In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Were the multiple races depicted in ancient Mayan murals descendants of the Nephites and Lamanites?

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I have always been under the impression (as far as I can remember) that the Book of Mormon in large part took place in Central America. When I was much younger, I thought they started in Central America and worked their way up to New York for the final battle toward the end of the book. I figured with all the running around and wars they would have been moving a lot. But I connected the Mayan cities with Book of Mormon cities. So, technically I had a hemispheric view, but only because I thought Cumorah was in New York. Of course, I knew nothing of Mormon scholarship or Mayan cities beyond their pictures. All I knew was that the Mayan pictures looked a lot like the cities in the Living Scriptures VHS. With this said I did pay attention to the ancient artwork that I was able to view as an artist myself. I recall wondering to myself what went through the minds of these ancient Mesoamerican artists when they were creating these stela carvings and murals. One point of interest that stuck out to me when observing these murals was the various races and nationalities depicted in them. I recently came across an article written by Milton R. Hunter entitled “Dark People of Ancient America”. That focuses on some of the ancient murals found in Bonampak, Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan and Uaxactun. I find it interesting that we have murals showing a white raced people coexisting (maybe not peacefully) with the bronze skinned Mayans and occasionally even a few representations of black people as well.

San Bartolo Murals
The Bonampak murals depict what the artist himself more than likely would have witnessed or observed in his day to day life. One can’t help but ask, then who are these white and dark people being depicted in these murals?

My conclusion follows the opinion of Milton R. Hunters that these white and bronze skinned people are descendents of both the Nephite and Lamanite races, which are described in the Book of Mormon. The book of Mormon speaks of light and dark skinned race having occupied the some portion of the Western Hemisphere from 600BC to 400AD which is actually within the 300-600AD range in which the Bonampak paintings were suggestively created.

The Bonampak Murals are just one portion of Mesoamerican murals that are known to exist. The walls of the Temple of Warriors in Chichen Itza Yucatan which according to archaeologists was painted approximately 1,000 AD also show murals of a white people in bondage to a darker skinned people. This could be the case for what was happening at the time the art took place since we know that at the conclusion of the Book of Mormon the group known as “the Nephites” were almost completely wiped out due to warfare. But when we take into consideration that after the Saviors visit to the America’s in 3rd Nephi the Nephites and Lamanites co-mingled with each other to the point there were no more Lamanites or Nephites and later the names Nephites and Lamanites were reborn based off of a belief rather than on an actual race or nationality. Furthermore Moroni stated that the Lamanites put to death any Nephites that will not deny the Lord Jesus Christ, so I feel it’s safe to assume there were those Nephites who were willing to deny the Savior and were then permitted to continue to exist in society. Either way the white raced group would have existed beyond the end of the Book of Mormon.

Teotihuacan Murals of mixed races
These types of murals are also found in Teotihuacan associated with another mural that closely depicts the tree of life found in Lehi’s dream (this will be another post for another day). Another is found at Uaxactun (Wash-ack-toon) Guatemala along with Mayan ceramics (a vase) showing white and dark people at Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. These murals supply valid evidence that white people persisted in ancient America throughout the decades following the close of the Book of Mormon period; otherwise the ancient artists would have had no valid reason for depicting such peoples in their paintings. Thus it is my opinion that the Nephites are at least partially accountable for the white peoples who inhabited the Americas between the dates of 421AD and 1492AD.

I also wanted to note that Milton R. Hunter eventually became one of the leading scholars to suggest a North American setting for the Book of Mormon as well up on learning of the ruins of the Mound Builders. Although I don't agree with his conclusion and I am adamant that he came to his conclusion to early and with too little information.  I wanted to post one more picture to this blog post that was suggested to me by Mark Cheney in the comment section.  It is from building 1 at Calakmul and it seems to show some sort of peaceful existence among people of different ethnic origins.  This is reminiscent of 4th Nephi when there were no more Nephites or Lamanites per se.  Just people with all things in common.

Calakmul Bldg. 1


  1. that post was overly educative! was doing aan essay on Mayans and that just made my piece so much stronger. bookmarking this page right now! you have really great stuff! thanks...

    Mutash Afric

  2. I appreciate it, I'm glad that you could find this information useful!

  3. See also:

    1. Nice find Mark! I will post the actual picture to the bottom of this blog post. Thanks.

  4. Very cool, thank you. The pieces of the puzzle fit together slowly and solidly.

  5. Depiction of different coloured people does not always involve showing different races but can have some other cultural significance.