Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Lamanites Built Sepulchers for the Dead

To the Jews, and as found in the Bible, a sepulcher (left) was a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried. It was considered a tomb, vault, burial chamber, crypt, catacomb or room. In Hebrew, it was called qeber and pronounced keh’ber, meaning a “sepulcher” or “grave.” (also qabar, “buried”). Often translated in the scriptures as “a burial place,” qeber (or its equivalent spellings) is used 68 times in the Bible. Whether noun or verb, the term conveys a singular meaning, i.e., the “place of burial” or “to be buried.”
    The word sepulcher in Greek (“mnema”) has the exact same meaning, like “taphos,” meaning a burial and thus, a grave; it is defined as “burial-place,” “sepulcher,” “tomb,” or “grave.”
At the time of Christ, tombs in Jerusalem were typically family tombs carved into the limestone caves found throughout the region, with a low, rectangular (nearly square) opening. According to Amos Kloner an archaeologist and professor emeritus (Martin Szusz Department of the Land of Israel Studies at the Bar Llan University in Ramat Gan, Israel) there were "Two kinds of recesses carved into the cave walls for individual corpses in ancient Israel: deep cavities, about 6 feet deep and 1.5 feet wide and high, called loculi (kochim in Hebrew); and shallow shelf-like niches, about 6 feet long. These shallower niches are called arcosolia if the top of the niche is arched and quadrosolia if the niche is rectangular with a straight top. About a year after the primary burial in one of these recesses, after the body had decomposed, the bones were reburied in a bone storage chamber, or during the first century C.E., in a stone ossuary, or bone box.”
    Under Jewish law, it was strictly prohibited to move the bones of a deceased person, even after the year period unless the tomb was borrowed “shaul” (there being no such thing in Jewish religion as a temporary tomb unless what was meant is from one place within the tomb to another; therefore, all tombs were strictly familial—except in the case of tombs owned by the Sanhedrin, in such cases it could “lend” a burial place “on demand” when the Sanhedrin executed a Jewish felon.
    In reality, in ancient Hebrew (early Israelites) believed that the graves of family, or tribe, united into one, and that this unified collectivity is to what the Biblical Hebrew term She’ol refers, i.e., the common Grave of humans. In the translation of the Bible into Greek, this term “shaul” became “sheol” known later, i.e., “a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and unrighteous, cut off from Life and from God.” However, the word shaul, which is used in connection with Jewish burial, has reference to “borrowed” not temporary.
There is one more important thing about the sepulcher or burial place of ancient Jews (Hebrews) and that was the “sealing” of the tomb (left) so that no essence of the dead could escape or dissipate. This was one of the major reason strangers to the family were not buried with family members.
    Now, in understanding the Jewish importance of the burial place, that it was restricted to the family and sealed, permanently protected from the elements, etc., we can look to the Book of Mormon times and the Nephites-Lamanites nature of burial.
    To the Lamanites, whose lives did not change at any time from the original laws of Laman, Lemual and the sons of Ishmael, i.e., the Law of Moses, to whatever extent they lived them, the burial of the body would have been of some significance,depending upon the nature of the individual(s) toward a religion and belief in an afterlife.
    The scriptural record states that “after two days and two nights, they were about to take his body and lay it in a sepulcher, which they had made for the purpose of burying their dead” (Alma 19:1). Obviously, this had been made before king Lamoni’s conversion, and under the previous Lamanite laws and customs.
    Thus, we can see that before Ammon arrived in the Lamanite lands in abut 90 B.C., placing their dead in sepulchers was the custom of the Lamanites in the land of Ishmael, where the king dwelt (Alma 17:21).
    Keeping in mind the earlier definitions given of “sepulcher,” that is, a tomb, vault, burial chamber, crypt, or catacomb, and was “a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried.”
    In the area of Titicaca and just south, into the area of Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) which we have tentatively identified as the land of Ishmael, it being south if the city of Nephi (see the earlier posts of this series), we can look at what type of burials the Lamanites conducted and what type of “burial place” they used.
The Lamanite sepulchers, or “Towers of the Dead,” built in the Land of Ishmael around Lake Titicaca and the Carabaya Mountains. Note the yellow arrow shows the rock “door” placed in the small doorway at the bottom
    That is, in the area of Titicaca and the land around, is covered with towers, called chullpas, which archaeologists call “Houses or Towers of the Dead” (Victor W. Von Hagen, Highway to the Sun, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1955, p46), and have identified as the places of burial. The vaults built of perfectly cut and dressed stone (burying in stone and rock was a Jewish custom), with a small, almost square door at the bottom where a stone could be placed in front to keep out animals, these towers rise about 14-feet high, and have no windows. The corbeled tomb vaults were of meticulous stonework, especially inside, and are so old that no one knows who built them. In fact, not far from Qutimbo  there are so many towers that it gives the appearance of a great stone forest. An early Spaniard claimed these chullpas (“Towers of the Dead”) once outnumbered the houses of the living, and Von Hagen said of this area, “We came to the chullpas and as far as we could see there was nothing to relieve the eye except these stone burial towers” (p290de).
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies were a group of Lamanites who, after a significant religious conversion, made a covenant that they would not participate in war, and buried their weapons and would not even defend themselves
    These Lamanites discussed in Alma were those converted by Ammon and Aaron, along with Omner and Himini (Alma 25:1-7), who became known as Anti-Nephi-Lehites, and were under king Lamoni’s father, king over all the Lamanite lands, the one who sent the proclamation throughout all his lands discussed in Alma 22. These converts included those Lamanites of the Land of Ishmael (Alma 23:9), and the Land of Middoni (Alma 23:10) and the Land of Nephi (Alma 23:11) and in the lands of Shilom, Shemlon and Shimnilom (Alma 23:12).
    As Anti-Nephi-Lehites, they were no more called Lamanites (Alma 23:17) and they began to be a very industrious people, and were friendly with the Nephites and they opened a correspondence with the Nephites and the curse of the Lord no more followed them (Alma 23:18). They numbered in the thousands (Alma 23:5, 26:4,13) and they never did fall away (Alma 23:6), and their skin became white like unto the Nephites (3 Nephi 2:15). These stalwart converts, who were also called the people of Ammon principally from the area of Ishmael northward to the City of Nephi and Shilom, in geography of the Andean Land of Promise, they would have been from around Tiahuanaco to Cuzco and Sacsahuaman and no doubt were among those who went north seeking new lands mentioned in Alma 63:9 and Helaman 3:3.
    It is claimed by Victor W. Von Hagen (as well as some LDS historians) that some of these that went north were the progenitors of the Aztecs of Mexico, for they claimed their ancestors had come from the place of reeds, living on reeds, making boats of reeds (Kingdom of the Aztecs, “The Long-ago People,” Collins World, 1958, p22).
The Uro people live on self-made islands of reeds, which the Aztecs claim was their ancient type of homeland
    This fits close to the lives of the Uru people who even today live on forty-two self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca, off the mainland city of Puno, Peru and Bolivia, who use bundles of dried totora reeds (a subspecies of the giant bulrush sedge) to make reed boats (Balsas Mats—the small ones, called caballitos de totora, are small riding boats that are straddled like a horse, hence the name), and to make the islands on which they live—the reeds, which grow interwoven in the lake, have dense roots that support the bundles that are tied to stakes driven into the seabed, with the reeds supporting the island. 
    In fact much of their diet and medicine revolve around these totora reeds, so when a reed is pulled up and bundled for use in building the islands, the white bottom (called chullo) is often eaten for iodine, which prevents goiters. These people call themselves Lupihaques (“Sons of the Sun”), which fits together with the Lamanites of the mainland after the people of Ammon left, built Sun Temples, married with the Lamanites around the lake who spoke Aymara, and eventually gave up their Uru language for Aymara, which anthropologists date to about 1500 A.D., which coincides to when the Inca conquered this area.
    It is interesting that these ancient people could be tied directly to the burial process of the Jews, and at the same time on the other end, be tied to the practice and history of the Aztecs, yet lived out their lives during Nephite times as Lamanites, converts and friends of the Nephite people.


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