Monday, October 7, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XXIII

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamerianists’ skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words that Joseph Smith used in the translation and their accuracy, and particularly how maps come into play in understanding directions and the ancient cultures who may have never seen one.
Gardner: “An inherent misperception of any ancient directional system occurs simply by our attempts to represent them on a map. Our maps take a birds-eye view, and often literally a satellite’s view of the land we are interested in. Almost any map we use to describe the Book of Mormon geography assumes an understanding of an area of land much larger than the ancients would have comprehended. Their world was limited to what they could see, travel to, or have described to them.”
“Lehi returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen. And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision” (1 Nephi 1:7-8)

Response: First, in a vision, both Lehi and Nephi were given a “bird’s eye view” of events surrounding the Land of Promise, and much of the world, from beginning to end, even down to the time Columbus discovered the Western Hemisphere, the Spanish invaded and conquered, and the Gentiles of England (and Europe) fought their battles here and secured the freedom of the land (1 Nephi 13:17-19).
    He also saw the land of promise full of Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:30); he saw the land of promise after the great battles, when only a remnant of the Lamanites were left upon it (1 Nephi 13:38). He even “saw among the nations of the Gentiles…” (1 Nephi 13:4); “many waters that divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren” (1 Nephi 13:11); Gentiles crossing the many waters and the entire land of promise (1 Nephi 13:13-15); the Gentiles “upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands” (1 Nephi 13:30); the coming forth of the Book of Mormon on the land of promise (1 Nephi 13:41).
    In fact, Nephi was shown in his vision “all these things,” regarding the involvement of Satan and his church in all the nations of the earth (1 Nephi 14:12-16). Therefore, it cannot be said “Their world was limited to what they could see, travel to, or have described to them” as Gardner does. He seems to forget the power of visions given to most of the ancient Nephite prophets to, and including Mormon.
    As for maps, what we have today is far different than what existed in ancient times, which did not represent a satellite view, but rather a very imaginative layout of the continents, with no detail whatsoever.

                                                       Early Maps of the World

Top Left: Hecataeus of Miletus' map of the world, made in the 5th or 6th century BC.
Hecataeus divides the world into three parts: Europe, Asia, and Libya, centered around the Mediterranean Sea. His world is a round disc surrounded by an ocean.

Top Right: Posidonius' world map, made in the 2nd century BC. This map expands on the early Greek vision of the world, including discoveries of Alexander the Great.
Bottom Left: Pomponius Mela (ca 43 AD) is unique among ancient geographers in that, after dividing the earth into five zones, of which two only were habitable, he asserts the existence of antichthones, people inhabiting the southern temperate zone inaccessible to the folk of the northern temperate regions due to the unbearable heat of the intervening torrid belt. On the divisions and boundaries of Europe, Asia and Africa, he repeats Eratosthenes; like all classical geographers from Alexander the Great (except Ptolemy) he regards the Caspian Sea as an inlet of the Northern Ocean, corresponding to the Persian (Persian Gulf) and Arabian (Red Sea) gulfs on the south.
Bottom Right: This world map was included in Bünting’s Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae, one of the best-selling books of the sixteenth century. Although the precise number and content of the maps in the volumes shifted over time, this map was included from the very first edition, published in Magdeburg in 1581. The map focuses on the oikumene, or the ancient known world, showing Europe, Asia, and Africa in outline with the locations of the principal cities.
    There was also the early Bünting cloverleaf map of the world (shown in a previous post), with Jerusalem at the center, showing its three parts, before Columbus discovered the fourth quarter or the fourth part of the world. It is representative of symbolic map making of the time. Not until Ptolemy in the first and second centuries A.D., was a map developed using lines of latitude and longitude and defining locations on a coordinate system.
    The Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator created a map using a mathematical formula to “project” points on the earth’s surface onto a map based on their latitude and longitude. His formula—called the Mercator projection—became the standard means of making maps for navigation, because the directions of the compass corresponded to directions on the map. North, east, south, and west were straight lines on paper, just as they are on the earth’s surface. Given the difficulties faced by cartographers, it took hundreds of years, dozens of expeditions, and countless maps before an accurate picture of the Americas emerged
The Universalis Cosmographia is a twelve-panel wall map of the world drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller and originally published in April 1507. It was one of the first maps to chart latitude and longitude precisely, following the example of Ptolemy, and was the first map to use the name “America,” naming it after Amerigo Vespucci 

Gardner: “No remaining map created by any Mesoamerican people has any of the details of our modern maps. They are spatially inaccurate and locate landmarks without precise distance interrelationships. The maps place the reader at the center and describe the conceptual bounds of the world in distances that might be a day or two of travel.
Response: The northern coast of South America, stretching a thousand miles from the mouth of the Orinoco in the east to Darien (Panama) in the west, the Spanish called Tierra Firme (meaning “mainland”), the mainland, translated by the English as the "Spanish Main."
The coastline (in maroon) of the Spanish Main. Spanish possessions in yellow

The sea to its north (Caribbean) was called, quite naturally, the "North Sea," Mar del Norte, by the Spanish whose ships controlled it. Over time, the name for this central sea of the Spanish Empire became the general name for the entire basin between Old Spain and New, so that maps from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries commonly referred to the entire Atlantic as the North Sea—Mar del Norte. As late as the 1690s, even the southernmost regions of the Atlantic, the waters to the east of Argentina and Tierra del Fuego, were labeled as Mer de Nort in a French atlas.
The naming of thre seas by the early Spanish and the location of Comogre and where Balboa crossed to the Pacific Ocean

As Spanish conquistadors gradually took possession of Tierra Firme, the native peoples they encountered informed them of another body of water, a great sea comparable to the North Sea that Spain now controlled. In 1511, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, one of several Spanish overlords competing for control of the native caciques or chieftains of the Darien region, visited the domain of Cacique Comogre, where he heard Comogre’s eldest son Panquiaco tell of golden treasures that could be found in lands to the south, across the mountains of the Darien Isthmus and the sea that lay beyond.
    Based on these early reports of the riches of the Incas, Balboa organized an exploratory expedition that departed Darien on September 1, 1513. After nearly a month’s overland journey, they came to a hill overlooking the Gulf of San Miguel, whence Balboa could look out toward the Bay of Panama, large enough in its own right, but only a small coastal indentation of an ocean the vastness of which Balboa could not possibly have imagined.
    What to call it? Balboa’s journey across the isthmus had roughly gone from north to south, and the sea he left behind him was the Mar del Norte. Balboa therefore called the waters beyond the Gulf of San Miguel the "South Sea." Balboa did not so much name this new ocean as give utterance to what it was already called by necessity of the convergence of Spanish and Native American histories. From that moment onward, as Balboa’s fellow conquistadors seized the realm of the Incas, Spain neatly divided the waters that bounded its growing empire into the Mar del Norte and the Mar del Sur, the North Sea and the South Sea.
    The point is, that we should never think of modern maps as always being the way maps were. Nor does the fact that maps are not the same today as they were suggest anything other than a difference in map making by different cultures, especially in the early stages as man’s knowledge from exploration expanded. While the Maya map cited by Gardner placed the person in the middle of the map, so did the early maps place Jerusalem in the middle, as indicated above. Map making strategies, purposes, and views changed over time. At some point in the future, all our maps will be in three-dimensional imagery with fascinating advances we cannot even imagine today. Already we have interactive maps that move and change as we touch or view different portions of it.
    The point of all this is that, no matter the map, its cartographer, or those who used it, East was always east and was identified by where the sun rrose. It was from this last point that early man knew where East was, and why some languages interpret to “Where the Sun rises.” However, tht does not mean that eary man did not understand the march of the sun from solstice to solstice and got mixed up in where east was located. While any given day in the year, the sun rose in a slightly different progression, in the course of a year the sun moved from one solstice to the other and back again—early man understood this in order to plant and harvest.
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XXIV,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of the Mesoamerianists’ skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words that Joseph Smith used in the translation and their accuracy, and the role of maps in understanding ancient culture’s directional system)

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