Friday, December 26, 2014

Jatredite Direction of Travel – Part III – The Route the Jaredites Took

In the first of these three posts, we discussed the impossibility of the Jaredite party traveling out of the Valley of Nimrod to the north, northeast, west, south or southwest, leaving the only possible means of travel to the northwest or the southeast. In the second post, we discussed the route to the northwest and how there would have been no area of “many waters” to have crossed on their way to the Mediterranean.
     It should also be noted that had the Jaredites left in the Mediterranean, there would not have been winds blowing constantly toward the Land of Promise, though Columbus proved such a path was possible, but that would have required considerable maneuvering of the bargest in the sea, and that route would have resulted in a landing on the east, where the scriptural record suggests a landing in the west.
    That leaves a more likely route, and the only one consistent with the scriptural record, out of the Valley of Nimrod to the southeast. That is, southward down in the direction of the Persian Sea (Persian Gulf).
2. . Southeast, traveling down the land east of the Tigris River toward the eddies and wetlands making up the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In this direction, traveling in the wilderness to the north of the Tigris River, there would have been little or no settlements along the dry land and desert base of the Zagros Mountains as all settlements would have been closer to the river in the fertile land along the waterways of the Tigris and the Euphrates (Mesopotamia was and is that land between the rivers).
    This Mesopotamian Valley is hemmed in on the east by the Zagros Mountains of Iran and on the west by the vast Arabian Desert. To the north, the valley opens up into the wide Syrian plains. In Northern Mesopotamia, the channels of the rivers have cut deep into the limestone riverbeds and the course of the rivers has remained unchanged throughout antiquity. Fifteen hundred years after the Jaredites, when the Israelites had been taken captive into Babylon, the Psalmist would sing a lament remembrance of Zion while being by the "Rivers of Babylon” (Psalm 137:1).
    In Southern Mesopotamia, the Euphrates and Tigris, along with their tributaries, had carried a great deal of sediment down along their courses for centuries by Jaredite times, often overrunning the banks in times of flooding, changing the entire course of the rivers. And in the time of the Jaredites, the area of the mouth (then further inland than at present) was a vast wetland marsh, now the largest in the entire Middle East, but anciently the largest in Western Eurasia, where wild wheat and pulse species existed that were easily domesticated for early societies (Robert W. Brown, Ancient civilizations to 300 BC Introduction: The Invention and Diffusion of Civilization, 2006).
The Mesopotamian Marshes, the wetlands of the mouth of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers off the Persian Gulf, at one time covered 7,700 square miles, were even larger anciently—the entire area can only be reached by boat. Bottom: Before Saddam Hussein drained much of these marshes, isolated huts sprinkled the marshes where Marsh Arabs had made it their home
    While most of the marshland is located in the delta between the present Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (though anciently existed in a far larger area at this mouth), they extend to the north of the Tigris along the Persian Gulf, now referred to as the Hammar and Hawizeh Marshes, though anciently they were all a solid wetland marsh area that extended to the Gulf—today, the Shatt al-Arab (Coast of the Arabs), or Arvand Rud, a river formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, flows through this area of deposited silt from the major rivers, and empties into the Gulf.
Tigris River (blue) at top center, Euphrates River (blue) at bottom, with the Hawizeh Marsh to the right (northeast), and Hammar Marshes at the bottom (south). The yellow line is the border between Iraq (left) and Iran (right). The Persian Gulf is to the bottom right beyond the image
    The Jaredites, coming down along the wilderness between the Zagros Mountains and the Tigris, came to this marshland, which can only be crossed by some type of boat or raft. Here the Lord commanded them to build barges in which they crossed these “many waters” of the marshes, containing lakes, rivers, ponds, swamp, and wetlands, a distance of about 200 miles, bounded on the north by mountains, the east by the Persian Gulf, and the south by the marshes and the extensive desert beyond.
Recently, the marshes were inhabited by Marsh Arabs, mostly discontents and fugitives from the once-powerful Saddam Hussein and the government of Iraq, who have made the marshes a way of life. They fish and gather reeds to build their houses on plots of dry ground, and move about the seemingly endless marshes in small boats or rafts
    The Jaredites built barges (a flat-bottomed vessel of burden) to carry themselves and their animals, birds, fish, bees and supplies through and across these marshes, which are made up of a series of interconnected and permanent, lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes, swamps, and bogs. Once across, they passed by the western end of the Persian Sea (Persian Gulf), which the Lord commanded them not to stop at or beyond, but to continue their journey (Ether 2:7).
When the Jaredites would have seen the Persian Gulf after crossing the many waters of the Mesopotamia Marshland, it would have looked like the Sea—a large ocean; no doubt the reason it was called the Persian Sea anciently
    Had the Jaredites continued on down the Persian Gulf coast the party would have encountered the Wahiba (Sharqiya) Sands, a 110-mile by 50-mile mega-ridge sand system desert in eastern Oman, which was formed as a result of the southwest blowing monsoon and the northern shamal (wind) trade wind that blows from the east, which creates severe sandstorms. 
Top: The Wahiba Sands, lying to the east of the trade route to Salalah; Bottom: The Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter) lying to the west. Without water oases, both are impassable
    It would have been foolish for any caravan to have traveled in this direction, thus, the trade route angled almost due south once past the Gulf of Bahrain, an area that once was part of the ancient civilization of Dilmun and served anciently as an important link in trade routes between Sumeria and the Indus Valley.
When the Jaredites reached the area of present-day Qatar, they turned south (6) along the Dilmun trade route toward the Sea of Arabia (8), thus avoiding the Wahiba Sands to the east and crossed the Rub' al Khali desert following the line of wells and oases 
    While most people look at a map and see this area an extensive barren desert, there has always been a trail or “road” down from Mesopotamia along the shores and slightly inland from the Gulf where water (oases) are plentiful and travel is comparatively simple on level ground for approximately 400 miles (close to what is now highway 95) before the trail turns more south beyond the Gulf of Bahrain the Dawhhat Salwa Inlet along the Al-Jafurah (near present day Qatar), a little to the east of present-day highway 75--simple, but not easy. As Nephi would later write of this desert: "And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness."
    This ancient trade route moved between the Wahiba (Sharqiya) Sands to the east and the more impassable central area of the Rub’ al Khali (the desert region of Dhofar called the Empty Quarter) to the west on a near-direct route to Salalah, the heart of the ancient trade route, picking up the Frankincense Trail from the west where it entered through the Qara Mountains. This trail was anciently considered to be the most important commercial route throughout southern Arabia
The Frankincense Trail through the Qara Mountains and into Salalah; Top Left: Coming off the desert into the mountains; Top Right Passing through the mountains—note the Sea of Arabia in the background; Bottom Left: Coming out of the mountains on on the Salalah side; Bottom Right: Following the river canyon into Salalah
The Boswellia (Frankincense) tree, which produces a heavenly fragrance that was considered to be Arabia’s most precious commodity, rivaling gold, silk and gems in value that spawned a vital trade route that for centuries extended from Southern Arabia into West Africa, India and north into Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean
(See the next post, “Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part IV,” for the Jaredites reaching the Great Sea)

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