Saturday, July 12, 2014

Questions I Would Like to Ask – Part III

Using strictly the scriptures, I would like to ask the following questions of those many Theorists who claim their pet theories about the location of the Land of Promise are consistent with the scriptural record. 
    The third question is directed to Joseph Allen, who has written extensively about, and conducts tours to, his Mesoamerican Land of Promise:
    3. “What makes you think that when Mormon describes a Nephite crossing his narrow neck of land in a day and a half that your Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica, at 130 to 144 miles in width, qualifies as Mormon’s narrow neck of land?”
    First, to help his future reader understand the distance or width of the narrow neck of land which separated the Land Northward from the Land Southward, Mormon tell us that “it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32).
    Second, the movement of a Nephite, or common man, over terrain is fairly well understood, both in ancient Israel as it is today. A man can walk for an extended time (several straight hours) at a pace of about 1.5 to 2 miles per hour over even, unobstructed terrain, such as along a road or hard-baked dirt path.
A satellite photo of the Isthmus of Tehuantpec. Note that the northern ¾ of the width is dark green representing swampy, solid jungle; the southern ¼ is brown, showing the hills and mountains of the Sierra Madre and the Chivela Pass
    Third, topography from coast to coast through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is blocked by the Sierra Madre Mountains, with crest heights of 6561to 9842 feet extending southward and eastward through Mexico and Central America and represent the most prominent geographic feature of the region—this mountain range separates the Gulf of Mexico, Bay of Campeche, and Caribbean Sea from the Pacific Ocean. The only way through is the Chivela Pass—a 136-mile long, 24-mile wide gap—the terrain in this gap has a maximum elevation of 820-feet with peaks to its west reaching 6561 feet, and those to the east approaching 4921 feet.
    Fourth, the topography over this Chivela Pass is not level, but natural hilly and mountainous, making any foot traffic difficult and slow. Once through the Pass heading south to north, one then encounters about 100 miles of swampy jungle, making foot traffic extremely difficult.
Ruins dating to 1300 A.D. in the Tehuantepec Gap. Note the rough hilly topography along the southern side while the northern side is swampy and densely covered with jungle
    Fifth, for the territory of the small or narrow neck of land to have been identified in Nephite times, it would have had to have been noticeable from ground level and understood. One of the key words would be “small,” or “narrow,” which the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is so obviously not.
Top: a modern image of the Isthmus—even today it is barely noticeable and little more than a slight narrowing of the land; Bottom: in this 1736 map of Central America and the West Indies—before satellite photos and aerial photography, this map was drawn from sailing vessels in the area. The so-called Isthmus of Tehuantepec was unknown and is unnoticed in this map
    Sixth, this Chivela Pass is the only gap through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Two other low-level gaps exist, one in Honduras and the other in Panama, so this would be the only area where a person (a Nephite) could take his journey across this area. In the late 1800s, a railway was built across it covering 130 miles from coast to coast, but later a more sturdy and successful railway was built, covering 191 miles.
    Seventh, violent, gap winds flow through this area, called the gap outflow and named tehuantepecer or tehuano, and this cold, dense air can reach such velocity (as much as 100 mph) that they sandblast the paint off ships out to sea, and have been noted as much as 1000 miles away. These winds can reach gale, storm and hurricane force, influencing the formation of hurricanes and typhoons.
The Tehuantepecer crossing the Isthmus of Tehuantepec through the Chivela Pass. The green lines show the force of this violent north wind, provided by the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB) of the National Hurricane Center
    So once again, we ask the question, “How on earth could a common man (a Nephite) journey across this Isthmus of Tehuantepec through the Chivela Pass, over enormously uneven ground, through swamps and jungle, in a day and a half as Mormon describes?"

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