Friday, September 30, 2016

The Paraiba Inscriptions and the Two South America Islands of Antiquity-Part I

Recently we were asked: “Have you read the story on page 18 of Priddis book about some Canaanites (Phoenicians) that were blown off course around Africa? If true this is quite interesting” (iterry). In answering it took more than a short response, so we are providing it here as a full article.
Cyrus H. Gordon, Sir Leonard Woolley  and Flinders Petrie

    Yes, I have read Priddis’ reference to Robert Larson’s listing of Cyrus H. Gordon, the head of the Department of Mediterranean Studies at Brandeis University, as well as an expert in ancient Semitic languages, and author of some 13 books, and interpreter of the Paraiba Inscription. Before that, I read Larson’s work on Fusang and also Gordon’s works on the subject, the latter having been to Egypt in the JDS Pendlebury expedition. He was quite a fellow, learning Hebrew at age 5 and both Greek and Latin as a young child, and studied Old Persian and Sanskrit as well in college. He also was a ground archaeologist, digging at Ur with the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley, considered one of the first “modern” archaeologists for which he was knighted in 1935. Gordon also was involved with the Petrie Palestinian [Archaeological] Project with Flinders Petrie who excavated at Tell El-Ajjul in Palestine during the British Mandate Period.
    On the other hand, Gordon was a man constantly challenging traditional theories, such as promoting a belief that Greek and Hebrew cultures came from the same (common) Semitic heritage. Gordon also held that Jews, Phoenicians, and others crossed the Atlantic in antiquity, ultimately arriving in both North and South America. This opinion was based on his own work on the Bat Creek inscription found in Tennessee and on the transcription of the Paraiba inscription (no one has evidently seen) from Brazil, as well as his assessment of the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone.
Robert Larson, Hwui Shan, and Hubert Howe Bancroft

    In addition, Gordon was a friend of John Philip Cohane who promoted and wrote about the Irish coming from the Mediterranean and that the original blood stock in England Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were all Semitic, and also wrote about extraterrestrial beings and is considered a pseudohistorian. There is no secret that those involved with extra-terrestrial views in archaeology as well as beliefs in Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, etc., are not much respected and neither are their views and findings by mainstream science.
    In addition, Robert Larson wrote about the historical account of the voyage of Buddhist Hwui Shan from Asia to the U.S. in 458 A.D. The written account is the only record of East-West contact. The description of the people and places visited by the explorer corresponds with the North Pacific route. The refusal of historians to entertain the idea that Hwui Shan discovered the U.S. can likely be attributed to the opposition of History Co. Inc. founder Hubert Howe Bancroft, the American historian and ethnologist who wrote, published and collected works concerning the western United States, Alaska, Mexico, Central America and British Columbia.
    According to Larson, Hwui Shan’s voyage from China, five hundred years before Leif Ericson and a thousand years before Columbus, has been almost totally ignored by modern American historians, yet a rather considerable number of learned papers, articles, and even books were once written about him by Western scholars who believed that he crossed the Pacific: and landed on the west coast of this continent—which he described as the wonderful Land of Fusang—in the year 458.
Alexander von Humboldt, Karl Freiderich and Charles Godfrey Leland

    The great Alexander von Humboldt called him the Leif Ericson of China, and the Land of Fusang the Vinland of the West. The French sinologues de Guignes and Paravey believed that he reached California. The German Karl Friedrich Neumann identified the Land of Fusang as Mexico. One American, Charles G. Leland, wrote a monograph called Fusang (London, 1875). Another, Edward P. Vining, compiled an 8oo-page encyclopaedic volume about the man he regarded as An Inglorious Columbus (New York, 1885). Dr. Charles E. Chapman, in his History of California: The Spanish Period (New York, 1921), devoted a chapter to him entitled “The Chinese Along the Pacific Coast in Ancient Times.”
    Hwui Shan, whose name (also written as “Hoei Shin”) means “very intelligent” in Chinese, was a cha-men , or mendicant Buddhist priest, from Afghanistan who first came to China as a very young missionary about the year 450. The period was one of great expansion for Buddhism, and extraordinary journeys made by cha-men on land and sea were not at all uncommon. This one seems to have left China almost immediately, in the company of four fellow priests, on a missionary journey to new lands. His report indicates that they sailed northeast of Japan to the Land of Ta-Han (the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia) and from there traveled 20,000 Ii (about 6,600 miles) east to the Land of Fusang. This distance and direction suggest that they went by a coasting, island hopping route across the North Pacific, past the Aleutian Islands to Alaska, and down the west coast of America as far as Mexico. There, apparently, they remained for forty years, observing the country, its people, its customs, crafts, plants, and animals—and diffusing Buddhism among the inhabitants.
From 206 BC to 25 AD, Chinese junks were driven by oars. The first mention we find of a Chinese vessel in history is 331 BC, when Berenice is said to have traded with Musiris, exchanging goods there which were probably brought by native vessels from China to Ceylon; Most, if not all, of the early Chinese trade was limited to the Red Sea ports, the Nile and the Indo-China ports. No drawings survive to show China junks ever had keels or deep water vessels before that of the West

    It’s a good story, but history simply does not bear it out, from Chinese junks built in the 5th century and their capability to the lack of Buddhism in the Western Hemisphere from such missionary work of 40 years, and was after much debate and research, refuted by the time of World War I (Joseph Needham, Ling Wang; Gwei-Djen (1971). "Pt. 3, Civil engineering and nautics". Science and civilization in China. 4, Physics and physical technology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 540–542). There have, by the way, been many modern claims of such early discovery of America, with the intent of laying claim to both fame and fortune, but all have been shown to be fallacious.
    In any event, the idea of two islands which are reported as what the Sidonian sailors recorded and later reported and which Venice Priddis writes,would have been inaccurate to what existed at the time, however, based on where the events took place the sailors were shipwrecked on the east coast of South America (of which we have written before), they would only have been able to see two islands if there was a water passage to the Atlantic through what is now the mouth of the Amazon River, which Venice Priddis claims did not exist at that time. Her two islands, therefore were all of the east coast lands of South America and the Western lands that would have been the Land of Promise—with the Amazon Basin an inland sea with openings at the present day Orinoco River delta and south of the present-day Plata Estuary and all of this southern portion of the continent. 
    However, modern geologists have found evidence in sea beds, etc., that the island makeup of South America was slightly, but importantly, different.
(See the next post, “The Paraiba Inscriptions and the Two South America Islands of Antiquity, Part II,” for more on this incident of the Paraiba Inscriptions and the two islands reported by ancient shipwrecked sailors)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Who Exactly Was Lehi? – Part II

Continuing with an explanation of Lehi and an insight into the way of life of his time and its effect on the creation of the Nephite state. 
   While the verse “my father dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15) is not only the shortest verse in the entire Book of Mormon, it is perhaps one of the most revealing. Take, as an example, for a Jew or Arab to use such a phrase, he is telling you a great deal about the person. Even today there are two types of Arabs or Jews, those that live in the cities and villages, and those that live in tents in the desert—those that live in durable buildings and those that do not, but live in tents. City dwelling Jews and Arabs are stationary, living in one place all their lives, carving out a living through farming or some other type of service, such as being a merchant in the city, selling and providing products and items from other places brought through on camel caravans, or produce bought from farmers and resold in the city.
Regarding occupations in the Old Testament time period as well as in the Book of Mormon, there were also stonemasons, metalsmiths, architects, builders, craftsmen, artisans, stonecutters, carpenters, woodcarvers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, glass workers, potters, leather workers, weavers, and fullers (the latter worked with both old and new cloth). And for those outside the city, but living in permanent houses, such as Lehi, were farmers, herders, shepherds, and fishermen. Many of these latter performed their roles at a distance, and traveled back to Jerusalem where they sold their products or food items in the local markets.
    After all, Joseph, Mary’s husband, was a carpenter, and Paul, the Apostle, a tentmaker, while John, James and Andrew were fishermen, and Matthew a tax collector. In addition, many both bond and free were laborers, and others, like Zoram were slaves and servants—some of these were so highly valued they were called cupbearers. There were inn keepers, cooks and workers, and some women worked as midwives and nurses. In government there were diplomats, ambassadors, senators, governors, deputies, counselors, interpreters and messengers, as well as record-keepers, secretaries and lawyers. In the military there were officers, soldiers, and armor-bearers. There were also dancers, musicians, poets, advisors, astrologers, professional mourners and fortunetellers, while in religion there were priests, gatekeepers, temple workers and guards. Of course, there were unskilled workers who were often poor and did difficult jobs like mining, cutting rocks, digging wells, building roads, cleaning streets, training and driving camels, loading and unloading goods along trade routes, working as a crew member or rower on a boat, and tending and harvesting crops.
    “My father dwelt in a tent,” is a quick, precise statement by Nephi to let the reader know that Lehi had changed his entire way of life from being a wealth merchant or trader or some other type of permanent businessman to becoming a nomad, living a mobile life of movement and change.
The fact that Lehi had tents at a time when no one would have had such items in Jerusalem—for the Jews traveled by spending nights in the shelter of caves along the way, in fact, the area from Galilee to Qumran and the Dead Sea is full of caves in Israel, with some 500 recently discovered in modern times, many of which were used during the time of refuge during the Nazi occupation of World War II (comprehensive survey conducted under the auspices of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority). In fact, the ancient cult occupied caves at Qumran that became popular through the Dead Sea Scrolls.
At last count Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority claim Israel’s caves number in the thousands, and numerous ones are recommended even today for finding cool climes during the summer 

    Nor did the ancient city Jews venture out into the desert where tents were absolutely necessary, nor were the Jews mobile to the extent they needed such tents. In addition, we are not talking about small “Army style” tents, nor American style “pup tents” or camping tents. These were Bedouin tents, very large, having two or three rooms formed by hanging blankets and rugs, where Arab sheiks lived, and in which Arabs spent their entire lives living. They were very comfortable, woven of black goat’s hair, with some furniture, and privacy with hanging rug walls.
    As a wealthy man, Lehi would have traveled in style as the sheik of his domain. These tents were cool in the summer and warm and dry in the winter thanks to the fact that goat hair separates slightly in heat to allow breezes through and closes off in cold to form a waterproof outer covering.
Top: A sheik’s comfortable tent where one could spent days, weeks, even months comfortably equipped; Bottom: The women’s quarters of the tent, separated by rugs and blankets from the main section and usually a third section or room

    It is easy to see from this why it takes nearly a full day to set up the tents and unload all the material, furniture and equipment a well-equipped family caravan carried when on the move, and also shows why this set up was not done each night, but usually after anywhere from four or five days travel to as much as a week to ten days travel, where overnight stays were short and simple, sleeping beneath blankets, sometimes ready to move out on a moment’s notice because of the dangers of marauders in the areas.
    If Lehi was a trader, meeting along the King’s highway the various Frankincense caravans that passed below Jerusalem as some historians believe, he would have had not only tents, but well equipped tents for lengthy stays while waiting for a caravan whose passing was periodical during certain times of the year, but not like some type of train schedule. In so doing, he would have had his sons with him and they, too, would have developed experience in living in the wilderness or desert for periods of time.
Lehi and his sons would have stopped the Frankincense caravans for trade. Such occupations were always profitable and it was to the desert that Jerusalem’s occupants always looked for wealth

    Along the trail, products would have been bought by Lehi and then sold to the city merchants in Jerusalem up on the top of the mountain—no caravans would have traveled up to Jerusalem since camels could not maneuver in the chipped rock and flint of the ground there, thus donkeys were used to haul up and down the mountain.
    This type of occupation, of course,would give reason for Lehi to be prepared to leave his home and move into the wilderness with a moment’s notice—in fact, he may already have been planning such a trip when the Lord commanded him to do so. It also would explain why he would have such equipment and supplies to enact such a quick evacuation, and why he would not be taking his riches since they would do him no good in the desert, and might even draw undue attention to him and his small group by thieves and marauders. And it certainly would explain why he knew Egyptian, dealing with the Egyptian traders along the Frankincense trail, and no doubt taking supplies and trade items into Egypt for his expanded trading enterprise, and also why he was well familiar with desert travel and the routes between Jerusalem and Egypt (as far as Ezion-Geber at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Who Exactly Was Lehi? – Part I

Have you ever wondered about Lehi’s background or what Nephi knew and was capable of doing before Lehi took his family into the wilderness? We know from what Nephi tells us that Lehi was a wealthy man (1 Nephi 2:4; 3:16), middle-aged with four grown sons (1 Nephi 2:5), righteous (1 Nephi 1:16; 2:14), obedient to the Lord (1 Nephi 2:2-3), well known in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:20), and active in his business or activities (1 Nephi 1:7). The family had always lived at Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4), meaning outside the city walls upon farmland in the area of the city, but at a lower elevation (1 Nephi 3:16,22-23).
Let’s take a look at some of the traits that Lehi had, which his family unquestionably understood:
1. While his family accused Lehi of folly in leaving Jerusalem, they never at any time question is ability to lead them in the desert;
2. While the family complains against the dangers of the desert through which they traveled, they did not include ignorance of the desert among the dangers or fears or abilities of Lehi;
3. Among other things, Lehi never once mentioned inexperience among his handicaps;
4. While some of Lehi’s family complained frequently about their fathers questionable decisions, they never complain about his ability to take care of the family in the desert, his preparation for their journey, his knowledge for desert travel and how to live in the desert. In fact, his possession of at least three tents (his own and at least two for his sons) in an environment (Jerusalem) where no one had use for tents suggests he had been using his tent from time to time, and going into the desert and spending some time there;
5. Lehi’s family also complains about the dangers of the desert and being taken out of their home and its safety, yet never complain about Lehi’s ability to take care of them in the desert nor do they treat Lehi as though he was a city Jew and knew nothing about the desert. Again, suggesting Lehi was not only quite familiar with the desert and wilderness, but spent some time in it;
In fact, up until the time Lehi finds the Liahona, perhaps as much as three years after leaving the area of Jerusalem, there is nothing to suggest he doesn’t know where he is going or why—nor did he have to send his boys back to Jerusalem for any supplies, provisions, or equipment that he inadvertently left behind—only for the brass plates of Laban and for Ishmael’s family, both circumstances the Lord directed him to do for it had not been an oversight. 
As for Nephi:
1. While the family laughs contemptuously when Nephi announced his going to build a ship, and tell him he is lacking in judgment to build a ship, yet never question his ability or skill as a builder and cabapable of building things—only a ship, which by its very nature would have been a foreign idea to people living around Jerusalem at 2500 feet elevation and several miles from the sea;
2. Also when the Lord told Nephi to build a ship, he only asked where he could go to find ore to make tools to begin, evidently fully capable of making tools for building and his ability to build things;
3. When needing to make a fire hot enough to melt the ore to make the tools, Nephi merely builds a bellows, as though he was completely capable of doing so and knowledgeable of how to build it;
4. This is also borne out when Nephi separates from his older brothers and settles down in the area they called Nephi after him, and he goes about teaching his people how to build buildings, and working in all manner of wood, iron, copper, brass, and steel. Now working with iron, steel and brass requires a certain knowledge of alloying metals, i.e., removing the impurities such as nitrogen, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur and excess carbon or mixing iron in carbon in order to make steel. While there is some leeway in how much carbon remains or is added, generally speaking the amount is less than one percent. Now it is true that the Lord could have told this to Nephi, but it still remains the actions had to be done by Nephi—as an example, how many readers now know how to remove or add carbon to smelted iron? 
    In addition, Nephi was either told or knew how to mix copper and tin to make brass, i.e., to strengthen copper so it could be used for more difficult tasks or stronger alloyed copper.
5. In addition, we can also add the fact that when Nephi left his home, he had with him a fine steel bow, which suggests that Nephi was not only a hunter, but well equipped and knowledgeable about bows and their use—which is borne out when he breaks his steel bow and his brothers’ bows lose their spring, the family looks to Nephi to correct the problem, again suggesting he was the main hunter and provider of the group.
    We do not know from the record what skills Lehi had beyond those mentioned above, but it is certain he was a man of the desert, familiar in the desert atmosphere and accustomed to the difficulties of wilderness and desert travel. It also seems certain he knew well the wilderness surrounding Jerusalem and extending at least to the south down the the wadi Arabah running southward from the southern tip of the Dead Sea, through what is today the Jordan Rift Valley, toward and to the Gulf of Aqaba. He also seems familiar with the hilly land and valleys to the east of this narrow gulf for that is where he traveled without the benefit of any guidance that we know about, such as the Liahona, and where he finally stopped and called this area the Valley of Lemuel, a distance of a little more than 200 miles. Whether he had personal knowledge of this area, or learned about it from caravan traders passing through the Levant on their way from Arabia to Syria with trade goods, including frankincense and myrrh.
We also do not know what skills Sam possessed—he may also have been experienced with metal work and building, living on the farm and being older than Nephi. Zoram, on the other hand, lived within the city where farm-style skills were neither taught nor learned, and he worked as a servant in a rather clerical capacity, taking care of his master’s treasure or storage house.
    While we do not know what occupation or trade Lehi had, we can easily see that it was something out of the ordinary for it allowed him to amass a good fortune that evidently came from various places in the world—or, traded through caravans who dealt with various places of the world, for he had many "precious things" and they likely did not all come from Jerusalem where he had lived all his life according to Nephi.
    So how did he come by them and what was his likely occupation that prepared him to be both ready and capable of taking his family into the wilderness where they could survive for eight years?
(See the next post,” Who Exactly Was Lehi? – Part II,” for more on Lehi and how he came to have the very things he would need to go into the wilderness on a moment’s notice—something few of his age would have possessed)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Value of Knowing History

There are numerous people who claim the Book of Mormon is a fraud, or something someone made up, or an error-bound work of little import. No matter the opinion people might have regarding the record, one thing is patently true and needs to be completely understood by those who read it—the information within its pages is fundamentally factual in every way with the Hebrew life of the time and supports completely what would have existed in that day and age and compatible with the circumstances involved as one would expect of as text written by people of that era.
    The problem lies in not what Joseph Smith translated, but in the knowledge of those who read it and try to lay claims to it that are totally and very obviously false. As an example, take Lehi’s travels through the desert of Arabia. With all that is known today about such travel, and not much has changed in the deserts over the centuries since Lehi trod them, we should find a lot of consistencies with modern travel since it has always been done in the same manner by the same type of people since Old Testament times. 
Take for example Nephi’s description of their moving through the desert for a few days, then resting for a few days, then traveling again for a few days, etc. It is, under western conditions, a very poor, time-consuming and inefficient way to travel, but to the eastern Beduoin, it is the only way to travel. As an example, “for the space of a time” (1 Nephi 17:6) is both a Hebrew expression, and a common explanation of desert travel according to William Gifford Palgrave, an Englishman, Arabic scholar and Jesuit, who convinced his superiors to support a mission to the interior of Arabia in the mid-1800s where he spent quite some time living as a Bedouin (Personal Narrative of a Year’s Journey Through Central and Eastern Arabia 1862-1863, London, 1866 [Hard Press Publishing June 2013]).
    He found that such travel was spent in frenzied movement for three or four days at an estimated pace of two and one-quarter to three and nine-tenths miles an hour, then pitching tents and resting for ten to twelve days, then striking tents, packing up, and moving out, resting along the way at night for a few hours over a cold meal with no fire for fear of distant rovers looking for signs of smoke or fire in order to attack unwary travelers.
Along with hunger and thirst, sheer exhaustion plays its part. The effort of travel in the desert entailed much fatigue, sufferings and afflictions, much difficulty and wading through much hardship. The difficulty of the terrain often made hard going, as is seen in the account of Lehi’s dreams, but behind everything one feels the desolation and exhaustion of a sun-cursed land. Where else would it be necessary for well-equipped and experienced travelers to suffer thirst? (1 Nephi 16:35).
    According to William John Phythian-Adams who excavated some tells along the Gaza Strip in the early 1920s for the Palestinian Exploration Fund and worked on Mt. Sinai in 1930, suggests that at times the Bedouin might camp for up to forty days under favorable circumstances between movements merely to rest up from the travel (PEF Quarterly, 1930, p199).
The usual thing was to camp as long as possible in one place until it was soiled by the beasts, according to Phillip J. Baldensperger, and the multiplication of fleas became intolerable, and the surroundings afforded no more pasturage, then the tents were pulled down and the men decamped (The Immovable East, PEQ). Johan Ludwig Burkhardt, son of a silk merchant and Swiss traveler and geographer, adds that these encampments lasted a whole month (Charles M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta, Academy, 1888).
Without the camel it would be impossible for the nomads to carry their tents and furniture over the vast sandy space were donkeys can pass only with difficulty and carry only a very small load. When Arabs migrate in earnest, they pack seed in big, black 150 to 180 pound sacks, two to a camel—at the very least there has to be enough grain either to make a worthwhile crop somewhere or to supply substantial food on the way. Obviously, these weights are not carried by men on foot as some writers would have us believe. Nor do camel breeders fear the waterless stretches of the desert as the sheep and goat raising Arabs do, and for that reason camel owners remain independent and free (Carl  Reinhard Raswan (Schmidt), Drinkers of the Wind, Creative Age Press, 1942, p129)
    We have wandered much in the wilderness,” the daughters of Ishmael complained on their father’s death, “and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger” (1 Nephi 16:35). Lehi’s sons confidently expected to meettheir death in the wilderness, and in despair their mother cried out to Lehi, “We perish in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 5:2). On the last long stretch they “did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness . . . and did live upon raw meat in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:1—2). 
From the first, they “suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all” (1 Nephi 17:6). At times their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness became so great that even Lehi began to murmur! (1 Nephi 16:20). While in the best Arab fashion they kept to “the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16), and thus kept their animals in motion, for themselves a good deal of the time there was only meat, for they got their food by “slaying food by the way, with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings” (1 Nephi 16:15). So dependent were they on hunting for food that when Nephi broke his fine steel bow, and the wooden bows having “lost their springs” (1 Nephi 16:21), there was no food at all to be had, and the party was in great danger of starvation: “Being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food” (1 Nephi 16:19). When Nephi finally returned from a mountaintop with game, and “they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy!” (1 Nephi 16:30—32).
All of this is so Bedouin, so typical of their desert ravings, complaints, curses, and fears. This brings us to the understanding that has been written by every Arab writing after visiting the Bedouin in the desert: “Life is hard, a ceaseless struggle for existence against nature and man,” and that “it is no exaggeration to say that the Bedouin is in the almost permanent state of starvation,” and that “many times between their waterings, there is not a single pint of water left in the greatest sheikh’s tent.” When on the move at such a time, with water before them somewhere along the trail, the admonition after a two or three hour rest stop, “If we linger here we all die of thirst” forces them on the move once again as they push on through the dark night with the constant probability of attack or plunder from roving marauders and riding throughout the day, and at about an hour before sunset they would stagger off their camels as best they could to prepare an evening feast of precisely the same meal as the forenoon of dry dates and half and hour’s rest on the sand.
    It can be seen that the Book of Mormon account of moving through the desert for a few days and then camping for the space of a time is exactly the way the Arabs move, i.e., “And it came to pass that we did again take our journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning; and after we had traveled for the space of many days we did pitch our tents again, that we might tarry for the space of a time” (1 Nephi 16:13, 17).
There are those who read this storyline and ask, “If they had camels, why aren’t they mentioned?” However, to an Arab, the mention of a camel connected to travel in the desert is a superfluous statement. In Arabic, there are two phrases used to set out for a journey, “rahal” and “safar,” and both words mean “to set out on a journey” as well as “saddle a camel.” To the Bedouin, the wordage “to travel” means to go  by camel—there is simply no other way to do this, certainly not by foot! It would be like an American saying “I drove from Provo to Salt Lake City.” You don’t say “I drive from Provo to Salt Lake City by car.” It is akin to saying “we sailed to Catalina,” a trip of 26 miles over the ocean from Long Beach, California to the island of Catalina. If you sailed, you went by ship. It is a common understanding. An Arab traveled by camel when he went into the desert. The camel, after all, was as common a means of travel as a car is to us today.
    It is always easier to understand what we read and what it means if we have some knowledge of the historical events that existed at the time of the events of which we are reading. If we are going to understand the thinking of Arabs, Bedouin, Hebrews in 600 B.C., we need to know a little about that time frame and those people.
    As an example, “the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16) when speaking of traveling down by the Red Sea has a specific meaning in that part of the world, especially anciently. Along the Red Sea, though a desert, and though referred to as a road or trail anciently (Frankincense Trail), it was nothing more than a wide area of maybe a mile or two in width over which people traveled from one water hole  or oases to another. Other than that, there was nothing to mark it or set it apart from any other area of desert. However, “the more fertile parts” were long rows stretching over the flat floor of the plain in long lines like hedges and were depressions of dried-up watercourses, sometimes hundreds of miles long. They furnished, according to Bertram Thomas, the life arteries of life in the path of Bedouin movement, the habitat of animals by reason of the vegetation—scant though it was—which flourished in their beds alone.
The more fertile parts of the desert were simply a sub-surface water bed where at certain times of the year, simple plants might grow. It doesn’t look much different than the rest of the area, bud there is moisture there and some minimal plant life if you know where to look

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Did the Phoenicians Sail into the Atlantic? – Part IV

Continuing from the previous post on why the Phoenicians seem unlikely to have been explorers and adventurers, and thus sailing for little or no reason to the Americas, as plain businessmen expanding an ever-increasing trade business far closer to home.    To make sure we understand that these previous posts regarding the Phoenician trade interests were not an isolated part of history and that the Phoenicians had other interests as well, we need to recognize that following the Phoenician trade control of known routes and trading partners, the Greeks and then the Romans rose to power on the sea. One of their interests was in protecting their far-flung empire, and of extending the trade networks they took over from the Phoenicians amid the Mediterranean and as far away as India and Arabia.
    In fact, it was Roman trading ships that sailed to Khor Rori along the southern Arabian Peninsula in what is now Oman, adjacent to the area of Salalah somewhere after 200 B.C., setting in a Sumhuram during the  height of the Frankincense trade there (400 years after Lehi left in the ship Nephi built).
    It might also be pointed at this time that the ships in use by the Phoenicians toward the end of their control of the Mediterranean—these ships were converted by the Romans to follow in the footsteps in trading along the old Phoenician routes and expand out into the Sea of Arabia to India.
Red Line shows where the water line should be. Note how high this ship rides in the water, showing it was a coastal vessel with no ability to sail deep water where high winds and currents would likely capsize it—this vessel would not have sailed the Atlantic. On a more technical note, a short waterline and long, graceful overhangs often tends to hobbyhorse or pitch when to sailing to windward making upwind passages uncomfortable and difficult to impossible. Another drawback is frequently a lack directional stability when sailing downwind in a large following sea

    Regional, inter-regional and international trade was a common feature of the  Roman world. A mix of state control and a free market approach as had existed among the Phoenicians before them ensured goods produced in one location could be exported far and wide. Cereals, wine and olive oil, in particular, were exported in huge quantities whilst in the other direction came significant imports of precious metals, marble, and spices. 
    However, it was war which made Rome a powerful force in the ancient world, not trade, for Rome, splitting its interests between global expansion and control and trade, found that trade required far more attention that the State was giving it. Every year up to 40 ships carried luxury goods consisting of half the export trade of Rome between Rome and India. The imports from India included spices, pearls, muslin ivory, etc, while exports to India were very few and consisted mostly of wine, musical instruments, singing boys and dancing girls. The balance of trade became so adverse that Rome had to pay in Gold Bullion to India every year.
As Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 –79 B.C.), better known as Pliny the Elder (Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire) commented while remarking about the adverse balance of trade of the Roman empire: “This is the price we pay for our luxuries and our women. At the last reckoning one hundred million sesterces are taken away by India, Seres and Arabia.”
    Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” is an ancient Greek text written between 1st and 3rd centuries A.D., perhaps as important a book as the journal of Marco Polo. This book describes navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Northeast Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Describing the nature of trade, Periplus says;
    Imported into this market-town, are Wine, Italian preferred, also Laodicean (from Laodicea on Syrian coast) and Arabian; copper, tin, and lead; coral and topaz; thin clothing and inferior sorts of all kinds; bright-colored girdles a cubit wide; storax, sweet clover, flint glass, realgar, antimony, gold and silver. Coin, on which there is a profit, when exchanged for the money of the country; and ointment, but not very costly and not much. And for the King there are brought into those places very costly vessels of silver, singing boys, beautiful maidens for the harem, tine wines, thin clothing of the finest weaves, and the choicest ointments. There are exported from these places spikenard, costus, bdellium, ivory, agate and carnelian, lycium, cotton cloth of all kinds, silk cloth, mallow cloth, yarn, long pepper, agate and carnelian and such other things as are brought here from the various market towns.”
Periplus also tells us the names of the ports where, Roman ships birthed in India; the northernmost being at Bhadoch (Barygaza) at the mouth of river Narmada. It says that the region south of Bhadoch is known as Southern Country or “Dakshinadesha” (Dachinabades). There are number of ports (market-towns) in the southern country such as Sopara (Suppara), Kalyan (Celliana), Chaul (Semylla), Sashti (Sandares) and Masulpatnam.
    These (Goods) are brought down to Barygaza from these places by wagons and through the  great tracts without roads, from Paethana, carnelian in great quantity and from Tagara much common cloth, all kinds of muslins and mallow (rough) cloth and other merchandise brought there locally from the regions along the sea coast. And the whole course to the end of Damirica (country of the Tamil people) is seven thousand stadia (about one tenth of mile): but the distance is greater to the coast country.”
    Periplus does not speak about “in land” trade routes, but with Kosambi's contention that the Buddhist rock cut monasteries were all constructed near the trade routes, there were two trade routes, both originating either in Pratisthan or Tagar. The southern route came to Junnar city and from there crossed the difficult mountain region through passes to go to southern ports like Kalyan or Choul. The northern route passed along Ajanta, Kannad pass near Pitalkhore caves to Bhadoch.
    Recent research has shown that the Buddhist monestaries were located where they are, because the trade routes passed by and the larger monastery complexes are found invariably near the junction of such routes. This leads us to another question as to with whom and what kind of trade was going on along these routes so as to necessitate establishment of such large number of monasteries in the region, which according to Kosambi served in many ways to help the traders. It is a well known fact that this substantive trade was mainly carried out with the Roman empire, which replaced the Phoenicians.
The point is, the Phoenicians began or were the founders of the first true trading empire. They were not explorers or adventurers, wanting to see why lay beyond the next mountain. They were driven by trade, which is driven by financial growth and the accumulation of wealth. As Pliny the Elder said, “This is the price we pay for our luxuries.”  Rome simply never learned the trade business as well as they learned the business of war and conquest.
    The Minoans of Crete, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and situated off the coast of Greece, the home of the birthplace of Zeus, and perhaps the first serious traders of the world following the Flood. Beginning around the year 2000 B.C., the Minoans traded throughout the Mediterranean, with evidence suggesting they traded extensively in the east with Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and even as far west as the island of Sicily. The biggest exports from Crete were probably olives, olive oil, and grape products. Farming on Crete only allowed the Minoans to support themselves, but the land also allowed for sheep herding and therefore a profitable trade in the export of wool, and also wood. The forests of Crete would have been a valuable source of wood for export to the deserts of Egypt and Southwest Asia.
Perhaps the most important trade role the Minoans played was the transfer of ideas and technology from Egypt and Southwest Asia to the budding civilizations of Europe. In their dealings with the civilizations of the Near East, the Minoans also picked up technologies that they took home with them. As Minoan influence spread throughout the Aegean and the mainland of Greece, so to did Bronze working and other new ideas. Thus, the diffusion of these ideas to Europe was accelerated much more than it would have been otherwise.
    It was the blending or mingling of these two societies, the Cretans and the Phoenicians, that led to the maritime trade empire we give the Phoenicians credit for achieving. It should be kept in mind that the title “Masters of the Sea” given to both cultures, is related to the Mediterranean, not the oceans of the world, such as the Atlantic or the Indian oceans.
    The Mediterranean is a sea where surfers today paddle on boards, where no waves exist, and the waters are placid. Masters of such a sea have nothing to do with deep sea sailing where waves can tower a hundred feet and the force of them slam a wooden sailor to kindling.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why Did the Phoenicians Sail into the Atlantic? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post on why the Phoenicians seem unlikely to have been explorers and adventurers, and thus sailing for little or no reason to the Americas, wile actually being plain businessmen expanding an ever-increasing trade business far closer to home. So why did the Phoenicians sail into the Atlantic? Was it for exploration? Why would they be interested in exploring? They were traders and knew from their land routes to Gaul what lay to the north and their movement along the northern African coast, what lay to the south. They were not investigators, explorers, adventurers in the true sense of the word. They were businessmen and their acts were calculated within the network of their far flung empire of trade.
So why go into the Atlantic?
    When Rome was still a tiny village on the Palatine Hill, Phoenician traders were sailing their ships the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and short distances beyond in search of goods to be sold or traded for a handsome profit. There were great risks in making a long sea voyage and bringing home a valuable cargo, but the enormous profit that could be made from selling the goods made the risks worthwhile. The key was to trade a product that was unique, very desirable, hard to get, or desperately needed for other products that were common in the land of the people with whom you were trading. These products may be rare and desirable someplace else, and the trader now had something with which he could once again make a profit--it was a continual process.
    The Bronze Age (in Europe 3000 BC to 500 BC) saw extensive trade networks develop across Europe. The technology of smelting copper and tin to form a durable alloy is first seen around the copper deposits of Cyprus. The warm Mediterranean world had few tin deposits, forcing them to trade with cold barbarian lands to the North. We know that from 2000 BC tin mining started in Cornwall, initially focusing on alluvial deposits (river gravels containing ore).
    The Phoenicians traded directly with Cornwall. The name “Britain” comes from the Phoenician name “Baratanac,” meaning “Land of Tin.” The Greek historian Herodotus, who is the source for much of the little we know about the ancient world, describes how tin comes from the Cassiterides, ‘lands of tin’ that sat beyond Gaul (France). It’s thought that the Phoenicians, who managed the trade, might have been a little cagey about the exact whereabouts of this economically valuable land.
Tin mine in Cornwall, England, operating since ancient times

    Tin was just such a product in the ancient world. Tin was vital to the ancients because it was needed in the making of bronze. Bronze was an alloy, or a mixture of two or more metals. To make bronze, the metal smith mixed copper with the proper amount of tin. Copper tools and weapons by themselves were too soft and did not long remain sharp. Tin made the copper harder and also made the molten metal fill the mold more completely when it was cast into useful objects like axe heads, hammers, and jewelry. So many useful articles were made of bronze in ancient times that no civilization could thrive very long without a supply of it or the copper and tin needed to make it.
    The deposits of tin in the ancient world were usually small and not very plentiful. As an example, tin is a relatively rare element in the earth’s crust, with about two-parts per million (compared to Iron which is 50,000 ppm, but with gold at 0.005 ppm). Ancient sources of tin were obviously rare and the metal usually had to be traded over very long distances to meet demand in areas which lacked its own deposits. However, its importance was extremely valuable since it was required to make bronze, and bronze was required for harder metals such as those for weapons, axes, and other tools since the tin metal strengthened the sharpness of the copper.
    Phoenician overland expeditions northward discovered the existence of tin in Brittany in Gaul (France) and also across the channel in Devon and Cornwall in England; however, overland travel to obtain these deposits was both lengthy and costly, so they took their ships out into the Atlantic and hugged the coast as they sailed northward. This proved such a lucrative trade bonanza, that the Phoenicians opened guard posts along the Iberian peninsula and attacked any other vessel trying to get through Gibraltar out into the Atlantic in order to safeguard their route to the tin.
The Phoenician’s secret sea route to Cornwall, bypassing the land crossing of Gaul (France) and cutting off many days by pack animal to the south coast of France

    For quite some time, the Phoenicians kept the knowledge of the Cornish tin mines a closely guarded secret so they could control trade in the metal and charge a high price for it. After the Punic wars, Carthage, the one remaining city of the Phoenicians, became less and less an important economic power. With their well-known efficiency and thoroughness, the Romans counted access to the British tin mines as one of the advantages of conquering the island. Julius Caesar knew of the importance of British tin when he invaded the island in 55 to 54 B.C. After the conquest of Britain during the reign of Claudius, the Romans were in control of most of the world's supply of the metal. Hence, the closely guarded treasure secret of Britain's tin passed hands from the Phoenicians to the Romans.
    Though modern historians do not place the reason Rome invaded England as being for Britain’s tin mines, and ancient writers thought the Gallic Wars were for the purpose of giving Caesar sole rule over the Roman Republic, there were those who understood the importance of France’s tin mines as well as those of England, namely Cornwall and Devon. After all, when great military powers invade far-off lands, there are always people who say that their true motivation was to get access to valuable natural resources—and Caesar’s wars in the far off north seem no less for tin than any other reason..
    The point being, the Phoenicians did not sail out into the Pacific like the later explorers of the Age of Sail beginning in the 13th and 14 centuries, but went into the Atlantic to gain access to the known world’s largest tin deposits that would then line their own coffers and expand their territorial trading rights. It was a simple matter of business and cornering the market on a most valuable and limited resource. While the Phoenicians did some marvelous things, they did not discover America, did not cross the Atlantic for the frivolous idea of either planting a flag or opening up such distant trade routes, nor did they allow the Mulekites to book passage on their vessels and carry them to the New World—which they would not have had any idea existed at the time. They were business men and their world was trade and in such a world, you do what you do because it will turn a profit.
The Phoenicians were not pilgrimas seeking religious liberty like the Pilgraims; were not settlers looking for a new land; were not adventurers wanting to conquer other lands or rob and steal the wealth of established nations—they were traders, businessmen, seeking to always increase their trade and the objects others might want. Their very acts would have been based on profit, which would have kept them close to home, which is where they spent their time and efforts

    They might travel some distances to acquire a known product or resource that they know will sell and provide a worthwhile profit, but why would they travel several weeks or months into the unknown area for no apparent reason other than to take a group of people to a far off land, as some Book of Mormon scholars want us to believe, where there could be no profit in its purpose or end result?
    They left the safety of the Mediterranean for tin. They knew both Britain and Gaul had tin mines, had been hauling tin overland for some time to bring it down to the south of France to Mediterranean shores. They knew this was a profitable venture, not only to cut down overland expenses and time, but to create a non-competitive control over the tin industry fueling the entire Mediterranean as well as the silk roads and Frankincense Trails. They also knew they could keep their route secret and with the forts they already had along the Iberian peninsula, and their overall control of the western Mediterranean, they obviously thought they could control that tin trade for some time to come. It was a purpose that could not be ignored. Sail to Britain and Gaul, fill their hulls with tin and sail back. They would sail clear to the eastern end of the Mediterranean and appear there with hulls full of tin as they always had after offloading it from the mule trains crossing Gaul. No one would be the wiser, and no one would be thinking there was a sea route to Britain, and no one did for quite some time.
    It was the only reason that caused Phoenicians to sail into the Atlantic, that and the slave trade to the south along the coasts of Africa. For those who want to sell an untenable idea about Phoenicians reaching the New World hundreds of years before Columbus would never have happened for the reason stated in this series. The Phoenician world did not depend upon the expansion of their state borders and coffers, but in opening and supplying markets all along the Mediterranean where the vast majority of people lived in the time of the Phoenicians. To go into the Atlantic was both risky and had no profitable value other than for products like tin.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Why Did the Phoenicians Sail into the Atlantic? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post on why the Phoenicians seem unlikely to have been explorers and adventurers, and thus sailing for little or no reason to the Americas, as plain businessmen expanding an every-increasing trade business far closer to home
Most ships at this time sailing on the Mediterranean were powered more by oars than sails, and served for transporting military troops from one place to another, or actually conducting war on the sea. While such military use of the sea was a requirement for expansion and protection, governments were not interested in trade and business, relying on private sources to keep the products needed moving across this inner sea to the numerous ports of the known world at the time. What the sea didn’t provide in such trade, the Silk Road in the north all the way to China, and the camel Caravan roads in the south along the sea of Arabia. Where protection was needed, it was often provided by governments, such as Egypt, Greece and later Rome, but on land, caravans were protected only by their own size and members. As Greece, then Rome began to expand, they threatened the stronghold of the Phoenicians and eventually drove the Phoenicians into obscurity.
Small, coastal sailing ships dominated the coasts and these small trading vessels were involved in short, day-time sailing and did not venture into deep water where they could be pounded incessantly and damaged or sunk. Note the flat bottom and keel-less construction, typical of coastal vessels
    Of course, small coastal craft were flimsy built and needed careful attention to remain seaworthy. They were mostly used for fishing for personal and some commercial use as a supplemental food source. When it came to moving products from one place to another, much larger and stronger ships were needed, and the Phoenicians, guardedly secretive of their trade routes and locations, rose in size and power to fill that need. But once again, their purpose was always in the trade business, that is to make money through the buying and selling of products—often buying from afar and selling in locales where the product was not normally available.
    Today Lebanon, the home of the early Phoenicians, is a small densely populated country of just 6500-square-miles, about a thousand square miles smaller than the land mass of New Jersey, which would make it the fifth smallest state in the United States. Lebanon’s strategic location has, from the earliest times, made it the center of the Middle East’s vital history. The earliest inhabitants of coastal Lebanon were people who came from the Arabian Peninsula shortly after the Flood. The Greeks eventually named these seafaring people Phoenicians and they established city-states and spread their 22-letter alphabet throughout the Mediterranean region. They were traders from the beginning, and export led activities in goods and services in Lebanon really started to develop ever since that ancient time. They established a large colonial network along the eastern maritime coast of the Mediterranean, since that was where the Frankincense Trails and the Silk Road ended and began in a never-ending circuit of trade movement.
    Phoenician reputation as the best sailors and navigators of the pre-classical world has come down to us over the ages, and no doubt they deserve that praise; however, the mistake historians often make is to combine the Age of Sail (which took place some 500 years after the end of the Phoenicians) with the time of the Phoenicians. That is, the exploits and purposes of the exploration period with the time of the Phoenicians who were traders long before exploration became of any importance to growing nations and kingdoms looking for an expansion of both territory and wealth.
No doubt the Phoenicians used the knowledge and abilities achieved by their predecessors, the Minoans of Crete, they built their maritime trading empire, which consisted of five Phoenician States, which included Akiso, Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Byblos, with Tyre dominating the other four. Thus, Tyre in Phoenicia and Antioch in Turkey were the two ports along the eastern Mediterranean where the Silk Road caravans did business, and the Phoenicians took full advantage of this.
    They entered into business agreements and partnerships with other states, and created a business relationship with Solomon in the 10th century B.C. For Israel, Hiram of Tyre, the Phoenician, provided skilled craftsmen and materials, particularly lumber, including cedar from the forests of Lebanon, and over time Phoenicia became well known for its luxury goods, such as sandalwood, ivory, monkeys and peacocks from Ophir where three year voyages of Phoenician ships brought back such exotic goods for trade. There was fine linen and the famous rare Tyrian purple dye, and the blown glass from Sidon. As middlemen the Phoenicians took custody on much greater cornucopia of precious goods as Exekiel grudgingly admitted.
This was the time known in history as the development of commerce and industry, and specifically the growing trade industry. This was the period of Solomon, and his numerous commercial and industrial activities (1 Kings 10). This was the time when Solomon’s Temple was built, requiring goods, products, and manpower from other countries, such as Lebanon and all of Syria; it was the time when Solomon entered into a large building program throughout his empire, in places such as Beth-shan, beth-shemesh, Gezer, Hazor, and Megiddo, with many of his building programs at Jerusalem, and built a palace that took thirteen years to construct (1 Kings 7:1), and his “House of the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2) was probably a great armory, and his own residence was part of the great courtly complex as was the private house for Pharoah’s daughter (1 Kings 7:8). No doubt influenced by the Phoenician success, Solomon endeavored to conquer the seas with his own, great trading program, and with help from the Phoenician ship-builders and sailors, he established a large fleet of ships and a commercial port at Ezion-Geber, at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba in the south for trade upon the Sea of Arabia and the ports along the shores of the coasts to the east.
    In the north, this was the time of the great Silk Roads that ended along the eastern Mediterranean, of the Frankincense Trails that traveled northward from Egypt through Israel to Syria. It was a time when almost any product known throughout the world was available somewhere around the eastern Mediterranean where all these trade routes, both land and sea, came together at the apex of the Phoenician empire.
    The Phoenicians are widely known today for their writing and alphabet, an absolute must for any huge trading organization for book and record keeping. At the time, the writing of Egypt, Mesopotamia and China all required the scribe to learn a large number of separate characters—each of them expressing either a whole word or a syllable. By contrast the Phoenicians, in about 1500 BC, developed an entirely new approach to writing. The marks made by their scribes (working in the cuneiform tradition, with a stylus on damp clay) attempted to capture the sound of a word. This required an alphabey of individual letters.
Obviously, the trading and seafaring skills of the Phoenicians resulted in a network of colonies, spreading westward through the Mediterranean, mostly on the string of islands in the center of the Mediterranean Crete, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Ibiza, and along the north African coast, especially opposite of Sicily where the narrowest channel on the main Mediterranean sea route was located—opposite of the area where the Phoenicians built Carthage as a means of guarding the western Mediterranean from settlement and exploitation by other peoples.
    So with all of this going for them, why did the Phoenicians decide to go out into the Atlantic Ocean?
(See the next post, “Why Did the Phoenicians  Sail into the Atlantic? – Part III,” for more information as to why the Phoenicians seem unlikely to have been explorers and adventurers as plain businessmen expanding an ever-increasing trade business)