In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Early Formation of Maya Sedentary Life and the Combination of Book ofMormon Populations

Ceibal Guatemala
So in the wee hours of the morning while going through my nightly routine of surfing the internet before dozing off into oblivion I happened across an interesting article on entitled, “Archaeologists Discover Clues to Early Formation of Maya Sedentary Life”.  I mean what screams I should lose more sleep like “Maya Sedentary Life”?   My thoughts exactly!

In the article Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona and his international team (who have been collecting this data since 2005) have evaluated “detailed stratigraphic and ceramic data, along with an analysis of radiocarbon dates, to develop a detailed, “high-resolution” chronology of Ceibal (Seibal)”.  Ceibal is part of the Mayan lowlands and was originally built around 950 BC in Guatemala.  In this chronology they have been studying how small mobile forager groups combined into larger communities.  

The common thought process is that these smaller mobile groups stayed separate and maintained their own community.   The data collected by Inomata suggests otherwise and states that ceremonial complexes built during this time period were few and far between and only existed in a number of important communities in the Mayan lowlands.  It also suggests that the ceremonies performed and the building of the ceremonial complexes were the cause of the gathering of these mobile forager groups and tribes into one location.  This gathering resulted into the development of larger sedentary communities.  In his own words Inomata stated, 

"It is probable that public ceremonies, as well the construction of ceremonial complexes, provided opportunities for groups with different lifestyles to gather and collaborate," He also stated that "Such collective activities possibly played a central role in facilitating social integration among diverse participants and eventually, in spreading more sedentary ways of life."

Takashi Inomata’s Ceibal research is quite comparable to the combination of the Nephite community under the leadership of the first King Mosiah and the Mulekites in the Land of Zarahemla as noted in Omni 1:15-19 around 300 BC.  Here we have two smaller communities combining to form one larger community.  It is interesting that King Mosiah from the smaller Nephite community became the king over all the Nephites and Mulekites but this is another discussion for another day.  

Sorenson Book of Mormon Geography Map
In John Sorenson’s Mormon’s Codex he proposes that the modern day site for the ancient Zarahemla would be Santa Rosa Guatemala in the central depression of Chiapas.  The area and timing of Santa Rosa fits the Book of Mormon’s description and history of Zarahemla.  It was a small society that was influenced by the Olmec which is exactly what would be expected if the Mulekites had been influenced by the surrounding culture of the remaining Jaredites when they arrived.  Its history technically dates back to 1000 BC so when the Nephites combined with the Mulekites they are entering into an community that already has an existing structure but the history of Santa Rosa show signs of further development during the late Preclassic time period.  

It is during this growth time period that Sorenson notices an interesting occurrence on one of the temple mounds from that area. He quotes Agustin Delgado (Delgado, Agustin. Archaeological Research at Santa Rosa, Chiapas and in the Region of Tehuantepec. BYU, New World Archaeological Foundation. 1965, p. 79) who said:

"The plaster floor continued in both trench extensions. In contact with it, both above and below, was a thin layer of gravel. That below was of different natures to either side of the medial line of the temple. To the north it was composed of larger fragments of broken stone, while to the south it was natural gravel. The difference was probably due to different sources of material." (Delgado 1965, p. 29).

Another archaeologist working at Santa Rosa expanded the analysis of this unusual gravel sub-floor: "To the north the gravel was broken and to the south it was rounded. I supervised that excavation and, upon noting the difference, carefully searched the gravel, finding no mixture whatever. Not only does the difference suggest two sources of materials but it may be taken to imply two separate groups, each working on its section. Further, the medial line runs roughly east-west." (Brockington, Donald L. The Ceramic History of Santa Rosa, Chiapas, Mexico. BYU. New World Archaeological Foundation. 1967, p. 60-61.)

So with the findings of Delgado and Brockington as noted above, the sub-floor contained two different types of gravel that were separated by a north/south medial line and with the south gravel being a rounded type of gravel and the north gravel being a broken edgier type and upon his supervision he found absolutely no mixture in these types of gravel between the two groups.  Brockington concludes that may imply that two separate groups worked on this section of the temple mound.  This would seem to be a possible confirmation to Takeshi Inomata’s research.  Both of which also fit well with a Book of Mormon setting for the combination of the Nephites and Mulekites or people of Zarahemla.  It will take more time for more of Inomata’s findings to be published and available to the general public and these may shed more light on other ways that these migrating foraging groups combined and may also bring to light interesting insights in to other groups in the Book of Mormon that later combined such as the People of Ammon and the Nephites, Zoramites and Lamanite populations as well as smaller Nephite dissenters and Lamanites.  We will have to stay tuned for more.