Friday, September 27, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XII

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of John L. Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, and Gardner’s idea that the Maya alone used a sun rise to sun set and the arc through the sky to the sun’s zenith and on to sunset in the west was someone unique or special among the Maya and, therefore, shows they had a fifth cardinal point of direction, along with our responses.
In addition to the words mentioned in the last post, there are also Polysemy words that, when translating, no single word or phrase covers the entire possible meanings conveyed, and in some cases they can vary according to context. David Moore, a doctoral candidate in Linguistics at the University of Western Australia, an accredited interpreter of the Alyawarr language of Central Australia, works as an interpreter in courts, tribunals and police interviews. He states that the word “kulini” in Western Desert languages has an English translation which cover the senses of “understand,” “hear,” “know,” “think,” “listen,” “believe,” and “obey.” Yet, when trying to show an English word meaning for “kulini,” no single explanation would be accurate (Moore, “Aboriginal Languages and Interpreting in the Northern Territory,” NT Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol.8, iss.12, May/June).
    The point of all of this is that translation is not a simple matter and, in most cases, not something easily checked or verified. A lot is dependent upon the interpretation of ideas and meanings as passed on between the aboriginal person and the translator. If translation is only done from written matter, such as in Mayan, the problems become expanded, for it is a one-sided evaluation, and the pre-disposition, background, understanding, purpose, etc., of the translator becomes involved.
    No doubt this is why Joseph Smith needed the assistance of the Spirit through the Urim and Thummim and seer stone in order to develop the correct translation. The problem is that Mesoamericanists approach Joseph’s translation as they would any secular translation and try to make it mean what they want it to mean, or suggest that the scriptural interpretation is either wrong or not quite correct.
Gardner: “What Pinker didn’t know was that the upslope/downslope spatial orientation was repeated in their concept of world directions. Upslope/downslope are not only the terms the Tzeltal use instead of ‘left /right,’ but are also used instead of ‘south/north.’ The Tzeltal conceive of the East/West axis as the critical direction for orientation. Upslope (left and south) and downslope (right and north) are simply the same terms they would use for anything else that is spatially oriented against the main reference (the sun in the case of the directions, or the human body in the case of the location of the spoon in the cup). They are not terms for “north” or “south”, but simply for spatial orientation against the reference position.”
Response: While this might be of interest to some, especially in the study of a particular people, it has little bearing on the majority of instances in the world where spatial terminology is used, understood, and properly identified. Again, this is like Sorenson’s argument of the Mohave Indians who could travel 100 miles in a day, thus his argument was that the day and a half journey of a Nephite across the narrow neck of land had to be much wider than others thought, giving rise to his 144-mile-wide Isthmus of Tehuantepec as Mormon’s narrow neck of land.Gardner: “David Stuart of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University analyzed two Maya glyphs and argued for their meaning as “right” and “left” by noting their visual associations with other glyphs typically given as “south” and “north.” He concludes: “As students of Maya cosmology have often noted, the sun’s path defines the principal axis of the universe, with its ‘right’ and ‘left’ determining the perpendicular axis that corresponds to our ‘north’ and ‘south.’ In Chamula and other Maya communities, the celestial “sides” are perceived from the sun’s own perspective. This idea is corroborated by a larger study of direction terms in various Mesoamerican languages.”
Response: As mentioned above, the interpreter’s personal viewpoint has a lot to do with how that person sees translation. That the glyphs meant “right” and “left” cannot be shown beyond a doubt, since the interpretation cannot be verified other than by the one making the translation. And the idea that spatial directions to the Maya had to do with the movement of the sun more than ours does today is another point that cannot be verified.
Monument Valley just before sunrise

Gardner: “Nicholas A. Hopkins, visiting instructor at the Centro de Estudios Mayas, Universidad Nacional Autónima de México, and J. Kathryn Josserand, Research Associate, Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, found a general agreement in vocabulary for east and west that was related to the path of the sun.” 

Response: And this is a surprise? All western thought, directions, compass, etc., is related the rising of the sun in the east and the setting of the sun in the west. How else would one orient himself to his land or the time of day?
    The importance of the arc in the sky is based on the zenith representing noon time, an important factor for early cultures who did not have clocks or watches. In many cultures, early man told time by the movement of the Sun. For those who traveled abroad in ancient times, knowing the winter solstice was paramount since it was the shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere), the longest night where warmth was probably harder to achieve in the open, and important to know for survival. As the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center put it, “Archaeoastronomy―the study of how people in the past tracked, recorded, and understood the movement of celestial bodies―is perhaps one of the most exciting and challenging subfields of both archaeology and astronomy.
The Pueblo Indians of the Southwest U.S. used a “horizon calendar,” i.e., picking out a geographical feature on the distant horizon (a pillar, shaped rock, or cliff side, etc. such as in Monument Valley, Utah) that could be used to measure the gradual displacement of the sun through the seasons upon a nearby rock or carving

Evidence of ancient astronomical observation is often subtle and open to interpretation. But in the American Southwest, where ancient architecture and images pecked into stone are extraordinarily well preserved, a compelling case can be made for the Pueblo people’s sophisticated understanding of the heavens. And why would it have been otherwise? The lives of these ancient farmers depended on it!”
    In fact, in their attempts to use the heavens to give their lives order, balance, and predictability, it was not just the Pueblo people, but from very ancient times in Egypt to China to Europe, early agriculturalists around the globe devised ways―some elaborate, some ingenious in their simplicity―to observe, record, and use to their advantage the cyclical movements of celestial bodies. And at the heart of all these cultures the sun rising in the east, reaching its zenith in the sky and then setting in the west was at the core of their directional systems.
Anasazi ruins in the Four Corners area of the Southwest U.S. The Anasazi were the forerunners of the Pueblo, whose archaeological patterns emerged a little before 700 AD
Gardner: “They noted: “Terms for ‘north’ and ‘south’ are much more elusive. First, there are far fewer reports of these terms. Second, there are no consistent patterns in the nomenclature. Many languages have no recorded terms for ‘north’ and ‘south’, even when ‘east’ and ‘west’ are noted.”
Response: Isn’t it interesting, while the Maya language seems devoid of much in the way of “north” and “south,” and far more for “west” and “east,” the scriptural record of the book of Mormon show that the Nephites used “north” and “south” with considerable frequency and little of “east” and “west,” which obviously gives rise to the shape of the eland (long and narrow). After a while, one might get to wondering where the match between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica really exists.
Gardner: “They concluded: The extreme chaos of terms for ‘north’ and ‘south’ reinforces the idea that these “directions” are almost irrelevant. Directional orientation is based on the movements of the sun, east to west, and the other two “directions” are of lesser importance. How then, do we derive the system of four directions that is recorded in village barrios regional states, and other matters?”
Response: Perhaps by discarding the Mesoamerican model completely. After all, the Nephites were an Eastern culture, which relied on the direction “east” in almost everything they did; and the Nephites were certainly a Hebrew/Jewish culture, which held “east”—toward God—and “west”—movement away from God, of extreme importance. It should seem obvious to the most skeptical linguist and critic of Mormon’s descriptions and Nephite directions that “east” was the cornerstone of their religion and directional system. Even today, those of the Mid-East, including both Jew and Arab, look to the “east” with both reverence, and extreme importance.
Mizrah means “east” in Hebrew and is used when denoting directions. It literally means “the rising of the sun”

In fact, while the Hebrew word qedem (qedmah) means “the front of a place,” and relatively has the meaning of “east,” as in “before time,” “before east,” “eastward,” “ancient time,” and “old past,” the term מִזְרָח mizrah (Misnah) is the Hebrew word for “east” and the direction they face when praying (from the time of the Diaspora), and specifically means “the direction of the rising sun.” One indication of this association with the east is that the origin of all things could have come, does come, and will come from the east!” And it is to the east that all things of importance are located, including the temple and God and the various ancient synagogues.
    According to “United with Israel, The Global Movement for Israel,” a 3-million member grass-roots movement of individuals deeply committed to the success and prosperity of Israel, centered in Bet Shemesh, Israel, “When Jews pray facing east, they are not merely turning to the capital city in the Promised Land of their forefathers. Like a missile that narrows in on its target, the soul of the Jew is programmed to seek out its source–the root of its holiness. Jews first face Israel, then as they reach Israel, Jerusalem, and lastly as they reach Jerusalem, the Western Wall–site of the Holy Temple. Their direction is one of progressive holiness, one that narrows in and targets the highest level of closeness to the Divine Presence. And that’s the secret of Jerusalem – the place where the soul unites with its Creator, the life-line of all humanity. When Jews pray facing east, they are not merely turning to the capital city in the Promised Land of their forefathers.
    “We use north as our major orientation such as in maps which are always oriented to the north. While we use the north as our major direction, the Hebrews used the east and all other directions are oriented to this direction. For example, one of the words for south is teyman from the root yaman meaning "to the right,” i.e., “to the right of east.”
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XIII,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words in foreign cultures, along with our responses)

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