Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XIII

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of John L. Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, and Gardner’s idea that the various meanings of words in foreign cultures, and that the Maya had no word for “north” and only a vague concept of it in a “down slope” manner.
Gardner: “The solution seems to be, as Karen Bassie has argued, that ‘east’ and ‘west’ are not directions at all, but are broad quadrants of the sky centered on, but not limited to, the cardinal directions ‘east’ and ‘west’. ‘East’ is the entire section of the horizon where the sun rises during the year, from solstice to solstice and back again.”
The tropics and Artic Circles, showing the Solstices range from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn

Response: So this will be clear, solstices do not cover the full 90º of the earth, but move from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, or about 60º of the eastern (sunrise) or western (sunset) view. The summer solstice occurs at the moment the earth's tilt toward from the sun is at a maximum. Therefore, on the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere (north of the equator), the sun appears at its highest elevation with a noontime position that changes very little for several days before and after the summer solstice.  The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which is located at 23.5° latitude North, and runs through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, and southern China.  For every place north of the Tropic of Cancer, the sun is at its highest point in the sky and this is the longest day of the year. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is located at 23.5° south of the equator and runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil, and northern South Africa (National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Silver Spring, MD).
    Thus, to any one person in any one geographical spot, the march of the sun covers only about 60º from summer solstice to winter solstice. With that in mind, a person in the Mesoamerican city of Mexico City (their city of Nephi), would have about 30º swing from right to left when facing east, during summer and back. This is a rather small distance from 180º it is not something that would have confused the Nephites. After all, they came from Jerusalem where the latitudinal line is 17º different (Guatemala City is at 14.6349° latitude north, while Jerusalem is located at 31,7683º latitude north).
    This means that Guatemala City is located at 14.6349° latitude north, while Jerusalem is located at 31,7683º latitude north, and Cuzco, Peru is located at 13.5320º south. All within a reasonable degree difference that would have little bearing on the rising and setting of the sun.
While the sun theoretically illuminates one half of the earth (yellow light) in its march across the sky from Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice, the sun does not appear everywhere on the globe—the movement is about 47º (between winter and summer solstices) and, therefore, “east”—where the sun rises” throughout the year, covers far less than the entire 180º range as Gardner implies 

When seeing both the Summer and Winter Solstice coverage, the actual degrees falls between 116.5º and 163.5º, or between 63.5º and 16.5º, which is a total of 47º of movement out of 180 degrees of visible distance to the human eye. These, then, are not broad quadrants of the sky, but the movement of the sun from Solstice to Solstice, which is both trackable and measureable in spatial terms, thus the “east direction” would not vary much and remain in a “right to left” or “left to right” position of rising, which is why in the north or around the Arctic Circle at certain time of the year it is either long days or long nights—thus even primitive people were able to measure the equinox (middle) point between these Solstices for an exact “east” or “west” point.
    Thus it cannot be said, as Gardner does, that “‘East’ is the entire section of the horizon where the sun rises during the year, from solstice to solstice and back again.” Since “east” is going to be determined as the mid-point between the sun’s movement from Solstice to Solstice, otherwise, planning, harvesting, and numerous other survival activities would not be known and understood and such primitive cultures would never have lasted long on the Earth.
Gardner: “This quadrant is represented in site layout by the E-group complexes found at Uaxactun and elsewhere. ‘West’ is the corresponding quadrant where the sun is observed to set. ‘North’ and ‘south’ are simply the quadrants that lie between these two, that lie ‘at the sides of the sky’, ‘to the right hand’ or ‘to the left’. That is, two defined quadrants imply two others, giving a total of four. The “four corners of the Maya world” are simply the limits of the east-west quadrants, and do not imply four cardinal directions.”
Left: A four-quadrant directional system is not any different than the present compass rose—Quadrant 1 would be Northeast, Quadrant 4 would be Southeast, with due east in between, giving four cardinal points, and four ordinal points of the compass; Right: Cardinal, Ordinal, and second intercardinal points

Response: In this modern compass, the four cardinal (north, south, east and west) take up 90º each when using only four; the intermediate (intercardinal or ordinal) points drop that distance down even more, and the secondary intercardinal points drop it even further to 47º, that is, “east” runs from East-northeast to east-southeast
    Gardner, in his quest to find a way to make the skewed directions of Mesoamerica work, simply ignores the reality of both astronomy and early man’s knowledge of Solstices and the Equinox of that drove all agrarian societies. No early society looked at the sun’s march across the skies and thought the entire breadth of the 47º arch of the sun’s movement was all “east.” They knew, and well understood the idea of the equinox (equal or middle) of this range, and knew that that equinox represented their “east.”
    Since Nephi knew and understood, as well as used correctly in his record this third, or intercardinal point of south-southeast (see above right diagram), there is no reason to believe that the Nephites after him did not know it and understand it. *1 Nephi 16:13) This only shows that if the Maya can truly be shown not to know and understand this point, then any further argument of them being Nephites and Mesoamerica being the Land of Promise is moot and indefensible by Gardner, Sorenson, or anyone else.
Gardner: “Hopkins and Josserand report an interesting example of what happened when an informant was asked to give the word for ‘north’. The Tojolabal speaker (A Mayan language) did not provide a word, but rather a definition: “wa xkilatik ti b’a norte ta wa xkan to b’a surda jk’ab’tik b’a. . [periods as in original] wa xmukxi ja k’ak’u’i (We are looking north when we stand with our right hand toward where the sun goes down.)”
Response: First, to be accurate, the word “Mayan” is not used as an adjective, and in fact, the word Mayan does not exist in the Maya or Spanish languages, nor is it in use by the indigenous Maya. It evidently came into limited use in 1517 as a corruption of an obscure Maya term or phrase. Therefore, it should be “Maya language” above). Second, how can one have a definition without a word that is being defined? Third, if one does not read the footnote (#17) at the end of that statement and look it up, then one is missing the hidden or obscured point that should be clearly understood. The note is this: “The Tojolabal entries are clearly not lexical; the compiler of the dictionary, Carlos Lenkersdorf, is concerned with explaining to Tojolabal speakers the meaning of terms in Spanish (and vice versa) rather than simply listing lexical items.” (Before commenting further, this information is from Nicholas A. Hopkins and J. Kathryn Josserand, “Directions and Partitions in Maya World View,” Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. 2011, otherwise known as FARMS, the furthermost and unabashed defender of Mesoamerican Land of Promise models).
Now, as for the note. “Lexical” means the “words or lexicon of a language,” i.e., “of or relating to words or the vocabulary of a language as distinguished from its grammar,” i.e., again, the definition and meaning of words. Consequently, “the word or phrase, whatever it is, for “north” in the Maya language means, or can be defined as “the cardinal direction to the left of east.” Interestingly, that is exactly how our generation learned directions when in grade school. The teacher had the students face north, and then say, “on the right hand is east, behind me is south, and on the left hand is west.” For many years, we had to think of that spatial interpretation to learn directions.
    Even today, to define directions, one first determines a cardinal direction. Living on the West Coast, we knew the Ocean was to the West, therefore, east was opposite, north and south in between, etc. When going to college in Santa Barbara, the viewable ocean was to the south, and we had to adjust our directional thinking. In the military, we learned to use a compass extensively, but when without one, the sun’s rising and setting handled that (of course there are numerous ways with stick, string, etc., to determine directions in the field).
    Now, back to lexical. Gardner uses this, as does Hopkins and Josserand, to show that the Maya did not have a word for “north,” but of course they did—it was simply not part of the lexicon being described, since the author of the dictionary, Carlos Lenkersdorf, was trying to explain to the Maya the Spanish word “norte” (north) in a way the Maya would understand, i.e., saying “We are looking north when we stand with our left hand toward where the sun goes down.”
    While these Mesoamericanists claim the Maya have no word for “north” in their language, numerous Maya hieroglyphics experts claim the Maya word for north is xaman, though it is not universally accepted.
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part XII,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, and the various meanings of words in foreign cultures, and Gardner’s idea that the Maya had no word for “north” and only a vague concept of it in a “down slope” manner)


  1. (We are looking north when we stand with our right hand toward where the sun goes down.)”

    If I am pointing with my right hand to the where the sun is setting with my hands outstretched to my sides... would I not be facing south?

  2. it says “We are looking north when we stand with our left hand toward where the sun goes down.” That would be correct (left hand)

  3. Nice!! I kept reading it over and over and could not figure out why I could not make it happen. LOL