Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Value of Jaredite Animals Left Behind – Part II

Continuing with the article on the animals the Jaredites left behind when they boarded their barges and moved off into the great deep.
   As for the animals left behind, large, heavily-loaded wagons, pulled by numerous oxen was the mode of travel in the Asian area for centuries during antiquity, and may well have been used by the Jaredites in leaving the area of the tower and moving northward into the valley. Such travel may also have been used traveling along the east side of the Tigris River heading toward the delta, but once reaching the area where “many waters” were to be crossed, it is likely such conveyances were discarded and after crossing the delta with its numerous lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries, the Jaredites switched to a form of transportation that would take them across the thousand miles of sand desert. Such transportation would most likely have been by camel—the only method of crossing the Empty Quarter in southern Arabia for thousands of years.
    Either the Jaredites had access to camels in the Mesopotamia area, and were part of the “flocks of every kind” they were told to take with them, or they acquired the camels from others living around the southern side of the delta and along the shores of the “sea in the wilderness,” the southwestern area of the Persian Gulf. Once across the vast desert and at the “great sea,” they would have had no further use for camels, and obviously left them behind when they set out on their year-long voyage. If they took any with them, it would not have been all that were then roaming the Salalah Plain.
Wild camels are all over the Salalah plain, mountains to the sea, and have been for thousands of years—are these from the left over camels not taken in the barges?

One of the interesting views of the Salalah surrounding area today and over the past many centuries, is the extremely large number of camels that roam the hills, valleys and coast far away from human habitation. In fact, there are so many camels running loose, that the government recently decided to reduce their population by purchasing camels at a premium price to encourage people to sell—the result was reducing the camel population by 90%—yet, there are still many wandering the hillsides and valleys as shown in the picture above.
   We also know that the Jaredites brought with them the honey bee, which would be necessary for pollination of growing plants resulting from the planted seeds. In addition to the seeds the Jaredites brought with them, we learn from Ether, “And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land” (Ether 2:3).
    Pollination, of course, is needed to reproduce the large number of plants that depend on bees or other insects as pollinators. When a bee collects nectar and pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens—the male reproductive organ of the flower—sticks to the hairs of the bee’s body. Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants, including 90 different food crops the bees needed for pollination are honey bees, as well as solitary species and bumblebees. Without bees or some other insect pollinator, crop plants will grow, but they will not set fruit, since male and female plant parts are on different flowers.
Top: Caves in the hills above Salalah that are filled (Bottom) with ancient honey bee hives

In Salalah today, honeybee breeding is an interesting pursuit that is supported by the unique climate and geographic characteristics of the Jabal. According to locals, the jabal’s plateaus offer ideal conditions for the young larva of bees to breed. In Salalah the hills overlooking the coastal area, especially around Khor Rori (Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat, Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, Greenwood Press, Westport CT, 1998, p252).
    These hills are honeycombed with beehives where locals have gone to gather wild honey for centuries. In fact, the southern Arabian coast has always been famous for its wild honey, with the “Bedouin Bees” occurring wild in the plains and hills of the Dhofar, where they have made hives in the countless caves and caverns of the karst limestone cliffs, often shifting their nests to improve their pasture (Helen Chapin Metz, Iraq A country Study, Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish MT, 2001, p24)—hence, the term Bedouin Bees.
Ancient beehives in pure gum-resin stuck to the bark of trees

According to the Saudi Aramco World, “Bees have been making honey for the people of Southern Arabia for well over 2,000 years. The Greek scientist, Eratosthenes of Cyrene, about 240 BC produced a geography in three books which is no longer extant, but it was the source of reference for Strabo 200 years later when he wrote of southern Arabia (Oman) that the “country is in general fertile, and abounds in particular with places for making honey.” A little later Pliny the Elder, in discussing Aelius Gallus and his unsuccessful military expedition to Arabia in 25 B.C. stated that among the “discoveries he reported on his return are...that the Sabei are the most wealthy, owing to the fertility of their forests in producing scents, their gold mines, their irrigated agricultural land and their production of honey and wax.” J. R. Wellsted of the Royal Navy on visiting the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia in 1830-1831 while conducting a maritime survey from the East India Company’s ship the Palinurus, wrote: “And honey is still a local favorite today, with hollowed-log hives providing a sweetener and medicine for the people and an income for the beekeeper in many Southern Arabian villages” (Denis Lepage, in Avibase: the world bird database, Bird Studies Canada, International BirdLife International, 2009)
People around the Jabels often climbed down steep cliffs in order to reach the ancient beehive caves for honey sources

The wild bee colonies that were found in Dhofar were not “kept” but hunted, that is, they were not introduced into Oman, but had been there for a very long time, and only in the past few years have many of the almost impossible-to-reach caves even been discovered. Locals often used binoculars to watch where the wild bees went, then repelled down a cliff side to the cave to obtain the honey—even in recent years, many Jabalis sometimes risked their lives trying to reach the wild bee nests in steep cliff sides.
    In addition to Frankincense, the locals of the Salalah district, have long traded in beeswax, unfortunately often destroying hives in order to obtain the wax combs and honey because they did not transfer their wild bees into hives of any sort (Edward Wells, An Historical Geography of the Old and New Testament, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK, 1819, p 110).
    During these four years living along the coast, one would expect that the bees would have been left to their own to gather and produce honey, providing the colony with their needs of this valuable product. Again, over a four-year period, plus the time of the journey, the bees would have increased in number, no doubt beyond what the colony needed to take on their sea voyage, leaving swarms of bees to remain after the Jaredites had gone. These bees seem to be of two kind, “deseret honey bee” and “swarms of bees” (Ether 2:3), possibly resulting in the two kinds of bees now found in Salalah, Apis mellifera, and Apis florea. In addition, while beekeeping is unusual in the Salalah area today, wild honey bees are found throughout the mountains of southwestern Oman (Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, p 253).
    According to Dr. Paul Collins, a British Museum Gallery lecturer, states that these city-states of the ancient Near East were essentially farming communities with the majority of their populations being farmers. Their political systems were based on productive local agriculture and development of large-scale irrigation. Large numbers of clay tablets found in Sumer, had a centralized administration of agricultural production—and also large-scale rent farms or private farms (Dr. Paul Collins, “An Overview of Ancient Mesopotamia History,” University College, London UK). Obviously, honey bees and honey were available in Mesopotamia and was when the Jaredite4s left. It would not have been available in Salalah or along a coast that was unoccupied since it could not have had anyone to introduce the bees and their honey into the settlement of the Jaredites along the coast.
    As for the birds the Jaredites brought, after setting snares and catching fowls of the air (Ether 2:2), and loaded on the barges at the Great Sea whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them (Ether 6:4), many were left behind. Like the camels and bees, it would be obvious that many of the birds brought with the Jaredites after five or six years, would have increased in numbers beyond what “should” be carried with them in their barges.
(Top) Map of the Salalah Plain and Qara Mountains; (Bottom) Khor Rori is 5 miles to the beginning of the Wadi Diabat; 11 miles to Tawl Atyr Sinkhole; 12 miles to the Baobab Trees; 15 miles to Taiq Sinkhole; 32 miles to the animal preserve at Jabal Samhan

Today, the coastal region of Oman, especially around Salalah and the many khors (lagoons) on either side, which provide perfect spots for wintering and migrating waterbirds, including ducks, waders and terns, are excellent locations for indigenous and migrating birds. Khor Rori (Sumhuram), where Nephi would have built his ship, is an outstanding place for birds of all varieties, from desert species, such as crowned and spotted sandgrouse and hoopoe lark (Diana Darka and Sandra Shields, Oman, Bradt Travel Guides, Chalfont St. Peter, 2006, p28),to year-round water fowl of all kinds.
    It should be noted  that so many birds released in the area by the Jaredites led to two natural huge bird sanctuaries that formed in the two sinkholes of Taiq and Tawl Atyr Taiq Sinkhole;
    There are excellent birding sites in every region of the country, with migrating birds arriving from August to November, and wintering birds from December to February. There are Arabian endemics, seabirds, desert species, Mediterranean birds, and other birds that are mainly restricted to the Middle East.
    As has been stated elsewhere, the area of Salalah has large numbers of birds and bird species, as does Mesopotamia and northwestern South America, specifically Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and western Brazil. At Khor Rori alone, during seven different days scattered over several months, there were 109 bird species and 1823 birds spotted by the Omani Bird Records Committee (Birdwatching guide to Oman, Sixth Edition, 24 August 2009 (numbers approved by the Oman Bird Records Committee). There are 496 accepted species in Oman).
    In all of this, we see the Lord’s economy, the Jaredites were led to Salalah and allowed to spend four or five years there while their seeds and animals brought with them could multiply and provide sufficient numbers to ensure that when Lehi arrived, and later the Mulekites, there would be fruit and honey. As Nephite put it: “We did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish.”

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