Sunday, December 16, 2018

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

Continued from the previous post regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the Mesoamerican and Heartland models of the Land of Promise listed by Michael De Groote, as appeared in the Deseret News.
    Items 1 through 3 were listed in the previous post. Here we continued with #4:
4. Archaeology
It is claimed that Mesoamerica has cities—large urban areas that date to the right time for the Book of Mormon.

The first Olmec buildings, and therefore the first in Mesoamerica, were pyramids, which date from 1000 BC. These were stepped pyramids with a dedicatory building or temple on top. The earliest known pyramid, now deteriorated into a unimpressive mound, stands at La Venta in Tabasco, Mexico, and dates to between 1000 B.C. and 400 B.C.

Response: By right time, Mesoamericanists have to use questionable soft dates, such as those derived from diffusion, i.e., dated concepts borrowed from geology, such as time taken for “a type to spread by diffusion must be allowed for and if possible calculations from outside evidence.” This means that hard objects, such as structures—temples, pyramids, public buildings, walls—do not exist, only soft evidences, such as questionable lithic tools, pottery fragments or midden refuse.
    From these latter items archaeologists and anthropologists build a scenario of existence and development of “stages” (units or time periods of cultural similarity—such as a non-pottery or pre-ceramic stage), and “periods” (Paleolitic; Neolithic; Chalcolithic; Early, Middle and Late Bronze; Iron I and II, etc.)
    Though it is agreed that periods provide a more useful basis for cultural interpretation than stages, archaeologists attempt to place every discovery into one of these stages or periods.
    Thus, soft evidence is based on their standard idea of diffusion or transmission of cultural characteristics or traits from the common society to all other societies, and their arbitrary determination of stages and periods. In addition, there is also the arbitrarily placement within: Early, Middle and Late Lithic; Early, Middle and Late Archaic; Early, Middle and Late Formative. These stages of course, as all soft dating in archaeology and anthropology, are based in part on what is found at settlement sites and, most importantly, how it is interpreted by the archaeologist and researcher.
    On the other hand, the hard evidence of buildings, temples, and cities of general structures, in Mesoamerica, which is not based on speculation or pre-determined factors, but on solid, hard evidence that exists without explanation, provide a dating process that is far more accurate, though carbon-14 dating does have its own problems. However, in this hard evidence, Mesoamerica sites do not date to the early Nephite period as Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists claim, but later in their occupation of the Land of Promise to late in the last century BC and the first century AD, about 600 years after landing. That pottery shards and other soft evidence can be found in Mesoamerica prior to that is not in question.
Solomon’s Temple: capability of Israelite construction in Jerusalem around the time of Lehi

Thus, it should be kept in mind when comparing archaeological findings with the Nephite period, one has to consider that Lehi and his party had already reached the stage of development, capability and achievement of the Israelites in Jerusalem of 600 BC, which had built an enormous stone city, temple and public buildings such as palaces and civic centers to equal any on Earth at the time. Therefore, to use soft evidence as dating to Nephite times of Lehi and his descendants living in twig huts with thatched roofs is unrealistic and misleading.
Heartland. There is no evidence of any large cities, large urban areas, dating to the Nephite period. The claim that they built in wood and therefore, it is not found, or that modern cities have been built over the sites, is a poor rationale, since evidence of wood structured buildings is found from antiquity, such as Monte Verde in Chile where “wooden artifacts and house planks” have not only been found but carbon dated far into antiquity, prior to anything else found in the Americas.
    In addition, foundational material and markings such as depressions, outlines, wall marks in the ground, etc., have been found all over the world dating to before the Nephite era. The idea that modern civilization wiped out all such evidence is also without merit, since almost all ancient development in various areas has been eradicated, in part, by modern encroachment—but still evidences remain.
The Andean Norte Chico civilization Caral or Caral-Supe pyramid complex, considered to be the oldest in the Americas, dates to 3100 BC. Top: Two of the remaining pyramids; Bottom: Walls and stairs up one of the pyramids

South America. Archaeologists have found hard evidence, that is structures, buildings, walls, and plazas that date to before, and during Nephite occupation. In fact, all dates in South America predate those of Mesoamerica, some by a considerable margin; several, like Caral, whose pyramids and city structures have been dated to about 2600 BC, have been described as the oldest city in the Americas, and also Chavin de Huantar, Cumbemayo, El Paraiso, Sechin Alto, Buena Vista and Huaricanga, and others such as Acaray, Aspero, and Bandurria are also ancient structures and date entirely in Nephite times. Keep in mind that these are actual structures of stone and mud brick that are still standing, though in various stages of disrepair. 
5. Peoples 
Quoting Sorenson: "There would have to be some remains of Jaredites, of a particular era and scope.
There would have to be Nephites distinct from, separate from and opposed to Lamanites. There would have to be Mulekites. And there are, as a matter of fact, evidence for all of these—for such groups, for multiple groups, in Mesoamerica." 
Response: It is easy to say this or that, however, actual evidence must be consistent with the scriptural record. As an example, the people Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists’ claim were Jaredites, were the Olmec of Mexico, who settled in the area of Vera Cruze, just north, along the Gulf of Mexico, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (their narrow neck of land). However, Moroni in his abridgement of Ether’s record makes it clear that the Jaredites never settled or moved south of the narrow neck of land, but rather reserved that area for a hunting preserve (Ether 10:19).
    That is, no Jaredite development, settlement, or building took place south of the narrow neck of land—though they did completely fill the Land Northward (Ether 10:21). In fact, the furthest southern city they build was “by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20).
    Yet, and this is quite important, the Olmec, who the Mesoamericanists claim were the Jaredites, in additional to a strong presence in what they call the Land Northward, the Olmec also settled far south of their narrow neck of land (Isthmus of Tehuantepec), contrary to the scriptural record.
The Olmec Heartland, from Vera Cruz in the northwest along the Gulf, to La Venta, in the northeast along the Gulf. Note that La Venta is in their Land Southward. Note also that the brown area does not cover very much of the Land Northward, showing the Olmec did not “fill the land northward” 

It should be noted that the Olmec center in La Venta, was not only one of the major Olmec settlements in Mesoamerica, but was also one of the oldest, earliest and latest occupied, which places it squarely on the coastal alluvial plain of Mesoamericanists’ Land of Bountiful in today’s state of Tobasco, instead of in their Land Northward.
    This Olmec area in their Land Southward was in the humid and tropical lowlands as early as 1500 BC to about 400 BC. Pre-Olmec cultures are said to have flourished in the area since about 2500 BC, but by 1600-1500 BC, the actual Olmec culture had emerged centered on the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, made up of San Lorenzo, Tenochtitlán, and Potrero Nuevo settlements. By 1500, the site of El Manatí, at the foot of cerro Manatí, about 9 miles east of San Lorenzo, was the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed.
(See the next post, “Comparing Mesoamerican, Heartland, and Andean South American Lands of Promise-Part III,” for more regarding the Deseret News article about the pros and cons of Mesoamerican as opposed to the Heartland models, and South America)

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