Friday, February 6, 2015

How Many Died?

It is interesting, and probably of import, to recognize that in the entire Lehi record of their travels from Jerusalem to Bountiful along the shore of Irreantum, only one fatality is recorded, and not a single injury even mentioned. Considering the number in Lehi’s party, somewhere between 50 and 70 people, only one death is remarkable considering the description of the suffering over this eight year period crossing about 1900 miles. 
    It is also interesting that in the entire Jaredite record, covering some 1650 miles (4000 miles on Nibley's eastern route), there is not a single fatality mentioned, nor any illness or injury listed. Whether or not some occurred and were not recorded, we are not told; however, it is unlikely that anything major occurred and was left unstated. After all, Nephite deprivation, near starvation (1 Nephi 16:35) and great suffering (1 Nephi 17:5) during their eight year trek to the seashore is recorded with particular emphasis, as is the death of Ishmael (1 Nephi 16:34) and the great mourning over it (1 Nephi 16:35).
    Consider such problems as exposure and temperature that existed across the eastern route Nibley and others have suggested the Jaredites took. First of all, these people grew up and lived in Mesopotamia, an area through ancient climate analysis, scientists have determined had the climate and temperatures anciently as is found in the region today—hot and dry summers coupled with cool and wet winters, with summers temperatures ranging between 70 to 85 degrees and winter temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees.
     However, the mountains they would have had to cross to get to the Steppes from Mesopotamia runs for 932 miles along the entire length of the southwestern Iranian plateau, making up the entire northwest to southeast running northern boundary of Mesopotamia.
Zargos Mountains to the north and northeast of Mesopotamia with perennial snow-topped mountains and below zero temperatures
     Yet, crossing the mountains to the north of Mesopotamia, where passes are full of snow year round and temperatures drop below -13º F. during snowy, cold winters that are classed as severe, would have presented very difficult travel. These mountains, often running up and down from near sea level to over 7000 feet in a series of ranges requiring continual movement up and down over and over again for hundreds of miles, make the distance over them three to four times as long.
Yellow Area: Zargos Mountains. North of the Zargos are the Elburz Mountains. Note the depth of the Zargos between the Caspian and Mesopotama—a distance of about 500 miles
     Moving about 100 to 125 people, including men, women, children and babies, across these snow-covered mountain passes, covering an overall distance of between 1500 and 2000 miles in actual up and down travel, through several nights of below zero temperatures, seems something the brother of Jared might have written about, not to mention how many people would have died on such a journey in temperatures completely outside their experiences.
Note the row after row of parallel ridge lines of the Zargos Mountains. Crossing them is moving up six thousand feet and down six thousand feet over and over again across several hundred miles distance

To get across these mountains today, huge tunnels have been dug for miles along the Saveh-Hamadan Freeway between Baghdad and Tehran
     Beyond these mountains are the Steppes, and beyond the Steppes along this eastern route are a series of very tall mountains ranges that stretch from northern Mongolia down through China and Tibet. In looking at these high mountains, which have very few passes that date before man’s building roads through them, suggests little possibility of families in large numbers crossing without serious health results, including several deaths. Even today, people die crossing these 14,000 feet mountains on foot, where passes exist no lower than 6000 to 8000 feet, which is far above the snow line (for more information see the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica)
Top: Map of the Steppes east of the Caspian Sea. Note how the entire right side of the map through three countries is a mask of mountains; Middle and Bottom: These mountains are almost endless in their series of never ending continuous ridges where very few passes exist
     By comparison, take a look at the results of the pioneer movement across the early United States, covering distances of 1000 miles from Far West to Salt Lake City, or about 1500 miles into Oregon or California.
     First of all, a lack of recorded information prevents us from ever knowing exactly how many died; however, estimates of deaths of the Latter-day Saints who gathered to the Salt Lake Valley and those who died en route has motivated historians—past and present—to search available journals, newspapers, and other sources to learn of the fatalities. Secondly, the death rate for all pioneers going to Oregon and California has been established at between four and six percent. Thirdly, the Mormon pioneer rate overall has been figured below that level, at about 3.2%.
     Unfortunately, the first two years of the migration, from 1846 to 1848, the Mormon pioneers experienced far higher rates than later.
     As an example, though the major distance of the trail was across the level plains of the Midwest—Iowa, Nebraska, and southern Wyoming, in most cases, mountains were not encountered until entering the northwest corner of Utah and the Uinta Mountains, which at that point, were only about 3000-feet above the level of land over which they traveled (Evanston, Wyoming at 6,750 feet, and the pass through Little Emigration Canyon at under the peak range of 9764-feet).
Top: A Mormon pioneer wagon train crossing into Wyoming; Bottom: One of the handcart companies starting out
     Yet, the death rate of exposure, cold weather and deprivation is estimated at between 4,200 and 5000 who died on the pioneer trail to Salt Lake. It is also estimated that between 295 and 385 pioneers died just crossing Iowa in 1846; of the 70,000 pioneers that entered salt Lake Valley from 1847 to 1869, upwards of 2500 or more deaths occurred.
     It is estimated that between 252 and 340 died in 10 handcart companies, about 20 to 27% of the Willie and Martin handcart companies died of the one thousand pioneers to start, while about 2.5 to 3.2% died in the other eight handcart companies combined, which included 2000 pioneers to start. Between 800 and 1100 are believed to have died in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, during 1846-1848 winters; where 370 graves have been identified by name, with another 400 to 573 deaths estimated. Among the more hardy Mormon Battalion, 33 died on the 1900-mile march from Iowa, which included enlistees, teamsters, wives and infants.
     The point is, while these early pioneers, a generation considered far more hardy than our present generations, lost many lives in their 1000-mile trek from Far West to Salt Lake City, and much has been written about the death toll and cost in human suffering, not a single word has come down to us regarding any casualties or even suffering on the Jaredite journey, which some claim was four times as long (not counting the ocean voyage). Based on the record and a comparison with the early Mormon pioneers crossing a far lesser distance, one can only wonder at the eastern trek some Theorists want to place upon the Jaredites. It seems far more likely they came through much the same type of land and weather that the Lehi colony traveled, than the extreme temperature swings of -30º F. to 122º F. in a single day through the Steppes route.

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