The Covenant Codex; and Coxca

Transcript of the September 2005 BMAF Conference held at the Red Lion Hotel

The Covenant Codex; and Coxca

Neil Steede

Here is a slide of the Covenant Codex, which resides in a private collection in the United States. I was invited, after several other specialists had already examined it. I photographed it with infrared photography and ultraviolet photography looking for portions of it to be fake, or of newer material, etc. We found no reason to believe it to be a fake. The codex is made up of sisal fibers covered with this plaster, which is made up of ground shell. The fibers were combed and laid on one another; they are not woven. Then they had three layers of plaster applied. The makers put in a hinge, and one sample even looked like it had silk in it. This is interesting for a Book of Mormon inference, because we’ve had no archaeological indication of silk before, because silk oxidizes. Therefore, it will be very interesting for us. When the codex was completed, they trimmed it and scored it in order to make a fold where the silk was. Then we took an analysis by a local police department and we found that the plaster is made up of conch shell along with several other materials. Then we found a material made of translucent fibers, which turned out to be the silk.

Now, to symbolism. We are going to be talking about symbolism and Quetzalcoatl, and part of this relates to Venus, which will be very important to us. (Points to slide) We see flowers that are a symbol of Quetzalcoatl, he being a god of flowers. We also have quetzal feathers – green meaning ‘precious’. We also have colors, which when four colors are used together generally in Mesoamerica mean the four different directions and so forth; however, specifically in this codex, yellow will refer to death; green will refer to Quetzalcoatl himself; blue to precious earth; and red to blood. We’ll see that this is the only place I know of where Quetzalcoatl is referred to as ‘king’. He is sitting upon a throne. Also, we’ll notice that he wears a cape with a bunch of eyes on it – all-seeing.

(New slide) Venus in the highlands, particularly of the Tlaxcallan tribe, who use the number ‘5’ to represent Venus. As was mentioned yesterday, Venus is the evening sky that goes away, representing when Christ died and darkness comes to the world. Then, later when Venus becomes the morning star, it ushers light into the world. This is very important to them in the symbol of ‘5’.

(New slide) On the codex, we see the symbol of ‘5’ in numerous aspects. Here are several groups of five in the codex itself. You can see that this is the general outline of the codex, how it’s laid out. There are five glyphs in the vertical text. The general layout of the codex is in multiples of five also. They wanted to underline the main aspect of Venus. And what is this aspect of Venus? The resurrection.

(New slide) This is scene one, and I want to point out – here we have a temple; here is a man, that’s his head. He’s dead, that’s his stomach that’s been ripped open. Here is his chest, shoulder, arm, buttocks, legs, and feet. I hope you can see him there with his headdress up here. And on top of this pyramid there is an altar that has two large feet, which are jaguar paws. You can see the claws and also the red on the claws showing that the jaguar has just caused the human’s death. This is the biggest piece that is missing from the codex, but if we look carefully at this line here we can see that we do have the very edge, because there is nothing beyond that particular glyph. This is the lower horizontal text, and you can see four glyphs here, each one in a box. So, that gives you an idea of the layout.

Now, let’s go to a modern drawing, and we see things a lot more clear. And with a rough translation, we’re only going to talk about what the scenes represent. We’re not going to read much of the text as we don’t have time. In this scene, we have the religion of the jaguar causing the death of humanity. His worship has caused his own death. The text is telling you that spiritual death is being referred to, and he died because of it.

(New slide) In scene two, we have a gentleman here who is holding a scepter. See his legs and a headdress up here, which is a yellowish-colored bird head. This part is one of the folds that is most deteriorated, and this is the vertical text right behind him. We can’t catch much out of here, but let’s go to the line drawing. The reason you have the offset here, is that’s where the old hinge is, and it’s now just loose and hanging by threads. This is God L. God L is the god of death, the god of the underworld, and in this particular role he is wearing the headdress of a vulture’s head, meaning death. He has a scepter, and note, here are his two legs, and what is this here? You can see there is a jaguar paw there taking the place of his penis. Why? Because he is the father of the jaguar religion. That is what he is trying to tell us. He is rejoicing over what has happened over here in scene one, the death of mankind. This tells you for mankind to look away. Every one of these boxed glyphs looks to the left, except for this one. And the reason – is for humanity to look away from God L. So, what are we supposed to be looking to? We’re supposed to be looking ___________ Quetzalcoatl himself. (New slide) Here he sitting on a throne, here is his back, here is his head with the large headdress, here is his arm coming out holding a scepter, and he is beheading a serpent, which you can see coming down here. In the line drawing, you can see much better. Here are symbols of the four directions, which means he can be everywhere, and he’s holding a scepter. There are also some very interesting things about his headdress – you can see fish here as well as a hummingbird. And, I’ve never seen this in other Mesoamerican art, he’s destroying with his word the serpent. The serpent is then beheaded; here is the blood gushing out, and falling off is that same vulture head, so we know, unmistakably, he has conquered death. Death has been bound and cast down.

(New slide) In this next scene, it tells us what steps humanity should take to become part of this new Quetzalcoatl religion, at least for them who have been converted. Here we have a head and a couple of hands coming out. This happens to be a backward man. He is sitting here with some paraphernalia here and some green feathers coming off here. His headdress is all up in here. What we see here is that he is sitting here with reverse hands, meaning he has reversed his life, he has turned 180 degrees; he has repented. He has partaken of this glyph, which is the ‘burning water’ symbol. Burning water symbolizes baptism that we’re all familiar with. He is now walking the path over the heart that has been sacrificed; walking the path of Christ.

(New slide) The next scene is a larger scene. Here we have mankind, once again; he has now past death and is on the other side of death. He is sitting before an altar, and this altar is surmounted by 24 heads, and beyond the altar are five destinations. What happens is that mankind sits before the altar of the Lamb, Quetzalcoatl. Notice what the altar is made up of. It’s made up of a chalice, inside of which is a broken heart, with blood gushing forth, which sits upon bread. So, I think it refers right there to the holy sacrament of communion. And, down here is the symbol for rebirth. So, he sits before this altar of Quetzalcoatl who has died and has come to life again in the resurrection. And these are the 24 elders. Here is what is extremely interesting about this – see this head, he is going up off the scene___________; and this lower one is going down, which, in my opinion, is temptation, that has to be Judas, the one that succumbed. The one that is up here is _______ the one that was brought back. And who are these? These three have a special glory around them with the fire flaring out. I believe they are the Three Nephites. And this other being touched by the flame, I believe to be John. And if you count the five heads with open mouths, they may represent the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and Nephi. The author of this text knew what he was talking about, depicting the 24 elders. Go to the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation. And, this would be the final ________. So you don’t see the sun, moon, and stars ____________. But, I do believe that’s what is happening here.

What we have here, I believe, is celestial, terrestrial, telestial, because that is stars, multiple; and a place with no glory – no color. Note that these glories are all bird zoomorphic glyphs, except this bottom one, the kingdom of no glory, which is a human skull. And these are the spirits of men entering into these glyphs, which becomes clearer earlier in the text that we don’t have time to go into.

This is an extremely interesting codex. We know the origins of it; we know where it came from. We’ve done some lab tests on it, what we could afford. At this point, you’ll notice at the bottom of the page, it tells you that we’re getting this from Orion Analytical Labs in Massachusetts, and we’re about $2000 short of having enough money for all the tests that are needed on this. We think it’s a wonderful new scripture that has come out, but, just because I believe that doesn’t prove it, that’s why I have to go through the lab tests. You are the first ones to see this publicly in this type of forum.

Now, let’s go to Coxca.

Coxca is the Indian name for the place that I believe is Cumorah. I was asked how far away is Koshka from the location that is generally considered to be Cumorah by Mormon archaeologists. It’s between 35 and 50 miles directly, although you’d have to drive a lot longer than that to get to it. However, there are a lot of reasons that I think Koshka fits the description in the Book of Mormon for Cumorah.

(New slide of a map) Here is the location of Coxca; and I’ve drawn in what I think were more ancient coastlines, so it’s not quite as recognizable as modern maps. Here is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and we know it was northward of the Isthmus, and in my opinion it’s right about here, whereas other people think it’s over here. When looking at the Isthmus, we have the Sierra Oriental and Sierra Occidental meeting just north of the Isthmus, with highland plains in between. Here is the Gulf coast, and the Pacific coast, and it runs on down. The narrow pass has to run east-west, according to the Book of Mormon, and there is a pass from the highlands where the two sierras meet; and there are also some other interesting things about it. Some Nephites escaped to the south. They were pursued by the Lamanites and killed. Presumably they ran right into the main body of Lamanites.

The pass that I believe to be the Book of Mormon pass has a north-south branch that runs from the highland Valley of Teotihuacán down into the present Valley of Oaxaca, as well as an east-west branch that runs toward the east coast, forming a ‘T’ in the mountain. This next slide is a close-up drawing of the same area, showing the ‘T-shaped’ pass, and we’re going to take a tour. Here on the southeast corner of the Sierra Oriental is where Coxca (Cumorah) is located, and where I believe the battlefield is located. I’m calling it Coxca, because I give this presentation to a lot of people who don’t know what Cumorah is. On our tour, we’ll start at the center of the ‘T’ and go south to look at some archaeological stuff, then north to see some more archaeological stuff, then we’ll go east to the battlefield area and see some more archaeological material. We’ll then go to the north of the hill Coxca, then on top of it, then to the south. (The next slide shows the same pass area of the ‘T’ drawn as river drainages, with the Río Santo Domingo coming from the south, the Río Solada from the north, joining at the center of the ‘T’ to form the Río San Juan as the body of the ‘T’ flowing eastward.)

At the center of the ‘T’ is a place called Quiotepec. This means "Hill of the Tablets." Now, Hill of the Tablets might mean several things, because as you stand in the center of the valley and you’re looking at it, the ruins of the fortress up on the hill there look like tablets stacked up. Some people think that is why it’s called Hill of the Tablets. However, having done interviews at the modern village of Quiotepec, they all say, no, the village takes its name from the ‘real’ Quiotepec, which is down the valley eastward. Coxca stands high enough with its 100-foot cliffs, that even though you’re about 50 kilometers away, you can still see the cliffs. "We named this in honor of that." That’s the Indian tradition.

Eastward a few kilometers is a large cave, and if you go to our website, you’ll find the Rabohn exploration team, which is a German group that has declared this cave system to be the third largest cave system in the world. They’ve been exploring it for years, and we’ll look at some of their material in a few minutes. They’re working their way toward Coxca.

(New slide) Here is the south end of the pass (and I’ve drawn a railroad track here, because it’s pertinent to our story). The first time I saw the place I’m describing, I was riding a train. Back then it was a narrow-gauge train, and when I saw the area, I decided it was worth jumping off the train. I explored the area, then had to wait for the train, as it came by only once in 24 hours. In this south end, called Huijatsu, murals show that there was a great battle that occurred there. It was jaguars battling quetzals, and the quetzals lost. It’s a very interesting set of murals, and seem to be supportive of the idea that this area is where the Nephites ran through the valley, pursued by the Lamanites, and were killed. There was a slaughter at that location, and this may relate to that slaughter, although it may relate to all the battles. What was there when you looked at the cliffs were a bunch of spots. I saw those spots, and the sun was coming from the east hitting these spots so I could see these spots really well. I thought they must be something weird, so I hopped off there at 8 in the morning and walked up there with a soldier. It turned out to be about five miles away through the desert, and by the time I got there about 10:00 a.m., the spots weren’t there anymore, because the sun had risen high enough that the angle of the rays no longer lit up those spots. Those spots turned out to be the mouths of 520 caves that had been sealed up with adobe brick. Over the centuries, as the dust had settled on the adobe bricks and the cliff face, as the sun got higher and higher, you couldn’t see it, it all had the same color.

When we got up to the cliff (John Paddock, one of my great professors, who wrote a book on Oaxaca, was one of the first ones to tell me about this. He had originally discovered these.) we opened one of the cave mouths. (Next slide) Here I have a profile and a vertical look at it. This is the mouth and there were a whole bunch of little square boxes made out of adobe. As we opened each one, it turned out to be a coffin or sarcophagus. They had simply laid down the bodies and built the adobe box around them.

(New slide) Now we’re at the north end of the pass and there is interesting thing about this location. Mormon had sent north for help. And we know now from the Tikal inscriptions and others, that Teotihuacán was helping the Lamanites behind the Nephites backs. That’s a long story and we don’t have time to go into it. It is my belief that the Coxca murals specifically detail Mormon’s plea for help.

However, we know that the wall of the canyon is only 200-300 yards or so wide. There were also a whole series of walls that had been built across the canyon. By modern days they had all completely collapsed, but they had all collapsed northward, as if people had come from the south and pushed them down as they went northward. Now, no dating has been done there, and no professional excavation. So, the dates may turn out to be way different, but it looks to me that in that area the Nephites were doing final defenses after the main battle, those going northward. Maybe even the people northward.

(New slide) Now we go to the east end of the pass where Coxca is. We’re going to look around at the east side of Coxca, then climb up on top, then go to the south of Coxca and we’ll be at the end of our tour. The stratigraphy of the site is interesting in that you have to dig down from the present time to the colonial era, then to the pre-colonial time, then you get to a battlefield layer. Then, after a 500-600 year difference, you find another battlefield layer. That is somewhat fitting with the Book of Mormon. My problem is that this is something like a 500-600 year span, and it should be an 800 year span. The dating that I did on it isn’t that isn’t that precise or that extensive, so that might change with time. But, it looks good to me to be possibly the Jaredite battle site, then the Nephite battle site, because they were supposed to be at the same place.

At the site, we find a lot of obsidian blades and arrowheads of different types. Basically, what I’m saying is, some of the crude artifacts are found in the lower battle layer, and at the higher battle layer, the newer one, we find the more advanced artifacts, which would be in keeping with the date. At the later battlefield I’m interested in the following things: (New slide) this pottery comes from Cholula. What’s it doing there? There are no Cholula sites there. That’s because the Nephites had been cut off from their homeland, so now, they’re having to send northward for supplies. They’re buying their stuff from Cholula. And the Teotihuacanos, their brothers, are supplying the Lamanites.

It’s also very interesting to observe all the obsidian – tons of it. And that’s about all you find. There’s some crumbling pottery, and some weapons; but there is nothing else there.

(New slide) This is a photograph of the same piece, however here I have a light shining through it. The reason is, is because most obsidian is translucent (some is completely opaque), and when shining a light through it you can see a different color, and it will give you an idea of its origin. This obsidian comes from Guatemala; and more than 60% of these weapons are from Guatemala, Lamanite territory. That fits also with Book of Mormon description that the Lamanites were without number.

(New slide) We find completely opaque obsidian that comes from Orizaba, which is northward close to Cholula. We also find green obsidian - that comes from Teotihuacán, so the Teotihuacanos may have been supplying both sides.

Out of the 5000-6000 pieces we sorted through in order to get our percentages, we found one piece that was yellow, or amber. There is no obsidian expert that I’ve talked to who knows where amber obsidian comes from. We don’t know the origin of that. It may even be just a rare anomaly from either the green or clear obsidian.

(New slide) We find all sorts of weapons like this type. These are clubs (side and dorsal views), this one being a Jaredite weapon in this case. We find Nephite ax heads, and so forth. We find an assortment of weapons here, but we don’t find arrowheads. Because this is evidence of hand-to-hand combat, too close for arrows. But we find all sorts of clubs, maces, all sorts of things to beat each other to death. We have hundreds of weapon artifacts, and every single one has dated positive for blood. So, indeed, it was a very bloody affair as described to us.

(New slide) Now we’re going to the hill itself. We’re going to climb this little valley here (northeast side of Coxca) and look at a couple of caves up here. If this is truly Cumorah, I would expect there to be caves. That’s what I’m looking for. This is all rough on top, not like a plateau, and the caves go deep into the hill. The whole place is honeycombed. Every cave as a collapse about 50 feet in, but the openings are not sealed. A couple of the caves contained skeletons that were arranged in a certain manner, as if they were guarding the dead.

There are also series of sinkholes on top that seem to be aligned. Some of them are 150 feet wide and almost 1000 feet deep. The sides are extremely steep, and even natives have slipped and fallen into them and are never seen again and are presumed to be dead. You can also see caves coming to the sides of the sinkholes. They are pretty amazing things, and as I mentioned about the Rodahn website, the Germans have explored this area, and they have some beautiful maps.

On the north side of the hill, anciently there was an area that broke down off the cliffs that are about 700 feet high, you couldn’t scale the cliffs if you wanted to, and this was the only way to go up the hill. Thirty years ago, when I was exploring the area, we saw jaguars, and several nights we could see their eyes as we shone flashlights at them.

(New slide) Around on the other side we have cliffs, also, and the way that the mountain was formed (apparently by meteor impact) these are all folds in the cliffs, so there are undulations in the face of the cliff. Over here, back in 1976, we found a cave that opened up. There had been a severe earthquake that had opened up a cave. I tried to obtain interest to the cave, but had some medical problems that precluded my going there for several years, and only recently went back there. The cave had changed meanwhile, and I want to talk about one thing here. There is only one archaeological site in the whole area, and that is right here up on the shoulder. It is a very interesting mound. I don’t know what it is. I had a native guide me to it 30 years ago, and I might suggest that it could be Mormon’s grave. We know he died in battle there. But I don’t know. But, it is something important – it has a little stone bridge that leads to it. This little mound is about ten by ten feet, and about two feet high. There was a six-inch thick stela standing on the top, inscribed on one side (mostly eroded), and has since been inscribed on again by, of all people, Díaz, who was a sidekick of Cortez. That’s why the area is called Jalapa de Díaz, because it is part of the land that was given to him. It was the only thing in the whole area that he could inscribe on.

(New slide) Last spring I went up there again, and used the same guide who had led me 30 years ago, With all the jungle growth in the meantime, the ground is all covered over and only about three feet of the stela is sticking out of the ground, but it is still there. In 2006 we are planning to excavate this.

Now to the cave that had opened up in 1976 – when the sun climbs and hits the cliffs, it creates hot air here, which draws cold air out of the cave itself. So, over a period of time there is condensation, which has caused moss to start growing here (new slide), and over the years that moss draws lime out of the limestone and it builds up until eventually it builds up and seals itself off. Three years ago, we went up there with drills, jackhammers, and all this kind of stuff. We couldn’t gain access. We tried again the following year and we still didn’t have enough strength to break through it. That sounds incredible, but it is incredibly hard cement that had formed there with that moss action. So, we have not obtained entrance. However, we have done some excavating down here at the base of the cliff. We have found a couple of things, one of which is called the Proclamation Tablet. Then we also found some steps. We followed these steps 300 feet up the cliff where we found a hammer stone. I haven’t written a paper on this yet because we just found it this spring.

We’re still there, still fighting that thing; and we always have interesting experiences. All of us were placed under arrest this year and put in jail; but we all got out and we’re fine. In fact, the Mexican government asked us if we wanted to sue the villagers for taking us captive. Here’s the way we got out of jail. They said, "You can’t do this – this is sacred ground." I replied, "Don’t the religions tell you that a blind, bearded guy was to come and take these records that are supposed to be here?" They said, "Yes." I then said, "Well." I didn’t say I was he but left the inference.


Steede, Neil