Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Khor Rori”s Wadi Darbat—the Valley of Large Trees – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the matching of Khor Rori and the Wadi Darbat with the area of Bountiful in the Book of Mormon and Nephi’s location for building his ship.
Today, Khor Rori supports the Unesco archaeological site of Sumharam of Frankincense fame, and the starting point of the ancient Frankincense Trail. Lehi's general route from Jerusalem to the Dhofar area followed many elements of this Frankincense Trail which logically places Kohr Rori as a natural terminus coming from the north or Jerusalem. Extensive archaeological research by many scholars including the 2008 work sponsored by the Omani government have found Iron tools, a temple culture with ritual cleansing and altar worship, ship building remains, and many other aspects congruent with the desirability of Kohr Rori.
    In fact, today the larger surrounding area continues to agriculturally "blossom as the rose" in the "wilderness" (Isaiah 35:1-2) While Kohr Kharfot supports the remains of one stone goat corral and shepherd's shelter (mistakenly identified by one researcher as the remains of a Nephi-built Temple constructed after the pattern of Solomon's Temple); however, the bounty of Kohr Rori is exemplified by hundreds of such structures both ancient and modern. Many LDS researchers have evolved in their thinking and now consider Kohr Rori as the most natural and logical location on the Dhofar Coast for Nephi's "Bountiful."
On the other hand, Kohr Kharfot remains an uninhabited and inaccessible rock canyon defile with no natural harbor except as a temporary resting spot for passing fisherman and wandering herders due to its relatively undesirable location; in fact the best and almost only access to this Kharfot is by sea.
    In addition, leading experts in Omani marine archaeology uniformly state that hardwood trees tall enough for building a large ship like Nephi’s have never grown in the wild in Oman; however, there are two exceptions:
1. German marine archaeologist, Norbert Weismann, suggested that such timber might have come from mango and coconut trees that were cultivated on the Salalah plain.
2. The upper valley of Taqah, wadi Dharbat, has produced an area capable of growing large trees, which are the only large trees in Dhofar.
    In addition, the locals call wadi Dharbat “the valley of the big trees.” If Nephi had to rely on locally grown timber for his ship, Bountiful would have to  have been located along the Salalah plain, the only place in Oman where these trees grow. He could have used, mango, coconut palms and large hardwoods from wadi Dharbat.
Top: Mango trees growing in Salalah; Bottom: Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) has grown wild in Oman on sea-facing slopes of mountains for thousands of years before the A.D. period (Julia F. Morton, Fruits of  Warm Climates, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1987, pp115-121; W. Popenoe, Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits, Hafner Press, 1974, pp432-436)

    In the scriptural record, Nephi wrote, “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.” (1 Ne. 18:2.)
    Historians tell us that the ships of Nephi’s time were “probably over fifty feet long, pointed at both ends with small or perhaps no decks. They used an outside quarter rudder, square sails, which were sewn together with coconut ropes instead of fastened by nails.” This style of boat was definitely not suitable for taking a large family over thousands of miles of unfamiliar deep ocean sea ways. But Nephi did not build a ship as man did, the Lord gave him specific and unique instruction on how to build it.
    Also, Nephi inquired of the Lord about finding ore: "And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me? And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools" (1 Nephi 17:9-10.)
Left: Hemitite; Right Magnetite, both create sparks when struck together and both ores are found in the area of Khor Rori

    While we do not know what exact ore Nephi used, it should be noted that according to Geomorphology & Planetary Geology professor Ronald A. Harris of BYU, “The Dhofar region is one of the few places throughout the Arabian Peninsula where the ore deposits are exposed,” and such ferrimagnetic ore as Magnetite, which is one of the main iron ores, and antiferromagnetic Hematite, one of the most abundant minerals on the Earth’s surface and the main ore of iron, are both found in the banded iron formations of the igneous rock of Jebel Samhan, a major mountain range located about five miles east of Khor Rori with a highest peak reaching almost 6900-feet. Obviously a high mountain where Nephi could have gone “oft to pray” where the Lord showed him many great things (1 Nephi 18:3). Also where the ore would have been on the surface and easy for Nephi to obtain, and evidence show they were in such quantity to enable Nephi to make the tools he needed to build the ship.
     As to the fire necessary for his bellows, that could have been started by friction, i.e., rubbing two sticks together, however, Nephi tells us he struck two stones together to start his fire (1 Nephi 17:11), which might have been flint and possibly marcasite. Another possibility is quartz and Pentlandite (an iron nickel sulfide); but both Hematite and Magnetite would work, so while flint has been found lying on the surface in abundance around nearby Taqah, Nephi might well have used the same ore from which he made his tools.
    Obviously, a workable harbor would need to exist where Nephi built the ship, since it could not have been built on a river or the coast. In addition, the ship must have taken quite a long time to construct, for it had to carry quite a few people as we have discussed in other articles. Also, the ship had to have had an ample sized deck so at least eight people could dance. As Nephi wrote: “my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance“ (1 Nephi 18:9); also large enough to carry sufficient food and water for a long, non-stop crossing of seas they knew nothing about; large enough to carry their tools, extra material for sail and ship repair due to damage undoubtedly caused by the great, four-day storm that threatened to sink the ship (1 Nephi 18:13-15); tents, weapons, personal gear (1 Nephi 18:8); large enough to have living or sleeping quarters for all aboard; and large enough to survive large storms at sea. So for a ship of this size, where could a protective harbor be found suitable enough for its construction and launching?
The only such harbor along the entire southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula was the port near modern-day Taqah, called Khor Rori in southern Oman, named Moscha—the tableau’s inscription bespoke of this ancient city of Sumhuran, which many historians believe was home to the port of Moscha (Moscha portus) featured in The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, that was written nearly 2,000 years ago describing the Roman Empire’s vast maritime and commercial interests that extended to East Africa, Arabia and India and also highlighted the importance of the region of Sachalites (Maritime Plain of the Omani region—Salalah Plain), or port of Moscha (Σαχαλίτης κόλπος), to the frankincense trade, and where cargoes of frankincense would be bartered for wheat, cloth and sesame oil. Not only is it the only such harbor, but it has 100-foot high cliffs at the entrance to the inlet of Khor Rori that both act as breakwater for entering the sea from the harbor and serve as the cliffs from which Laman and Lemuel wanted to throw Nephi into the Sea (1 Nephi 17:48).

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