Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Terrible Destruction of Earthquakes and Floods

In 3 Nephi we learn of the terrible destruction of earthquakes and other natural phenomenon that took place in the Land of Promise at the time of the crucifixion.  
Many Theorists have made light of this event since it does not fit into their models and history. John L. Sorenson passes off the event by saying, “the wide geographical extent of the catastrophe and the drama of the violence notwithstanding, it was mainly the face of the land that was affected—the fundamental features of the landscape were not transformed” (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p 318). Yet, the scriptural record (3 Nephi 8 & 9) describe “many smooth places became rough…many great and notable cities were sunk [into the depths of the sea]…the face of the whole earth became deformed…rocks were rent in twain [and] were broken up upon the face of the whole earth…mountains covered cities…the whole face of the land was changed…the sea “came up” to cover many cities…hills and valleys replaced cities and towns which were buried in the earth,” and “many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and many places which are now valleys shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23), and “mountains tumbling into pieces, the plains of the earth were broken up” (1 Nephi 12:4)—all of this hardly agrees that “the fundamental features of the landscape were not transformed.” After all, the “fundamental features of the landscape” are mountains, valleys, rivers, seas, and these were all affected and transformed in the Land of Promise.
Sorenson (left) also writes (p319), “Moreover, basic geographical reference points, such as the narrow neck and pass, the Hill Cumorah/Ramah, and the River Sidon continued important and apparently unchanged.” However, we do not know all of this. As an example, the Narrow Neck of Land is never mentioned after this destruction, neither is the East Sea. We do not know if the River Sidon was affected in its course, or not, for only one mention of this river is made after this event and that was about the “war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon” (Mormon 1:10), no “Sidon River” is mentioned at all.
    The point is, the destruction, despite Theorists views to the opposite, seems to have made drastic changes in the land—so much so that the Lord himself draws attention to all the things that were done (3 Nephi 9:3-12)—that there is no question it took place. The extent of which was significant enough to involve three different writings: Nephi, son of Lehi; Helaman, quoting Samuel the Lamanite; Nephi, the Disciple, over a 600 year period.
LtoR: Michael D. Mosely, Dr. Dan Sandweiss; Dr. David Keefer, and Charles Ortloff
    So while the models submitted by various Theorists do not match such destruction, there is one place, at least, the description in 3 Nephi matches closely to actual events described to have taken place in Andean Peru around 1600 B.C. by a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, Guggenheim Fellow, and Research Associate at the Carnegie Museum, Dr. Michael E. Mosely, and several of his colleagues, which include Dan Sandweiss, the paper’s lead author and an anthropology professor and graduate dean at the University of Maine; David Keefer, a geologist and geoarchaeologist with the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine; and Charles Ortloff, Research Associate, Anthropology Department University of Chicago, and a consulting engineer who has spent the past three decades working in the Andes.
    As they stated, “First came the earthquakes, then the torrential rains. But the relentless march of sand across once fertile fields and bays, a process set in motion by the quakes and flooding, is probably what did in Americas earliest civilization.”
    So concludes these anthropologists regarding the demise of the coastal Peruvian people who built the earliest, largest structures in North, Central or South America before disappearing in the space of a few generations more than 3,600 years ago.
This maritime farming community had been successful for over 2,000 years, they had no incentive to change, and then all of a sudden, they were gone. Yet, these people of the Supe Valley along the central Peruvian coast had flourished in the arid desert plain adjacent to productive bays and estuaries. They fished with nets, irrigated fruit orchards, and grew cotton and a variety of vegetables, according to evidence in the region unearthed by Ruth Shady, a Peruvian archaeologist and co-author of the paper. As director of the Caral-Supe Special Archaeological Project, Shady currently has seven sites in the region under excavation.
Most impressively, the Supe built extremely large, elaborate, stone pyramid temples thousands of years before the better-known pyramids crafted by the Maya. The structures are impressive, and enormous monuments, the largest so far excavated, the Pirámide Mayor at inland settlement Caral, measured more than 550 feet long, nearly 500 feet wide and rose in a series of steps nearly 100 feet high. Walled courts, rooms and corridors covered the flat summit.
    The Supe people seemed to thrive in the valley for about 2,000 years. But around 3,600 years ago, an enormous earthquake Moseley estimates its magnitude at 8 or higher or series of earthquakes struck Caral and a nearby coastal settlement, Aspero, the archaeologist found. With two major plates scraping together not far offshore, the region remains one of the most seismically active in the world.
    The earthquake collapsed walls and floors atop the Pirámide Mayor and caused part of it to crumble into a landslide of rocks, mud and construction materials. Smaller temples at Aspero were also heavily damaged, and there was also significant flooding there, an event recorded in thin layers of silt unearthed by the archaeologists.
    But the flooding and temple physical destruction was just the dramatic opening scene in what proved to be a much more devastating series of events, Moseley said.
    The earthquake destabilized the barren mountain ranges surrounding the valley, sending massive amounts of debris crashing into the foothills. Subsequent storms brought huge rains, washing the debris into the ocean. There, a strong current flowing parallel to the shore re-deposited the sand and silt in the form of a large ridge known today as the Medio Mundo. The ridge sealed off the formerly rich coastal bays, which rapidly filled with sand.
The whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds” (3 Nephi 8:12; 10:14)
    Strong ever-present onshore winds resulted in massive sand sheets that blew inland on the constant, strong, onshore breeze and swamped the irrigation systems and agricultural fields, with the windblown sand blasting the site and making daily life all but impossible.
    What had for centuries been a productive, if arid, region became all but uninhabitable in the span of just a handful of generations. The Supe society withered and eventually collapsed, replaced only gradually later on—by societies that relied on the much more modern arts of pottery and weaving.

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