Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nephite City Structure

A few different Andean sites dating to prehistoric B.C. times (above). When comparing the various Andean culture sites as we have done over the past many posts, we get an idea of how archaeologists and anthropologists try to determine these different and various prehistoric cultures. At the same time, we should take a look at how Mormon (the scriptural record) describes the ancient Nephite cities.
    First of all, cities occupy area in one of three ways: 1) sprawling for miles where one city runs into another city with no obvious boundaries other than a sign; 2) covering a small area within a valley where boundaries are obvious, or 3) settlements so small you could miss them if you do not look closely.
Top: The Los Angeles area of Southern California, where the city itself is divided into more than 80 separate districts and neighborhoods, covering an area of 502 square miles, extending for 44 miles longitudinally and for 29 miles latitudinally, holding 3,884,307 people; Middle: Cedar City, Utah, with a population of 29,162 and covering 20 square miles, with very obvious boundaries as the city is surrounded by open areas; Bottom: Nestled at the foot of a hillside, the town of Cannonville, in Garfield County, Utah, covering 1.2 square miles with a population of 163
    The problem is that when we start deciding upon where Nephite cities were located, we also start thinking of what they looked like, their size, and how large or small they must have been. Depending upon where we grew up and where we live, often depends on how we see towns or cities. As an example, I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where there are few noticeable boundaries between cities. You could drive for a couple of hours in just about any direction and never seem to leave the city, though you might have crossed half a dozen city boundaries.
    On the other hand, I spent most of the past fifteen years in Cedar City, Utah, where you can drive for about fifteen minutes in any direction and be out of the city limit and into the open lands where there is little or no housing or buildings. Then there is the mountainous areas of inland Peru, where you go from valley to valley, crossing over hills or mountains that separate populations, and it might take thirty minutes or an hour to cross open land before entering another populated area.
In Peru, the central highlands are filled with one valley after another because of the cross-hatching, or step ladder effect, of the north-south Cordilleras and east-west cross mountains. In travel, you are continually going “over” hills and mountains and “toward” another valley as Mormon describes
    In fact, the word “borders” is used 52 times in Alma alone, describing the differences between areas within the regions of the Land of Nephi or the Land of Zarahemla, etc. These borders were distinct enough and separated sufficiently that in Alma, the usage of the term “crossing over” from one land to another is used 25 times; taking a “journey over” into the land, city or a location is mentioned 23 times; and a “journey toward” the land, city or a location is mentioned 76 times--all describing the type of land we find in Andean Peru.
    This should suggest that the type of land that exists in Andean Peru, where three or more distinct cordilleras run the length of the land and numerous hills and mountains cross those cordilleras, creating separate and distinct valleys throughout Andean Peru would lead to such language, gives us a picture of the wordage and purpose of Mormon’s descriptions.

    In addition, these separate cities and towns were often distinct from one another. As an example, when Alma left Zarahemla with Ammon, Aaron and Omner, along with two of his sons and Amulek and Zeezrom, they traveled to the city of the Zoramites, who “were dissenters from the Nephites” (Alma 31:8) and “had fallen into great errors,” because of the way they worshipped.
These Zoramites had built synagogues in which they worshipped on top of a tall, narrow stand they called Rameumptom after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld and found astonishing beyond all measure.
    Then, too, there were distinct classes in some of these cities and towns, such as with those Zoramites who were “poor in heart because of their poverty” (Alma 32:4), and had been cast out of their synagogues by the priests and had no place to worship (Alma 32:5); or in the case of the Zoramites who had been welcomed by the Ammonites who were moved with compassion and the Nephites gave the Land of Jershon to the repentant and converted Lamanites (Alma 17:22-23).
    Obviously, an extremely poor people living in poverty would not have the nicest ceramics with the newest designs, and it should not be expected to find such handiwork among such cities and locations. Nor might we expect to find normal crafts and records within the middens when a people had been at war for nine straight years or more. And what about the apostate Amulonites and Amalekites, who defected to the Lamanites and brought with them their art, ceramics, etc., and spread them among classes of people who probably did not have those objects. In addition, warring peoples are less likely to be concerned about modern designs and artwork other than to show their triumphs, but the losers do not even do that.
The point is, when archaeologists and anthropologists use ceramics as the basis for their judging and interpreting a people, they need to understand the different classes of the people being discussed and the problems of those people among themselves and with others. After all, Nephite warfare was not singular to the Lamanites—the people in Morianton claimed part of the land of Lehi and a “warm contention between them” sprung up, requiring those of the city of Lehi to flee from their lands and into the camp of Moroni (Alma 50:26); the king-men were desirous in overthrowing the free Nephite government, and refused to stand against the attacking Lamanite army (Alma 51:13); and what about when Amulon taught the Lamanites the Nephite language and how to write and keep records (Mosiah 24:7); or what about when the Lamanites overran the Nephite lands after Mosiah fled from the City of Nephi?
    In all these and many other cases, the normal development of the Nephites, their buying and selling, trading and making of products, ceramics, textiles, metalworking, etc., would have been hampered to some degree—perhaps considerably. Any and all of this would have had some effect on what they left behind for archaeologists to find and then interpret in their normal, simple, progressive, diffusion of development manner. 
    And what about the 200 years history of when there were no “ites,” that is, when everyone was the same, there were no poor among them, and the Nephites experienced what has been loosely called their “golden period.” As the disciple Nephi described it, “in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (4 Nephi 1:2-3).
Certainly such a period would have left a very different mark upon the land in terms of their art, textiles, ceramics, metalworks, etc., no doubt with considerable overlapping in far distant areas, and among what were different groups of people. It should also be understood that during the period preceding this of the destruction of the land, where many cities were sunk in the seas or covered by earth, hills and mountains, that there would have been a period of these occupational areas where suddenly, without warning, the populations disappeared without apparent reason, and there would have been a void of no ceramics found, either displaced elsewhere from flood waters, encroaching seas, or developing hillsides and mountains, or buried so deep they have not yet been found.
    Two hundred years after the appearance of the Savior to the Nephites, “there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world” (4 Nephi 1:24). No doubt there were those whose pride drove them to create new, different and costly ceramics, textiles and metallurgy that were unlike what had been designed and made earlier, or by other classes as these distinctions became more and more apparent.
    Once again, the point is that archaeology and anthropology have no way of judging such sudden changes or bringing them into their cannon of accepted and “normal” development tenets. The interesting thing about Andean Peru, such differences, changes, sudden disappearance and appearance of new and different techniques, in the making of ceramics, textiles, and metalworks, tends to be the norm rather than the exception—which has caused quite a stir in the work found along the coastal areas and highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. However, without the Book of Mormon, there simply is no way to accurately evaluate and interpret such findings and data as that, which has been uncovered.

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