Saturday, December 15, 2018

Comparing Mesoamerican, Heartland, and Andean South American Lands of Promise-Part I

Originally among members upon first reading the Book of Mormon, the area of South America was seen as the location of the Land of Promise; then the site moved northward to Panama, then to Mesoamerica, and finally to the Heartland and Great Lakes theories. Most models created by theorists have some positive factors that match Mormon’s descriptive terms for the Land of Promise. Almost all have negatives within their models that cannot be overcome.
Six specific areas where theorists claim the Book of Mormon Land of Promise was located

While all theorists make the initial claim that the Book of Mormon scriptural record is the basic factor involved in determining such a location, almost all deviate from the record in numerous ways in order to bend the writing to fit their models. Perhaps we should take a look at these three areas, Mesoamerica (Central America), Heartland (Great Lakes) and Andean South America, and view the positive or strong points of each, as well as the weaknesses and errors of each.
    The information for the Mesoamerican and Heartland theories were submitted by Michael De Groote in a published article in the Deseret News, May 27, 2010. Not much has changes since then regarding this information. So let’s compare using his subject areas and comments about Mesoamerica and the Heartland.
    Mesoamerica, is that area from about central Mexico (Mexico City) southward, including the Yucatan, and including Belize, Guatemala, and part of Honduras. This theory was first introduced when the Department of Archaeology was established at BYU as part of the College of Arts and Sciences on 13 December 1946, and the appointment of M. Wells Jakeman as the department chair the following year.
John L. Sorenson’s Mesoamerica map

Claimed Mesoamerican strengths:
1. Geographic correlation
It is claimed there are hundreds of different geographic descriptions in the Book of Mormon, such as two seas, a narrow neck of land, a large north-flowing river and so forth

Response: More than words, we need to compare meaning. As an example, there are two seas (Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean), how they do not match the directions of the seas as Mormon describes them, i.e., in Mesoamerica, those seas are to the north and south of their Land of Promise; in the scriptural record, they are north and south.
    In addition, there are four seas, which precludes a north river, which is not mentioned, naming a Sea North and Sea South as well as a Sea West and a Sea East (Helaman 3:8). Plus there is a “sea that divides the land” (Ether 10:20). In addition, there is a mention of the “waters of Ripliancum” which was in the far north—not a river.
Heartland has only the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri rivers and several small rivers and streams. There are no seas other than the Gulf of Mexico, far to the south, the the Great Lakes far to the north—but no West and East seas. The Great Lakes has two lakes, the Erie and Ontario, but no east or south seas.
Andean South America. This area, which includes northern Chile, Peru, western Bolivia, Ecuador, and southern Colombia, was at one time and island and surrounded by four seas. It also has a sea that divides the land, called the Gulf of Guayaquil.
2. High level of civilization
"There is civilization in Mesoamerica, and civilization is what the Book of Mormon describes," stated John L. Sorenson, author of "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon." He goes on to say that "Civilization, meaning cities—even great cities, large masses of people, large wars, big agricultural base for the economy, temples and towers and so on."

Response: While the Heartland and the Great Lakes area has no real evidence of big cities, temples and towers, large masses of people, great wars and a big agricultural base, such are not unique to Mesoamerica.
Heartland had no high level civilization, but numerous small native tribes, a handful of which were advanced, but certainly not to the level of the Hebrews in 600 BC.
Andean South America. This area, which covers all of Peru and Ecuador, southern Colombia, western Boliva, and northern Chile, dates before Mesoamerica, with far more ancient cities of size, including fortresses and mountain outposts, temples, towers, large population centers, and massive wars. The Inca were considered to be the epitome of ancient civilization for all of the Americas, and before them were scores of well-known and advanced cultures.
3. Writing
"In Mesoamerica, there are at least 15 types of script, of writing," Sorenson adds. "The system of writing that is typical for Mesoamerica is all of the Egyptian style. The only thing that is different about them is the characters."

Response: There were two writing systems in the Land of Promise, one Hebrew, the other Egyptian, referred to as “Reformed Egyptian.” We do not know, of course, what form either evolved to since Moroni around 400 AD claims they were both altered. However, there are two important things to keep in mind: 1) Mesoamerican writing, what little existed before the Spanish arrived, was not similar to Egyptian. The latter was picture hieroglyphs called mdju netjer (“words of the gods”). These hieroglyphs were pictographic, i.e., drawings of actual living things such as owls, birds, insects, snakes, lions, worms, flowers, plants, legs, hands, bodies, eyes, people, etc., and also non-living things, like twisted rope, bowls, clothing, tools, boats, sails, etc., numbering overall about 700 to 800 basic symbols or glyphs. These glyphs could represent actual things or ideas. As an example, a pair of legs could represent legs, movement, “to approach,” or “give directions.”
    While Mesoamericanists like to comment about ancient writing, there is no evidence such writing existed at the time of the Nephites, but more importantly, the writing found does not match any Egyptian or Hebrew writing and shows no connection to anything else, other than it is a collection of glyphs, though not of realistic imagery as is Egyptian. The only thing in common or similar to Egyptian is the same thing that makes Mayan similar to all other glyphic writing of antiquity—they used pictures or symbols, not letters, as a basis for writing.
Top: Egyptian hieroglyphics; Bottom: Mayan Writing. Other than they are both glyphs, there is little to claim these writing systems had anything else in common as is being claimed

In fact, Mesoamerican writing, according to Welby W, Ricks of BYU, was primarily geometric, not pictographic (paper read at the Seventeenth Annual Symposium on Archaeology of the Scriptures, October 14, 1967). This writing was a mixture of logograms and pictures that represented the subject or words, with variants for nearly each word that could be multiple glyphs written in many different ways. They also were syllabic where the picture represented the sound or word makes.
Heartland. There is no evidence of any writing in antiquity.
Andean South America. There is one additional item of importance. Both Mormon and Moroni, those who claim to have hidden up the Nephite and sacred records, were concerned that if the Lamanaites found any of the Nephite writing they would destroy it, as had Ammaron much earlier who also hid records (Mormon 2:17; 4:23; 6:6; 8:4). It seems unlikely that any Nephite writing would have survived other than all the books (which we understand would have filled wagons) that Mormon hid. This would suggest that no writing would have survived and supports the idea that no writing would be found in the Land of Promise.
(See the next post, “Comparing Mesoamerican, Heartland, and Andean South American Lands of Promise-Part II,” for more regarding the Deseret News article about the pros and cons of Mesoamerican as opposed to the Heartland models)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Why Was Ammon’s 16-man Expedition to Find Zarahemla Lost for Forty Days?

King Mosiah being  wearied by his people over the missing Nephites who returned to the city of Nephi
In the year 121 BC, king Mosiah II, the son of king Benjamin, being wearied by the Nephites in Zarahemla to know what had happened to their brethren who returned to the city of Nephi some time earlier, authorized sixteen strong men to “go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi to inquire concerning their brethren” (Mosiah 7:1-2). As the scriptural record states of this:
    “On the morrow they started to go up, having with them one Ammon, he being a strong and mighty man, and a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was also their leader. And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander. And when they had wandered forty days they came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom, and there they pitched their tents” (Mosiah 7:2-5, emphasis added).
    Now, Ammon and his men had a mission—to find the people who had left Zarahemla and gone back to the city of Nephi nearly three generations earlier. They were not dallying around, wandering about to see the countryside as they traveled. They would have taken a direct route toward where they understood Zarahemla to have been.
    The distance from Zarahemla to the city of Nephi, would not have warranted such a long journey taking a direct route. After all, later when the Lamanites came down to the Land of Zarahemla to do battle on numerous occasions, it would not have taken them 40 days down to battle, and 40 days back to their homeland. Therefore, the travel time had to be much shorter.
    However, and for whatever reason, Ammon and his group were forty days wandering in the wilderness before they reached a hill that overlooked the land of Shilom and the land and city of Nephi (Mosiah 7:7). One would think that on an assignment like this from their king to locate their brethren and learn what had taken place with them, they certainly would have taken a direct route and made haste to learn the condition of their brethren that could be reported back to their king in Zarahemla. But obviously, they did not.
    Evidently, they started out in what they considered a direction toward the city of Zarahemla, but obviously became lost, for “they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness.” Obviously, not long after leaving Zarahemla, or the land of Zarahemla, they became lost, or at least reached a point of not knowing what exact direction to take to find the city of Nephi. How much knowledge they had of the city’s location is unknown. However, we do know that when Mosiah left the city of Nephi about 60 or so years earlier, he and those who would follow him, “were led by many preachings and prophesyings, continually being admonished by the word of God, and led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13).
Children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years 

This, of course, sounds like anything but a straight movement, and more like the Children of Israel were led in the wilderness for 40 years. In any event, the scriptural account tells us that Ammon and his men “wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander.”
    Now the term “wander” has a very specific meaning: “to walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way.” In fact, in the 1828 Webster dictionary, it states: “To rove (wander); to ramble here and there without any certain course or object in view; as, to wander over the fields; to wander about the town, or about the country,” and also “To travel over without a certain course” (emphasis added).
    Seemingly, Ammon and his men were wandering without certain course, aimlessly rambling along here and there, hoping to find the city of Nephi. In this case, “ramble” means to rove or wander carelessly or irregularly; as, “to ramble over the country…moving without restraint and without certain direction.”
    So why were they wandering about, without direction, going or moving from place to place without any determinate plan? This would hardly typify a group of men on a mission from their king that would have required expediency.
    In addition, why did it take them forty days? Surely, there were men or leaders in Zarahemla who had knowledge of the journey their forefathers had taken from the city of Nephi down to Zarahemla. Surely, in a record keeping society as the Nephites (Helaman 3:15), someone’s journal or writing would have some type of information regarding the whereabouts of the city of Nephi.
    If we superimpose this idea onto the Mesoamerican model, movement from their city of Nephi, today’s Guatemala City (Kaminaljuju), northwest to the Land and City of Zarahemla, travel would have been through almost direct narrow valleys, with limited cross-valleys, making it almost impossible to  have gotten lost; as for the Heartland, from northwestern Tennessee to Illinois is basically a level landscape, as is the area in western New York for the Great Lakes model, again almost impossible for Ammon and his team to become lost in either of these locations. In other words, there would be little difficulty in moving from their city of Nephi in either of these models to their city of Zarahemla. However, Ammon and his team wandered for forty days trying to find the city of Nephi.
    Now the term “wander,” as used in Mosiah, means they walked aimlessly, without direction, evidently confined by difficult and perhaps periodic impassable terrain. Otherwise, they would not have taken forty days to reach the hill overlooking the city of Nephi.
A large portion of southern Peru is covered with contiguous mountain ranges, ridges, and peaks, with very few passes through which men could have passed in Nephite times 

Thus, we come to the location in South America, in southern Peru, moving from the area of Cuzco (city of Nephi) to Pachacamac (the city of Zarahemla), near Lima, and across the narrow strip of wilderness, which is extremely difficult wilderness in places, impassable terrain through the mountains, canyons, and steep cliffs, making such slow and aimless wandering a reality as Ammon would have been wandering around trying to find ways to pass through each mountain ridge.
    In this area of Peru, the land is deeply mountainous between these cities of Nephi and Zarahemla, except for the final few miles of coastal lands, which were basically flat and level sloping from the foothills down to the coast. Ammon would have taken canyons and river gorges, or traveled across tabletops, looking for passes through contiguous ridges, crags, summits and peaks. No doubt they were forced around precipices, deep ravines, and steep inclines, while trying to find ways to ford wide rivers.
Terrain of Steep Cliffs and mountains, numerous ridges, and few passes 

In such type of travel, they would be meandering, or wandering, across the land, moving from one landform to another, crossing saddles valleys and buttes, while looking for gaps, notches or low areas in the cliffs and mountains, seeking some way of continuing their planned direction. It might not be that they didn’t know where they were headed, but that they couldn’t find a way to get through the terrain to their location.
Finding passes through contiguous mountain ranges can be difficult, forcing directions and meandering to find them both difficult and time-consuming 

When people on a mission in antiquity took a long time to go reasonably short distances, the obvious thing to look for is the type of terrain in which they were “lost.” Obviously, the Great Lakes and Heartland locations are not consistent with such a situation, and Mesoamerica not much more. Andean South America is very consistent with long travel periods looking for mountain passes and means of reaching a destination.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

On the Language of Joseph Smith – Part III

Continuing with how theorists and others writing or talking about the Book of Mormon often mistake the meaning of words or phrases which either clouds the issue, changes its meaning, or draws inaccurate conclusions.
    Part of the problem in reading and understanding the scriptural record, which was written by people of the late BC and early AD period, translated by a person of the 19th century AD, and being read by a person in the 21st century AD. In addition, though the latter two speak the same English in the same country, the changes over the past 160 years has been considerable; and the original writers were Near Eastern Orientals.
    Naturally, over this length of time, many words have changed their meaning, and understanding of ancient Hebrew to modern Hebrew is also considerably different. On the other hand, some writing is quite clear and should be understood by all; however, many clear statements appear to be ignored by the modern reader.
When mountains toppled into valleys and valleys became great mountains (Helaman 14:23)

Take as an example, Samuel the Lamanites prophesy that “there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23). Thus, it is clear that there were mountains in the Land of Promise before the cataclysm of the crucifixion took place, and during that event, many of those mountains collapsed into valleys, and where there were valleys in the land, many rose into mountains, “whose height is great,” suggesting that these new mountains were much higher in elevation than the previous ones.
    Yet, there are theorists who claim there were no mountains of any size in the Land of Promise, since their models basically encompass flat lands, such as found in Western New York and around Erie and Ontario lakes. Or, as in Mesoamerica, where the highest mountain in Guatemala is Volcan Tajumulco at 13,786 feet; Honduras’ Celaque at 9,416 feet; or in the Yucatan, which is almost entirely flat land, with a mountain in Belize along the east coast near the Guatemala border, called Doyle’s Delight at 3,852 feet.
    Obviously, both Mesoamerica and Great Lakes/Heartland American theorists prefer to ignore this prophecy, which came to pass in 3 Nephi 8, rather than acknowledge it.    However, the fact is, within a three-hour period mountains collapsed and new ones shot up to a great height, thus, any Land of Promise must have very high mountains upon it.
    In addition, in the Land of Promise, movement is very often discussed as being “up” and “down,” suggesting various levels of elevation significant enough to evoke such wordage; however, in the Great Lakes/Heartland theories, the land on which they have placed the Nephite nation has very little in the way of elevation changes, from the Great Plains around the Mississippi River to those of the Great Lakes area, the topography of the land is sufficiently flat as to not warrant such constant up and down discussion.
    Then there are those theorists who simply ignore the clear wordage of the descriptions of the Land of Promise. As an example, the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and rivers simply do not match the description of “seas” in the scriptural record. Nor Mormon’s description of the entire Land Southward being surrounded by water except for a narrow neck of land.
The 53-mile circumference Sea of Galilee, originally known as Lake of Gennesaret, named after the ancient town of Gennesaret (Ginosar), or later, by Herod, called Lake Tiberias, is a land-locked fresh water lake
A “sea” is not a river,” and though in ancient Hebrew a “lake” was often called a “sea,” i.e., Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and the Black Sea and Caspian Sea have no access to the Atlantic Ocean, while the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Sea (Persian Gulf), and the Red Sea do. It might be of interest to know that while this lake is currently called Galilee, a term in ancient Hebrew that meant “district,” and referred to the entire area north of Mr. Carmel from Dan to the Mediterranean.
    The lake itself was referred to as either Kinneret in the Old Testament, from Hebrew “kinnor,” meaning “harp,” describing the shape of the lake, or in New Testament times as Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:1), after the town by that name on the northwest shore, today called Ginosar. Galilee, on the other hand, was an overall term for a northern district, and in Isaiah’s time it was g’lil hagoyim meaning “Galilee of the Nations,” referring to the part of Israel inhabited by Gentiles.
    However, the main point is the use of the English word “sea” as used by Joseph Smith and approved by the Spirit in the translation of Mormon’s writing and the entire Book of Mormon. This is where Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language comes in, i.e., that language known to Joseph Smith in the area of New England where he grew up. In that dictionary, the word “sea” means “branch of the ocean, and upon the same level.” The dictionary also goes on to state about the definition of sea “Large bodies of water inland, and situated above the level of the ocean, are lakes.” And to explain the Biblical use of “sea” in translation, states: “The appellation of sea, given to the Caspian lake, is an exception, and not very correct. So the lake of Galilee is called a sea, from the Greek.”
    This means that the Great Lakes, being Superior at 600 feet; Huron and Michigan (which hydrologically are one lake) at 577 feet; and Erie at 569 feet are all considered “lakes” under the 1828 definition, being enclosed and higher than sea level. Lake Ontario, is also above sea level at 243 feet, though it does have sea access through the St. Lawrence river. Still, all these lakes are truly lakes and could not be called seas, though they are larger than the Sea of Galilee (64 square miles) and the Dead Sea (233 square miles), with Superior (31,700 square miles), Huron (23,007 square miles), Michigan (22,404 square miles), Erie (9,910 square miles), and Ontario (7,340 square miles).
The world’s oceans are interconnected, and hydrologically make up a single body of water, which includes the Southern Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, ocean bays and gulfs, etc. Truly, when Lehi looked out from the mountains overlooking Salalah in Oman, the name “Irreantum,” meaning “many waters,” was quite factual

Finally, under the definition of “ocean,” the 1828 dictionary states: “The vast body of water which covers more than three fifths of the surface of the globe, called also the sea, or great sea,” and “An immense expanse, pertaining to the main or great sea” (emphasis added). Thus, in 1828, as today, the term Ocean and Sea were synonymous.
    Another argument suggested by many theorists, mostly in an attempt to confuse the definition of “sea” is that the “Great Deep” mentioned in the Jaredite record separates that type of body of water from a body called “sea” mentioned elsewhere in the scriptural record. However, Webster’s 1828 definition of this shows they are the same: “Extending or being far below the surface; descending far downward; opposed to shallow; as deep water.” Thus, when the Jaredites crossed the “Great Deep” (Ether 2:25; 7:27; 8:9), the meaning is clear that it was the ocean or sea over which the barges traveled to the Land of Promise.
    Nephi used this same term, “Great Deep,” in talking about being preserved crossing it to the Land of Promise (2 Nephi 4:20), and in another place states: “Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” (2 Nephi 8:10, emphasis added), showing the only difference in “sea” and “Great Deep” is the depth of the sea. Thus Lehi crossed the sea and landed on the Land of Promise. As a result of this, we know that there is also a sea in the southwest of the Land of Promise where Lehi landed and was “the place of their fathers’ first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28).
    The problem for Great Lakes/Heartland theorists, is that they do not have a southwestern seashore along the West Sea in which Lehi could have landed, thus they discredit the wordage to not interfere with their model. But the definitions known to Joseph Smith at the time of translation show that such wordage was both accurate and understandable.
    Consequently, these descriptions paint a very clear picture of the seas that surrounded the land. There is also clear description of all four seas, including a “north sea” and a “south sea” (Helaman 3:8). In addition, Jacob tells us that the Land of Promise was an island (2 Nephi 10:20), which obviously means it was surrounded by water.
Meldrum’s map showing the incorrect placement of the Land of Bountiful and the Land of Zarahemla, landing (First Inheritance) not along the West Sea, misplacement of the Sea West, Sea East and Sea South

In addition, there is Rod Meldrum with his Heartland Theory which shows on a map his Land of Promise with the Land of Zarahemla to the west of the Land of Bountiful, both bordering in the north along the Jaredite lands, yet Mormon describes the Land of Bountiful being to the north of the Land of Zarahemla, describing this in Alma 22:28-29.
    In fact, the narrow strip of wilderness described in Alma 22:27, ran between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Nephi—there is no mention of the Land of Bountiful bordering this narrow strip, though Meldrum places it there because he removes the Land of Zarahemla from being south of the Land of Bountiful. In addition, there was even a land in between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful (3 Nephi 3:23).
    The problems always arise when theorists ignore or try to alter what is written in the scriptural record. When we read what is written correctly, interpret words correctly, and place them in their proper context. Thus, the meaning of words used as they were understood by Joseph Smith would be critically important to understand what was written by him and his meaning in the scriptural record’s transcription. Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language allows us to know and understand Joseph’s meanings far more clear than any other dictionary or definitions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On the Language of Joseph Smith – Part II

Continuing with how theorists and others writing or talking about the Book of Mormon often mistake the meaning of words or phrases which either clouds the issue, changes its meaning, or draws inaccurate conclusions.
    As indicated in the last post, theorists often misunderstand the meaning of words in the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon and consequently, draw the wrong conclusions.
Take, for instance, one theorist who wrote regarding the Land of Promise: “This is one of the first things that jumped out at me as I was compiling the references that I kept noticing the words “up” and “down.” Whenever people go into Lamanite territory and to the land of Nephi, they go up. When they go to Zarahemla, they go down. This is clearly not about direction, because we know that Nephi is south of Zarahemla. “Up” and “down” refer to elevation. The language suggests that Nephi is significantly higher in elevation than Zarahemla. This makes sense given that Zarahemla is in the valley of the River Sidon. We can deduce that Sidon is surrounded by a strip of mountains on the east, west, and south.”
    Though not completely accurate, the theorist now ventures into ground he clearly does not understand, when he continues: “Keeping this information in mind, it becomes evident that the word ‘wilderness,’ as it is used in the Book of Mormon, usually refers to mountainous areas and lands that are higher in elevation. The Lamanites (at least the more “idle part”) preferred to live in the mountains, hunting beasts for food, whereas the Nephites preferred to live in the lowlands and raise their own animals.”
    First of all, the word “wilderness” has a specific meaning, one that is clearly listed in the 1828 dictionary as “a desert; a tract of land or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wide barren plain. In the United States, it is applied only to a forest. In Scripture, it is applied frequently to the deserts of Arabia.”
The funny thing is, “mountains” are not even mentioned as a location for a wilderness, though when we look at the main meaning, “a tract of land or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings” we can obviously place a “wilderness” within a mountainous region.
    Not finished with his speculation, he goes on to add, “Alma 22:27 talks about a thin ‘strip of wilderness’ that divides Nephite and Lamanite lands. This can be confusing because what I think Mormon is saying is that the strip of wilderness was not just the boundary. The Lamanites actually lived on the strip of wilderness.”
    However, had he read Webster’s definition of “wilderness” as used in 1828 in the vicinity of where Joseph Smith grew up, this theorist would likely not have ventured an opinion on a matter in which he had no knowledge and is not mentioned in the scriptural record about Lamanites living within the narrow strip of wilderness. Whether or not they did is not known, but highly unlikely since it 1) was a wilderness, that is an unoccupied tract of land; 2) it was a dividing line, a border, and 3) the Lamanites were mainly occupying the Land of Nephi, which Mormon clearly states that “between” the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla was the narrow strip of land.
The Narrow Strip of Wilderness that stretched from the East Sea to the West Sea, dividing the Land of Zarahemla from the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:27)

And since the narrow strip “divided” the Lamanites and Nephites, it stands to reason no one lived within that narrow strip.
    The theorists goes on to say, “The U-shaped boundary described above is the mountain path that the Lamanites would follow. Instead of venturing down into the valley, they would go around using the surrounding highlands. The head of the river Sidon was at the bottom of the U.”
    Now, overall in this simple and short description of this part of the Land of Promise, several errors are made:
1. It becomes evident that the word ‘wilderness,’ as it is used in the Book of Mormon, usually refers to mountainous areas. 
    This is far from the truth. In several cases the word “wilderness” in the Book of Mormon refer to hills (leaving Jerusalem), a wadi (traveling south toward the Red Sea), a seashore (traveling along the Red Sea), a valley (where Lehi camped beside the river he named Laman), and a very large sand desert (the Rub’ al Khali in Saudi Arabia), all of which Nephi described as a wilderness where they spent eight years (1 Nephi 17:4);
2. Regarding the East and West wilderness being a mountain area. 
    The East and West wildernesses is along the seashore, not a mountain area, and when Moroni drove out the Lamanites in the area and pushed them back into their own lands, he had people from Zarahemla move into the wilderness and build a city, the city of Moroni, which was along the seashore (Alma 50:9);
3. We can deduce that Sidon is surrounded by a strip of mountains on the east, west, and south.
    There is no reason to believe that the river Sidon has mountains on three sides. We do not know the configuration of the narrow strip of wilderness, though it would obviously be at a higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla. The city of Nephi itself, is in a high mountain valley, with mountains on at least two sides (north and east) since Ammon camped on the mountain top (or hill top) that overlooked the city below Mosiah 7:5, 6);
4. The Lamanites (at least the more “idle part”) preferred to live in the mountains, hunting beasts for food.”
    We don’t know that the Lamanites preferred to live in the mountains. That they lived in the Land of Nephi is obvious, but that may have been since the Nephites vacated that land, it had houses, buildings, crops, etc., which may have been why the Lamanites chose to live there. The narrow strip of wilderness may have had breaks, canyons, cliffs, etc., which kept the Lamanites from moving further northward. We simply do not know this.
5. The Nephites preferred to live in the lowlands and raise their own animals.
The city of Nephi was in a mountain valley, surrounded by mountains, or at least mountains on the north as indicated in Mosiah 7:5-6, and undoubtedly in the east as well 

The Nephites lived in the mountains in the city of Nephi and the Land of Nephi for some 350 years and must have preferred it to other lands. When they arrived in Zarahemla, there were several families that chose to go back to the Land of Nephi, obviously preferring to live there among Lamanites than at the lower elevation of Zarahemla, and remained for three generations and no doubt would have stayed longer had the Lamanites not driven them out. It is of little value and adds nothing to our store of acquired knowledge for theorists to speculate so far on matters that are simply unknown.
6. The land and city of Nephi are located in upland territory (2 Nephi 5:7-8, Alma 22:28). The city of Zarahemla is at an intermediate elevation, "up" from the eastern lowland coast (Alma 22:31) but "down" from the land of Nephi (Alma 22:3; Helaman 2:17). 
    The Land of Zarahemla and the city of Zarahemla are not in an upland or intermediate elevation. The scripture quoted (Alma 22:31) for this has to do with the Jaredites landing, not the Nephites, and there is no Helaman 2:17, perhaps he meant Helaman 1:15. The Land of Zarahemla, for the most part, is near sea level, with the city of Zarahemla on the seashore where the Mulekites landed and remained until Mosiah found them (Omni 1:16).
7. The land of Bountiful itself seems to be quite narrow since (Alma 22:31-33) describes it mostly as a zone that runs across the narrow neck of land. 
The Land of Bountiful was separated from the Land of Zarahemla by an unnamed land

The Land of Bountiful occupied the northern lands of the Land Southward and was separated from the Land of Desolation (the Land Northward) by a small (or narrow) neck of land. There is no mention of a narrow strip or zone of land there. In fact, there was a piece of land that is unnamed which occupied an area between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful (3 Nephi 3:23; Helaman 4:5).
    It is not that reading or understanding the writing of the Book of Mormon is difficult, it just requires exact reading and not jumping to conclusions or skipping parts, or reading like a novel but pondering the scriptures. 
(See the next post, “On the Language of Joseph Smith – Part III,” for more information on how theorists and others writing or talking about the Book of Mormon often mistake the meaning of a word or phrase which either clouds the issue, changes its meaning, or draws inaccurate conclusions)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On the Language of Joseph Smith – Part I

How often do people reading the Book of Mormon consider what words meant to Joseph Smith that he used in translation. If you were to translate something, what words would you use? Would you know how a work might change over time in the future?
If you have been translating English in the past, would you have known that the word “nice,” which meant “silly, foolish, simple,” would be so far different in the future? And what about the word “silly” of the past, would you know the word, which meant things worthy or blessed, would later mean weak and vulnerable, and finally, as in our day, meaning those who are foolish?
    In that distant past, when you wrote “something was awful,” such as “the awful majesty of God,” meaning it was worthy of “awe,” would you know the word would eventually come to mean what it does today, just the opposite? And centuries ago, the word “clue” meant a ball of yarn, “naughty” meant “naught” or “nothing,” a “spinster” was merely a woman who spun, the word “merry” meant “short,” and the word “fine” meant being at the end, while “merry” meant “short.”
    For those who wonder how such opposite meanings came about, think of teenagers today using words like “that’s sick,” meaning excellent, outstanding; “bad” “wicked” and “nasty,” meaning awesome; “snatched” meaning looking good; “thirsty,” meaning needs attention, etc.
    Words in general change over time, such as “afford” once meaning to move forward, or “artificial” once meaning a messenger, or “desire” which once meant a person who studied the stars. Thus, an American dialect will therefore be formed." As the settlers (including a good proportion of Irish and Scots, with their own distinctive accents and usages of English) pushed westward, new terms were indeed introduced, and these pioneers were much less reticent to adopt native words or, indeed, to make up their own. The journals of Lewis and Clark, written as they explored routes to the west coast in 1804-6, contain over 500 native words (mainly animals, plants and food). The wild “outlands” west of the Mississippi River gave us the word outlandish to describe its idiosyncratic characters.
John Adams’ much-vaunted “plain English” took a back seat in the hands of colorful characters like Davy Crockett (who was himself of Scots-Irish decent) and others, who saw western expansion as an excuse to expand the language with new words and quirky Americanisms like skedaddle, bamboozle, shebang, riff-raff, hunky-dory, lickety-split, rambunctious, ripsnorter, humdinger, doozy, shenanigan, discombobulate, absquatulate, splendiferous, etc., not to mention evocative phrases like fly off the handle, a chip on the shoulder, no axe to grind, sitting on the fence, dodge the issue, knuckle down, make the fur fly, go the whole hog, kick the bucket, face the music, bite the dust, barking up the wrong tree, pass the buck, stack the deck, poker face, in cahoots, pull up stakes, horse sense, two cents’ worth, stake a claim, strike it rich, the real McCoy and even the phrase stiff upper lip (in regard to their more hidebound British cousins).
    From the deliberately misspelled and dialectical works of Artemus Ward and Josh Billings to popular novels like Harriet Beecher Stowe's “Uncle Tom's Cabin” (1852) and Mark Twain's “Huckleberry Finn” (1884), this American vernacular spread rapidly, and became in the process more publicly acceptable both in everyday speech and in literature.
    Many Spanish words also made their way into American English during the expansion and settlement of the Spanish-influenced American West, including words like armadillo, alligator, canyon, cannibal, guitar, mosquito, mustang, ranch, rodeo, stampede, tobacco, tornado and vigilante (some of which were also originally derived from native languages). To a lesser extent, French words, from the French presence in the Louisiana area and in Canada, contributed loanwords like gopher, prairie, depot, cache, cent and dime, as well as French-derived place names like Detroit, Illinois, Des Moines, etc.
    American English words made their way to the mother country of England should not be underestimated. They include commonly used word like commuter, bedrock, sag, snag, soggy, belittle, lengthy, striptease, gimmick, jeans, teenager, hangover, teetotal, fudge, publicity, joyride, blizzard, showdown, uplift, movie, obligate, stunt, notify, redneck, businessman, cocktail, skyscraper, bootleg, highfalutin, guesstimate, raincoat, cloudburst, nearby, worthwhile, smooch, genocide, hindsight and graveyard among many others.
    Even the word roundabout originally came from America, even though traffic circles hardly existed then. This word, by the way is used by Mormon to indicate the boundary of the Lamanite-occupied West and East wilderness where the Narrow Strip of Wilderness curved upward along both seashores. In addition, the quintessential Americanism is perhaps OK (okay), which has become one of the best known and most widespread terms throughout the entire world.
Its origins are somewhat obscure and still hotly debated, but it seems to have come into common usage in America in the early 1800s, during President Van Buren’s re-election campaign of 1840, from orl correct, then a humorous form of “all correct,” which, along with the initials of Van Buren’s nickname, Old Kinderhook, provided the initials of OK.
    Many of these Americanisms were met with a certain amount of snobbery in Britain, and many words thought to be American in origin were vilified as uncouth and inferior by the British intelligentsia (even though many of those denigrated actually turned out to be of older English provenance in the first place).
    Today, some 4,000 words are used differently in the USA and Britain (lift/elevator, tap/faucet, bath/tub, curtains/drapes, biscuit/cookie and boot/trunk are just some of the better known ones) and, increasingly, American usage is driving out traditional words and phrases back in Britain (e.g. truck for lorry, airplane for aeroplane, etc). American spelling is also becoming more commonplace in Britain (e.g. jail for gaol, wagon for waggon, reflection for reflexion, etc), although some Americanized spelling changes actually go back centuries (e.g. words like horror, terror, superior, emperor and governor were originally spelled as horrour, terrour, superiour, emperour and governour in Britain, even if other words like colour, humour and honour had resisted such changes).
    Just as important are the words common to the region in which one lives, for not all American English is the same any more than American and British English are the same, such as faucet in the north and spigot in the south; frying pan, north, but skillet in the south; or such other words as gutter or eves; pit or seed; teeter-totter or seesaw; firefly or lightning bug; pail or bucket, etc.
    Joseph Smith grew up in the New England area of Vermont, New Hampshire and north-western New York. If you have never traveled around this country you might not realize the huge difference in pronunciation from one area to another, though today it is nowhere near as pronounced as it was in Joseph Smith’s day. And if you are from the West, regional differences are far less pronounced than in the East and South. The point is, words meant one thing in New England when Joseph Smith was translating the plates, and often something entirely different today, 187 years later.
One of the great advantages we have, however, is that the Lord saw fit to provide us in order for us to know what Joseph’s words meant is the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, compiled by Noah Webster, a very religious man in his time, who claimed to have been inspired or motivated by the Holy Spirit to compile his dictionary, on which he spent many long years.
    That it so happened to be published, the only American dictionary in the land at the time and for decades later, at the time of the publication of the Book of Mormon should point out to all of us that the Lord does not leave us without knowledge in regard to understanding his written word. Some claim Joseph Smith would not have had such a dictionary, however, when the School of the Prophets was organized in 1833, records show that among the books used as reference material in the School was Webster’s 1828 dictionary.
    Consequently, it was with some amazement a local Sunday School teacher recently in teaching the Book of Mormon went so far to say to begin her class, “We’re going to look at words and their meanings today in the Book of Mormon, and we’re not going to use some old, out-of-date Webster dictionary, but a new modern, Oxford English Dictionary.” Needless to say, it was an astounding show of a lack of understanding about which she spoke. No doubt, if old Noah Webster, who struggled for years to bring about a dictionary of the meaning of American English, had been in earshot of such a remark that this woman was going to use a British-based dictionary of modern terminology to decide what words meant in 1829 America when Joseph Smith translated the plates, he probably would have had a few choice words in response.
(See the next post, “On the Language of Joseph Smith – Part II,” for more information on how theorists and others writing or talking about the Book of Mormon often mistake the meaning of a word or phrase which either clouds the issue, changes its meaning, or draws inaccurate conclusions)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Where Did the Phoenicians Sail? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding where the early Phoenician mariners sailed and traded. As earlier state, the Phoenician civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean during the first millennium B.C.E. Though ancient boundaries of such city-centered cultures fluctuated, the city of Tyre seems to have been the southernmost. Sarepta between Sidon and Tyre, is the most thoroughly excavated city of the Phoenician homeland.
Based on the fourteenth century BC Amarna tablets, the Phoenicians called themselves Kenaani or Kinaani, meaning Canaanites. The name Phoenicia became common because of the Greeks who called the land Phoiniki, referring to the purple dye the Phoenicians created, which led to their initial trading in dyed cloth. Stories circulated by some current historians, based in part on Herodotus’ History in 440 BC, that the Phoenicians migrated into the Levant from the Erythraean Sea around the Horn of Africa, or from
Strabo who wrote that they came from Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, has recently been invalidated based on DNA comparisons.

    In terms of archeology, language, and religion, there is little to set the Phoenicians apart as markedly different from other local cultures of Canaan. However, they are unique in their remarkable seafaring achievements. Yet, as indicated in the previous post, the Phoenicians were not explorers or discoverers of other lands, nor were they adventurers—their interest was in trade and they were very successful merchant traders.
    Their involvement on the sea was to widen their trading enterprises and spread trade further through opening new trading areas and establishing new trading partners. In fact, they were not land-oriented at all, retaining their control no further inland that the villages and towns they settled and with whom they traded.
    Their homeland, considered to be the area of modern-day Lebanon in the Lavant of the eastern Mediterranean, extended no further than the coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Babylos along the western end of the Fertile Crescent. Nor did they make any attempt to control or interfere with the sovereignty of the cities and settlements with whom they traded.
    According to Amazing Bible timeline with World History (Bible Charts and Maps, Austin, Texas, 2018), the Phoenicians primarily sailed along the coastlines to various trading points that were situated on their routes. Even though they were a seafaring people, they did not take long extended voyages into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. They might have sailed up to Gaul (modern day France) to trade in wine of which the Phoenicians were well known to produce, and to Britain for the all-important tin, but it’s highly unlikely that they would have ventured out beyond these points. If any Phoenician traders or sailors traveled out into the deep waters of the Atlantic Oceans, it should be noted that no historical records indicate that this ever happened.
    While there is speculation among some historians that the Phoenicians sailed beyond Spain to Britain to trade tin, because during the Bronze Age this particular metal substance was needed in the process of making copper, there is no substantive proof of such voyages. Strabo (Strabonis), an ancient Greek philosopher and historian from Asia Minor (Turkey), states in his Geographica that the Phoenicians had a lucrative trade with Britain for tin, and only tin and no other type of materials. Again, this tin might have reached the Mediterranean and the Phoenician traders overland across Gaul.
The Phoenicians, like most traders of antiquity, dealt in physical products that could be used by consumers, usually household items, having started their trade empire selling purple-dyed Tyrian cloth, the dye obtained from the Murex mollusk material unique to their homeland 

In fact, there is no real historic evidence that the Phoenicians ever traded (or sailed) outside the Mediterranean Sea. According to Professor Timothy Champion, of Oxford, and an Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton, as well as a former Editor of the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, and who also served as Vice-President and then President of the Prehistoric Society, in discussing the ancient very important tin trade, he claims the Phoenicians never sailed to or traded in Cornwall (Britain). He states that the Cornish tin trade was solely in the hands of the natives of Cornwall, and its transport to the Mediterranean was organized by local merchants, by sea and then over land through Gaul, well outside Phoenician control. This appears more in line with the trade of tin entering the Mediterranean across Gaul.
    According to George Rawlinson, Camden Professor of Ancient History at the University of Oxford and Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Turin, as late as 700 B.C., the Phoenicians were sailing in rowed boats with no sail at all, or just a small, close-reefed sail, having invented the double rowed vessel by placing the rowers on two different levels, one above the other, which the Greeks called “biremes.” This method of propulsion is found on both types of Phoenician vessels of the time, both their war-galley and transport ships (Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, History of Art in Phonenicia, vol.3, 34, in History of Phoenicia, Chapman and Hall, Library of Alexandria, 1885).
    The point is, history has no record that the Phoenicians sailed anywhere outside the Mediterranean and of the more than 100 cities, settlements and trading posts established by the Phoenicians, they are known to have settled only thirteen trading centers between 1000 and 200 B.C., beyond the Strait of Gibraltar: five in Spain, including Karteia, Gades/Cadiz, Onoba, Gadeira and Tartessus; with eight in Morocco, including Tingus, Silis or Zilil, Asilah, Lixus, Thamusida/Kenitra, Sala, Anfa, and Mugador/Essaouira, which was the furthest south.
Phoenician established settlements and trading posts between 1000 B.C. and 200 B.C. around the Strait of Gibraltar and along the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Morocco, which were the furthest penetration of the Phoenicians westward across the Mediterranean

In fact, there is some question as to the exact dates of Phoenician colonization; some claim it began in 1200 B.C. while others cite their expansion to be contemporary with Greek colonization in the 8th century B.C. Still others reference sailing vessels of Tyre in the 19th century B.C. from the Bible,where a 10th century source from Tyre to a colony not paying its tribute (likely Tuica or Cyprus). In addition, there is a unanimity of ancient writers that Phoenician colonization of the Mediterranean occurred before the Greeks.
   Thus, a compromise has been achieved among scholars which posits a period of “pre-colonial” trade centers established between the 12th to 8th centuries B.C., followed by the establishment of colonies proper between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C.  In this period then, lasting over 500 years, the Phoenicians controlled a network of stopping points which established them as one of the greatest trading powers in the ancient world. Between these colonies, Phoencia itself, and the great civilizations of the period, goods were shipped and exchanged all across the Mediterranean.
    With this in mind, then it is easy to see that the Phoenicians would not be out sailing the Atlantic before they established their trading centers in the western Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coats of Spain and Morocco (North Africa), which all but eliminates any speculation regarding their sailing far and wide prior to the time Lehi and Mulek left Jerusalem for the Land of Promise. In addition, the vast majority of knowledgeable historians have been far more conservative in their histories of the sailing routes of the ancient Phoenicians, limiting their efforts to the coastal shores of mostly the southern Mediterranean (North Africa) and the limited area along the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Morocco.
    After all, the Phoenicians were not explorers, but merchants involved in trade—their entire history is about trade and opening new settlements and outposts to further their trading enterprises. In fact, there is not even a consensus among historians that the Phoenicians ever even reached Britain, let alone sailed far into the Atlantic to the nearby islands, or to the Americas as some of our Land of Promise theorists like to claim. Phoenicia was no doubt a maritime power in the Mediterranean, dominating trade from 1200 to 800 BC, but by 539, when the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Phoenicians left the Mediterranean Sea, despite so many claims to the contrary by historians.
The naval siege of Tyre by the Macedonian Alexander the Great in 350 BC marked the end of Phoenicia’s maritime trading empire
Under Persian dominance, the Phoenicians flourished building fleets of ships for the Persian kings; however, in 350 BC an uprising was crushed by the Persiasn and in 332 BC, when Alexander the Great captured Tyre after a long siege, Phoenicia was ousted as a dominant shipbuilding and trading entity in the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, Phoenician culture disappeared entirely in the homeland. Only Carthage remained.
    The idea that Phoenicia, during its successful trading enterprise, sailed the open seas and landed in the Americas is strictly fallacious, written by those interested in changing history. The Phoenicians lacked any vessels that could make such voyages, still depending mostly on oar power as late as 600 BC. Even during their circumnavigation of Africa for the Egyptian king Necho, which is questioned by many historians, the Phoenicians are recorded as setting into land every night, and twice during the three year voyage, planted and harvested grain in order to continue on their journey—not something that would be possible crossing the oceans.
    The only thing we know for certain about the Phoenicians, is their journeys along the coasts of the Mediterranean in the pursuit of trade, not exploration.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Where Did the Phoenicians Sail? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding where the early Phoenician mariners sailed. We need to keep in mind that the Phoenicians were not explorers, discoverers, or adventurers—they were merchant traders. Their involvement on the sea was to widen their trading enterprises and spread trade further and further, opening new trading areas and establishing new trading partners.
    Knowledge of Phoenician trading is learned from recovered artifacts from Sidon found in throughout Mesopotamia to Rome and even the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Morocco. To expand in trading, the Phoenicians built settlements and outposts that later became great cities in their own right. The most famous of these outposts was Carthage (founded in 814 B.C. and located in modern-day Tunisia, North Africa) was begun under Pygmalion of Tyre.
Map of the Phoenician trading outposts and those of the Greek; in the latter half of the Phoenician trading period, the Greeks controlled the northern rim of the Mediterranean in the east and the Phoencians the south rim, and concentrated in the Western Mediterranean

In fact, under Pygmalion, Tyre shifted the heart of its early trading empire from the Middles East into the Mediterranean, establishing Carthage, term that can be traced to the Greek Qart-hadasht, meaning “New City,” showing it was a colony, and as history shows, the largest Phoenician outpost. They also settled other colonies such as Kition (Citium, Kittim) on Cypress, which Tyre    ruled beginning in 1000 BC, with the Tyranians rebuilding the city in 850 BC, and maintaining the outpost until 570 BC, when the Persians gained control. The Phoenicians also traded in Sardinia, an island just west of the Italian peninsula, in what is considered to be the beginning of the western Mediterranean.
    It might be noted that as late as 510 BC, Carthage invaded Sardinia and gained control of the west-central and southern part of the island, so they could have an anchorage for sailing further westward. The savage battles for this island suggests both the importance of and anchorage for further westward movement, and the fact that Phoenician had not yet achieved or reached the far western end of the Mediterranean. 262 years later, the Romans, as a result of the First Punic War, gained control of Corsica and Sardinia from Carthage, which they maintained for 694 years.
    Without this anchorage, from which westward movement could be undertaken within the Mediterranean, the great Carthage (Phoenician) dominance of the entire Mediterranean was on hold.
    It might also be of interest to know that from the beginning, the city of Byblos, which flourished long before any other Phoenician city, dates from before 1500 BC, this date being when other Levant Phoenician cities developed. However, these cities are located 2,325 miles from the Straits of Gibraltar (to better understand this, by commercial airliner today that is nearly a 4½-hour flight at about 550 mph—this of moving that distance in an ancient sailing ship covering 90 miles per day—or about twenty-six days steady sailing. While Columbus could maintain that speed, it was not how sailing vessels traveled in BC times for they would have sailed the Mediterranean only during daylight hours, then set in to land and made camp for the night making it at least a 52- to 55-day voyage, which is almost as long as it took Columbus to cross the entire Atlantic).
    In addition, Phoenician Carthage eventually became wealthy and powerful enough to challenge the Roman Republic.
The two major centers of power of the Phoenician commercial network was Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia and Carthage in Tunesia, North Africa. As Phoenician trade moved westward, the power base shifted from the Levant to Carthage

In fact, the Phoenicians were considered a thatlassocracy, or “sea power,” meaning a state with primarily maritime realsm, an empire at sea such as the Phoenician network of merchant cities. In addition, traditional thalassocracies seldom dominated land interiors, even in their home territories such as Tyre, Sidon and Carthaghe. Whereas an “empire,” though possibly linked principally or solely by sea lanes, always extended the state's territories into mainland interiors. The former was certainly the case with Phoenicia, who settled along the coasts and dealt strictly with coastal lands in their own area and that of the outposts and settlements with whom they traded. Their outward reach along the sea spread across the Mediterranean between 1500 and 300 BC.
    Actually, the Phoenician merchants acted as middlemen for their neighbors. They transported linen and papyrus from Egypt, copper from Cyprus, embroidered cloth from Mesopotamia, spices from Arabia, and ivory, gold, and slaves from Africa to destinations throughout the Mediterranean.
    However, in 572 B.C.E., the Phoenicians fell under the harsh rule of the Assyrians. They continued to trade, but encountered tough competition from Greece over trade routes. As the 4th century B.C. approached, the Phoenicians' two most important cities, Sidon and Tyre, were destroyed by the Persians and Alexander the Great. Many Phoenicians left the Mediterranean coast for their trading colonies, and Phoenicia people and ideas were soon assimilated into other cultures.
    The Phoenicians were among the greatest traders of their time and owed much of their prosperity to trade. At first, they traded mainly with the Greeks. As trading and colonizing spread over the Mediterranean, Phoenicians and Greeks seemed to have split that sea in two: the Phoenicians sailed along and eventually dominated the southern shore, while the Greeks were active along the northern shores. The two cultures rarely clashed, mainly in the Sicilian Wars, and eventually settled into two spheres of influence, the Phoenician in the west and the Greeks to the east.
    In the centuries after 1200 B.C., the Phoenicians were the major naval and trading power of the region. Phoenician trade was founded on the Tyrian purple dye, a violet-purple dye derived from the Murex sea-snail, once profusely available in coastal waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea but exploited to local extinction. The Phoenicians eventually established a second production center for the dye in Mogador, in present-day Morocco. 
    The Phoenicians have been referred to as the “middlemen” of culture due to the cultural transferrence which accompanied their trade. During the height of their influence and power, the Phoenicians set up colonies along various coastal areas where they began to expand their operations and trade goods with many nations, exchanging merchandise with past world powers such as Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Iberian Peninsula or Spain. They also traded with other empires and kingdoms that were located near their coastal cities. The Israelites, Babylonians and the Hittites were other groups of people that conducted business with the Phoenicians. They extended their seafaring power all the way to Spain near the Straits of Gibraltar. This particular landmark represented the extent of their empire in the west.
A relief found in Nineveh showing a Phoenician 700 BC ship, called a bireme (Greek διήρης) with two levels of oars and no sail

It should be noted here, that the Phoenicians were not a true seafaring nation; that is, they were not an exploring people going into seas and areas beyond the Mediterranean. They were a sea power, but only as it allowed them to establish and maintain trading centers, trading outposts, and open up trade in the cities and areas around the Mediterranean. Their involvement with Gaul, was along the northern rim of the Mediterranean, with ports like Marsillia (Marseille), Aqua Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence), and Arelate (Aries) along Gaul’s southern coast. Whether or not the Phoenicians actually sailed to Britain is in question, however, their trade in Cornwall tin might well have occurred overland through Gaul to the Mediterranean as many historians claim.
    In fact, the Phoenicians are considered today to have been among one of the world’s leading trading civilizations. At first, they traded mostly with the Greeks, but eventually widened their trading interests to eventually cover most of the Mediterranean. However, when it comes to where they sailed, that question has never been completely answered, partly because of the myths that have been fostered by so-called historians.
(See the next post, “Where Did the Phoenicians Sail? – Part III,” to better understand the range and scope of the Phoenician commercial trading network, and as a result, where the Phoenicians sailed)