Thursday, November 5, 2020

One Theorist’s View of Mesoamerica – Part IV

Continued from the previous post regarding Joseph L. Allen’s erroneous comments about Mesoamerica and the scriptural record. Below, continuing with page 72, are the pages on which Allen’s comments are found.

Top: Izapa; Bottom: Kaminaljuyú


• (Page 72) “The two most productive sites in Maya territory during the Middle Preclassic, 600 BC to 300 BC, were Izapa and Kaminaljuyú. The North Acropolis of Tikal was constructed around 600 BC.”

Allen, like most LDS Mesoamerican scholars would like us to believe that Central America settlements date back hundreds to thousands of years before Christ.  However, non LDS archaeologists, without an axe to grind about Mesoamerica, date artifacts in Central America quite differently, and much more modern. While Allen tells us Tikal was constructed around 600 BC, non LDS Mesoamerican archaeologists show that Tikal was much younger than Palenque, which dates to about 100 AD, thus dating the origins of Tikal more than 700 years later than Allen suggests (C. W. Aram, The March of Archaeology, Knoph, N.Y., 1966, p 277).

Yet, another glaring problem exists with Mesoamerica.  Setting aside the dates for a moment, just take a look at the locations of Allen's Central American cities in what he calls the Preclassic Period (600 BC to 300 BC).  While at first read, his list may sound logical and valid, one must look at a map (pg 246) to see where these three cities were located. Izapa is about 300 miles along the coast, in a somewhat westerly direction from Allen's Land of First Inheritance while Kaminaljuyú, Allen’s City of Nephi, is inland (north) of the Land of First Inheritance about 100 miles, and Tikal is some 700 miles north of the Land of First Inheritance, and about the same distance northeast of Izapa. Anecdotally, this means that Allen claims that Nephi traveled only about 100 miles to escape from his brothers who sought to kill him—not much distance to be free from and out of his brothers’ reach!

In addition, according to Allen, this means that at least two of these sites were established by Nephi and his people within the first couple of generations which is ludicrous and totally without scriptural evidence or even hint or suggestion. 

• (Page 72) “Altun Ha, located in Belize, dates to 500 BC, Uazactun and other sites in the Northern Peten area where the Middle Preclassic is defined the best.”

Map of the cities Allen discusses. The northern Peten area is around the city of Tikal


Altun Ha is some 400 miles from Izapa, Uazactun about 700 miles from Izapa, as are the others mentioned by Allen.  This means that with the first couple of centuries, the Nephites ranged over thousands of square miles building cities of great magnitude.  Yet, when Mosiah left the land of Nephi, those that went with him were all within a short radius of one another and when Zeniff went back to claim his inheritance (the city of Lehi-Nephi) they went back to the Land of Nephi where Nephi and his people first dwelt.  Only the city of Nephi and the city of Shemlon are mentioned in the scriptural record at this timer. To suggest that Nephite cities dotted the lands of present day Guatemala, Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula and areas in between simply does not fit the scriptural references.

• (Page 72) “No new evidence exists to show that these latter two languages (Hebrew and Egyptian) were spoken anywhere in the Americas between 600 BC and 300 BC.”

Here there are two points to consider.  First, no archaeologist or paleontologist knows what language was spoken in South America from 600 BC to 300 BC. No archaeologist nor secular historian was there to record such a language, nor do we have any archaeological record to indicate if the spoken or written language(s) were different or the same.  The only record we have of any language spoken or written is that found in the Book of Mormon—when they stray from that, they are in unknown waters, yet they tend to make claims nonetheless. 

Here we learn that in the area of Lehi's landing and later Nephite development, only Hebrew was spoken (though corrupted in the case of the later Mulekites), and that both Hebrew and Reformed Egyptian were written (1 Nephi 1:2; Mormon 9:33), the former for every day writing and records, and the latter for the sacred record (Mosiah 1:2) [19] on brass and gold plates, from Nephi down to Moroni.  Secondly, few, if any, LDS scholars have ever made a study of South America.  Thus, when Allen speaks of the Americas, he means Central America (Mesoamerica), not the entire Western Hemisphere "Americas."

• (Page 72) “Izapa is a very large site made up of 80  mounds.  It was founded as a ceremonial site during the Early Preclassic times—that is, prior to 600 BC—and continued until the Early Classic, about 350 AD.”

Map showing where the Jaredites were located in the Land Northward, and showing that the Land Southward was unoccupied until about 600 BC


According to Allen's calculations, Izapa would be in the Land Southward (south of the narrow neck) and thus, could not have been in existence prior to Mulek's or Lehi's landing dates of shortly after 600 BC.  Secondly, there is no way of knowing what the purpose of the site might have been, but true to his archaeological training, Allen labels it a ceremonial site. It is definitely known that Izapa was occupied up until 1200 AD, over 800 years after the annihilation of the people and Nation.

Thus, prior to 600 BC, only the Jaredites possessed the Land of Promise and occupied only the Land Northward and remained north or above the narrow neck of land, preserving the land southward as a hunting ground (Ether 10:21). Interesting that Allen places the Land Northward west of the Land Southward.

Consequently, Izapa in Allen's model, located in the land southward, could not have existed prior to 600 BC. Nor would one of the last Jaredite settlements have been ceremonial, since the last great war lasted many years and people and effort was devoted to the annihilation of their enemies and their own preservation.  Nor would one of the first settlements the Nephites built have been ceremonial, since they were involved in establishing themselves as a people, growing foodstuffs and living in tents.

• (Page 72) “Kaminaljuyú is one of the greatest of all archaeological sites in the New World.”

Obviously, Allen is ignorant of the vast sites found in South America. According to archaeologist Paul Kosok, the manuscripts of the late Paul Kosok, whose extensive surveys of pre-Columbian irrigation on the north coast of Peru in the 1940s, the ancient city of Chan-Chan, the largest and richest of the many secular urban sites, not only of Peru, but of all the Americas (Paul Kosok, Life, Land and Water in Ancient Peru, Long Island University Press, New York, 1965). The capital city of the Chumu, covered eleven square miles—larger than any European or American city until the 19th century (Edward Hyams and George Ordish, The Last of the Incas, Dorset Press, New York, 1963, p 37).

Tiahuanaco ruins on the south adjacent to Lake Titicaca is located in the Land Southward and is one of the largest sites in South America


Tiahuanaco, a few miles from Lake Titicaca, have ruins of a city of a million inhabitants and dates to the pre-Christian era when the Andes were thousands of feet lower than they are now and the area enjoyed a much milder climate.  In Cuzco alone, portions of fourteen palaces line the streets, and the wall at the Temple of the Sun is astonishing in its workmanship.  These walls are of finely cut blocks laid in courses without cement and are, no doubt, the finest mason's work in the world (Edward Alsworth Ross, South of Panama, The Century Co., New York, 1915, p68-69).  The coastal city of Pachacamac near Lima in Peru was described by an unknown conquistador as  a "town larger than Rome." The largest site yet excavated in Peru is El Paraiso, a vast architectural complex covering 50 to 60 hectares—about 123 to 148 acres, or about 35 square miles (Frederic Engel, "Le Complexe Preceramique d'El Paraiso," Journal de la Societe des Americanestes, No. 55, pp 43-96, Paris, 1966). 

In this complex are rooms and enclosures for community purposes, and the construction is of field stone laid in clay and the walls were covered with a clay plaster. There were also semi-Pre-Inca adobe pyramids near the Pacific coast in northern Peru.

The huge ruins of the Moche Civilization structure on the northwest coast of Peru 


These magnificent pyramids of the Sun near the ancient settlement of Moche on the coastal plains consists of a basic platform measuring about 748 by 446 feet with a height of 59 feet, and is bordered by five terraces (A. L. Kroeber, "The Uhle Pottery Collections from Moche," University of California Publications in American Archaeology and History, Vol I, No 7).

On top of this platform was set a pyramid about 338 feet square and 75 feet high, with seven terraces or steps forming the slope of this superimposed pyramid, and adjacent to it is another pyramid of huge proportions that rises 69 feet above the plain.  It seems clear that these stone-faced pyramids represent colossal constructions equaled in no other area of South America, and on the same scale as those found in Mexico and Yucatan. The pyramids all had ramps that led to the tops suggesting a ceremonial purpose. The pucara of Sacsahuaman is one of the greatest single structures ever built in preliterate America, with massive trapezoidal doorways, immense polygonal stones, with three tiers of walls rising fifty feet tall (Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, The Royal Road of the Inca, Gordon & Cremonesi, London, 1976, p 91).

• (Page 72) “The great majority of the mounds (of Kaminaljuyú) were definitely Preclassic.”

Allen sites Kaminaljuyú as being in the Land of Nephi, and obviously, as the city of Nephi; however, once again, he places the development and beginning of this city prior to 600 BC in the Preclassic Maya era.  He states that the great majority of the mounds found at Kaminaljuyú were prior to 600 BC

• (Page 72) “The Middle Preclassic people of Kaminaljuyú are the forerunners of the Classic Maya.”

Stated differently, Allen suggests that the people living in his Land of Nephi (Kaminaljuyú) around 600 BC to 300 BC, were the progenitors of those living there in 350 AD to 900 AD.  If the Maya were the Nephites, then this statement cannot be correct, since there were no Nephites living in the Land of Nephi after about 100 BC, certainly not into the AD period.  In addition, the Lamanites, who were the progenitors of those in the Land of Promise after 400 AD, were not in the Land of Nephi until around 180 BC after Mosiah fled northward to discover Zarahemla.

• (Page 73) “Nephi taught the Nephites the words of Isaiah because his people had not lived in Jerusalem and therefore knew not the manner of the Jews.”

Allen misses on both points.  First, Nephi had to explain his quotes of Isaiah to the Nephites because they were unaware of how prophecy worked pamong the Jews, having no experience with it except as Nephi pronounced the will of the Lord to them.  Secondly, the reason he had not taught them much concerning the Jews was because the Jews' works were works of darkness and their doings were doings of abominations (2 Nephi 25:2).   It wasn't so much that the Nephites had not lived in Jerusalem as it was that Nephi did not want to teach his people the negative side of the Jerusalem Jews.

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