Friday, March 25, 2016

Did the Nephites Have the Wheel—What Happened to the Nephite Evidences? – Part I

Several of our readers have asked about there being no wheel or evidence of wheels found in use in the Americas before the Spanish arrived, so how can we justify the idea of chariots, etc. in the Book of Mormon. 
The Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more; and great has been their fall; yea, great and marvelous is the destruction of my people, the Nephites
    It is interesting how this idea of there never having been the wheel in Peru got started. Just because the Indians, 1000 years after the demise of the Nephite Nation, who spent most of their time in constant civil wars, one tribe against another, and where there is no record of their having built or invented anything, and in the beginning wanted to destroy everything Nephite, there are those who think the wheel should have survived. Naturally, not one of us today would think the surviving Lamanites would not want to have the wheel, but that is our view today. It was not their view then—their desire was to eradicate the Nephites and all signs of the Nephites, since only in that way could they rightfully claim ownership by inheritance of a land that had been promised to the Nephites, but in their minds should have gone to their forefathers (Laman and Lemuel).
    While we may not understand this in our day and age where such things are not part of our world, the right of the first born (bekhor) male, called Primogeniture were reflected in the norms of ancient Israelite society, since Biblical legislation gave a “right of possession” to the first son born to the father, who then occupied a prominent place in the Hebrew family (Genesis 27:19; 35:23; 41:51; 2 Samuel 3:2). Thus, the firstborn male held a special status with respect to inheritance rights and certain cultic regulations, including having rank over his brothers and sisters (Genesis 26:31,32; 43:33). Usually the father bequeathed to him the greater part of the inheritance, except when a favored wife succeeded in obtaining it for one of her sons (Genesis 26; 1 Kings 11:11-13). In early days the will of the father fixed the part of the chief heir, but the law of Deuteronomy demands for him a double portion of all the possessions and forbids favor being shown to a younger son (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).
    This anger of the Lamanites toward Nephi (for Laman was the first born son, not Nephi, and everything would have been his, and theirs by inheritance, such as the right to rule, possession of the Liahona, sacred plates, sword of Laban, and ownership of the land), which anger and subsequent hatred fed from father to son (Mosiah 10:12-13; 16-17), lasted all the generations of the Nephite Nation until the Lamanites succeeded in wiping them out to the man. However, from that point onward, the Lamanites were involved in civil wars for many years (Mormon 8:8; Moroni 1:2), and by the time any cessation of the wars ended or diminished in their intensity, much of whatever infrastructure that once existed in the Land of Promise, including crops, orchards, herds and flocks, would have been very thin, if not wiped out altogether.
Food would have been at a premium, with wild game long eradicated except for the most hardy and adept at hiding in the wild. Obviously, almost all of the domestic animals would have been early dispatched for food to feed constantly fighting warriors and entire armies. Where anyone thinks all the food for at least 36 years of constant and heavy wars came from is beyond me, but whatever reserves there once might have been, it would have been long gone in the first few years of the wars. While industrial nations can usually handle food supplies, agrarian societies run out of crops and food quite quickly during extended wars as was seen in World War II when many of the small, inept European countries resorted to all sorts of inhumane activities just to stay alive, eating garbage, animals, even rats, and eventually humans.
    It would not have been a pretty picture, but for those who might have thought little on the subject, and wonder where all the animals would have gone, domestic animals are the first to go as soldiers move through a land constantly fighting. A chicken, an egg, dogs, in fact, anything that lives, can be killed and eaten by a near-starved military force, not to mention any civilians that might be left in the land.
Consequently, for those who need to rethink their opinions about this period between 385 A.D. and 421 A.D., when we know that there was constant civil war throughout the land that seemed to go on forever, according to Moroni, 36 years would have devastated any infrastructure that would have existed. For those on the coast, whenever the wars ended, if they ever really did, there was fishing, but for those inland, it would have been a difficult life until they could get some type of crops growing again, if any still had the knowledge to do so, especially if the wars between the Lamanbites involved entire families like the Nephites in their final battles (Mormon 6:7) and the Jaredites before them (Ether 15:15).
    After 30 years of war: Crops that have been planted and replanted but left unattended because of the violent and extensive wars, finally fail, slowly turning into grasslands
    After 50 years: Sea life thrives from lack of fishing and overfishing; fields that once grew abundant crops are by expanding forests, with dirt blown by winds settling and packing into layers that build up; metal is exposed to oxidation and disintegration; large animals increase in numbers, kill off large numbers of smaller, domesticated cats, dogs and farm animals. Buildings are inundated with rain water that seeps into cracks in stone columns, pillars, and walls, and then it freezes in winter before thawing again in springs—the repeated cycles split and crack the stones, rock and concrete, with support columns giving way and the roofs collapse.
    After 75 Years: Buildings topple. Upper floors rain down, smashing lower floors until the buildings crumble to the ground; whatever ships are still afloat and not destroyed at sea from lack of care, wash ashore. Dog breeds cease to exist with generations of free reproduction; all metal completely disintegrates and disappears; as the wars wind down, some people begin to herd llama and alpaca, rounding them into protected enclaves. Ruined chariots that line the roads disintegrate, their wooden wheels long inoperative and crumbling, along with their wooden axles and tongues. Once proud horses used to pull the vehicles, long dead, have been picked clean to the bone by first starving warriors and people, and then by animals and carrion
After 100 years: All fruit, vegetable and grain crops have disappeared, and all wheat crops have withered away; man-made objects have disintegrated into nothing; all effort by people to replant and cultivate plants fails from lack of knowledge and experience; and the hot dry winds of the deserts drive people further and further into the mountains where quinoa and Kaniwa grow wild, their seeds life-sustaining. The dead from the lengthy wars are nothing but bleached bones, that even now are disintegrating except in the hot, dry areas.
    After 150 years: Wolves increase in numbers, come in contact with feral dogs competing with them for food or breeding with them, erasing the last traces of domestication, hot desert winds bring sands to cover buildings, cities, bones and villages; larger animals like jaguars and cougars expand, and almost all small animals cease to exist. Thick growth of trees and undergrowth claim most of the eastern slopes of the tall mountains, expanding the Amazonian flora further west. Trees grow thick and tall in protected inter-Andean valleys, but winds sweep clean all growth on the altiplano, and the high plateaus. All vestiges of numerous small villages have completely vanished in a land that once boasted millions of people, only enclaves of large cities, their skeletal structures dotting the land, remain—their ghosts long gone and not a soul to remember who they were or the vast skills they possessed as they subdued the entire Andean shelf from southern Chile to southern Colombia.
    After 200 years: Only a few hotspots of war and an occasional battle is heard over the Andean mountains and valleys as fewer and fewer men exist to continue a war in which none were left knowing why they fought. It had become a way of life, and women now outnumbered the men nearly ten to one. Populatoin centers had long ago disappeared and fewer and fewer births supplemented the ranks of armies that once number in the hundreds of thousands. There are some statesmen beginning to come into the land that talk about peace and try to unite groups into larger tribes and multiple family units, but most are killed by still angry warriors who have no idea why their anger exists.
    After 250 years: All semblance of modern man has disappeared from the entire western shelf of the continent; clothes are no longer being made, even in rudimentary form. The natives return to breechcloths and vests, the women to short tunics, and all settling into individual tribes made up of family units, separating themselves into small enclaves of humanity scattered up and down the western coastal area, living mostly in the middle high valleys, though a few still live along the coastal areas north of what is now Lima, Peru. Man recovers from nearly 250 years of wars and warfare and starts to settle down once again—though the vast majority of males lie dead and scattered across the land from the lengthy wars that have left the remainder weary of people they do not know and develop strong ties within their own “tribes.”
    Across the vast lands of hills, valleys and mountains, there was not a single sign of a once advanced, God-fearing people who had built one of the world’s vast empires within these mountains.
Only an occasional city, crumbling under the centuries of inattention, most unusable, many buried over the centuries by moving earth, searing heat, and strong winds, with not a single individual left alive that knew who had built them and when, nor what happened to them. Nor even were there any still alive who had even the slimmest memory of the great final wars their 8th great grandfathers had won to rid themselves of their hereditary enemies so many years before, or the destructive rampage the next two generations had bent upon in ridding all vestiges of that once powerful enemy, until now, no one knew, no one remembered, and no one cared.
(See the next post, “Did the Nephites Have the Wheel—What Happened to the Nephite Evidences? – Part II,” as we return to the question of the wheel that traversed 27,000 miles of roads)

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