In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Tower of Babel, Zacuali and Early Mexican History

Mariano Veytia
So recently I obtained a copy of Mariano Veytia's "Ancient America Rediscovered" which I was excited to get because I am familiar with some of the other early authors and historians who recorded the history of Mexico and Guatemala through documents, paintings, statues, charts and diagrams.  Being familiar with the writings of Fernando De Alva Ixtilxochitl I wasn't surprised to see that Veytia quotes and compares Ixtilxochitl's writings with that of his own and that of his mentor Lorenzo Boturini.  With many of the comparisons being in regards to dating specific events using different calendar approaches I won't be getting into the specifics of those comparisons but instead will be briefly going over one event in general and how that compares to a similar event found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

The event in question is that of the confounding of the languages at the Tower of Babel found in Genesis 11:1-9 in the Bible.  As the story goes the people of the earth created a tower so that they could reach heaven.  The creation of this tower displeased the Lord so he scattered the people and confounded their languages.  Although there are only a few short verses covering this obviously massive event in human history located in the Bible we get more information from the Book of Mormon through a prophet named Ether. 

According to Ether, at the scattering of the people and confounding of the languages there was a man named Jared whose brother (who was named Mahonri Moriancumer) was highly favored of the Lord.  Through the compassion of the Lord these brothers, their families and a few others with their families were able to avoid having their language confounded and they were led by the Lord to a choice land in the Americas through a route that required them to build eight barges in which to sail to the Promised Land.  Upon landing in the Americas they became a great civilization called the Jaredites.  They eventually dwindled away through wars and contentions and unbelief .  It is thought by current LDS scholars and apologists that the correlations and timeframe of events of the Jaredites coincides well with the Olmec civilization that resided in modern day southern Mexico and Guatemala around 2500-500 BC.

With the above noted information from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon  the only obstacle that stands in our way is to see if this information can be confirmed through new world history and documents.  This post is an attempt to do just that. 

early map showing what is in the center of the Great
Pyramid of Cholula (a spiral pyramid)
In Veytia's "Ancient America Rediscovered" he shares the following,

"Returning to pick up the thread of our history, I say that the human race had multiplied considerably, and they say that men, fearful of another flood, and wanting to make their name famous, undertook the construction of a very tall tower to which they gave the name Zacuali, ...when they were the most involved in the construction of their tower, suddenly their languages were confused so that they did not understand each other, and so the construction ceased and everyone divided up, spreading out over the whole face of the earth.  This information noted in so much detail by the Toltec nation, from whose historical charts it was obtained by the authors who wrote in these monarchies of Mexico and Texcoco, was found to be in agreement and without variation among the Indians of Chiapa, as affirmed by Francisco Nunez de la Vega, the bishop of that diocese, in the prologue of his Constituciones diocesanas (diocese constitutions), who assets that in his archives he keeps an old manuscript of the first natives from there, who learned how to write our characters, in which it is on record that they always kept the memory that the first progenitor and father of their nation was named Tepanahuaste, which means the Lord of the Hollow Pole, and that Tepanahuaste was at the construction of the great wall, as they called the tower of Babel, and with his own eyes he saw the confusion of tongues, after which the Creator God commanded him to come to these extensive lands to distribute them among men."

In addition to this history Dr. Jerry Ainsworth and his colleague Esteban Mejia (both Book of Mormon scholars and historians) advised that upon reaching the Promised Lands in southern Mexico that the Jaredites built a similar tower or pyramid to remember what had caused their trials they faced in migrating to the Promised Lands.  It was advised that this pyramid was a spiral pyramid built in Tulan (Tula) which they traced back to modern Cholula.  Of this Ainsworth stated in his book" The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni" that,

"Ruins in the state of Puebla themselves go back to the time of the Quinamis, who were contemporary with the Olmec.  The pyramid of Cholula in that area, which is the largest structure in the world, consists of many built-over pyramids.  When archaeologists dug tunnels into this structure to document the number of superimpositions, they concluded that the original pyramid in the very center was built by people who lived at the time of the Olmec (Jaredites), around 2500 B.C.  Archaeologists now make distinction between the Olmec, the ancient people of the Caribbean side of Mexico, and the people of the central highlands of Mexico (valleys of Puebla and Tlaxcala, and those of the west coast of Mexico.  It appears that although these people shared similar cultural traits and habits, they were considered distinct and separate "countries."

The Great Pyramid of Cholula
In Dr. Ainsworth's and Dane Hurt's documentary "Finding Moroni" Mejia and Ainsworth attempt to get to the center of the Cholula pyramid but only can go so far since it has been built over by many pyramids and most recently by a Catholic church (with a portion of one of the ancient pyramid temples still protruding out of the side) but they do offer an older drawing or map showing a conical or spiral pyramid at the center.  They also site an ancient fragmentary account mentioning the first pyramid at Cholula which was on the wall of the mayor's palace in that same City.

So with the culmination of the information provided we see that there are early native accounts that fit quite well with what the prophet Ether stated took place in the Book of Mormon.  I would like to advise that when dealing with these early accounts that they be taken with a grain of salt.  This is because many of them are post Spanish Conquest and are considered questionable due to the high influence of Christianity pushed (or forced) by the conquistadors.  Many of the second hand oral traditions used to compile some of the codices definitely predate the conquest but with how much accuracy we are unable to tell.   This is because we are limited on comparable documents because most (all but four) of the pre-Hispanic codices were burned and destroyed by the early Catholic friars in fear that they were teaching idolatry.  With that warning I still share these insights because as I noted above we have multiple historians (Veytia, Ixtilxochitl and Boturini as well as others) who seem to share many of these same conclusions without having any knowledge of the Book of Mormon.  Thus allowing these insights to remain exactly that "insights" not necessarily evidence, but with the assistance of future research and the possibility of other codices coming forth to confirm this information it remains to attest to the plausibility of  and historicity of the Jaredites in the Book of Mormon.