests of Book of Mormon believers, or it would not. Up until then LDS interest in scriptural geography had had an other-worldly air about it, in which one lightly supported notion after another had been proposed speculatively on paper with almost no regard to facts on the ground. Until then Zarahemla might just as well have been in the Hobbits’ Middle-earth.

The 1953 exercise with Ferguson was based on only certain key passages in the scripture.
Edited by cursor
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I want to compare your atlas with Richard Hauck's findings.

I always had some criticisms of his work in my mind - chiefly around some of his directional assumptions. Nevertheless, one thing that I believe he contributed was the notion of a discernible geographic network in the Book of Mormon.

I am curious to see how well his work correlates to yours (plural).

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Preliminary Peek:

Chapter 1. Introduction

As a student of the Book of Mormon and of archaeology at Brigham Young University under Professor M. Wells Jakeman from 1949 to 1953 I learned that the question of that scripture’s geography was still unsettled. It had never been fixed by authoritative declaration from Church authorities, and by the mid-twentieth century it was not even something most people felt free to discuss. Periodically it had been a topic of interest to be quietly considered by hobbyists for over a century, but rocking the boat through overt discussion was quietly discouraged from Salt Lake City.

Most Latter-day Saint readers of the Nephite scripture at that time never
questioned the “obvious” folk tradition that Lehi’s descendants had settled throughout the entire New World and that the Nephites were exterminated in New York around AD 400. Some, perhaps most, supposed that the matter was settled by Joseph Smith, Jr. What I learned from Jakeman was that no such claim stood up; indeed, early church leaders actually held little-thought-out views on the geography that disagreed with each other. Jakeman made a convincing general argument that only some area within southern Mexico and northern Central America (that is, Mesoamerica) could qualify.

As BYU graduate students of archaeology in Huimanguillo, Tabasco, Mexico, in 1953 during the first field season of the embryonic New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF), Gareth Lowe and I spent many evening hours struggling to bring light to the obscure matter of Book of Mormon geography. Jakeman had taught us a version that satisfied him, but we found it unconvincing. Latter-day Saint Thomas Stuart Ferguson, the prime mover behind the private foundation, had persuaded three prominent Mesoamerican archaeologists (Alfred Kidder of the Carnegie Corporation, Gordon Willey of Harvard, and Gordon Ekholm of the American Museum of Natural History in New York) to support the NWAF as a way, Ferguson maintained to them, to bring new financial backing (from LDS donors), to fund research on “the origin of Mesoamerican civilization,” an issue of primary concern to them. They were willing to put up with the arms-length ‘contamination’ of a Mormon connection if it meant that funds came to hand for actual fieldwork conducted on scientific principles. Ferguson had concluded, along with Ph. D. historian Milton R. Hunter who was also an LDS Church general authority,
that the city of Zarahemla had been located in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, on the basis of their interpretation of native traditions. That area had been little examined by archaeologists, so the first NWAF project was planned in the hope of discovering there remains of “a major center of ancient American civilization.”

In short order our exploration of the area showed that there was no major center to be found. This made no particular difference to the non-LDS archaeologists involved, notably field director Dr. Pedro Armillas and graduate students Bill Sanders and Román Piña Chan (the latter two, along with Lowe, over the next half century would become premier Mesoamerican archaeologists). But Ferguson had little hope of obtaining new donor money for a second year if we did not get noteworthy results in the first season.

Our probing of the geography of the Book of Mormon led me to suggest to Ferguson that Zarahemla had a better chance of lying up-river in central Chiapas. Among efforts to find new locations that might rescue the season’s activities from obscurity, Ferguson and I spent 10 days scouting for sites in the upper basin of the Río Grijalva, one of the largest rivers of southern Mexico. We found numerous sites that over the following 50 years of investigation showed the presence of a previously unrecognized center of Mesoamerican civilization.

The NWAF spent decades excavating under private and LDS Church/BYU funding. The labors of their archaeologists (most of them non-Mormons) were explicitly carried out as contributions to science without reference to the Book of Mormon. They revealed what, I became convinced from the sidelines as it were, was the prime seat of ancient Nephite culture.

So the study of Book of Mormon geography had for me concrete meaning. Either the Foundation was going to work in an area that promised to contribute both to science and to the potential interests of Book of Mormon believers, or it would not. Up until then LDS interest in scriptural geography had had an other-worldly air about it, in which one lightly supported notion after another had been proposed speculatively on paper with almost no regard to facts on the ground. Until then Zarahemla might just as well have been in the Hobbits’ Middle-earth.

The 1953 exercise with Ferguson was based on only certain key passages in the scripture.

Well I'm hooked. When can we pre-order?

Fascinating background just in those few paragraphs.

I have question that was discussed a while ago that given your involvement with speculative mapping of the Book of Mormon I'd love your feedback on.

Do you think that, like the One Ring to continue your LOTR example, Zarahemla 'wants to be found?' She seems to be proving rather illusive so far.

Do you think God wants Zarahemla to be found? Conclusively found?

Have you and your Father, during your digging, writing and mapping felt the guidance of the spirit? You mentioned a time when your father was digging but felt Zarahemla was probably further up river. A historians hunch or the guidance of the Holy Ghost?

Have you, having completely the maps, first studied it out in your mind and then sought a spiritual witness or have you preferred to keep this a purely academic process?

Finally, given LDS members, BYU and (according to the intro) the LDS church (tithing or other funds?) have at different times funded this exploration, have you any view on why The Lord wouldn't simply send you to the exact 'real' point so the dig can be successful and provide enough evidence to help more than 0.5% of the world be interested in this amazing book.

As mentioned before, will Zarahemla ever be conclusively found, or do you think God wants it to remain in 'middle earth?'

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It's frankly not at all clear whether you (canard78) are looking for a serious response from me or not. Based on the full body of your post, it appears that you're simply being sarcastic when you say "Well I'm hooked. When can we pre-order?"

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It's frankly not at all clear whether you (canard78) are looking for a serious response from me or not. Based on the full body of your post, it appears that you're simply being sarcastic when you say "Well I'm hooked. When can we pre-order?"

He can speak for himself, but my guess is that he's serious and trying to keep an open mind. Plus, I don't think he's rude like that.
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It's frankly not at all clear whether you (canard78) are looking for a serious response from me or not. Based on the full body of your post, it appears that you're simply being sarcastic when you say "Well I'm hooked. When can we pre-order?"

As Tacenda correctly suggests, I was not bring sarcastic. I am genuinely interested in the BoM geography theories. I was not mocking them. I'm also interested in the evolution of thought and assumptions around BoM geography.

My questions after about whether Zarahemla 'wants to be found' were also genuine. The Book of Mormon is a rare book of scripture which is presented as fact, but 'beyond Bountiful' can not easily be placed on a map. Most other scripture either can (Bible) or is presented as myth (some of the Hindu texts).

So what I was interested to get your perspective of was whether you felt God guiding you in the process of exploration and mapping and whether you were confident enough in the maps to send a dig to the locations you've identified.

Edited by canard78
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From what I have read, I am of the opinion that a plausible candidate for Zarahemla has already been found. Some work was done there and it looked promising from several aspects, including correct time frame, correct position and location in relation to the river valley and river, correct direction of river flow from south to north past the ruins, evidence of two differing cultures living there at the same time (the Book of Mormon states that a people already were living in Zarahemla when the Nephites arrived, namely, the people of Zarahemla), and, if I recall correctly, a burn layer and volcanic ash dating to c. 32-34 CE. Unfortunately, any attempt at doing further archaeology there would be prohibitively expensive as the entire river valley where the candidate was found now is under hundreds of feet of water in what is now a major reservoir. Good luck getting the Mexican government to drain it to allow further archaeological research there.

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From what I have read, I am of the opinion that a plausible candidate for Zarahemla has already been found. Some work was done there and it looked promising from several aspects, including correct time frame, correct position and location in relation to the river valley and river, correct direction of river flow from south to north past the ruins, evidence of two differing cultures living there at the same time (the Book of Mormon states that a people already were living in Zarahemla when the Nephites arrived, namely, the people of Zarahemla), and, if I recall correctly, a burn layer and volcanic ash dating to c. 32-34 CE. Unfortunately, any attempt at doing further archaeology there would be prohibitively expensive as the entire river valley where the candidate was found now is under hundreds of feet of water in what is now a major reservoir. Good luck getting the Mexican government to drain it to allow further archaeological research there.

I guess finding a Zarahemla would be entirely dependent on having an idea what to look for. I'm guessing a sign saying 'Here be Zarahemla' is expecting too much :)

The dual cultures is an interesting one. I'd not considered that. Regarding the burn layer/volcanic ash layer dating to 32-34AD. Again, interesting stuff, but wasn't Zarahemla rebuilt?

"8 Yea, even that great city Zarahemla did they cause to be built again. (Book of Mormon, 4 Nephi, 4 Nephi 1)" and was still inhabited around 400AD (Mormon 1:6). Are you saying that there's a city on a city? Ash under the new city?

Or was New Zarahemla like New York? Similar name but built elsewhere? 4 Nep 1:9 would suggest not. It specifically mentions the cities they were not able to rebuild as the 'original' were submerged. So would it be fair to presume New Zarahemla was the same location as Old Zarahemla?

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I guess finding a Zarahemla would be entirely dependent on having an idea what to look for. I'm guessing a sign saying 'Here be Zarahemla' is expecting too much :)

The dual cultures is an interesting one. I'd not considered that. Regarding the burn layer/volcanic ash layer dating to 32-34AD. Again, interesting stuff, but wasn't Zarahemla rebuilt?

"8 Yea, even that great city Zarahemla did they cause to be built again. (Book of Mormon, 4 Nephi, 4 Nephi 1)" and was still inhabited around 400AD (Mormon 1:6). Are you saying that there's a city on a city? Ash under the new city?

Or was New Zarahemla like New York? Similar name but built elsewhere? 4 Nep 1:9 would suggest not. It specifically mentions the cities they were not able to rebuild as the 'original' were submerged. So would it be fair to presume New Zarahemla was the same location as Old Zarahemla?

In ancient times, particularly in Palestine, peoples built over-top of the previous ruins. That is how tells came to be in Palestine. When a city was destroyed, they would build anew over the remains. This is also the case with cultures in Mesoamerica.

Another practice in Mesoamerica was to build over the cities and structures of your enemies and even predecessors deliberately. One example of this can be seen in the Maya city where Yax K'uk Mo' was buried (memory fails of the name at the moment). Each tomb was built over the tomb of a predecessor. Most interesting is that Yax K'uk Mo' wasn't even a native of the city in which he came to rule. He had superior weapons technology and fighting skills, and came from far to the north of the Maya city he came to rule. The king ruling the city was quick to marry off his daughter to the stranger, and the stranger came to rule. It reminds me of one of the first reactions of the king when Ammon moved into the area. The first thing Lamoni did was to offer his daughter in marriage when Ammon announced that he wanted to stay among them, and perhaps die there.

Other examples of such building over of previous structures have been found in places as remote as Teotihuacan. In one of the pyramidal structures of that city a permit was granted to dig into the structure. As many as three cultures were there, one built over the other in succession. These were the culture present in Teotihuacan, one beneath that had connections with the Maya, and yet another one they at the time could not identify some years back, each built completely over the other. If this is the case with many other cities in Mesoamerica, finding Book of Mormon cities is going to be a very difficult proposition, as I think we can imagine. It is highly doubtful that the government of Mexico will allow digging up the ruins of the various cities to find stuff beneath. Their current sites are tourist attractions that they will not allow to be destroyed. Digging beneath and restoring what you dig after finding things is tedious, difficult, and expensive work. There just isn't enough funding for stuff like that.

There also are interesting parallels between the Book of Mormon Lamanites and the early, Pre-Classic Maya, such as their kingship structure. There were cities and groups of cities that were ruled over by kings, and these kings had ruling over them a Great King who ruled over them all. We find this same Mesoamerican kingship structure among the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon, as you will recall from the example of Lamoni and his father. He is a king over the city and land where he dwells, he is a friend to the king of a neighboring land, and both of these are ruled over by yet another king, who also happens to be Lamoni's father. All of this you may read in Alma 20.

Now, that is not to say that the Lamanites were early Maya. That is something that is unknown and may not be the case, but it is interesting that Mesoamerican kingship structure can be seen in the Book of Mormon, top say the least. And so it goes with the proposed candidate for Zarahemla. We may never know for a certainty but it sure looks right, based upon the limited data that was acquired in early survey digs of the area before the entire river valley was flooded as a result of damming of sections of the Grijalva River.

Edited by MormonMason
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From what I have read, I am of the opinion that a plausible candidate for Zarahemla has already been found. Some work was done there and it looked promising from several aspects, including correct time frame, correct position and location in relation to the river valley and river, correct direction of river flow from south to north past the ruins, evidence of two differing cultures living there at the same time (the Book of Mormon states that a people already were living in Zarahemla when the Nephites arrived, namely, the people of Zarahemla), and, if I recall correctly, a burn layer and volcanic ash dating to c. 32-34 CE. Unfortunately, any attempt at doing further archaeology there would be prohibitively expensive as the entire river valley where the candidate was found now is under hundreds of feet of water in what is now a major reservoir. Good luck getting the Mexican government to drain it to allow further archaeological research there.

I believe that you're referring to Santa Rosa, on the south side of the Rio Grijalva (running through the central depression of the state of Chiapas, Mexico)—Google-Earth it at 16° 6'48.08"N, 92°33'32.53"W. That is one of the sites located by my father in that initial NWAF project in 1953, and the one that he identifies as "very likely" being the Nephite city of Zarahemla (first settled by the people of Mulek, one of the sons Jerusalem's king Zedekiah). As noted, the ruins are now under water—the reservoir created by the Angostura dam—Google Earth it at 16°24′06″N, 92°46′43″W.

The archaeological site known forty years ago as Santa Rosa, which sat beside the Grijalva River in the Mexican state of Chiapas (the ruin now lies beneath waters impounded by a large dam), meets all the geographical requirements for the Nephite city of Zarahemla. Test excavations in a limited portion of Santa Rosa were made in 1958. An exact chronology and full picture of life there could not be determined in detail, but it was concluded that a "tremendous amount of building activity" likely took place in about the first century BC. In addition to earthen mound foundations up to more than 40 feet high, a huge platform built in the center of the place measured over 150 feet wide by 180 feet long and 22 feet high; this platform lay directly on the center line through the site. Presumably, various public buildings had once been built on top of the giant platform, although no search was made for evidence of such structures. At some point, likely in the first century BC (approximately when Mosiah2 was alive), this platform was newly covered with a layer of gravel, and a plaster floor was laid over that. The gravel on either side of a line that ran exactly through the middle of this "temple" was found to be of distinct composition, half from one geological source, the other half of a different origin. The excavator suggested that the divided floor "may be taken to imply two separate groups, each working on its section" in a ceremonial context. The surrounding residential area was also divided into two sections that were separated along an extension of the line between the gravels. The archaeologist involved thought that a division of the community into two social groups had prevailed and that the gravel laying had been a ceremonial act acknowledging the social separation.

This dual pattern recalls the situation in the city of Zarahemla at the time of King Mosiah2 when his subjects, who spoke two different languages, assembled to hear him—"all the people of Nephi . . . , and also all the people of Zarahemla, and they were gathered together in two bodies" (Mosiah 25:4). At the least, Santa Rosa provides an example of the type of ethnically or linguistically divided Mesoamerican community reflected in Mosiah 25:4, whether or not it was the actual scene of the historical event reported there.

__________

John L. Sorenson

Excerpted from "How Could Joseph Smith Write So Accurately about Ancient American Civilization?"

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