Looking at the "Maya Problem" from a different Perspective
I find this article (“Lowland Maya” Equates to Book of Mormon “Wilderness”; “Highland Maya” Equates to Book of Mormon “Mountains” by Ted Dee Stoddard www.bmaf.org/articles/lowland_highland_maya__stoddard) about a supposed "Maya Problem" particularly interesting. This article is a response to Stoddard's paper.
For the record, regarding Book of Mormon geography I am a Mesoamericanist, and I am persuaded fully to “Mormon’s Map” as exhaustively studied internally in the Book of Mormon and charted verse-by-verse onto paper by BYU Professor John L. Sorensen. I have studied his Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book and studied all the many proposed BofM geography systems, and, “Mormon’s Map” derives directly from the BofM text. It is to me, our best preliminary BofM geography.
For myself, an archaeologist by vocation and profession, there never has been any “Maya Problem” with the Book of Mormon.
This does not mean I don't have many unanswered questions - unanswered in the factual sense of evidences answering the questions. It just means that, using my own intellect, seeing the geography, and knowing what I do know about history as academia currently believes the history to be - I see various potential, viable and very satisfactory answers. Any of these answers I see can – eventually - by evidences be validated. I don't worry about which may be eventually validated - or if some totally yet undiscovered answer is some day found. The geography is there, and, the Nephite Record is one tiny surviving history set within this geography.
How this geography and The Book of Mormon record coincide is largely – largely, an issue of perceptions, both of the writers and of the modern readers. Those who believe The Book of Mormon records everything about all peoples in this geography need to go back and look at The Old testament and The New testament – highly exclusive cultural religious narratives set in a small geography mostly ignoring the surrounding peoples, omitting the neighboring nations’ concurrent histories and events.
The Hebrew writers of the Old Testament knew everything about the world and peoples around them, having regular news from caravans and ships, merchants and travelers. Yet their perception as OT writers was utterly narrow, and these Jews never wrote much about any of the outlying “Goyim” – because it did not pertain to their Jewish history or the religious history they were writing. Likewise the Jewish writers of the New Testament knew everything about the peoples surrounding them – all the Greco-Roman culture and cities in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Rome, and Mesopotamia - from caravans, ships, merchants, travelers and the imprinted “news” on the numerous “newsy” stamped coinages of even far-flung kingdoms and the vast Roman Empire circulating in their hands every day. Yet the perspective of the Jewish NT writers was also utterly narrow, and none these “newsy” outside peoples – “Goyim” - or their current events get much into the NT record.
So we see that 99.9% of the history of the Middle East and the Levant is ignored by these classic Hebrew and Jewish texts, and only very few mentions about Goyim appear in their specifically one-sided exclusive religious narratives.
We think nothing about the literary omission of concurrent histories of surrounding Goyim in the OT and NT, but many non-LDS and even LDS make it a huge issue in BofM literary narrative – that like the OT and NT we only find limited mention and commentary of the BofM Goyim – the “Lamanites.”
In “Biblical Lands” vast ongoing archaeological efforts have for 150 years been searching, digging and discovering the remains of all the ancient peoples in the Middle East area, and we have found myriads of cities, ruler’s names and other historical references recorded in the minimal notices within the OT and NT texts. BUT we have also found myriads of cities, ruler’s names and even empires NOT mentioned in the OT or NT. In parallel, no one sees any “Maya Problem” in these discoveries, either way. Additionally, archaeology in Biblical Lands is entirely benefitted by the abundant existence of written artifacts, all now deciphered and translated which enormously helps in comparing records of one people with another - building corroborating evidences “proving” The Old Testament and The New testament to be accurate histories of the tiny, microcosm of events of the single people they were written to record.
The book of Mormon was likewise written by a Hebrew, Jewish people, with very specific religious focus in writing, who like most Hebrew and Jewish historians, ignored almost or entirely, all peripheral peoples, their “Goyim.” Archaeology in the Western Hemisphere is made difficult by the combined lack of writing systems in most cultures, and, by the wholesale, exhaustive destruction of all codices by the Catholic Fathers during the Conquest, such as Bishop Fray Diego de Landa.
So. I do not see any “Maya Problem” given the perspective these facts provide. To me, these facts provide a set of very useful perspectives, when we stand back and look at BofM history academically as any other history.
My first perspective is context - to see the coming of Lehi and his small group as the "Lehiaic Invasion" (my term) circa 585 BC. This VERY small group found a land largely uninhabited - that is to say, vacant of human settlements - with some existing undeveloped cultures and settlements eventually being found. My perception is that while Jewish-traditional "Nephites" followed Hebrew custom and only married within their circle, Laman and Lemuel left the group and intermarried with "the locals" – the Goyim - and in the classic Hebrew tradition of "Goyim" we see the Nephites soon calling all non-Nephites "Goyim" by an eponymous name - as we have it recorded, "The Lamanites."
My friend the late Dr. Paul Cheesman, BYU Professor and author of many books on the Book of Mormon – and author of several Visitor’s Center short films commissioned by the First Presidency about The Book of Mormon archaeology – in his last years frequently reminded me “It is a mistake to say ‘the Book of Mormon is a record of the American peoples.’ It is only a record of the Nephites, and thus it is only a history of some of the American peoples.” This is part of my perception of the “Lehiaic Invasion” – that other peoples were here – we all know this now – and, that the Nephite Record is relatively a very SMALL record of a small people in a vast land.
As noted above, this same perception is the correct world-view of the Hebrew Record we call The Old Testament: a VERY small people wrote a very big book, they star in it almost exclusively, and, geographically they occupied a very SMALL area of land. By careful measurement of all Book of Mormon geographical notations (in the chapters and verses themselves) it has been accurately determined that the geographical, physical area in which ALL the action of The Book of Mormon took place is no larger than the area we call “the Holy Land” in Palestine which is the main activity-ground of the older Hebrew Record, The Old Testament.
Thus my BofM perception begins with visualizing the small “Lehiaic Invasion” landing on the west coast of southern Mexico, having been carried there by the actual equatorial current we can trace in any book on Oceanography, with its logical and almost predictable land-fall. This small invading group walked into a jungle equatorial land already sparsely inhabited by myriads of dark-skinned peoples, living in primitive villages scattered in the forests, difficult to find.
Considering the small size of the Lehiaic Invasion and its separatist nature by Jewish tradition, the “invasion” was literally centuries making inroads of expansion. Any expansion they made was along paths they found or cleared, and, what lay to either side of them extending out for 20 and more miles - they would not know due to the jungle and forested terrain.
The truth of this perception is seen in the 40 years since my mission living in Brazil. Over these 40 years, more than 20 totally unknown native Indian tribes have been "discovered" by explorers and missionaries in the Amazon jungle basin, which is a vast area, reaching up to the Andes Mountains in the west.
How could tribes elude detection with so many aircraft flying over?
Very simply, the jungle hides peoples better than we imagine.
When we thus consider that from 1970 to 2010 some 20 previously unknown tribes of peoples have been discovered in Brazil - living in isolated villages cut out of the jungle and foraging within a very narrow radius, each with its own language, unable to speak to other tribes perhaps as near as only 40 miles away - and themselves often unaware and not knowing of the existence of any neighboring tribes living as close as 40 miles away - the true nature of the Book of Mormon “Mesoamericanist Perception” comes alive.
A second perception is separatism - the facts yield that, in academic terms and historical perspective as a cultural invasion, the “Lehiaic Invasion” or Jewish migration into Mesoamerica was sociologically a separatist movement, and ultimately its cultural impact was “a failure.” As historically most Jewish communities have done, it kept to itself; however, even as a separatist society it “assimilated” or took on more cultural ways of its indigenous “Goyim” neighbors than it gave to these Goyim neighbors. This was necessitated by the drastic difference in climate, lack of former clothing materials and building materials, and different flora and fauna materials available for all aspects of arts and crafts. Throughout its brief existence as the separatist “Nephite” culture, it was poorly tolerated by the indigenous populations as it came into contact with them.
By the record, after a long period of isolated gestation, its few, eventually larger cities enjoyed a brief time of prosperity before succumbing to a combination of internal strifes and external attacks from various outlying indigenous peoples. The sudden increased intolerance toward the separatist Nephite culture and the attacks were provoked, probably, by the Nephite peoples’ resistance to the historic rising of the urbanizing unification phase of the primitive Maya tribes, which time we call the beginning of the Classical Period c. 250 AD. The Maya – Goyim, or Lamanite ascendency period - coincides clearly with the separatist Nephite decline, attrition and extinction phase. It also coincides with the invasion by Teotihuacan against Tikal. Were the Nephites “caught in the crossfire” of the invading northern hoard, as well as besieged by surrounding Maya tribes? Whatever the case, the “Lehiaic Invasion” became internally moribund, and because it was resistant to the strong unification movement of the Maya surrounding it, finally succumbed to a massive unified attack by “the Goyim,” who had poorly tolerated the Nephite presence for most of their thousand years.
We know that one hundred years into the Maya unification urbanizing phase starting c. 350 AD the cities and villages of the Nephites were, as we read in the BofM starting to be razed and taken over by the conquering Lamanite or Goyim tribes, and we must imagine that all signs of the foreign Nephite culture were destroyed and replaced with Goyim arts and embellishments. So, within 150 years of the start of unification phase of the surrounding Maya – the time of Mormon and Moroni - the urbanization or Classical period destroyed the last of the resistant descendents of the Lehiaic Invasion, who were killed and dispersed into the jungle where they either died, or were assimilated into the surrounding Goyim – Lamanite - culture through submission and intermarriage. This preserved Father Lehi’s seed as promised.
The perception of the Book of Mormon as a record of "The Lehiaic Invasion" in historical terms has greatly helped my perspectives in fitting the very round peg in the very round hole in the Mesoamerican board. Considering the small size of the Lehiaic Invasion, the separatist nature of Hebrew-traditional Nephites, and the generic use of the eponym "Lamanites" for "Goyim" with the impasse of physical jungle, it all sets the stage for a much better understanding of how we need to look at the interface of the BofM Record of a relatively small separatist people whose culture was eradicated with prejudice, leaving few remains throughout this area. This is the perspective of reality as we attempt any and all interfaces with excavated remains.
A third perception is identification, a key factor entirely reliant upon Nephitic eponymous nomenclature and excavation of inscribed artifacts. Of paramount importance in regarding any so-called “Maya Problem” with interfacing the BofM is a true perception of identification by place-names. The use of eponymous names for peoples and cities prevailed anciently, and, in naming unidentified sites today, we still use this system – we assign names where no name has been found. The new name we give an ancient ruin usually has nothing to do with the ancient site except in our modern perception of it. A key example is our name TIKAL for the greatest lowland Maya center – a modern name meaning either “the place of the waterhole” or “the place of the voices” given shortly after discovery of its ruins in the 1840’s. This naming practice enormously exacerbates our problem of identification today.
This problem pervades almost all modern Mesoamerican orthography. Chichen Itza seems to be this city’s actual name at the time of the Conquistadores, but it had an earlier name which started with “Seven” and numerous different translations for the rest of the city’s more ancient name. Itza is the eponym of an early ethnic lineage conquering people. Calakmul – another huge regional center linked to many other cities by causeways - was earlier called Ox Te Tuun yet we do not know the name of its people whom we have in modern times dubbed “The Snake Kingdom” after key iconography at the site. Becan was named by archaeologists; it means "ravine or canyon formed by water;" Uaxactun got its name meaning “Eight Stones” from its discoverer in 1906 but an actual earlier name Siaan K'aan or "Born in Heaven" has been proposed, but both the name and its meaning are debated. Other ancient Mesoamerican city ruins bear such equally orthographically useless names as Monte Alban, El Mirador, El Tintal, La Muneca, and the list goes on. Most of the city and place names we DO know for certain pertain to late periods, long after the collapse and extermination of the Nephitic culture.
Because the Lehiaic Invasion was a failure, we must expect that all eponymic Nephite nomenclature recorded in the Book of Mormon was utterly erased by the conquering Maya unification peoples, who surely replaced all Nephitic names with new names in their languages. Virtually ALL of these names have been lost, and we have placed our own arbitrarily selected names on all these unidentified city ruins. Cities change names.
We all remember Irving Berlin’s catchy 1929 song “It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople.” Founded in 660 BC, eponymically named Byzantium after its first king Bysas, the Roman Emperor Constantine made it his eastern capital eponymically re-naming it after himself. Over the centuries the city has had many colloquial names, and in 1930 Turkey made “Istanbul” – one of several names in use since the 10th century AD (meaning simply “in the city”) its official name. This is an excellent example of how even major capital cities change names. The Nephitic culture produced only a few larger cities, most Nephites living in what today we would call towns and villages, which leave meager remains. The primary reason we do not know whether or not excavators have found any large Nephite cities or towns or villages is entirely due to the absence of inscribed ancient city-names. This problem plagues even the vastly easier old-world Biblical Lands archaeology where hundreds of discovered cities, towns and villages remain unidentified for lack of finding an inscription, though we dig the ruins. We seem to forget this.
A fourth key perception is reading “Goyim” for “Lamanites” every time we try to interface the BofM with Mesoamerican excavations. It is paramount that we remember: "Lamanites" indeed refers to ALL "Goyim" whether actually involved by blood with Laman and Lemuel's lineages or merely dark-skinned indigenous predecessors living in the regions peripheral to the "Lehiaic Invasion" – the outlying lands of the “Lamanites.” This is an important perception, which must be recognized. “Lamanites” merely means “non-Nephite” or “Goyim.” We read that the Goyim surrounding the Nephites were widespread and numerous.
Typical of all Hebrew classical literature - and most histories of ancient peoples - the "world-view" of the Jewish-Nephite recorders is exclusive to the Jewish-Nephite history, recording only histories, events and thoughts of Nephites - as if no one else in the world existed.
As noted above, typical of ancient writings, other peoples are seldom mentioned, and when mentioned, they are assigned names in common usage by the people writing the text. As we know from myriads of ancient texts around the world, these outsider-people reference names often are internal and relate only to the culture writing the text, i.e. not the name the outsider people call themselves. For example, in the USA we call a certain people "Germans;" the Italians call them "Tedeschi;" the French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic peoples call them "Alemani" - while these people call themselves "Deutchelanders." This typical people-naming practice complicates all readings of all ancient texts as far as eponymous nomenclature goes - and the typically Hebrew practice of eponymous naming of peoples after some individual within that people is the common practice of reference to outsiders in The Book of Mormon.
As the Book of Mormon history unfolds, this eponymous practice extends even to subgroups within "The Nephites." Because of this, determining WHO specific groups of "Lamanites" may be in referencing the nomenclature of OUR modern names for these contemporary people surrounding the invading Lehiaic Group is impossible. Usually even WE do not know what an ancient people called itself, and even our reference names are not the names we can expect to find in ancient texts, to stand as “evidences” corroborating tribal nomenclatures.
We face this problem with the ancient Mesoamerican peoples’ names WE have invented.
For example of this, the name "Olmec" means "rubber people" and comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec; this was the Aztec name for the people who lived in the Gulf Lowlands in the 15th and 16th centuries AD, some 2000 years after the Olmec culture died out. We do not know what the "Olmec" peoples called themselves. We just know their culture died out shortly after the "Lehiaic Invasion" arrived in their area.
Further, there are two distinct and separate peoples we group together and call “Olmec.” By art, and by DNA, we know the "Negroid" Olmec - whose colossal Negroid-feature heads are so famous - are only part of the people we call "Olmec." They immigrated to Mesoamerica from the Ivory Coast regions of Africa - transoceanic African voyagers. The other main DNA group we call "Olmec" is the "Asian" Olmec who we now know are Chinese - proved by art (the classic "Olmec Baby" terracottas etc), DNA and now inscribed textual evidences – they were Chinese transoceanic voyagers.
As I look over the panoramic view of Mesoamerican history by archaeological discoveries thus far found and published - I do not know in referencing The Book of Mormon who - among "The Lamanites" or "Goyim" to which the Nephites refer - who the people are whom we call the "Olmec,” in our BofM text. Nor do I even know if the Olmec are referred to AT ALL by the traditionally Hebrew Nephite historians and recorders on the plates. If the "Olmec" peoples - in their twilight c. 585 BC and reaching their extinction around 400 BC. - never came much into contact with the "Lehiaic Invasion" nor gave the Nephites any trouble, they may not even be mentioned. If they are mentioned, it is assuredly as “Lamanites” – “Goyim.”
A fifth important BofM perspective is botanical terrain. I always remind myself that the geography of The Book of Mormon is largely JUNGLE forested landscape. It is possible to pass within less than a mile of a village in the jungle, and miss it entirely. This is why jungles are so dangerous: it is so easy to get lost in jungle, and, to quickly perish. It is literally impossible to "see people from afar," unlike all other non-jungle regions of the world. In the Middle East, Levant, and desert Africa, plains America, all open regions - panoramic views are very disclosing of distant geological formations and human settlements. Not so in Mesoamerica. Even views from mountaintops - where such exist, seldom climbed (no motive) - do not reveal much.
Thus in thinking about WHO or which peoples were actually encountered and confronted by the initially small "Lehiaic Invasion" a true perception is that due to the jungle conditions, the Lehiaic Group remained far more isolated by conditions than most LDS scholars admit to – when trying to imagine interfacing the existing surrounding cultures. Our reading of the Book of Mormon can falsely lead us to imagine there were no other people around them, because we forget: Lehi’s Group entered a jungle region. The “Lehiaic Invasion” was physically isolated from all other tribal settlements by physical jungle – muffling sound, blocking view, giving the false impression of being alone. The gradual spread of Nephite geography, and thus discoveries of peoples living not even very far away, was indeed gradual, and, always restricted and limited by jungle conditions.
My mission in Brazil through 1969 to 1970 was instructive in this regard. I experienced the tropical jungles in Rio de Janeiro - yes, it is utterly dense jungle where man has not cleared - and in the jungle areas of Maceio in Alagoas and Joao Pessoa in Paraiba, as well as the small city cut into the jungle in Goias, Anapolis. In the Northeast the Tupi Indians are predominant, in the interior State of Goias, several tribes live out in the surrounding jungles.
In 1970, in Anapolis, every few weeks utterly "wild" Indians would walk out of the jungle into this small town, and stand all day - all day - on a corner silently watching the cars and people, and then melt into the jungle before nightfall. I was told to ignore them, not try to speak to them, and let them be. They were virtually naked, only bits of skins and feathers, had long hair, large ear-disks, long black hair, some face paint, they carried hand-made bows and arrows and crude hand-made knives. They never spoke, even among themselves.
Having myself tried to "take a walk" in the jungles surrounding Rio de Janeiro, Maceio, Joao Pessoa and Anapolis, I learned this: forget about it. Even with a machete, it is exhausting, and slow to the point of turning back very quickly. Furthermore, without visual references - you can only see 10 yards in any direction at best - there is no way to easily tell which direction you are going, nor what may be only a few hundreds yards away from you - a road? a village? You don't know. This is jungle.
This fifth perception – the mistaken Nephite early perception of being the only inhabitants - must always be maintained in the forefront of any visualizing the “Lehiaic Invasion.” Their own false impression of being alone in this new land impacted how they imagined their world, and how they wrote about this new world for several generations. We know from archaeological remains they were not alone – but they did not know this because they were isolated from existing indigenous groups by the botanical terrain. Later Nephite generations didn’t bother to keep more than cursory records as they became more aware of their surroundings, or they recorded only specific religious focus data on their metal plates. Metal plates “are difficult to write upon” and thus for this too the Nephites were not given to needless ramblings about other peoples, which we would find so useful today. As we interface the BofM with excavated geography we must remember: omissions of notice of “other peoples” are for these two reasons: jungle precluded contact, and, the recorders had no reason to waste effort or space on the plates to “Goyim.”
Thus in visualizing the interfacing of the Lehiaic Invasion with the "Maya" - whose culture exists more predominantly in the more western extremities and peripheries of the eventual Nephite geography – we must remember the Nephite Group may not have encountered the yet pre-unification peoples we call the Pre-Classical Maya until quite late in Book of Mormon record-keeping. And, when encountered, there may have been no cause to notice them in the brevity of Book of Mormon recordings. Or, they are referred to, as “Lamanites” – “Goyim.”
In summary, during the first 850 years of the "Lehiaic Invasion" the Maya - what we call the pre-classical period - were village-culture tribes. The high days of the culture we call "Classical Maya" (who did not call themselves by this name) began around 250 AD - this after the highest peak of Nephite culture was already falling into decline, as we read in the record. Thus the time from 250 AD through 400 AD - the time the Maya just begin their urbanization phase and begin to build their famous cities of stone - is the time of the end of Nephite culture. Did this rise of the "Classical Maya Culture" have anything to do with the aggression of "The Lamanites" or "Goyim" we read about in the final books of the Book of Mormon? Especially in this crucial period of Book of Mormon history, the use of the "Goyim" term (Lamanites) gives us no clue as to the "ethnic origins" of peoples for whom we have invested our own names, today. Nephite record-keepers in these final generations were under siege, and had much more serious things to write about - and deal with - than travel-log curiosities about new peoples encountered in their jungle world. All enemies were "Goyim" or "Lamanites."
In my perceptions, the rise of the Classical Maya peoples coinciding with the decline of Nephite cities and culture confirms a picture very clearly in my mind. All the various forces that arose against the Nephite cities, towns and villages during these years 250-400 AD - Lamanites and Gadianton Robbers - Goyim - seem to find certain identification in the rising aggressions of the Maya in their urbanizing and building phase, invasions of other peoples such as Teotihuacan, etc. And in this tumultuous period I see: building all those huge, tall stone temples for human sacrifices - they needed a lot of outsiders to sacrifice. The “Nephites” – by whatever name the Maya called them – were a different, separatist, uncooperative people: being Hebrew and thus very resistant to abrupt severe cultural modification, they were a people easier to merely exterminate.
Just as we have no clue or idea what names the Olmec, Maya or any other of the indigenous Mesoamerican tribal jungle peoples called themselves at the time of the "Lehiaic Invasion," neither do we have any clue or idea what those peoples called the invading Lehiaic Group. As the African and Asian Olmec were dying out in the first two centuries of the very small Lehiaic Invasion, due to the sparse number of digs and discoveries in this area of the world, little has been discovered of what lies waiting underground.
Finally, I constantly remind myself: Less than 1% of the archaeological activity expended in the Biblical lands (which still leave so many unknowns and unanswered questions where arid, bare landscapes would seem to reveal and yield ALL their secrets but do not) has been devoted to Mesoamerican archaeological excavation and exploration. We have yet to find any recognizable archaeological evidences telling us if the Lehiaic Invasion played any role in the demise and extinction of the African and Asian Olmec. Likewise, 800 years later, when the "Classical Maya" were in ascendency, at the decline of the Nephite culture, again, due to the many noted complications, we have yet to find any recognizable evidences of the Maya ascendency playing any role in the recorded attacks on Nephite cities and towns during the final 150 years of their decline and final extermination. Nor do we have any way of knowing how many of the actual final Lamanite Hoards were in fact Maya - as we would identify Maya as distinct from other Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures and peoples and tribes of those centuries, who were part of the surrounding, attacking “Lamanite” Goyim.
Reciprocally, when by comparison we remember that less than 1% of Mesoamerica has been archaeologically excavated and explored in the wholesale manner 150 years of campaigns in the Levant and Middle East has uncovered and discovered, my perception is very clear in remembering that as much as we think we know about Mesoamerican peoples, we are just barely beginning to scratch the vast, jungle-hidden and humidity-decayed remains of the peoples who inhabited this region at the arrival of the small “Lehiaic Invasion” and throughout its 1,000-year existence. In trying to correlate Book of Mormon records with our minimally-revealed data about the history of all peoples living in Mesoamerica during this 1,000 years, it is my perception and belief that Mesoamerican chronologies will change as discoveries are made; maps will change as new cities and finds are marked on them; histories will change as additional knowledge of events is discovered and interpreted from inscriptions and artifacts.
We still look through the archaeological glass darkly. As I was reading this very interesting article (“Lowland Maya” Equates to Book of Mormon “Wilderness”; “Highland Maya” Equates to Book of Mormon “Mountains” by Ted Dee Stoddard www.bmaf.org/articles/lowland_highland_maya__stoddard), carefully noting names of ancient neighboring cultures we have named so colorfully and imaginatively, noting the locations of this ancient city ruin and that ancient cultural center ruin – I am so reminded of how much still is to be discovered in these dense jungles, and how much more is there, which we cannot yet reference because we haven’t yet discovered it. It is so tantalizing to try to piece together the puzzle with only a few of the pieces in hand, and yet most of the arguments and even discussions forget how few pieces of the Mesoamerican puzzle we have – and yet we speak of it as if we had bought the box new and have every piece intact. We have so much still to discover, and these discoveries will dramatically alter counter perspectives, as they always do.
As for the much earlier wave of the “Jaredite Invasion” and thoughts relating the Jaredites to early, pre-classical Maya – who by academia appear around 2,600 BC, a reasonable dating for this Group – or to other early-appearing peoples in Mesoamerica, we just don’t know. It is so tantalizing to speculate, and truly it is rewarding to do so, yet if there is a “Maya Problem” and an “Olmec Problem” and a “Jaredite Problem” resulting from current speculations, the speculators must remember: less than 1% of this vast region is explored, discovered, excavated, interpreted and published. How really can anyone refute the Book of Mormon text on any basis of negative evidence? On the basis of negative evidence there were no Hittites until 1906 and Bogez Qoy, and the Hebrew Text invented “the Hattie” as a fiction. We still can’t find the capital city of Akkad. In Mesoamerica, negative evidence – “it hasn’t been found” – should make everyone laugh. 99% of what remains to be found is still to be found. It hasn’t been found YET, which is no problem at all.
We are fortunate to have what we have to date, in discoveries and knowledge of Mesoaerican peoples, and all we know helps us understand what was here, and what kind of world the “Lehiaic Invasion” entered. For surely they arrived, and, they lived in this region. Their own perceptions of what existed around them is more evident to us today than it was to them as they lived there, because today we have airplanes and satellites to fly over these vast regions; we have roads cutting through jungles and interconnecting so many centers within these tropical jungles; we have already done some exploration, excavation and discovery within the dense jungles which still cover and hide 99% of this area – still.
The way the Book of Mormon recorders wrote about their world is the way they perceived it from their limited view in a jungle world. Reading the Book of Mormon and knowing a bit about Mesoamerican history in its geography gives us a new perspective on the Book of Mormon writers’ limitations of knowledge, experience and contact with their greater world beyond their borders. Our perspectives gained from Mesoamerican archaeology should be teaching us this humble reality: the writers of The Book of Mormon were far less in touch with their world around them than WE have always believed they were. WE are the ones who need to reduce our imagined scope of vision. The scope of vision during Book of Mormon times was limited by the surrounding density of jungle growth and difficult terrain. They didn’t have satellite views to know what lay beyond to the South, the North, the East or the West, beyond what they could see, and what scouting parties had seen and lived to come back and report. We need to learn: the writers of the Book of Mormon had far more limited knowledge of their immediate world than we have always wanted to give them credit for. This is what contemporary Mesoamerican archaeology should be teach us, as we slowly plod along trying to visualize the word encountered by the Lehiaic Invasion.
My perception of the “Jaredite Invasion” is that it happened, they evolved, they built, they declined, they died out, leaving their cities in ruin. They are there somewhere, whether we have found them yet and not recognized them, or still have to find them and hope to recognize them.
My perception of the “Lehiaic Invasion” is that it was truly pitifully small, a mere handful of humans in a vast tropical jungle region already inhabited by scattered villages of tribes and peoples with dark skins, whom they co-existed with for some time without being discovered or discovering others. My perception is that over time, as the Nephite geography expanded, they still knew less about what lay beyond the walls of jungle surrounding them we give them credit for. They cared little about it in keeping their religious records focused on spiritual matters.
I hope in this brief essay I have explained the perceptions I see as I look at the thousand years of the "Lehiaic Invasion" and its minimal impact on the evolving histories of the indigenous peoples, and how the massive impact of these "Goyim" or "Lamanites" upon the Lehiaic Group, led unto its utter destruction. We can see it today: they were little fish in a big pond full of many ferocious fish. It is a miracle they survived in this milieu for 1,000 years.
I continue to see in everything we know of Mesoamerica an archaeological effort less than 1% of that expended in Biblical lands, where even now, entire civilizations are still being discovered beneath 30 and more feet of built-up mud and dirt, in barren, unobstructed lands where visibility on clear days reaches to the horizons. I see thus a dearth of evidences in Mesoamerica, due first to comparatively minimal search efforts, compounded by the jungle conditions which enormously obstruct discovery. I see every reason to find in the "Goyim" or "Lamanites" of the Book of Mormon Record ALL of the peoples in Mesoamerica whose remains and archaeoligical evidences we see HAVE been found, and find it amazing the Lehiaic Invasion survived as long as it did in this world. Truly, they were protected by the Hand of God.