The Calixtlahuaca Roman Figurine: Evidence of Transoceanic travel to Mesoamerica.

Summarized version of a paper presented by Romeo H. Hristov and Santiago Genovés T. at the 66th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in New Orleans, LA, April 22, 2001)

From the early sixteenth century until the present many hypotheses of Pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts have been discussed (Sorenson and Raish 1996). With the only exception of the well-established Medieval Norse contacts with North American Indians (McGee 1984) all of the mentioned hypotheses share a common critical weakness: the lack of support in direct archaeological evidence, that is, genuine Old Word objects found in Pre-Columbian archaeological contexts (Willey 1985: 358). During the XIX and XX centuries some more or less reliable finds of such objects were reported from Mesoamerica; however, until the present time none of them have been accepted as incontrovertible evidence of inter-hemispheric contact before 1492.     

Among the mentioned data one of the most trustworthy is a small terracotta head of supposed Roman origin found in Mexico (García Payón 1961, 1979: 205-206; Heine-Geldern 1961; see Figure 1). The figurine was discovered in 1933 during the excavation of a burial offering in the Pre-Hispanic settlement of Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca, located nearly forty miles NW of Mexico City (Figure 2).

      The offering was placed under three intact floors of a pyramidal structure and, besides the head, includes different objects of gold, copper, turquoise, rock crystal, jet, bone, shell and pottery. Although the burial itself was dated between 1476-1510 A.D. Ernst Boehringer, an eminent classical archaeologist, has argued that the head is a Roman work from the II-III century A.D. The considerable discrepancy of more than one thousand years between the figurine and the other artifacts in the offering has raised certain suspicions about the reliability of the find, and therefore it was not generally accepted as evidence of transoceanic contacts in the 34th International Congress of Americanists (Vienna, 1960).
      In 1995 FS Archaeömetrie in the University of Heidelberg, Germany performed a thermoluminescence (TL) age test of the piece which established its age limits between IX century B.C. and the middle XIII century A.D. (Schaaf and Wagner 2001, Hristov and Genovés 2001). This result clears up the doubts of Colonial manufacture of the artifact, and makes the hypothesis of Roman origin –among other possibilities- applicable. The identification of the head as Roman work from the II-III century A.D. has been further confirmed by Bernard Andreae, a director emeritus of the German Institute of Archaeology in Rome, Italy. According to Andreae

“[the head] is without any doubt Roman, and the lab analysis has confirmed that it is ancient. The stylistic examination tells us more precisely that it is a Roman work from around the II century A.D., and the hairstyle and the shape of the beard present the typical traits of the Severian emperors period [193-235 A.D.], exactly in the ‘fashion’ of the epoch.” (Andreae cited in Domenici 2000: 29).

      On the other hand, an examination of the field notes of the archaeologist in charge of the excavation as well as the site itself have not revealed, in either case, signs of possible disturbances of the context (Hristov and Genovés 1999). During the last three decades over a dozen references concerning re-use of small Olmec artifacts in the Classical (III-IX centuries A.D.) or the Postclassical (X-XV centuries A.D.) contexts have been published, which give sufficient credibility to the appearance of a piece from the II-III century A.D. in context of the late XV century A.D (Navarrete 1982). Especially suggestive in this respect is the discovery of a small Olmec mask from the early first millennia B.C. inside a XV century A.D. burial offering in the Great Temple of Mexico-Tenochtitlán (Matos 1979). Furthermore, the recent discovery of a Roman trade post dated from the I B.C. to III A.D. centuries in the Lanzarote island, Canary Archipelago (Atoche Peña 1995) suggest a possible relationship of the Roman find from Mexico to some trans-Atlantic voyage (perhaps accidental) that may have happened during that period.


      During the past decade the publications of Hristov and Genovés (1999, 2001) on the apparently Roman head from Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca has generated a publicity in sixteen languages, considerable amount of polemic and not a little confusion. The six main objections against the reliability of the evidence have been summarized by Michael E. Smith, a professor of archaeology in the Arizona State University:

      The first one is that “… [the head] may be a hoax. This could be a Roman figurine, but it was planted at the site, or in the laboratory, by a student or colleague of the excavator. The late Dr. John Paddock, a leading Mesoamerican scholar, used to tell classes at the Universidad de las Américas that the object was planted as a joke by Hugo Moedano, a student who worked at the site. Many archaeologists in Mexico have heard this story and they tend to believe it. I have checked with people who knew García Payón and some who knew Moedano, and I have been unable to confirm or reject this suggestion. Hristov and Genovés neglect to mention Paddock’s ideas in their article.” 
      Actually this situation has been addressed thoughtfully in Hristov and Genovés (2001), as well in a paper read at April 22, 2001 during the 66th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in New Orleans, Louisiana. Michael E. Smith was present at the reading of the paper in the SAA meeting, and he also cites Hristov and Genovés’ article in his web page. Therefore, to claim that “Hristov and Genovés neglect to mention Paddock’s ideas …” seems, to put it mildly, paradoxical. Notwithstanding, for the sake of clarity the principal points from Hristov and Genovés (2001) are recapitulated below.
      The possibility of recent intrusion of the head was suggested by Paul Schmidt (an archaeologist in the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas-UNAM in Mexico City) in a letter to the Editorial Office of Ancient Mesoamerica from March 6, 2000 which deserves an extensive quotation:

      “The citing of the unpublished TL date without the authors’ (Schaaf and Wagner) permission reflects Hristov’s well known unethical approach to life. We had plenty of problems with him while he was here as Santiago’s protégé. Later we have heard about his alleged academic affiliation with SMU based on a library card which was apparently revoked when SMU discovered he was using them as academic affiliation (check on this to confirm because my knowledge is a rumor from a letter in Aztlan).
      When Hristov was here, two or three years ago, he approached me to read the first draft of the article. At that time I told him something the old-timers know: A typical student prank; the figurine was planted in Don Pepe’s [José Garcia Payón’s] dig, the saying goes, by Hugo Moedano. Don Pepe took it so seriously that no one had the heart to tell him it was a joke. This I remember having been told by John Paddock, and others of the older generation –Jaime Litvak for example- had heard this. Hristov refused to check out the story; he told me he had not encountered a published reference to this anywhere!
      Taking into consideration Hristov’s known unethical behavior and the obvious controversy which would result from the publication, I find it extremely hard to believe that two of the three serious and professional referees (and in this case perhaps five should have been consulted) would support the article. Consider that a preliminary version of the article was published in Arqueología Mexicana, causing Jaime Litvak to resign from the editorial board.”

      Schmidt’s enthusiastic but misinformed assessment of my “well known unethical approach to life“ and his peculiar mind-set toward the topic of the pre-Columbian transoceanic voyages are irrelevant for the present debate; however, the factual inaccuracies in his claims that “Hristov refused to check out the story; he told me he had not encountered a published reference to this anywhere“ are a different matter, and will be argued in continuation.
      In late 1996 Schmidt informed Hristov that “everybody knows that the head is Colonial” and García-Payón was not present during the excavation, so surely somebody had “planted’ it as a joke. Neither the thermoluminescence (TL) age limits, nor the excavation report supports the suspicion of Colonial manufacture and/or intrusion of the artifact into the apparently pre-Hispanic archaeological context. In 1997 Hristov personally asked Fernando García Payón, José García Payón’s son, if he knew something about the first objection. His response was that during the 1960s his father frequently was asked if he was present during the excavation, and he always assured them that he had been.

      In 1998 Hristov asked Schmidt again if he could remember the source of his information about the “planting” of the head, and Schmidt informed him that he “believed to have heard from John Paddock that Hugo Moedano planted the head”. By that time both Paddock and Moedano had passed away. Therefore, the only option was to ask some of the well-known Mexican scholars of the older generation. None of them had ever heard such a story, neither from Hugo Moedano nor from John Paddock (Román Piña Chán, Angel García Cook, Luis Torres Montes, Carlos C. Navarrete, and Jorge V. Angulo, personal communication to Romeo Hristov 1998). At that point the further investigation of the allegation was stopped, but in 2000 Romeo Hristov asked Fernando García Payón if he knew something about a possible “planting” of the artifact by Hugo Moedano. His response was that Hugo Moedano “…had never been present during the excavation,” and this was just “nonsense.”
      There is one more point to be made before concluding this comment. In the only work on the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca’s head published during his lifetime García Payón (1961: 2) notes that the figurine was brought personally by Ignacio Bernal (an eminent Mexican archaeologist and then sub-director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History) at the XXXIV International Congress of Americanists in Vienna, 1960. John Paddock was a student of Ignacio Bernal in the Mexico City College, his assistant during the excavation of Yagul (Oaxaca) in the mid-50s, and in 1966 they published an important work together titled Ancient Oaxaca: discoveries in Mexican archeology and history (Stanford: Stanford University Press); therefore, it is hard to believe that Bernal was not also warned by Paddock about the “planting” of the figurine and, if he was, to be unconcerned with it. Yet Bernal never mentioned about such possibility, neither during the congress debates nor in the paragraph on García Payón’s excavation in Calixtlahuaca published nearly two decades later in the Historia de la Arqueología en México (Bernal 1979: 167). Such silence about the alleged “planting” of the head seems even more puzzling in the two remarkably well-researched, and highly critical articles on the topic of the pre-Columbian transoceanic voyages published after García Payón’s note by another leading Mexican archaeologist and close friend of Paddock, Alfonso Caso (Caso 1964, 1965). The pathetic line of reasoning in Schmidt’s letter that “Don Pepe [José Garcia Payón] took it so seriously that no one had the heart to tell him it was a joke“ is, in my judgment, unconvincing in extreme.       The second objection is that “This may be a Roman figurine, but it was introduced into the Calixtlahuaca artifact collections, after excavation, through error. García Payón did not take extensive notes on his fieldwork, and it is entirely possible that extraneous objects may have been introduced into the collections after excavation. The collection of artifacts from Calixtlahuaca, now curated in the Museo de Antropología in Toluca, includes numerous donations of ceramic vessels from other sites, added to the collections after excavation (see: Smith, Michael E., Jennifer Wharton and Melissa McCarron, Las ofrendas de Calixtlahuaca. Expresión Antropológica (in press, 2002) Perhaps the Roman figurine can be explained in a similar fashion.”
      Smith’s observation regarding inadequacies in the cataloguing of donated ceramic vessels is perfectly correct. However, to deduce from it that “García Payón did not take extensive notes on his fieldwork …” or that the head may have been introduced into the collections “… after excavation, through error” would be misleading. Whatever omissions (or mistakes) in registering the provenance of donated artifacts may have been made, none of them ever have been cited by García Payón as discovered during his excavations in Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca. On the other hand, both the location and the context where the head was discovered were meticulously described and accompanied with a photo of the excavation, plan of the two burials and eight plates with photographs or drawings of the associated artifacts (García Payón 1979: 206). 
      At third place, Smith points out that “This may be a Roman figurine, but it was introduced to Calixtlahuaca in the early days of the Spanish colonial period. It may have been brought from Europe to Mexico by a Spaniard, and it found its way into a Terminal Postclassic/Early Colonial offering at Calixtlahuaca. It is not possible to tell, from the contents or context, whether the offering dates to the period before the Spanish conquest of Mexico or from the early Spanish colonial period. My continuing analyses of these materials may shed light on this issue in the future.” 
      During the past half century several embarrassing situations with Old World artifacts of supposed pre-Columbian importation that turned out to be of colonial or recent manufacture have been reported (Hristov and Genovés 2005; Epstein 1980: 9-10; and Andrews Wyllys IV and Boggs 1967, among others); hence, the legitimacy of such concern with the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca’s find scarcely can be disputed. The three main possibilities in this regard are briefly addressed below:
      Firstly, although the burial itself seems to be pre-Columbian, the figurine nevertheless may have been deposited within the offering by a Spaniard (or any other European) during the early Colonial period. No direct evidence exist to support such a possibility, but it is least hinted at by the widespread practice of looting pre-Columbian tombs during the Conquest and in the early Colonial period (Bernal 1979: 40-41). Yet if the burial was disturbed and an ancient Roman figurine deposited, by whatever reason, nothing is more unlikely than the gold artifacts in the offering (Garcia Payón 1979: 205-206) to be left intact.
      Secondly, if the burial is assumed to be from the early Colonial period it is perfectly credible that the figurine was obtained by the Matlatzincas after 1518 and included in the offering with the rest of artifacts. In such a case the traces of intrusion through the three superimposed floors under which the offering was deposited would have been easily detectable, especially if we bear in mind that the settlement of Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca was abandoned after its conquest by the Aztecs in 1510, and any repair is unlikely to have been carried out due to the disuse of the structure. Nevertheless in the reasonably detailed report of the excavation (García Payón 1979: 204-206) there is no mention at all of alterations to the floors under which the burial was deposited.
      Thirdly, the head could have been imported into the New World by some European visitor between 1492-1510, and somehow to have found its way to Central Mexico. In this regard it must be reminded that during the mentioned lapse of time the Matlatzincas were under Aztec domain, so the artifact would have come to the Toluca Valley most probably through the Aztec “pochtecas”, but in any case with Aztec knowledge. In this context, however, the lack of the slightest reference about any encounter of the Aztecs or any of their vassals with Europeans is inexplicable in the otherwise detailed and reasonably reliable late historical tradition in Nahuatl. The mentioned silence makes the proposed idea highly improbable if one bears in mind: (1) the deep religious and political meaning of the Aztec belief that bearded foreigners coming westward from the Atlantic would conquer and destroy their kingdom and, (2) how fast Moctecuhzoma II was informed about the Spaniards arrival in Veracruz in 1518, and the great impact of this event among the Aztec rulers.
      Another objection raised by Smith is that “this is a post-Roman European Christian figurine, introduced to Calixtlahuaca in the early days of the Spanish colonial period. This was the initial professional reaction upon García Payón’s publication of the object in 1960. I have yet to be convinced that the figurine really is Roman in origin – no one has shown illustrations of known Roman figurines next to this object. Could it be a post-Roman Christian figure? More research is needed. Arguments that this figurine is Roman in origin need to back that notion up with more than vague statements that “Professor so-and-so says that it looks Roman.” 
      To begin with, it must be stressed that the term “post-Roman European Christian figurine” is both imprecise and misguiding about the assumed chronology of the piece. The fact is that the initial professional reaction was that the figurine is a Colonial object (that is, manufactured anywhere between the early XVI to the early XIX century, either in New Spain or Europe), and was catalogued as such in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
      The identification of the piece as Roman work from the II-III century AD is based mainly on the stylistic analysis done by two specialists in Classical archaeology and art (Ernst Boehringer and Bernard Andreae) although some limited support to the suggested chronology is also provided by the TL age test. Its remarkable realism and physical embodiments of personality clearly set it apart from the early Christian portraits types, but are common in the Roman male busts from the mentioned period (Figure 3). Personally, I think that there are very narrow limits to the possibility of tracing the exact place of origin and the cultural background of the figurine. However, in broad outlines its close stylistic similarities with two small Punic terracotta masks (Figures 4 and 5) at least offer a hint that its origin was most likely somewhere in the Levant or Hispania rather than the Italian Peninsula.
      The next objection is regarding the ”… problems with the thermoluminescence dates reported by Hristov and Genoves. The physicists who ran the dates have objected to the way the dates are described by Hristov and Genoves (Wagner, Günther, letter to New Scientist April 8, 2000 (no. 2233), pp. 64-65). This is discussed in the following articles:
Schaaf, Peter and Günther A. Wagner (2001) Comments on “Mesoamerican Evidence of Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Contacts” by Hristov and Genovés. Ancient Mesoamerica 12:79-82.
Hristov, Romeo H. and Santiago Genovés T. (2001) Reply to Peter Schaaf and Günther A. Wagner’s “Comments on ‘Mesoamerican Evidence of Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Contacts'”. Ancient Mesoamerica 12:83-86. 
      For those unfamiliar with the two cited articles, the principal aspects of the so-called “problems with the thermoluminescence dates” are summarized below. In early 1995 Romeo H. Hristov was provided with a copy of the FS Archaeömetrie TL age test report which indicated the manufacture of the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca’s head as no later than the beggining of the Christian era [View the TL report]. In 1996 the age limits of the find were calculated by Peter G. Schaaf at 1780± 400 B.P. (184 B.C.-616 A.D.), and cited as such in Hristov and Genovés (1999). Notwithstanding, when the article was in print, Schaaf and Wagner, anticipating the heated controversy that the find may generate, decided to shift to the most conservative calculation of the thermoluminescence age limits, that is 870 B.C.- 1270 A.D.
      As already discussed in the previous pages, the corrected TL age limits once again made the assumption of Colonial origin of the figurine untenable and support, although with less certainty, the hypothesis of Roman origin of the figurine.
      Smith’s last objection is regarding the alleged “problems with the archaeological context of the “Roman figurine”. The “Roman figurine” supposedly excavated at Calixtlahuaca was not documented using standard archaeological procedures. Excavator José García Payón did not publish professionally adequate descriptions of any of his excavations at the site. After his death, two posthumous reports were issued (García Payón 1979; 1981), but these contain very little specific information on the excavations or individual contexts. The “Roman figurine” cannot be considered well documented according to the normal standards of archaeological practice. If one compares García Payón’s publications with any of the excavation reports listed below, the contrast is obvious. The following kinds of documentation—standard for professional archaeological fieldwork in the twentieth century—are lacking for Calixtlahuaca:

1. Photographs of the process of excavation.
2. Photographs of the object in situ.
3. Photographs of the offering said to have yielded the figurine.
4. Plan maps of the excavation, the object in situ, or the offering.
5. Profile drawings showing the stratigraphic context of the figurine or the offering.
6. Detailed descriptions of the course of excavation (there is a brief summary)
7. Descriptions of the excavator’s reconstruction of the processes of construction and deposition of the structure and offering.
8. Illustrations of the figurine, the offering, or the associated objects, made at the time of excavation.
9. Catalog entries for the figurine or any of the finds from Calixtlahuaca.
10. Laboratory or museum records showing the presence of the figurine and associated objects from the time of excavation. 

      These problems of data reporting affect more than just the “Roman figurine” from Calixtlahuaca. The lack of documentation applies to nearly all of the finds from García Payón’s fieldwork. While these problems do not invalidate the “Roman figurine” as a potentially valid Precolumbian find, their implication is that it is impossible today to reconstruct the archaeological context of the find. It certainly cannot be claimed that this find is “well documented” or that it comes from “a good archaeological context.” The excavation of the “Roman figurine” fails to meet even the minimum standards of archaeological reporting.
 One might be tempted to suggest that such reporting standards were lower in the 1930s than they are today, and thus it may be unfair to criticize García Payón on these grounds. While archaeological documentation and publishing standards certainly are much higher today, other archaeologists working in central Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s—Mexicans, North Americans, and Europeans—provided adequate documentation of their fieldwork and finds that meets the standards listed above. The following examples support this claim:

1935 Tenayuca: estudio arqueológico de la pirámide de este lugar. Departamento de Monumentos de la Secretaría de Educación Públic, Talleres Gráficos del Museo Nacional de Antropología, Historia y Etnografía, Mexico City.
Bernal, Ignacio
1979 A History of Mexican Archaeology: The Vanished Civilizations of Middle America. Thames and Hudson, New York.
García Payón, José
1979 La zona arqueológica de Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca y los matlatzincas: etnología y arqueología (textos de la segunda parte), edited by Wanda Tommasi de Magrelli and Leonardo Manrique Castañeda, vol. 30. Biblioteca Enciclopédica del Estado de México, Toluca.
1981 La zona arqueológica de Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca y los matlatzincas: etnología y arqueología (tablas, planos e ilustraciones de la segunda parte), edited by Wanda Tommasi de Magrelli and Leonardo Manrique Castañeda, vol. 31. Biblioteca Enciclopédica del Estado de México, Toluca.
Linné, Sigvald
1934 Archaeological Researches at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Publication, vol. 1. Ethnographic Museum of Sweden, Stockholm.
Vaillant, George C.
1930 Excavations at Zacatenco. Anthropological Papers, vol. 32, no. 1. American Museum of Natural History, New York.
1931 Excavations at Ticoman. Anthropological Papers, vol. 32, no. 2. American Museum of Natural History, New York. 

      In sum, Smith basically asserts that (1) “…José García Payón did not publish professionally adequate descriptions of any of his excavations at the site”, and (2)”the excavation of the ‘Roman figurine’ fails to meet even the minimum standards of archaeological reporting”. This opinion is not only highly subjective, but it also is not free of inaccuracies.
      To begin, it should be stressed that José García Payón was one of the most erudite and respected Mexican archaeologists from the mid-XX century. As discussed above, several aspects of his interpretative work in Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca indeed are outdated (for example, the assumed use of some architectural structures and the ceramic classification), and there is a lot left to be desired about the catalogue entries of the artifacts. Without doubt these are not negligible problems, but they also are among the most common ones in the Mesoamerican archaeological research from the first half of XX century (Bernal 1979: 154-188, cf. endnote 1) . When discussing the mentioned aspects of García Payón’s work, a paragraph in Bernal (1979: 162) on Vaillant’s research in Zacatenco and Ticoman (see Smith’s sixth and the seventh bibliographical references), half of which is discussion on its chronological errors, merits consideration as well.
      Furthermore, Smith is suggesting that “… other archaeologists working in central Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s—Mexicans, North Americans, and Europeans—provided [more] adequate documentation of their fieldwork and finds that meets the [ten] standards listed above”. From the seven bibliographical references cited as examples two are the 2nd and the 3rd volumes of García Payón’s work on Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca, and the third is the previously referred A History of Mexican Archaeology… by Ignacio Bernal, which chapter VIII offers an concise review of the Mexican archaeology between 1910-1950. The remaining four works cannot be dealt with adequately in brief compass, but any careful revision of them will not fail to reveal tree important issues: first, none of them (including the untypically “modern” work of Linné) fulfills in every single detail even the first eight of the ten requests in Smith’s list; second, that there is considerable variations between them in the amount and the sophistication of technical details in the excavation accounts and third, although Linné and Vaillant’s publications are indeed more systematic and detailed, their technical aspects are basically no different from García Payón’s work. 
      Once this issue is addressed, the opinions of Wanda Tomassi de Magrelli (archaeologist) and Leonardo Manrique Castañeda (linguist), who revised and prepared García Payón’s manuscript for the publication of the 2nd, the 3rd and the 4th volumes of the research in Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca deserves to be cited:

When working with it [García Payón’s manuscript of the excavation in Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca], we realized that, notwithstanding of its venerable age, it is extraordinarily actual because the exploration was extremely careful and the [excavation] techniques very close to the used today …” (Tomassi and Manrique 1979: XXI).

      It already has been mentioned that the excavation of the two burials where the Roman figurine was discovered have been documented with a photo of the excavation, plan of the two burials and eight plates with photographs and drawings of each one of the associated twenty-off artifacts; this record was also completed with two pages of reasonably detailed accounting of the excavation (García Payón 1979: 205-206, see endnote 2). Therefore, it seems all peculiar (and to me, inexplicable) how Smith has arrived at the conclusion that the excavation “fails to meet even the minimum standards of archaeological reporting.”


      As final remarks it is worthwhile to emphasize, once again, that in its fundamental aspects such as domestic plants and animals, knowledge and use of metals, writhing and language systems, and religious beliefs, among others, the Old and the New World civilizations until the early sixteenth century were firmly different and, consequently, independent from each other (Hristov 1998: 237; Hristov and Genovés 1998: 52-53; Hristov and Genovés 2001:85). However, there are also some data of various kinds and levels of credibility that suggest the existence of a few sporadic, most probably accidental, transoceanic voyages before Columbus, which apparently had very limited -if any- cultural and biological impact. The find of an apparently Roman head in Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca, Mexico, seems to support the occurrence of one such voyage across the middle Atlantic, possibly somewhere in the first centuries of the Christian era.
      On the other hand, notwithstanding that the Canary Islands were discovered around 1334 A.D., the highly probable contacts between the ancient Mediterranean world and the Canaries were confirmed for first time only a decade and half ago. In 1987 a Roman trade post dated between the first century B.C. and the third century A.D. was discovered in the Lanzarote island (Atoche Peña et al. 1995), and the continuing archaeological research has proved in 2006 that not only the Romans but also the Punic seafarers reached the archipelago no later than the fourth century B.C. (Atoche Peña et al. 2009). The implications of these discoveries in the discussion of the possible Pre-Columbian Trans-Atlantic contacts are obvious, and it is not entirely unreasonable to expect in the near future that systematical archaeological studies in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Brazil may provide more -and more conclusive- data related to some isolated cases of trans-Atlantic voyages before 1492.
1 This and the following citations are based on the Spanish language edition of Bernal’s book, which is included in the list of References.

2 Most of the photos, drawings and plans from the excavation were prepared for publication as 4th volume of García Payón’s work on Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca; regretfully, the manuscript and all field notes of García Payón were lost during the earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 (Hristov and Genovés 1999: 210) . Notwithstanding several previously published photos, plans and two descriptions of the excavation and the context where the head was found (García Payón 1961: 1-2; 1979: 205-206) provide sufficient base for assessment of the find.


Andrews Wyllys IV, Edward and Stanley Boggs
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Atoche Peña, Pablo, Juan Paz Peralta, Maria Ramírez Rodríguez y Maria Ortíz Palomar
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Domenici, Viviano
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1961 Una cabecita de barro, de extraña fisonomía, Boletín INAH. 6: 1-2

1979 La zona arqueológica de Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca y los matlatzincas. Segunda parte. México: Biblioteca Enciclopédica del Estado de México

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Heine-Geldern, Robert
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Hristov, Romeo and Santiago Genovés
2005 The “Phoenician” head from Las Balsas, Mexico, Antiquity. Vo.79, No 304,

1998 Viajes transatlánticos antes de Colón. Arqueología Mexicana VI (33): 48-53

1999 Mesoamerican evidence of Pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts. Ancient Mesoamerica.10 (2): 207-213

2001 Reply to Peter Schaaf, Peter and Günther A. Wagner’s “Comments on ‘Mesoamerican evidence of Pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts’”, Ancient Mesoamerica. 12 (2): 83-85

Matos, Eduardo
1979 Una máscara olmeca en el Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlán, Anales de Antropología. XVI: 11-19

McGee, Robert
1984 Contact between Native North Americans and medieval Norse: A Review of the evidence, American Antiquity. 49 (1): 4-26

Navarrete, Carlos
1982 Acotación bibliográica sobre dos notas olmecas, Revista Mexicana de Estudios Antropológicos. XXVIII: 159-173

Tomassi, Wanda and Leonardo Manrique
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Schaaf, Peter and Günther Wagner
2001 Comments on the “Mesoamerican evidence of Pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts” by Hristov and Genovés in Ancient Mesoamerica 10:207-213, 1999, Ancient Mesoamerica. 12 (1): 79-81

Sorenson, John and Martin Raish
1996 Pre-Columbian contacts with the Americas across the oceans. An Annotated Bibliography. Provo: Research Press

Willey, Gordon
1985 Some continuing problems in the New World culture history, American Antiquity. 50 (2): 357-363

North America Prehistory Summary & Timeline

Maize was domesticated during the Archaic period, before 4300 BC, but it took a long time to trigger changes commonly associated with agriculture: sedentism and pottery.

The First Agricultural Communities

Use of pottery marks the beginning of the Preclassic at 2500 BC. A later, but important, Preclassic innovation was the prismatic obsidian blade beginning c. 1500 BC.

The first permanent agricultural communities appeared around 1600 BC; small clusters of wattle and daub houses surrounded by gardens, such as at San José Mogote (Oaxaca), where larger structures had specialized communal purposes. Some rare items hint at wealth differences but no large residences or elaborate burials mark social differentiation. Raiding and warfare were present even in early times. Similar communities, such as Chalcatzingo, were simultaneously established in the central Mexican highlands, including the Basin of Mexico. Farming communities did not appear in the tropical Maya lowlands until about 1000 BC; elsewhere in the lowlands, they appeared by about 1600 BC, some large and socially complex.

The ethno-linguistic affiliations of some early Preclassic peoples remain controversial, while others are more clear.


Debate over the dating of Olmec remains occurred until after World War II, when the advent of radiocarbon dating placed the culture between 1200 and 400 BC, predating other civilizations. Olmec influences were widespread during the Middle Preclassic (1000-400 BC) or Early Horizon.

San Lorenzo and La Venta

Archaeologists agree that Olmec polities lay in the Gulf Coast lowlands, such as San Lorenzo (c. 1200-900 BC), where elite residence, ceremonial ponds, and spectacular offerings are found, as well as colossal basalt heads and monuments. Many imports came to the site from across Mesoamerica.

San Lorenzo’s decline c. 1000-900 BC coincided with the rise of La Venta, which contained an earthen pyramid, colossal heads, stelae, and rectangular thrones. Monuments saw frequent renovations, and rituals include deliberate burial of serpentine slabs arranged to depict supernatural beings. Rich infant burials provide early evidence for inherited rank.

Around these centers lie smaller sites, some with earthen structures and carved monuments, clearly the hinterland of San Lorenzo and La Venta. Other Olmec capitals have not yet been well-investigated.

The Olmecs as a “Mother Culture”?

Archaeologists are divided about whether Olmec polities were true states or chiefdoms, and if centers were urban places or chiefly centers. Fueling this controversy is disagreement about the nature and implications of “Olmec” art and symbolism. Some manifestations (i.e. colossal stone heads) are confined to the Gulf Coast. Others are scattered throughout Mesoamerica. Some believe the Olmecs were the “Mother Culture” of later Mesoamerican civilization. Others argue that they were one of many societies that independently evolved complex institutions while trading goods and symbols.

Either way, Olmec sites display core Mesoamerican cultural traditions, large centers with monumental architecture and sculpture, and the ball game, by the end of the Middle Preclassic, c. 400 BC.

Warfare was also present. Olmec monuments show weapons and militaristic scenes, and a burial at El Portón (Guatemala), c. 500 BC, included trophy heads and sacrificial victims.

West Mexican Polities

In western Mexico between about 1500 BC and 400 AD, distinctive hierarchically organized societies using vertical shaft tombs emerged in Colima, Nayarit, and Jalisco. Most sites lack monumental buildings, monuments, and calendrical signs, but had possible contact with South America, on the basis of metallurgy and ceramic forms.

Mortuary goods include complex models of houses, rituals, ball games, musical performances, and people being carried in litters, perhaps indicating elite rivalry. By the beginning of the Late Preclassic, tombs were deemphasized and architectural complexes with concentric circular layouts were constructed, called the Teuchitlan cultural tradition, lasting until AD 600-900.


The Late Preclassic period (400 BC-AD 250) saw the first florescence of the Lowland Maya, signaled by ubiquitous red-slipped Chicanel pottery. Population in the Basin of Mexico more than doubled; large polities with impressive centers became common. Monte Albán in Oaxaca and Teotihuacán in the Basin of Mexico were the earliest true cities.

Calendars and Writing

Olmec objects display signs that anticipate mathematical or written symbols; calendrical glyphs appear slightly later. The Long Count originated in the Late Preclassic; the earliest use, at Tres Zapotes, corresponds to 31 BC. The 260-day ritual and the 365-day solar calendars are older; an example of the former at San José Mogote may date before c. 600-500 BC; bar and dot numerals at Monte Albán may date to 500-400 BC. The solar calendar probably also dates to the Epi-Olmec.

Writing originated more than once in Mesoamerica, associated with the Nahua, Maya, Mixe-Zoque, Mixtec, and Zapotec languages. Mesoamerican writing can be difficult to understand, as some glyphs are pictographs, others whole words or syllables.

Glyphs were carved or painted on stone monuments and buildings, and appear on ceramics, jewelry, bones, and shell objects and probably on long-disintegrated wood and cloth. Long texts were painted in accordion-fold books called codices. Surviving codices are late, so other inscriptions are used to trace writing’s origins.

Kings, Courts, and Cities

Writing, calendars, and monumental art are strongly related to Late Preclassic kingship and the Classic period emergence of urban centers and territorial states. The Maya lowlands provide carved monuments with royal portraits and dated inscriptions such as the early Hauberg Stela (AD 197), on which king Bone Rabbit is associated with the rain god, autosacrifice, agricultural fertility, world renewal, and human sacrifice, all important in later Maya rule and warfare. Such monuments increase after AD 250, marking the transition to the Classic period.

Classic Maya monuments frequently include accounts of past royal events, names, and titles. Combined with archaeological evidence, royal genealogies and origins, such as Tikal’s, can be understood.

Much about early kingship can be traced through “royal” burials; more is revealed at Nakbé (c. 400-200 BC) and El Mirador (200 BC – AD 150), where astonishing levels of construction occurred and carvings show gorgeously attired figures, accompanied by glyphs at El Mirador by around 200 BC. The smaller, contemporary centers of Lamanai and Cerros (Belize) are probably also seats of early kings: temple sculpture and inscriptions anticipate later royal iconography. The scale and complexity of these sites suggests centralization and labor organization.

Warfare and conflict extend far back in time. Defensive walls appear at El Mirador, and Late Preclassic fortifications lie at Becán (Campeche). There is osteological evidence for the ritual sacrifice of war captives featured in Classic Maya art, and trophy heads and severed bodies are portrayed on the Hauberg Stela. Mass sacrifices are found at Cuello (Belize).

The origins of lowland Maya kingship might be seen at Epi-Olmec Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala), where Late Preclassic burials contain costly offerings and sacrificial victims.

Monte Albán. San José Mogote was largely abandoned by around 500 BC. Some of its buildings were burned, perhaps by enemies from nearby polities. Newly built defensive systems appear simultaneously in the southern valley. Such competition stimulated the sudden founding c. 500 BC of the Zapotec city of Monte Albán on a previously uninhabited mesa in the central valley; among its first monuments was the Danzante warrior frieze. By 200 BC its hillsides housed over 17,000 people, while the summit contained complex elite residences and carved, dated stelae. Smaller settlements clustered nearby; more distant sites were fortified.

Between 200 BC and AD 100 the mesa was leveled and a ball court, 20 temples, palace-like residences, and elite chamber-tombs were built; 41,000 people occupied 518 settlements with several size-levels, a pattern often associated with territorial states. Impressive outlying communities were administrative centers under Monte Albán’s control.

Monte Albán controlled distant areas as well. Over 40 “conquest slabs” associated with Building J in the great plaza are carved with place glyphs, perhaps distant conquered polities. A state was clearly present by the late Preclassic.

Teotihuacán. The Basin of Mexico contained an extensive lake system and fertile soils. Farmers colonized the high, cold region at about 1600 BC. About 10,000 people in small communities lived there by around 1200 BC. At the end of the Early “Olmec” Horizon c. 400 BC, 80,000 people lived in five or six large polities whose capitals contained mounds, such as Cuicuilco, with its distinctive circular pyramid, in the moist southwestern Basin. Few lived in the drier northeastern Teotihuacán Valley, but between 300 and 100 BC it was heavily colonized, and Teotihuacán emerged as a huge urban center with 20,000 to 40,000 people. A century later 60,000 people lived there. Volcanic eruptions had destroyed the southern and eastern Basin and Cuicuilco; displaced people may have migrated to Teotihuacán. Two major obsidian deposits lay in or near Teotihuacán, including widely traded Pachuca obsidian.

Teotihuacán was the largest city in the New World, construction started early in the 1st millennium AD and continued for 350 years, including the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. In contrast to Oaxaca, few settlements lay outside the city. The city depended on a huge irrigation system fed by springs and seasonal streams within a day’s walk. The much-later Aztecs regarded the city as sacred.


During its initial Early Classic rise, Teotihuacán governed a region of about 25,000 sq. km (9653 sq. miles) with roughly 500,000-750,000 inhabitants. But between the 4th and 6th century AD the city’s influence reached far beyond central Mexico. Archaeologists call this the Middle Horizon, which coincides with Teotihuacán’s mature urban phase. With a population of 125,000, many apartment compounds display economic specialization, such as manufacture of obsidian objects, ceramics, grinding stones, shell objects, jewelry, and probably materials that left no traces. These may have been traded in the Great Compound, the city’s principle market.

Sherds of Maya Chicanel pottery appear in the city, and people from western Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and the Valley of Oaxaca visited and lived in special residential enclaves in the city. Some were artisans, others merchants. The so-called Merchants Barrio has the highest concentration of foreign pottery, and round storehouse buildings. Murals at the Tetitla compound show many exotic influences, and it was perhaps used by visiting elites.

The lack of inscriptions means that the ethnicity of the Teotihuacános is unknown, and little is known of its social and political structure. Teotihuacán art is late and does not emphasize royalty, as Classic Maya art does.

Elaborate tombs were not found at Teotihuacán until the 1990s. Under the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent lay at least one major tomb, with 40 sacrificial victims; many other sacrificed men with weapons and war regalia, along with some women, lay beneath and around the pyramid. Bone isotope signatures reveal that most were from distant places. As they were not captives, this indicates that Teotihuacán’s warriors were recruited from a broad realm.

Since 2000, other rich burials dating to AD 150-350 have been found at the Pyramid of the Moon, perhaps indicating powerful rulers or early kingship, although most excavated individuals were sacrifices. Around AD 250, the Feathered Serpent tomb was publicly looted, stripped of sculpture, and built over, signaling internal troubles. A new regime emphasized more collective and impersonal leadership. Administrative facilities, probably combined with palatial residences, may have been housed in the Ciudadela, perhaps the original royal compound. William Sanders thinks it later shifted to a nearby walled area called the Street of the Dead Complex.

Teotihuacan’s Wider Influence: The Middle Horizon

Stelae at Tikal (Guatemala), 1000 km (620 miles) from Teotihuacán, record that on January 15, AD 378, a lord named Siyaj K’ak arrived. The same day, Tikal’s king died or disappeared. Siyaj K’ak had origins from or connections to Teotihuacán. His name is recorded at other centers, suggesting widespread prestige and influence.

The following year, the son of one of Siyaj K’ak’s entourage was enthroned as Tikal’s king. Fifty years later, Copán’s dynastic founder also arrived as an outsider with connections to Teotihuacán. Long before, around AD 250-300, Teotihuacán Pachuca obsidian was used in burials at Altun Ha (Belize), and Becán’s fortifications from the late Preclassic period may have resulted from trouble with Teotihuacán. Central Mexican iconography became important to Maya architects who incorporated Teotihuacán forms at Acanceh and Chunchucmil (Yucatán).

Great lords were buried with Teotihuacán-style offerings at Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala) which controlled the El Chayal obsidian source supplying the Maya lowlands. Around AD 400-550, a Teotihuacán-style “acropolis” was built there.

Teotihuacán-style pottery and architecture also appeared c. AD 350-400 at Matacapan (Gulf Coast), founded as a Teotihuacán enclave. Pachuca obsidian and imported Teotihuacán vessels (and local imitations) show up at Monte Albán between AD 200 and 600, tomb paintings have Teotihuacán motifs, and carved monuments depict visiting Teotihuacán notables; Teotihuacán may have conquered Monte Albán. Only west Mexico’s Teuchitlan Tradition polities escaped Teotihuacan’s influence.

Around AD 400-450, Alta Vista in northwest Mexico constructed buildings with Teotihuacán architectural elements, along with a new innovation: skull racks displayed sacrificial victims. Teotihuacános may have migrated there. Around AD 850 principal buildings were burned and demolished; scattered human remains indicate violence.

Few archaeologists believe that Teotihuacán had a conquest empire. Quasi-military intrusions as at Tikal, Kaminaljuyu and Becán may reflect displaced or out-of-favor noble factions seeking new areas to establish themselves. Trade and commerce increased interregional connections, perhaps involving professional merchants. Outright colonization, such as in the Gulf Coast seems likely, and cultural emulation may be responsible for the adoption of dress, weapons, political and military imagery, and ritual. Teotihuacán might have been an impressive and mythologized pilgrimage center.

Cholula, Cantona, and the Teuchitlan Cultural Tradition – Independent Polities?

Cholula, with 30,000-40,000 people, was much smaller than Teotihuacan, but its main pyramid became the largest structure in the New World. Architecturally similar to Teotihuacán, in other ways Cholula remained culturally distinct until Spanish conquest. Cantona, established by AD 100, was a Classic center east of Teotihuacán. It lay in badlands, but fertile valleys and obsidian sources were nearby. With workshops, 25 ball courts, plazas and elite residences, 90,000 people may have lived there between AD 600 to 900, as Teotihuacán declined.

Cantona had a distinctive ceramic tradition and had few architectural connections to Teotihuacán. Other than ball courts, it lacks monumental sculpture or symbolism of ritual or political power, but was well situated to dominate highland-Gulf Coast trade, probably in obsidian. Agave, for fiber and the alcoholic drink pulque, grew well there. Cantona may have been established by El Tajin as a seasonal workplace.

Teuchitlan sites also remained distinctive. Between AD 400 and 700, local polities with impressive centers and elaborate shaft tombs were active, each with different ceramic, figurine, and tomb styles. The largest sites contained monumental circular buildings and sets of ball courts. One area had thousands of residential compounds interspersed with obsidian, ceramic, shell, and stone workshops. Around AD 600 a regional metallurgical tradition began to develop. Agricultural drained fields and canals prefigured the chinampas of the Aztec.

The Demise of Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán collapsed amid violence, as deliberate burning and destruction occurred at temples along the Street of the Dead, in the Ciudadela, and elsewhere. No nearby polities were strong enough to conquer, nor are invading foreigners apparent. Internal, factional conflict is more plausible; at least two earlier internal crises occurred: in c. AD 250, the city’s layout was reorganized, and later the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent was openly looted and despoiled.

It was long thought that collapse occurred around AD 700-750, making it a likely trigger for the collapse of Classic Maya society, but we now know that Teotihuacán’s power peaking c. AD 250-500, with destruction and burning c. AD 500-550 based on magnetic dating. Teotihuacán’s reputation persisted long after, and some 30,000-40,000 people continued to live in a city-state around the old ceremonial core until the 16th century.


Monte Albán was too weak to fill the political vacuum created by Teotihuacán’s collapse. Instead, a series of local polities rose during the Epiclassic period, a term only used west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and dated there to AD 600-900. Cantona prospered, as did El Tajin on the Gulf Coast, perhaps its trading partner. Closer to Teotihuacán, Cacaxtla developed a palace-like complex protected by a dry moat. Nearby lay a ceremonial complex called Xochitecatl. Together they dominated the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley between AD 650 and 900. Polychrome murals depict military confrontations between groups with central highland costumes and regalia, others have Maya characteristics. Cholula was probably defeated by Cacaxtla, but still survived as an urban center.

Xochicalco, contemporary with Cacaxtla, had large architectural complexes built on five hills, with earthworks, ramparts, and terraces for defense. Despite poor agricultural conditions, 10,000 to 15,000 people lived on the hillsides, producing crafts and trading. Carvings on the Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent show warriors and toponyms of towns paying tribute to Xochicalco, and stelae record names of kings. Around AD 900 the site was suddenly and violently destroyed.

At the northern boundary of Mesoamerica lies La Quemada, another hilltop center of Epiclassic date. Small but complex, its terraces, residential complexes, temples, palaces, and ball courts, were protected by a defensive wall. Cut, broken, and burned human bones indicate display of human skeletons as war trophies.

None of Teothihuacan’s successor states was strong enough to reestablish Classic-type order and prosperity. Only Tula, founded after AD 700 some 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Teothihuacan came close.


The early sophistication at Nakbé, El Mirador, and Tikal took hold in the southern lowlands after a widespread Late Preclassic crisis. Royal and ritual texts inscribed on altars and stelae chart a network of interacting kingdoms; Yucatán developed in somewhat different ways.

Early Classic (AD 250-600) inscriptions and less abundant Late Classic texts are retrospective, describing earlier times. By the early 6th century AD, Tikal led a coalition at odds with an alliance led by Calakmul. The period is called the “Hiatus” due to related population decline and political crisis. Piedras Negras and Tikal did not raise royal monuments for much of the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Caracol and Copán continued to prosper, so crisis was not universal. Maya society was reorganized; monuments after AD 600 presented kings in highly personalized ways, with new titles, and increasingly emphasized warfare.

Late Classic Maya society, between AD 700 and 800, is documented through 15,000 texts. Combined with architecture and art, rulers and lords, gods and ancestors, dynasties, polities, toponyms, births, deaths, accessions, wars, rituals, and alliances are well known. The linear Long Count, used everywhere, gives chronological context.

Unfortunately, Maya inscriptions are not ubiquitous, are mostly late, and say little about the lives of common people. The Late Classic phase began as Teotihuacán declined, which did not disrupt Maya culture.

Kingdoms and Capitals The southern Maya lowlands were never politically unified, and during Late Classic times 45-50 kingdoms are indicated by emblem glyphs. These kingdoms varied greatly in age, size, material culture, and political and social arrangements. Yet shared Maya traditions united them, reinforced by trade, alliances, intermarriage, rituals and religious beliefs.

Each kingdom focused on a central precinct dominated by large masonry pyramid-temples, the palatial residences of kings and lords, public plazas with altars and stelae, and ball courts. Over time, elaborate tombs were built, such as the tomb of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, the 7th-century king of Palenque.

Radiating out from the royal and ceremonial cores were commoner households, dispersed and gradually merging with rural households that formed 80-99 percent of the population, different from the highly concentrated urbanism at Teotihuacán and Monte Albán. Maya centers, with some exceptions, often lacked urban multi-functionality, and were mainly courtly and ritual places. Some kings occasionally dominated lesser ones through alliance, conquest, or patronage. Polities of hundreds of thousands of people may have been fragilely patched together by superpowers such as Tikal or Calakmul.

Maya Society Maya social and political organization was hierarchical and centered on the royal families who bore the ancient ajaw title. Maya kings were sacrosanct, custodians of mysterious “god bundles,” and had sacred duties, in which they impersonated gods, ensured cosmic stability and agricultural fertility. Some, like Pakal, were regarded as divine and deceased royal ancestors exerted powerful influences over the living.

Succession was through the royal patriline, but women could serve as regents or occasionally as queens in their own right. Kings were expected to be warriors; monuments describe capture and sacrifice of enemies. Other royal males were sometimes artisans who made stelae and precious objects, and probably oversaw writing and calendrical lore.

Exalted lords and officials (some royal relatives) had bestowed or inherited titles such as sajal or aj k’uhuun: ‘subordinate ruler’ and royal ‘provisioner.’ Women sometimes bore these titles as well. Living in palatial residences, elites attended court and served governmental and ritual functions.

Commoners, the bulk of whom were farmers, paid taxes in kind or labor, probably served in war, and lived in modest households, some practicing swidden agriculture, others more intensive systems with terraces and drained fields.

Warfare was constant, in contrast to an old theory that the Maya were a uniquely peaceful civilization. War was waged for territorial expansion, sacrificial victims, tribute, vengeance, status, and eliminating enemies. No polity or coalition was powerful enough to unite the Maya lowlands.

By the late 8th century AD populations reached unprecedented densities, and spectacular building projects were initiated. Underlying stresses soon led to a collapse of Maya civilization.


Before radiocarbon dating, Maya Long Counts appeared to indicate crisis between AD 800 and 1000, extrapolated to provide dates for a “Mesoamerican Postclassic” when societies were supposedly unsophisticated, warlike and “decadent.” We now know this is erroneous. There was no sudden florescence and decline across Mesoamerica. Teotihuacán and Monte Albán lost power centuries before the Maya, and Postclassic societies were extraordinary civilizations. Oral histories, indigenous books, and Europeans descriptions provide excellent documentation.

The Rise of the Toltecs

The mythic Tollan of the Aztecs was inhabited by the Toltecs, accomplished artisans and agriculturalists, wise in medicine and calendrical lore. They supposedly lived harmoniously under their ruler Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl. Their principal god, also called Quetzalcoatl, required only butterflies as sacrifice. Tollan finally fell, the myths said, when Quetzalcoatl and his followers were tricked by evil servants of the god Tezcatlipoca, fleeing to distant lands in the direction of the rising sun.

The real Tollan, Tula, lies just outside the Basin of Mexico northwest of Teotihuacán, where rivers provide irrigation. In Classic times Teotihuacán colonists there produced lime for plaster. Around AD 700, civic structures appeared and artifacts indicate that Tula was founded by migrating Tolteca-Chichimeca peoples. Tula matured into a huge city between AD 900 and 1200, with a population of 60,000 that fused central Mexican, Gulf Coast, and northern influences. Nahuatl was probably spoken there.

City households were multi-roomed adobe structures around a courtyard, housing several nuclear families. As at Teotihuacán, there were many workshops. Tula was supported by outlying rural communities.

Pyramids, ball courts, and colonnaded halls, showing architectural similarities with Teotihuacán, were decorated with jaguars and deities, and supporting pillars carved as warrior figures, each named by undeciphered glyphs resembling later Aztec writing. During Tula’s hegemony, trade with the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, Casas Grandes in North American Mexico, and even Central America occurred. Toltec trading colonies have been found as far south as El Salvador.

Tula dominated sizable territories; the whole Basin of Mexico, and possibly tributary client states in northern Mesoamerica. Tula’s principal rival was probably Cholula. Sometime around AD 1150-1200 Tula violently collapsed, indicated by burning and looting of principle buildings. Many people continued to live in the region and a reoccupied urban zone was later subject to the Aztecs.


The Puuc Florescence. Maya polities in the northern Yucatán weathered and even benefited from the southern Maya collapse. Early in the 8th century AD, population expansion occurred in the fertile Puuc region and new, sophisticated water storage technology combated aridity. Sayil, Kabah, Labna, and Uxmal display distinctive Puuc architecture: columns and complicated mosaic sculptures of gods, humans, and geometric designs, exemplified at the House of the Governor and the Nunnery at Uxmal. By AD 875-900, Uxmal gained political ascendancy.

Puuc prosperity was short-lived; the centers collapsed, their hinterlands heavily depopulated c. AD 1000 or a little later. Migrants to the northern Yucatán plains created Puuc-type settlements where the next regional power soon appeared.

Chichén Itzá and Mayapan. Chichén Itzá was the greatest Postclassic capital, rising during the 8th century AD in northern Yucatán near a huge cenote that became a pilgrimage center. Features of the site are the Castillo Pyramid, the Monjas Palace, and a gigantic ball court. Many buildings show Puuc or Toltec architectural affinities. Indigenous histories say that the Itzá founders were succeeded by Mexican migrants led by Kukulkan, meaning “Feathered Serpent” in Maya. Inevitably, this became associated with the myth of Quetzalcoatl’s expulsion from Tula.

Chichén Itzá’s inscriptions and dates are confined to the 9th century AD. Warrior and sacrifice imagery abounds, related to conflicts with other Puuc centers. After AD 900, Chichén Itzá eclipsed rival Coba, and Mexican influences proliferated. For several centuries it was a state capital and mercantile emporium trading in salt and other commodities. Around AD 1200 or 1250, Chichén Itzá declined although remaining a pilgrimage center even after the Spaniards arrived; one Itzá faction fled south and founded the last of the Maya kingdoms.

Power shifted to Mayapan, founded by the Cocom family. Its main buildings are small and shabby compared to Chichén Itzá but over 4000 residences (perhaps 12,000 people) were crowded within, including many elites and their retainers. Conflicting Maya accounts say Mayapan fell c. AD 1441, amid drought, famine, and a rebellion of Xiu lords against the Cocom lineage. Burning is evident, and Mayapan was abandoned before the Spaniards arrived.


In 1519 Hernan Cortés sailed with a small fleet to Yucatán after two previous expeditions reported impressive native cultures there. Best known for conquest of the Aztec, Cortés also left accounts of the 16th-century Maya.

The Maya of the Early 16th Century

After Chichén Itzá and Mayapan fell, hundreds of small polities emerged, ruled by hereditary leaders called batabs, each with a few thousand subjects. Fragile alliances united batabs of the same lineage, but war was common among and within batabships, as noble families (i.e. Xiu and Cocom) were traditional enemies. Some petty kingdoms may have ruled 60,000 people.

Despite lack of integration, these societies were complex, and retained Classic patterns, with large towns, temple pyramids, public plazas, elaborate houses, rituals, books, and calendars. Nobles were supported by taxes and engaged in long-distance trade. Most people grew maize, fished, or produced salt. Slaves were war captives or debtors. After skirmishing with the Maya, Cortés moved on to confront the Aztecs.

The Aztecs and the Late Horizon: History and Myth

16th-century people believed their ancestors had migrated to the Basin of Mexico from the northern fringes of Mesoamerica, beginning when Tula collapsed, or earlier, linked to climatic change and political instability. Among those people were Aztec ancestors, who were Nahuatl speakers called Chichimec. Some were described as savage hunter-gatherers, others as farmers who played the ball game and built temples, and others were sophisticated refugees from the Toltec kingdom. Some archaeologists think these wanderings first introduced Nahua speakers into the Basin of Mexico. Others think migration accounts were “reconstructed history,” made up later to justify events. If glyphs recently detected at Teotihuacán turn out be Nahuatl, this will be strengthened.

None would have called themselves Aztecs; they called themselves Mexica-Tenochca (the founders of Tenochtitlán), Acolhua, Tepaneca, or Chalca. Others came from a mythical homeland called Aztlan (thus the label “Aztecs”). One band, the Mexica, eventually were driven as despised refugees (or led by their god) onto small islands in Lake Texcoco, surrounded by enemy polities. Here, in AD 1325 the Mexica founded their capital, Tenochtitlán.

At the end of the 14th century, several dozen warring city-states lay in the Basin of Mexico. The Mexica-Tenochca enlisted as mercenaries with the powerful Tepanecs, receiving a share of tribute. They elected a king, who married into an exalted dynasty descended from the Toltecs. In response to a falling out in AD 1428, the Mexica, aided by the Texcoco and Tlacopan states, overthrew the Tepanec. The Mexica king Itzcoatl and his followers became dominant and powerful, promoting the Mexica tribal god. At this juncture, by their own account, they burned their ancient books and proceeded to write “true” history, setting the stage for the empire under the Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan for 91 years. This short interval is called the Late Horizon.

The Aztec Empire in 1519 By 1519 the Aztec empire dominated 400 previously independent polities over an area of about 200,000 sq. km (77,220 sq. miles), including the Gulf Coast, the Valley of Oaxaca, parts of western Mexico, and the Pacific coast of Guatemala, with subjects numbering between 6 and 10 million people, 1 to 1.5 million in the Basin of Mexico. Terracing, irrigation systems, and artificially drained fields made it a productive agrarian region.

The empire was assembled through intimidation, alliance, and conquest. Conquered polities were grouped into 38 tributary provinces, from which tribute of all kinds flowed, enriching Tenochtitlan’s rulers, who dominated the Triple Alliance. Other provinces joined the empire as military allies, paying only nominal tribute. Such allies were necessary as moving and feeding large armies without effective transport was difficult, and powerful enemies remained.

The Aztec’s greatest enemies were the Tarascans of western Mexico, who by 1519 controlled 1,500,000 people from their capital of Tzintzuntzan on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro, a small but highly centralized state. Tarascan warriors inflicted heavy defeats on Aztec armies.

The Tlaxcallan confederation, east of the Basin of Mexico, were culturally similar to the Aztecs but retained their independence, ultimately supporting the Spaniards.

Complaisant local rulers were left in place, and their offspring married into the royal families of Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. Sometimes local dynasties were replaced with royal governors, their lands absorbed by the rulers. Elsewhere, the Aztecs ruled cheaply through intimidation and tax collection. Yet in some 20 places (i.e. the Valley of Oaxaca and the Tarascan frontier), imperial governors and garrisons were necessary. Punitive measures were sometimes used locally and core populations were sometimes resettled in frontier posts.

Aztec Society. Each city-state (altepetl) in the Basin of Mexico shared language, diet, technology, religion, customs, and political organization. One or more hereditary king (tlatoani) ruled each altepetl. Kings, their families, and nobles (collectively called pipiltin), benefited from the tribute of empire. Polygyny increased the noble class, necessitating further resources and conquests. Nobles received land as a reward for service. After special education, the pipiltin monopolized political, religious and military offices, and participated in court life in the capital.

Commoners paid taxes to their own tlatoani and his overlord. Most were farmers or artisans, living in neighborhoods with their own leaders, schools, and temples, contributing corvée labor and serving in the army. Commoner warriors occasionally achieved quasi-noble rank. Talented artisans also had high prestige. The pochteca, or professional merchants, led trading expeditions, becoming rich and enjoying upward social mobility.

The mayeque were tied to the estates of kings and nobles, paying taxes only to their immediate lords. Many, originally free, became serfs through conquest. At the bottom were the tlacotin, who owed service through debt or criminal acts. They could own property and buy freedom, and their children were born free. They were not poorly treated, though malcontents could be sold or sacrificed.

The Spanish Conquest

In 1519, the Mexica Emperor Motecezuma II was attempting to annex the stratified and warlike highland Maya, when a new and unexpected threat appeared in the form of Hernan Cortés and his 500 men. By coincidence, they arrived on the day that Aztec diviners prophesied the return of Quetzalcoatl. Cortés marched inland seeking the riches he had heard of. The Tlaxcallans initially resisted, but realized the newcomers could be used against their hated Aztec enemies. Accompanied by indigenous allies, Cortés entered Tenochtitlán, where Motecezuma received them, but was soon placed under Spanish “house arrest.”

Eventually, Motecezuma was killed during fighting in 1520, after Spanish desecration of the main temple. The allies of Tenochtitlán fell away, most damagingly, Texcoco, a former imperial partner. After months of fierce fighting, the Spaniards destroyed Tenochtitlán in 1521.

Most of Mesoamerica was in Spanish hands by 1550, but the Itzá Maya held out for another 150 years until 1697.

Subsistence species
blue-green algae
deer, rabbits, quail


Ancient/Historic people
Hernan Cortés
Bone Rabbit
Siyaj K’ak
K’inich Janaab’ Pakal
Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl
Cocom lineage
Xiu lineage
Motecezuma II


Periods, Phases, Horizons
Preclassic (Formative) 2500 BC-AD 250
Early Preclassic period 2500-1000 BC
Middle Preclassic period 1000-400 BC
Late Preclassic period 400 BC-AD 250
Early Classic period AD 250-600
Late Classic period AD 600-800
Terminal Classic period AD 800-1000
Early Postclassic period AD 1000-1250
Late Postclassic period AD 1250-1519
Olmec 1200-400 BC
Early Horizon
Epi-Olmec period
Middle Horizon
Western Mexican polities 1500 BC- AD 400 (Colima, Nayarit, Jalisco)
Cholula, Cantona, and Teuchtitlan

Puuc culture
Early Classic “Hiatus”
Late Horizon
State of Texcoco
State of Tlacopan
Tlaxcallan confederation
Quiché and Cakchiquel Maya kingdoms
Itzá Maya of northern Guatemala

Important Sites
San Jose Mogote (Oaxaca)
Chalcatzingo (Central Mexican Highlands)
Tres Zapotes (Mexican Gulf Coast)
La Venta (Mexican Gulf Coast)
San Lorenzo (Mexican Gulf Coast)
El Portón (Guatemala)
Monte Albán (Oaxaca)
Teotihuacán (Basin of Mexico)
Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala)
Tikal (Guatemala)
Nakbé (Guatemala)
El Mirador (Guatemala)
Lamanai (Belize)
Cerros (Belize)
Cuello (Belize)
Becán (Campeche)
Dainzu (Oaxaca)
Cuicuilco (Basin of Mexico)
Teotihuacán (Teotihuacán Valley, Basin of Mexico)
Tula (Basin of Mexico)
Copán (Southern Lowlands)
El Peru (Guatemala)
Altun Ha (Belize)
Acanceh (Yucatán)
Chunchucmil (Yucatán)
Matacapan (Tuxtla Mountains, Gulf Coast)
Alta Vista (northwest Mexico)
El Tajin (Gulf Coast)
Cantona (Central Mexican Highlands)
Cholula (Central Mexican Highlands)
Cacaxtla (Central Mexican Highlands)
Xochitecatl (Central Mexican Highlands)
Xochicalco (Central Mexican Highlands)
La Quemada (northern Mexico)
Calakmul (Southern Lowlands)
Piedras Negras (Southern Lowlands)
Caracol (Southern Lowlands)
Palenque (Southern Lowlands)
Quirigua (Southern Lowlands)
Yaxchilan (Southern Lowlands)
Bonampak (Southern Lowlands)
Tula (fringe of the Basin of Mexico)
Casas Grandes (northern Mexico)
Sayil (northern Yucatán)
Kabah (northern Yucatán)
Labna (northern Yucatán)
Uxmal (northern Yucatán)
Chichén Itzá (northern Yucatán plain)
Coba (northeastern Yucatán)
Mayapan (northern Yucatán plain)
Tenochtitlán (Basin of Mexico)
State of Texcoco (Basin of Mexico)
State of Tlacopan (Basin of Mexico)
Tzintzuntzan (Patzcuaro Basin)
Nojpeten (Guatamala)

Artifacts, features, buildings, structures
Red Palace
El Manati
colossal stone heads
buried serpentine slab patterns, stelae
pyrite mirrors, obsidian
blue-green jade carvings
huge rectangular thrones
basalt column tombs

red-slipped Chicanel pottery
the Hauberg Stele (AD 197)
defensive walls at El Mirador
earthworks at Becán
El Chayal obsidian source
urban central ceremonial/elite precinct
“god bundles.”
Puuc architectural mosaic sculptures of gods, humans, and geometric
the House of the Governor and the Nunnery (Uxmal)
Chichen Itza – cenote, the Castillo Pyramid, the Monjas Palace, Puuc and Toltec architectural affinities

Danzante warrior frieze
“conquest slabs” in Building J
skull racks

Street of the Dead
Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon
apartment compounds
Great Compound
Merchants Barrio
Tetitla compound
Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent
Pachuca obsidian
skull racks

Central Mexican polities
Teuchtitlan shaft tombs, monumental circular buildings
Xochitecatl polychrome murals
Xochicalco – Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent

warrior figure pillars

Book of Mormon Geography

Book of Mormon Geography Found- Mexican Highland Continental Model (Summary)

The following is a temporary power point or slides presentation summarizing The Book of Mormon Mexican Highland Continental Model. When finished it will be published as a coffee table book and then YouTube video summary of our model. Use keyboard arrows to advance slides once slides has focus.


A slightly out of date version of the above slides/book in pdf format.

With cursor in the above window (when window has focus), scroll down to see the rest of the document within the iframe.

Mesoamerican Prehistory Timeline

List of Peoples

(These links connect to the beginning of the period in which the group is mentioned. Only one reference is provided per group, normally the time of the group’s first or major appearance in the archaeological record.)

Aztecs, Chichimecs, Chontàl Maya, Esperanza Phase People, Huastecs, Itzà Maya, Izapàn Maya, Kaqchikèl [Cakchiquel] Maya, K’ichè’ [Quiché]Maya, Mam, Maya, Mixe-Zoqueans, Mixtecs, Mogollón, Olmecs, Otomí, Pipìl, Pokomàm Maya, Putùn Maya, Purépecha, Spanish, Tapachultecs, Tarascans, Teotihuacanos, Tèpenacs, Toltecs, Totonacs, Tzutuhìl Maya, Zapotecs.

List of Periods

  1. Geological Background
  2. Early Hunters 11,000± – 7,000± BC
  3. Archaic (Incipient Farming) Period 7000± – 2000± BC
  4. Early Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 1500/1800-900 BC
  5. Middle Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 900-300 BC
  6. Late Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 300 BC – AD 300
  7. Early Classic Period (Mexico: AD 150-650/Maya: AD 250-600)
  8. Late Classic Period AD 600-900
  9. Early Post-Classic Period AD 900-1200
  10. Late Post-Classic Period (part 1) AD 1200-1400
  11. Late Post-Classic Period (part 2) AD 1400-Spanish Conquest

Appendix: Table of Aztec Monarchs

More detailed chronology of the Aztecs

Geological Background

  • 50,000-7000± Wisconsin Glacial Period
  • 38,000-34,000, 30,000-15,000 The presence of land corridors from Beringia allows the possibility of human passage, but convincing evidence is still wanting. Click here for more information on the Bering Strait Land Bridge
  • >11,500 Cary Advance
  • 11,000-10,000 Mankato Advance (humid)
  • 10,000-8000 Two Creeks Interval (dry)
  • 9000-7000 Valders Advance (humid)
  • 8000 Sea levels rise, ending Bering Straits Land Bridge (Beringia)
  • 7000-2000 Hypsithermal (European “Climatic Optimum”)
  • 5500-4800 Cochrane Advance in Canada (humid) (=Younger Dryas Event)
  • 2000 BC – AD 1800± Little Ice Age
  • 1500-150± BC (humid)
  • 150± BC – AD 900 (dry)
  • 900 – 1800± (humid)
  • Return to very beginning, list of periods, list of peoples.

1. Early Hunters Period 13,000±? to 7,000± BC

  • Nomadic foragers; fishing; some seed collection.
  • 11,000-10,500 (formerly 9500-9000) Clovis points in North America used in mammoth hunting.
  • 8000 Folsom bison points in North America.

Mexico: Northern Mexico (Tamaulipas)

  • 11,000-10,000 Diablo Phase.
  • unspecialized foraging tools.

Mexico: Central Highlands

  • >7000 Tehuacán Ajuereado Phase.
  • bands of 12-15 people; some big-game hunting.

Mexico: Oaxaca Valley

  • Long Sequence parallels Tehuacán.
  • 7400-6700 Zea pollen; bottle gourds; pumpkin.

Maya Areas:

  • 11,000± Red ochre mined from caves in Yucatán
  • Wild horses among prey
  • 9000-7500 Lowe-Ha Phase in northern Belize; very small nomadic bands

2. Archaic (Incipient Farming) Period 7000± – 2000± BC

  • Gradual development of horticultural skills, some signs of fixed settlement, possibly some shamanism; extinction of many animals; Desert Cultures of US West and northern Mexico (Tamaulipas &c.).

Mexico Central Highlands

  • Tehuacán (Puebla) Phases:
  • 7000-5000 El Riego Phase.
  • Cotton; ritually damaged buried bodies; seasonal nomadism.
  • 5000-3400 Coxcàtlan Phase.
  • Bottle gourds, beans, new squashes, first maize.
  • 3400-2300 Abejas Phase.
  • Small hamlets of 5-10 pithouses; hybrid maize, tepary beans, pumpkin?; 30% of diet made up of cultigens; ground stone containers.
  • 2300-1500 Purrón Phase.
  • crude pottery appears in two shapes, probably by diffusion from Caribbean or South America.
  • Tlapacòya: Female figurines of 2300±100 BC oldest in Mesoamerica.

Mexico: Balsas Depression

  • 2000± Maize probably composes majority of human diet according to finds in Balsas River Valley.

Mexico Oaxaca Valley

  • Long Sequence parallels Tehuacán
  • 7000-5000 Wild and probably domesticated corn found in Puebla-Oaxaca.

Mexico Gulf Coast

  • Probable cultivation of manioc without archaeological traces.

Maya Areas

  • 7000-3500 Santa María Complex (Chiapas) similar to Tehuacán & Tamaulipas Archaic, and to “Desert Culture” further north.
  • 2000± first division of hypothetically unitary Proto-Maya language into Huastecan, Yucatecan, and southern variants; Huastec migration to Veracruz & Tamaulipas; southern group divides into two language groups: (North-)Western (Chol of Tabasco) and (South-)Eastern (Mam & K’ich’è [Quiché] of highland Guatemala).
  • Broadly savannah-like environment (destined to be forested AD 300±)
  • Some maize grown!
  • Belize Archaic
  • August 13, 3114 BC (Gregorian): Starting point ( 4-Ahàw 8-kumk’ù) of Classic Maya Long-Count Calendar

Other Parts of the World

  • 6150± Çatal Hüyük a major Neolithic center in Turkey
  • 2600± Great Pyramid built
  • 2350± Sargon of Akkad destroys Babylon (which rises again)
  • 1700± Founding of Chinese Shāng dynasty

3. Early Formative (Pre-Classic) Period (Mexico: 1500-900 BC; Maya Area: 1800-900 BC)

  • “Neolithic” farming villages; pottery, looms, ground stone figurines; rule by groups of elders, shamans, or chiefs; rain & fertility cults; regional differentiation.

Mexico Central Highlands

  • figurine cults.
  • 1100 Zacatènco.
  • 1200 Tlatìlco: large, rich village; storage pits, animal and human sculpture; 340+ burials.
  • 1350 El Arbolillo.

Mexico: Southernmost Mexico (Chiapas)

Beginning of Chiapa de Corzo sequences running from 1500 to the present in Grijalva Depression.

Mexico Oaxaca Valley

  • 1150-850 San José Phase
  • San José Mogote: village of 80-120 households with maize, chili, squashes, avocados.

Mexico Gulf Coast

  • 1750-1500 Earliest evidence of cacao (chocolate) use by Pre-Olmec peoples of the Gulf coast. (Click here for More About Cacao. )
  • 1400-900 San Lorenzo (Veracruz) earliest of the major Olmec sites, a major Olmec center by 1200; first religious ceremonial center in the New World; earliest ball court; stone drains; spectacular sculptures, including colossal heads; probable cannibalism; bufotenine (frog-derived) hallucinogens.
  • >1000 San Lorenzo Destroyed.

West Mexico

  • Juxtlahuàca Cave, near Colotlìpa (Guerrero) with polychrome “Olmec” murals, contemporary with San Lorenzo Olmec?

Maya Areas

  • Beginning of Chiapa de Corzo sequences running from 1500 to the present in Grijalva Depression.
  • 1000± Arévalo phase at Kaminaljuyù (Guatemala). Burial mound shows class distinctions, viz priest buried with riches, a commoner with nothing, possibly not correctly dated to this phase.
  • 1900-1500 villages of the Mokaya people along the Pacific coast of Chiapas include ceramics with traces of cacao (Click here for More About Cacao. )
  • 1800 villages along coast at Soconusco (Xoconòchco), Guatemala
  • 1800 Barra Phase huts, decorated pottery, possibly used for stone-boiling, in forms similar to Purrón ware of Tehuacán; maize cultivation; clay figurines; no evidence of social classes. Gives way to fully agricultural Ocós
  • 1700-1500 Locona Phase; stamper-rocking, cooking vessels, social hierarchy.
  • 1500-1400 Ocós Culture of La Victoria (near Soconusco); fully agricultural combined with marine animals; first cord-marked pottery in New World; female “goddess” figurines similar to those of Ecuador from 3700± BC
  • 1200 Cuadros Culture; Nal-Tal maize production.
  • 1000-700 Swasey/Bladen Phase at Cuello (Belize) exhibits popcorn, yams; plaster platforms; ceramics with no known stylistic predecessors and some ressemblance to later forms.
  • Tz’ibilchaltùn [Dzibilchaltún] (Yucatán) occupied from 1500 or 1000 BC till conquest by Spanish, never an important center, but little else is known about the area in the Formative.

Other Parts of the World

  • 1350± Babylon assimilated into Assyrian Empire
  • 1200± Fall of Troy, Mycenae, and other Archaic Greek states, beginning the “Greek Dark Ages”
  • 1000± Jerusalem conquered by King David

4. Middle Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 900-300 BC

Olmec civilization; widespread trade; diffusion of Olmec traits in many directions; class divisions. Spread of Mayan speakers into Lowlands seems to have occurred in this period.

Mexico Central Highlands

  • Lakeside sites (lake fish, deer, birds; skilled uses of obsidian):
  • El Arbolillo (three-legged bowls).
  • Zacatenco (many clay figurines, usually nude women.
  • Tlapacoya & Cuicuilco the first purely religious structures in the Valley of Mexico.
  • 800 Tlatilco increased class differences.
  • 700-500 Cantera Phase in Morelos.
  • 1400 -500 BC Chalcatzingo: An Olmec “peripheral site”; artificial terraces; Olmec-style sculpture. Monumental archetecture at 700 BC.

West Mexico

  • Oxtotitlán Rockshelter (Guerrero) with polychrome “Olmec” murals, contemporary with La Venta Olmec?

Mexico Oaxaca Valley

  • San José Mogote remains most important site; hieroglyph of proto-danzante possible forerunner of later Zapotec script.
  • 600 – 200± Monte Albán I Phase. Writing & calendar, probably borrowed from Olmecs.
  • 500-450 Monte Albán founded on commanding hilltop site, with 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants by end of Early Formative times; danzante reliefs with clear hieroglyphic texts, still undeciphered. Calendar Round in use.

Mexico Gulf Coast

  • Height of the Olmec civilization; astronomy, sculpture, writing, calendar?
  • 1000-400 or 400 La Venta (Tabasco)
  • Greatest Olmec site, but hinterland poorly understood; Tres Zapotes (Veracruz) First Occupation, contemporaneous with La Venta.

Maya Areas

  • Maya languages now spread throughout roughly their historical range.
  • Conchas Phase.
  • 500-300 Las Charcas phase widespread, but centered at Kaminaljuyù with excellent decorated pottery.
  • 700-400 Mamóm village culture phase at El Mirador, Waxaktùn [Uaxactún] & Tik’àl with red-orange pottery (rarely decorated), first seen in Swasey Phase at Cuello (Belize) dating about 1000-700 BC.
  • Nak’bè shows platforms layered on older ones.
  • Altùn Ha (Belize) only known Mamòm public architecture
  • Xe Phase at Altar de Sacrificios & Seibal
  • 900-400 BC Uìr Phase at Copán (Honduras) has Olmec-like features, probably because Olmec jade seekers found Copán area jade deposits
  • Maní Cenot Phase, followed by Yucatán Middle Pre-Classic.

Tz’ibilchaltùn [Dzibilchaltún] with Mamòm-like Nabanchè phase

Other Parts of the World

  • 753 Town of Rome founded
  • 586 Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem
  • 551 Confucius born
  • 478 Themistocles of Athens founds the Delian League

5. Late Formative (Pre-Classic) Period (Mexico: 300 BC – AD 150; Maya Area: 300 BC – AD 250)

  • “Urban Revolution”: building of the great urban centers, new social class divisions.
  • (Note: If there were trans-Pacific contacts, they would have occurred sometime before the end of this period, since the “shared cultural traits” were then in place. However neither material goods nor diseases seem to have moved across the sea by this time, so “shared cultural traits” must be provisionally attributed either to chance or to parallel developments from traditions that antedate the last of the Beringia migrations.)

Mexico Central Highlands

  • 300-1 BC Teotihuàcan I Phase.
  • AD 1-300 Teotihuàcan II (=Tzacualli?) Phase.
  • Pyramid of the Sun constructed.
  • AD 150 Volcano destroys Cuicuilco, leaving Teotihuàcan unrivaled in the Central Highlands.

Mexico West Mexico

Balsas (=Mezcala) River sites (Guerrero) develop Mezcala art style; shaft tomb art in Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima states.

Mexico Oaxaca Valley

  • 250± BC – 1 BC Monte Albán II Phase.
  • Many peoples involved in stages I & II, probably including ancestors of modern Zapotecs; Maya influence till beginning of Classic; building J constructed.
  • AD 1 – 500 Monte Albán IIIa Phase.
  • Zapotecs definitely now the people involved.

Mexico Gulf Coast

  • Probable invention of Long Count calendar. (Some say it was invented as early as the 8th century BC.)
  • Tres Zapotes (Veracruz), Second Occupation .
  • Stele C (dated to 3 Sept 32 BC).
  • La Mojarra stela 1 with two long-count dates, AD 143 and 156
  • “Isthmian”-style Tuxtla statuette (possibly in Mixe-Zoquean language) with long count date of AD 162

Maya Areas

  • Oldest Long Count date of (7 December 36 BC) found at Chiapa de Corzo (Chiapas).
  • Izapa (Chiapas) founded in Early Formative by Tapachultec (Mixe-Zoquean) speakers and persisting to Early Classic, with height in Late Formative.
  • Olmec-derived but idiosyncratic art style; the principal transmitting tradition between Olmec & Maya societies, with wide influence; possibly forerunner of Classic Maya configuration.
  • Izapa-like Miraflores phase of Kaminaljuyù, its Golden Age, including effigy vessels and widespread Usulutàn yellow-on-brown ware; mushroom stones; irrigation; water storage.
  • Santa Clara Phase, Aurora Phase.
  • AD 36 Herrera Stele, earliest dated sculpture in Maya region at El Baúl
  • Abàj Tak’alìk’ (Chiapas), like El Baúl a “Maya” site within a generally Cotzumalhuapa area
  • Izapan culture at Izàpa (Chiapas)has wide influence, possibly forerunner of Classic Maya configuration.

  • Chikanèl [Chicanel] Phase at Waxaktùn [Uaxactún] and elsewhere; cement-plastic-stucco surfaces widely used
  • Temples built at El Mirador, Tik’àl & Waxaktùn [Uaxactún] (Guatemala) and Cerros & Lamanai (aka Indian Church) (Belize); tombs with vaults.
  • Enormous Danta and Tigre pyramids at El Miradór.
  • Matzanel Phase.
  • Yucatán Late Pre-Classic, very similar to Chicanel; site of Yaxunà.

Other Parts of the World

  • 63 BC Birth of Augustus, to become first Roman emperor
  • 255 BC Qin dynasty ends Chinese feudalism & establishes Chinese imperial system
  • 206 BC – AD 219 Chinese Han dynasty

6. Early Classic Period (Mexico: AD 150 – 650; Maya: AD 250 – 600;  Traditionally AD 300-600 for both areas)

For the Maya, the Classic is now more formally defined as the interval during which Long Count dated monuments were erected in the lowlands.

Consolidated states with substantial social class differentiation; long-count calendar, writing, sculpture, mathematics, ceramics, and large-scale urban planning widespread in many areas; strong Izapan influence continues in Maya areas.

Mexico: Central Highlands

  • Teotihuàcan III (=Miccoatli?) Phase: the height of Teotihuàcan, with much influence elsewhere. People of unknown name sometimes called Teotihuacanos.
  • 200 Pyramid of the Moon & Ciudadela (“TFS”) constructed, the latter dedicated with about 200 human sacrifices.
  • (By the end of the Early Classic there were about 40 times as many people in the Valley of Mexico as during the Middle Formative, and Teotihuàcan probably had a population of about between 100,000 and 200,000 people, its maximum.)

Mexico: Oaxaca Valley

  • Classic period for Monte Albán with major temples built.
  • 500-900 Monte Albán IIIb population estimated at 24,000; 170 underground tombs with frescoes.

Maya Areas:

  • Mexican (probably Pipil) culture at Santa Lucía Cotzomalhuapa arises in late Early Classic with strong interest in death & ball games.
  • 400 Kaminaljuyù, occupied by Teotihuacanos, becomes miniature version of Teotihuàcan. Long Count calendar vanishes.
  • Esperanza Phase of Kaminaljuyù, a kind of Maya-Teotihuàcan hybrid. (Teotihuàcan influence has been traced as far as Nicaragua and Costa Rica.)
  • Teotihuàcan-influenced Tzak’òl phase of Waxaktùn [Uaxactún] & Tik’àl; dawn of Classic Maya culture till 600. Teotihuàcan domination is now judged more likely due to conquest than to local Maya emulation, although new evidence could change this.
  • Tik’àl’s Leiden Plate (AD 320), stele 29 (AD 292), and possibly Humberg stele (AD100?) earliest known Long Count objects in Maya area.
  • 250± Yax Moch Xoc founds Tik’àl dynasty
  • 378 Siyàh K’ak’ arrives from El Perú to the west at Tik’àl or Waxaktùn, possibly leading an invasion force from Teotihuàcan; Waxaktùn [Uaxactún] falls to Tik’àl
  • 426? Yax K’uk’ Mo’ founds dynasty at Copán (Honduras) which continues to 585±
  • Destruction of many sites toward end of Early Classic probably due to revolt & local warfare, both possibly linked to major drought peaking about 585 and/or to fall of Teotihuàcan about 600.
  • Rich graves of Río Azul sites (looted in 1960s & 1970s)

  • Bekàn [Becán] fortified town in Chenes region suggests warfare before Teotihuàcan conflict
  • Akankèh [Acanceh] shows Mexican-style buildings; Regional Styles.

Other Parts of the World

  • 391 Christianity becomes state religion of the Roman Empire
  • 476 Western Roman Empire collapses

7. Late Classic Period (AD 600-900)

(In the Maya area the term “Terminal Classic” refers to the period from 800 to 925 or so. Various states collapse late in this epoch: Monte Albán, Mexican-influenced Kaminaljuyù, Copán are either destroyed or abandoned. Cultural florescence of Puuk [Puuc] hills of northern Yucatán late in this period.

Mexico: Central Highlands

  • Teotihuàcan IV.
  • 600-700 Teotihuàcan destroyed by fire, probably by Chichimecs. (Most Teotihuàcan influence on other sites ended by about AD 600. The fire is dated differently by different writers.)
  • Production of related Coyotlatèlco ware by squatters on the site continued for an additional 200 years.
  • 700± Xochicàlco (Morelos) founded, apparently with Maya contacts.
  • 860 Xochicàlco “Fortress” built.
  • 800-900 pre-Toltec Corràl Phase at Tula.
  • 700-1292 Olmeca-Xicallanca (= Putùn Maya = Chontòl) dynasty at Cholula (Puebla), site of largest pyramid in the New World.
  • Cacàxtla (Puebla) site of Putùn Maya enclave in Mexico in 8th & 9th centuries.

Mexico: Oaxaca Valley

  • Monte Albán declining, to be abandoned about 900

Mexico: Gulf Coast

  • Classic Veracruz culture (sometimes claimed to resemble Bronze Age China, despite misfit of dates). (The modern Totonac people live in this region today, and Classic Veracruz people are sometimes called Totonac.)
  • El Tajín (Veracruz), the most important Classic Veracruz site, reaches its height about 900. Obsessive interest in ball games.
  • Remojadas (Veracruz) produces pottery figures of same name, resembling Classic Maya sculptures.

Maya Areas:

  • Occasional but increasingly severe droughts after about 650 begin to reduce crops and increase warfare.
  • Cotzomalhuapa Phase continues at El Baúl, associated with Nàhuatl-speaking Pipìl on Pacific Piedmont and showing traits of Maxican Gulf Coast.
  • Earliest evidence of tobacco (possibly for medicinal use) found through analysis of resideues in pottery in Mirador basis of soutrhern Campeche.

  • 682 Copán meeting of astronomers fixes lunar-solar calendrical correlation
  • 683 Chahn-Bahlum succeeds Sun Lord Pacal and the latter is magnificently entombed at Palenque.
  • Tik’àl Major temples built; largest Maya site with 10 to 40,000 people.
  • 695 Ruler 18 Rabbit (Waxaklahùn Ubàh K’awìl) enthroned as 13th monarch of Copán, begins huge building project.
  • 735 Seibal falls to Dos Pilas
  • 738 King Canac Sky of Quiriguá rebels; captures & beheads 18 Rabbit; Smoke Monkey accedes in Copán, builds Popol Nah of Copán.
  • Tepeu culture
  • Yaxchilán, Piedras Negras, etc major centers
  • 751-790 Deterioration of alliance system
  • 760-830 Protective walls built at Dos Pilas and Aguateca
  • 792 Bonampak murals left unfinished
  • 790-830 death rate exceeds birth rate across Petèn region
  • 800± Probably about 8-10 million people in all Maya lowlands when unknown catastrophe strikes.
  • 800-1050 Major drought, peaking about 862, may have interacted with inter-state warfare and with environmental degredation caused by high population levels to cause general collapse.
  • 820 end of Copán dynasty founded by Yax K’uk’ Mo’
  • 830 Construction stops except in peripheral sites.
  • 849 “Wat’ul” mentioned in Seibal stele as coming from “Puh,” possibly Tula, since both terms mean “place of reeds.”
  • 850± Chontàl and Putùn, both “Mexicanized Maya” of Tabasco and southern Campeche, begin to move into “fallen” sites like Seibal
  • 900 Copán abandoned.

Maya Area: Yucatán Lowlands

  • This region generally flourishes after the Petèn collapse.
  • Mid-Peninsula sites of Río Bec, Chenes, Kobà [Cobá]
  • Río Bec & nearby sites (Xpuhil, Hormiguero) exhibit “movie-set” false-fronts
  • Development of Tulúm on the east coast, Jaina island necropolis off west coast.
  • Puuk [Puuc] & Chenes Phases.
  • Puuk [Puuc] Florescence: Labná, Sayìl, Uxmàl, K’abàh, Etz’nà [Edznà].

Other Parts of the World

  • 618-906 Tang dynasty an era of Chinese internationalism
  • 622 Hegira of Mohammed
  • 732 Defeat at Tours & Poitiers stops Moorish advance north of Spain
  • 800 Charlemagne crowned “Romanorum Gubernans Imperium”

8. Early Post-Classic Period (AD 900-1200)

Widespread militarism. This is the “Epoch of the Toltecs,” with influence as far as Yucatán. Factionalism & Chichimecs bring about Toltec fall about 1168 or so.

Mexico: Central Highlands

  • Rise of Toltec Empire, centered at Tula (=Tollan) (Hidalgo). They dominate Mexico between about 1100 and 1200 and become a model on which later imperial states nostalgically look back.
  • Between 800 & 1100 Toltecs enter “Civilized Mexico” under Mixcòatl and settle at Colhuàcan, later to arrive at Tula (Tòllan) under Topìltzin-Quetzalcóatl.
  • 950-1150 or 1200 Tòllan Phase at Tula.
  • Tula covered 14 sq km and held 30-40,000 people.
  • 987± Exile of Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl(= Ce Àcatl Topìltzin) from Tula to “Tlapàllan,” possibly Yucatán. Conquest of Chichén Itzá.
  • 1100s Factionalism & Chichimec pressures.
  • 1156 or 1168 Tula destroyed by fire; Huèmac commits suicide at Chapultèpec; Toltec diaspora.

Mexico: Northern Mexico

  • 900 Alta Vista (Zacatecas) control of Turquoise road replaced by control from Quemada (Zacatecas).
  • Casas Grandes (Chihuahua) contemporaneous with Tòllan Phase Tula, culturally linked with Mogollón (locally pronounced “muggy-own”) culture(s) of the US Southwest.

Mexico: Gulf Coast

  • El Tajín continues till burnt by Chichimecs about 1200.

Mexico: Oaxaca Valley

  • Monte Albán IV: Monte Albán site used for royal burials by the Mixtecs.
  • Monte Albán IV site of Lambityeco shows Maya influence.
  • Mitla, a Zapotec town, becomes the Mixtec capital; expansion of Mixtecs during Monte Albán V (=Toltec & Aztec periods).

Maya Area:

  • 900± Teotihuacanos leave Kaminaljuyù.
  • Ayampuc Phase.
  • Possible flow of refugees from Petèn in 900s.

Maya Area: Petèn Lowlands

  • 900 Copán abandoned.
  • 905 last dated Puuk [Puuc] style monument
  • 910 Last recorded Long Count date (at Itzimtè).
  • General depopulation of the Petèn
  • Expansion of Putùn (=Chontòl = “Olmeca-Xicallanca”) Maya expand from around Xicallanco (Tabasco); they move to Campeche, where they are ejected about 1200, migrating to the Lake now called Petén Itzá, then to the site of Chich’èn.

Maya Area: Yucatán Lowlands

  • Possible flow of refugees from Petèn in 900s.
  • 987 Toltecs under “K’ulk’ulkàn,” possibly Topìltzin Qutzalcóatl, and seize the Maya town of Uukìl-abnàl (= Chich’èn Itzà)
  • (Caution: A people called the Itzà established a later dynasty at the same site in the 1200s. The modern site name, Chichén Itzá, comes from that later occupation. It is convenient to refer to the pre-Itzà site simply as Chich’èn. The most famous buildings that the visitor sees on this site today date from the Toltec occupation period.)
  • Toltec-Maya fusion seen in cult of the feathered serpent K’uk’ulcàn (Quetzalcóatl), possibly based on arrival of the refugee Toltec leader, in increase in human sacrifice, and in architectural features at new buildings at Chich’èn & Puuk [Puuc] sites.
  • “Plumbate ware” found in Toltec-dominated Yucatán sites.
  • Severe drought between 1000 and 1100 may have motivated out-migration and abandonment of settlements.
  • Plumbate & Tojil Phases.

Other Parts of the World

  • 1096-1099 First Crusade
  • 1066 Norman conquest of England
  • 960-1279 Song dynasty in China

9. Late Post-Classic Period (part 1) AD 1200-1400

Rise of the Aztec Empire; disintegration of Maya civilization.

(Note: By the time the Aztecs amounted to much, the Maya had disintegrated politically in all but a handful of mountain successor states. The Aztecs were not contemporary with major Maya states, and neither people knew about, cared about, or conquered the other. Grmpf!)

Mexico: Central Highlands

  • 1230 Nathuatl-speaking Tepanec take over older town of Azcapotzalco.
  • 1244 Nahuatl-speaking Chichimeca under Xolote settle at Tenayuca.
  • 1250± non-Nahuatl-speaking Otomí found Xaltocan.
  • 1260 Nahuatl-speaking Acolhua found Coatlinchan.
  • 1325 Southern Aztecs (= Mexìca = Tenòcha) under Tènoc found Tenochtìtlan while northern Aztecs found Tlatelòlco just north of it.
  • (A table of Aztec monarchs will be found in the appendix. For a detailed chronology of the Aztecs/Mexica, click here.)
  • 1358 Northern Aztecs found Tlatelòlco just north of Tenochtitlan.
  • 1359 Kingdom of Huexotzingo takes over sacred site of Cholula (Puebla).

Mexico: West Mexico

  • 1325 Pátzcuaro founded on Lake of same name by Tarascan (Purépecha) hero Taríakuri. Ihuàtzio and later Tzintzúntzan eventually become capitals of Tarascan “Empire” in Michoacán.

Mexico: Oaxaca Valley

Mixtec States

Mexico: Gulf Coast

  • 1200 El Tajín burnt by Chichimecs.

Maya Area: Yucatán Lowlands

  • 1200-1224 Decline of Chich’èn Itzà and its abandonment by “Toltec” occupants.
  • 1224-44 Itzà group of Putùn (“Mexicanized Maya”) leave Chakanputún (Campeche) and settle in ruins of Chich’èn, thenceforth known as Chich’èn Itzà (“Well Mouth of the Itzà”), using sacred cenote intensely.
  • 1263 founding of Mayapán by Itzà leader K’ak’upakàl, possibly a Putùn from Tabasco. Mayapán’s dominance of surrounding territory is known as the League of Mayapán. (The site of Mayapán was actually first occupied in 941± by an earlier population.)
  • 1283 Kokom lineage siezes Mayapán and subdues Northern Yucatán, forcing tribute from subordinates through a hostage system, but creating a city incapable of sustaining its population any other way.
  • Further development of Tulúm island off east coast

Other Parts of the World

  • 1206-1526 Sultanate of Delhi: height of Muslim rule of India
  • 1223 Franciscan order founded
  • 1245 Mongols rule all Russia
  • 1276 Kublai Khan completes conquest of China
  • 1300-1600 Renaissance in Europe

10. Late Post-Classic Period (part 2) AD 1400-Spanish Conquest

Mexico: Central Highlands

  • 1427 Itzcoatl & Tlacaelel free the Aztecs.
  • 1502 Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin & the major Aztec Expansion.
  • 1519 Tenochtìtlan/Tlatelolco probably has 200,000 to 300,000 people.
  • 1521 Spanish Conquest.

Mexico: Oaxaca Valley

  • Mixtecs & Zapotecs largely successfully resist conquest by Aztecs, despite an Aztec assalts beginning in 1434.
  • 1488 Aztecs raze Huaxyacac (Oaxaca City) and establish a garrison there.
  • 1522-1523 Spanish take Oaxaca Valley; Aztec garrison town becomes Antequara, the Spanish regional capital for Oaxaca

Mexico: Gulf Coast

  • 1518 Juan de Grijalva lands near Veracruz.
  • 1519 Cempoala, the Totonac capital, conquered by Aztecs (They ally with Cortés soon afterward.)
  • 1519 Cortés lands in Mexico.

Maya Areas:

  • The K’ich’è [Quiché] at Utatlàn (Qúmaraqaj), controlled by an elite group probably descended from Putùn immigrants, and dominated by the Kawek family, dominate
  • the Kaqchikèl [Cakchiquel] at Iximchè,
  • the Pokomàm at Mixco Viejo, and
  • the Mam at Zaculeu, and the Tzutuhìl.
  • 1524 Pedro de Alvarado (died 1541) arrives in Guatemala highlands.
  • Tecpán founded as Spanish HQ. Cakchiquel at Iximché ally with Spanish against Tzutuhil & K’ich’è [Quiché]. Tekùn Umàn, last K’ich’è ruler, killed by Alvarado near Quetzaltenango. Utatlàn, the K’ich’è capital, destroyed.
  • 1525 Spanish conquest of Mam and Pokomàm.
  • 1530 Kaqchikèl [Cakchiquel] chafe under Spanish domination and rebel. Spanish conquest of them at Iximchè.
  • 1712 Tzeltàl rebellion in Chiapas.
  • 1868 Tzeltàl rebellion in Chiapas.
  • 1994 Tzeltàl rebellion in Chiapas.

  • (This area is inaccessible [& gold-free] enough that Maya states continued for long after the fall of other areas.)
  • 1450± Tayasal (Tah Itzà) founded at Lake Petén Itzá by Itzà refugees from Chich’èn.
  • 1625 Spanish Conquest of Petèn Lowlands.
  • 1697 Spanish Conquest of Tayasal, the final Itzà capital.
  • 1524 Cortés is received by Tayasal King.
  • 1695 Andrés de Avendaño visits Chak’àm on Lake Petén Itzá.
  • 1450± Mayapán destroyed after feud between Xiw family of Uxmàl and Kokòm of Mayapàn; Itzà driven from Chich’èn.
  • Small states squabble under local chieftains; fighting & disease; all large cities abandoned in general collapse
  • 1517 Hernández de Córdoba discovers Yucatán, but is killed at Champotòn [Chakanputún].
  • 1528 Francisco de Montejo lands in Yucatán and is repulsed.
  • 1541 Spanish conquest of Yucatán.
  • 1542 Founding of Mérida (Yucatán)
  • 1847 Yucatán Rebellion against Mexican influence.
  • 1860 Yucatán Rebellion against Mexican influence.
  • 1910 Yucatán Rebellion against Mexican influence.

Other Parts of the World

  • 1300-1600 Renaissance in Europe
  • 1429 Jean d’Arc burned by the English
  • 1492 Moors driven from Spain
  • 1636 Harvard University Founded
  • 1649 Manzhou conquest of China; Qing dynasty founded

Appendix: Toltec Monarchs

write here.

Appendix: Aztec Monarchs

Spellings. Spellings in this table have been modernized to conform to modern standardized orthography of Classical Nahuatl, except that a dieresis (Umlaut) has been used instead of a macron to represent long vowels. Spellings in most books about the Aztecs will vary slightly.

Dates. Different sources disagree about the exact reign dates of some of Aztec monarchs, largely due to ambiguities in the original sources and in the Aztec calendar. Here are dates given by three painstaking authors as an example of the extent of the discrepancies.

1. Äcamäpichtli1372-13911376-13961376-1395
2. Huïtzilihhuitl1391-14151396-14171396-1417
3. Chïmalpopöca1415-14261417-14271417-1424
4. Ïtzcöätl1427-14401427-14401425-1437
5. Motëuczomah Ilhuicamina1440-14681440-14691438-1471
6. Äxäyacatl1468-14811469-14811471-1479
7. Tizoc1481-14861481-14861480-1483
8. Ahuitzotl1486-15021486-14921483-1501
9. Motëuczomah Xöcoyötzin1502-15201502-05201502-1520
10. Cuitlahuäc152015201520
11. Cuauhtemoc1520-15251521-15251520-1525
1973 The Aztecs. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. P. 305. Fernando OROZCO LINARES
1992 Fechas históricas de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial. Enrique GARCÍA EXCAMILLA
1995 Historia de México narrada en Nahuatl y Español de acuerdo
al calendario azteca. Mexico City: Plaza y Valdés.

More detailed chronology of the Aztecs

The Aztec/Mayan Calendar (And its similarities to the Hebrew/Biblical Calendar & Book of Mormon dates)


  • Similarities between Mesoamerican and Near-eastern Calendars
  • How to read Mesoamerican/Mayan/Aztec Calendars (see my Maya date conversion program!)
  • Understanding the “K’atun Wheel/Round” (or u kahlay katunob) and how it tracks the 520 year cycles very much like Daniel’s 490/500 year ‘sacred weeks‘ calendar.
  • A list of long count dates & references.


Mesoamerican calendars show an astonishing amount of similarity to the Hebrew/Biblical and ancient near eastern & Chinese calendars. Really, its hard to believe these calendar systems developed completely independent of each other without some type of diffusionary influence. The purely Solar calendar of the Inca & their entirely unique Quipu writing system are far closer to what might be expected from a culture that developed in 12,000+ years of complete isolation from Eurasian thought. Of particular significance is “K’atun Wheel/Round” (or u kahlay katunob) and its similarity to the Hebrew 70 week/490 ‘year for a day’ sacred calendar used in the Book of Daniel. Although essentially ALL the ancient calendars of the world have been continually modified by various rulers for various purposes, most of the calendars in the Near-east/Eurasia show evidence of cultural diffusion from one to another despite the repeated modifications and corrections made to them. In the eyes of this author, this Eurasian cultural diffusion seems it must have made its way all the way to Mesoamerica.

In addition to the Mayan numeric system which is surprisingly similar to Egyptian numbering, and its animistic elements which are incredibly similar to Chinese systems, the Mayan religious cycle or sacred round shows surprising similarity to the Jewish sacred round or religious cycle preserved in the Book of Daniel. For those unfamiliar with Daniel’s 70 week prophesy, it showcases the Jewish prophetic calendar or cycle made by combining the Jewish Sabbatical cycle of 7 years with the Jewish Jubilee cycle of 49/50 years. In Daniel 9 a full ‘prophetic cycle’ is said to be 70 ‘weeks or sevens‘ equaling 490 years (after which time ‘Messiah’ would come & the temple would be destroyed). This 490 year period is the conjunction of 70 sabbatical cycles (7×70=490) and ten Jubilee periods (10×49=490). This is often interpreted to actually be 500 years since some speculate that an intercalary ‘sabbatical year’ was added to the end of each Jubilee–thus adding 10 uncounted intercalary years in 490 (490+10=500yrs). One can’t help but notice the similarity of this Jewish ‘prophetic/religious calendar’ and the Tzolkin or sacred round of the Mayans. With the Maya, their ‘Jubilee’ was 52 years instead of 49, and was formed of 18 ‘weeks’ of 20 days instead of 7 sevens. Ten of these 52 year sacred rounds, in turn made a great year of 520 years (quite like the “K’atun Wheel”, “short count” or “u kahlay katunob” of the Maya). The similarity of these calendar cycles caused early chronologers like Fernando de Ixtlilxochitl to refer to the Mesoamerican systems with the same Biblical nomenclature.

Of course, this is just one of many similarities. Following is a list of many of the other similarities between the Mesoamerican calendars and the Near-eastern/Eurasian calendars of antiquity.

  • They both start from similar Anno Mundi epochs, base dates or ‘date for the creation of the world’. (Hebrew Calendar: 3761 BCE, Mayan: 3114-3374 BCE, Chinese: 2671 BC — why would they all pick the 3rd & 4rth millennium? Unless they were all basing their worldviews on the same creation/destruction cycles covered in the Kolbrin & Oahspe )
  • They both have a ‘long count’ and a ‘short count’. The long count tracks days/years from creation, and the short count is a ‘sacred’ calendar used to track days/years within a smaller religious/political cycle (the Haab & Tzolkin 520 yr cycle for Mayans; the Jubilee & Sabbatical 490 yr cycle for Jews)
  • They both have similar Jubilee years. Hebrew Calendar: every 49/50 years, Maya: 52 years.
  • They both have similar Great Sabbatical Years (Hebrew Calendar: every 70 years, Maya 73 sacred years)
  • They both have important 13 cycle periods (Hebrew Calendar skipped between 12 months on a regular year, and 13 months on ‘leap’ years.) Whereas the Mesoamericans used 13 cycles to track their sacred round.
  • They both used a ‘Year for a Day’ system, where the annual sacred calendar’s “days” were projected onto a parallel ~500 year period. The Mayans called theirs ‘u kahlay katunob‘ or ‘Katun Wheel’ which projected the Tzolkin’s 13 cycles of 20 days onto 13 periods of 20 years to track long period religious cycles of 260 years (or ‘doubled’ as 520 years). For the Hebrew Calendar this ‘Year for a day’ system is given in Daniel 9’s “70 week prophesy” which prophesies of a period totaling 490 years (70 sabbatical years or 10 Jubilee years). Both Ixtlilxochitl and Diego de Landa use this Mesoamerican calendar system and point out its similarities to the Jewish Jubilee cycle.
  • They both seem to have special regard for the number 144,000 (length of Baktun in days, also in Bible in Revelation 7:3–8, 14:1, 14:3–5).
  • There is a WILD correlation between the use of the tzolkin– and haäb-cycle 52 year round’s FOUR signs & directions (see this image! or last 30sec of this video) and the Chinese Sexagenary Cycle. Not only are they written identically with 2 characters pairs, but the ‘earthy branches‘ part of the cycle is divided into four animate glyphs matching with coordinate directions! The Babylonians & near-easterners did this with degrees/minutes/seconds in maps too. (I suspect that by studying the Chinese Sexagenary Cycle, someone will unravel the Mesoamerican Tzolk’in and how it tracks seasons with the direction, and tracks Venus like Israel & Egypt instead of Jupiter like China).
  • The Mesoamerican Tzolkin notation is almost exactly like the Chinese zodiac system. Particularly in the way a year in a great cycle is denoted by a number and Zodiac animal. The Chinese would say January 2012 as ‘the year of water (5) dragon’. The Mesoamericans would say Jan 2012 as the year of ‘2 Flint’.
  • They both have a significant ‘aligning’ of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. See the way Daniel 9 uses 490 as ’70 weeks‘ or 10 Jubilees (70×255.5 and 49×365-d = 49 years). Compare that with the way Ixtlilxochitl uses 10 ’rounds’ or 52 year ‘Calendar Rounds’ (where lunar/ritual Tzolk’in cycle aligns with solar Haab cycle- 73×260-d Tzolkʼin days and 52×365-d Haab days = 52 years). So a epochal calendar round was 490 in bible (see Daniel 9), and 520 among Aztecs (see Ixtlilxochitl for an explanation of this).
  • The fact that the Book of Mormon says they changed their calendar system base date 510 years after leaving Jerusalem, and started counting anew from the ‘reign of the Judges’ is very significant. Since the ‘Katun Wheel’ as I explain below, only goes to 260/520 years; a people using a Mesoamerican Calendar (or Jewish of 490?) would be needing a new base date.
  • There are some strange similarities in the Aztec Calendar stone in its ‘weeks’. Note it has 52 boxes of 5’s around the center. This is speculated to be 52 ‘weeks’ of 5 days in a sacred round/tzolkin of 260 days which also happens to be a microcosm to the exactly 52 years of the sacred round aligning with the Long Count (exactly 53 years to align with the Haab). That’s a strange correlation to the 52 weeks of 7 days in a Western/Babylonian based calendars. Is this similarity coincidence, or is there another Tzolkin/Haab correlation with a strange mathematical relationship they used, between the Tzolkin 260 day round and Haab 365 day round that we don’t understand yet?

I suppose one could argue that all these similarities simply have to do with the similarities in the celestial cycles being tracked, but I think that’s a stretch. There’s little in nature that would make them choose such similar creation dates or ‘Jubilee/Venus’ correlations. Note that Mesoamerica has over 60 Calendar system variants, but nearly all of them use similar cycles to those mentioned above.

The Metonic Cycle: Among the Greeks & Hebrew’s their religious cycles were often based on the Saros & ‘Metonic Cycle‘. Although its unknown when the Metonic Cycle was discovered and incorporated into sacred calendars, attributes of the cycle were shared between many near east calendar systems including the ancient Babylonian and modern Hebrew Calendars. Somewhat like the Mayan Sacred Round, the Metonic Cycle syncs individual cycles of 18/19 solar years (or 235 synodic months/255 draconitic months) after which the phases of the moon recur on the same day of the year, in the Jewish/Hebrew calendar, this 19 year cycle is used to tie together the lunar & solar calendars by keeping track of the 12 common (non-leap) years of 12 months and 7 uncommon (leap) years of 13 months. To automate this correlation, the Greeks even invented a mechanism very similar to the Mayan calendar round to sink their three calendars. Called the Antikythera Mechanism this device synced the solar, lunar and sacred calendars of the Mediterranean world during the Greek era BC. Note that the Hebrew, Metonic and Mesoamerican Tzolkin all tracked the lunar cycles in a similar ‘separate sacred or prophetic calendar’ (often related to Venus).

Interpreting a Mesoamerican/Mayan Calendar date is quite simple once you know how each unit correlates with Western Calendar units.

How to Read & Calculate Aztec/Mayan Dates

Its important to understand Mesoamerican dates can and were specified in multiple ways. One is by simply using the Long Count. With this system you simply count the number of days/years from the “creation date”, which is thought to be 3114 BC. (see ‘creation date’ discussion) This system gives the most accurate result but isn’t a traditional date. Its more like the modern ‘Julian day number‘ used by astronomers. The others are the traditional Short Count or sacred round cycle of the Tzolkin & Haab, year bearer and lastly the K’atun Wheel/Round or “u kahlay katunob” which we’ll get to in a minute. Here’s a breakdown of the different systems and how they correlate with Western systems we are used to.

  • Long Count = Similar to the Julian day number system used by astronomers. (anno mundi of ~3114 BC instead of 4714 BC)
  • Haab/Solar Round = Similar to the day/month part of our Western solar/annual calendar. (18 mo. of 20 days instead of 12 mo. of 28/31 days)
  • Tzolkin/Sacred Round = Similar to the ‘weeks’ of our Western/lunar calendar. (28 weeks of 13 days instead of 52 weeks of 7 days)
  • K’atun Round/Short count = Similar to the ‘year’ section of our Western calendar. Since the Haab doesn’t track years (only day-month), and the Long Count doesn’t match the true solar year, the K’atun round can track true years in a 260/520 year religiously significant cycle (after which it starts over).
  • Year Bearers = One of the most common date system used in old codices, it really doesn’t have a Western equivalent. It is much more like the Chinese zodiac system which labels each year after an animal. (ie. 2012, the year of the Dragon)

Long Count Dates: Just like the Julian day number system counts dats from 4714 BC, or the year date in a Gregorian system counts from the time of Christ, or a year on the Hebrew calendar counts from the creation year of 3761 Anno Mundi. A typical Long Count date has the following format: Baktun.Katun.Tun.Uinal.Kin, ( or year×400.years×20.year× Note it reads from right to left (and top to bottom on monuments) instead of left to right, and uses a vigecimal/base-20 system instead of a base-10 like ours). Since it is believed that the ‘years’ of the Long Count were computed using 360 days instead of 365.25 days (without adding leap days) then the Long count’s days/months would have been completely off from the seasons and solar years. This is why the calendar’s use was limited. And converting to a Gregorian date takes some math. This is usually done by multiplying the whole number into days and then essentially dividing by 365.24 to get back into true years/months/days. However, note that computing the left 3 ‘year’ digits without any conversion usually gets you within 22-36 years of the true date. (Since most dates range from 500 BC to 1000 AD and missing 3.25days×in 2500-4000 years = only 22-36 years). Here’s the breakdown of the digits.

  • Kin = 1 Day.
  • Uinal (month) = 20 kin = 20 days. (or 4 weeks of 5 days)
  • Tun (year) = 18 uinal (months) = 360 days = ~1 year. (or 72 weeks of 5 days)
  • Katun (score) = 20 tun (years) = 360 uinal (months) = 7,200 days = ~20 years.
  • Baktun = 20 katun (scores) = 400 tun (years) = 7,200 uinal (months) = 144,000 days = 400 ‘long count‘ years.
  • Piktun = 13 Baktun = 5200 years or a full creation/destruction cycle.

The kintun, and katun are numbered from 0 to 19 (20 yrs); the uinal are numbered from 0 to 17 (18 mo); and the baktun are typically numbered from 0 to 13 (like the Tzolkin/sacred round). The Long Count has a cycle of 13 baktuns, which will be completed 1,872,000 days (13 baktuns) after This period equals 5,125.36 solar years and is referred to as the Great Cycle of the Long Count (thus the 2012 hype).

Creation Date. The Mayan Anno Mundi used in ancient Mayan long counts was lost in prehistory, and has had to be determined by archaeologist using a combination of logic, radiocarbon dating and astronomical events found in monuments and codices. (as well as consulting tribes who still use some version of it). Currently the most used date is the GMT or Goodman-Martinez-Thompson correlation. Although some archaeologists support the Spinden correlation of 3374 BC, and a handful of others exist going back to the earliest Bowditch correlation of 3634 BC. Also, one must consider the possibility that DIFFERENT kingdoms/cultures used a different creation dates. Given its prevalence in Western calendar history, its very likely that it could have been randomly changed by certain rulers over time. Note that Oahspe puts the ‘end of the age at March 31, 1848 instead of Dec 21 2012, which if true would make the GMT correlation off by 164 years. Early radiocarbon dates at Tikal seemed to match best with the Spinden correlation which was 260 years earlier than the GMT. (add these, as well as list of alternatives with references)

Lets walk through converting the example of given in the illustration above. Although an accurate conversion requires converting the whole Long count to days, and then correlating it to the astronomically-based Julian Day Number and then to a Gregorian date from there, note that just adding up the left 3 digit year size gives us 4+0+5200=5204 years. Which added to 3114 BC, gives us 6-17-2090 AD (which is fairly close). But that’s using 360 day years/20 day months and gives a number roughly 70 years off from the true converted date which uses the more precise method of counting days. To get the generally accepted ‘true’ solar date we must, first compute the ‘days’ by multiplying each part by its vigesmal coefficient. So starting at the right we have 17×1+(6×20)+(4×360)+(0×7200)+(13×144000)= 1,873,577 days [Or conversely using the 5204 from the ‘years’ method explained above (5204×360=1,873,440) + (6×20 + 17 =137) + (1,873,440+137=1,873,577 days)] To get an exact date we’d now convert this ‘Mayan day number’ of days after the Mayan creation date of Aug 11, 3114 BC, to Julian Days which start at 4713 BC (ie. add 1599.6 yrs). Now to get the Julian Day number to a Gregorian date, the math is actually quite complicated and can be found here. But for a rough estimate, one can simply divide the Julian day by 365.24 (1,873,577 days/365.24 days=5129.71 years) then add that to the creation date of Aug 11, 3114 A.M. and it gives us (-3114 + 5129.71 = 2016 AD). To which we then do a bit more complicated match to turn the “.71” into months/days and add it to the “Aug 11”, and it comes out to April 16, 2017. If you’d like to walk through the math try it out here, or better yet, use my Javascript Mayan converter program here.

A few things you should notice if you’ve followed along or played with this in excel, is that if the Mesoamericans used ANY intercalary days it could quickly change the long count by years. (For instance some Mesoamerican cultures might have already added in the 5.24 missing intercalary days so that no conversion is necessary.) For instance, if they just threw in ‘uncounted’ festival days (like the Israelites did) then a given long count date computed the standard way could easily be off by up to 22-36 years (3.25 days in 2500-4000 years = 22-36years). Also the creation date is crucial. And since different scholars and archaeologists have posited creation dates ranging from about 2900 – 3400 BC, then we must admit that any given long count date could also be off by that amount). Although this is where the Tzolkin and the Haab calendars come in.

You can try it our with this calculator: or 

Since the Long Count is believed to have used 360 instead of 365.24 days and thus NOT have lined up with the sun, moon or seasons, they used other separate calendars to more often track the solar year and moon/Venus rituals.

The Solar Round (Haab): The Haab’ was a number found at the end of many ancient calendar inscriptions. In our illustration it is the right-most part of the Mesoamerican date. Known as the Vague/ true solar year or Haab’ to the Maya, xiuitl to the Aztec, and yza to the Zapotec; it was supposedly based on 18/19 named months, each matched with the 20 days of the month, with a five day period of ‘uncounted days’ tacked on the end (19th month) to make a total 365. It’s thought to be essentially a repetition of the right 2 digits of the Long Count except, since it has a 19th month of 5 ‘unnamed’/intercalary days it accords with the solar year (adding 5+360=365). So the Haab would only fall 0.242 days behind the seasons each year, where the Long Count would fall completely out of sink (5.242days/year). This is typically more useful than the long count, because every culture is more concerned with progress through the year/seasons than days from creation or weeks on a religious calendar.

[Some Thoughts: My main issue with the Haab, is why wouldn’t a culture just started throwing the 5 intercalary days onto the Long Count? Seems awfully laborious to create and keep an essentially redundant unit on your calendar. Could we be mistaken on how it was used? I need to go through all the archaeological long count inscriptions and see how often the Haab/Tzolkin don’t match the Long Count like they should… I think it’s quite prevalent. In these cases either the Ka’tun wheel is being used or there’s something we’re not quite getting yet in these Haab dates.]


The Sacred Round (Tzolkin): Just above the Haab was a date named the Tzolkin by archaeologists. It was a 260-day cycle called the Sacred Round, or the Ritual Calendar; tonalpohualli in the Aztec language, Tzolk’in in Maya, and piye to the Zapotecs. Each day in this cycle was numbered from one to 13 (a trecena), matching with 20-named months (13 × 20 = 260). Note that many call the tzolkin’s 20 named units ‘days’. However, the Aztec Calendar Stone makes it pretty clear that the 20 named units were ‘sacred/religious months’ placed on a 260 day round (which we know from the 52 ‘weeks’ of 5 days labeled on it). Evenso, the exact purpose of the Sacred Round is not understood. Theories include correlating cycles of the moon, 9 months of pregnancy, Venus cycles combined with observations of the Pleiades and eclipse events and potentially appearance and disappearance of Orion. At any rate, it counts out 13 cycles of 20 (months), totaling 260 days or about 9 months (we could call these sacred or religious months like a biblical week). After those 260 days it repeats, adding another 8 sacred ‘months’ of 13 days (8×13=104) to fill up the 105 days of the true year’s 365 days. This then continued into perpetuity aligning with the Haab/solar year once every 52 years. Because of this unique 52 year alignment the combined Tzolkin and Haab dates could be used to specify ONE unique date each 52 years–which is apparently how it was ubiquitously used. (As a coefficient to the Haab to track years instead of days) So a Haab | Tzolkin date like 8 Kab | 13 Pop could be narrowed down to ONE specific day each 52 years.

  • Archaeologist believe the Tzolkin sacred calendar had 20 ‘months’ of 13 days each. So a sacred year was 260 days (13×20=260)
  • 72 cycles (or sacred years) of 260 days = 18,720 days. Which equals 52 Long Count years (of 360 days).
  • 73 cycles (or sacred years of 260 days = 18,980 days, Which equals 52 Haab or true years (of 365 days)

The Short Count or K’atun Round/Wheel: Known also as the “u kahlay katunob“, early records from Diego de Landa (the first Bishop of Yucatan) found in his 1566 Relacion de las Cosas en Yucatan, also talk of another calendar cycle used by the Mayans in which they basically projected the Tzolkin or Sacred Round onto an annual cycle of 260/520 years instead of days. It was a 13 k’atun cycle, which totaled 260 years or 260 tuns (of 365 days each). Each k’atun was named by the tzolk’in day on which it began (or often when it ended). Because the 20 day names of the Tzolk’in are an even divisible of the tun (360 days), a k’atun beginning can only start on an Ahaw day. Thus, the 13 k’atuns of the K’atun Wheel were named 1-13 Ahaw (or Izcalli/Mat in some systems). See page 80 of Morely’s An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs for more info. A brief explanation can also be found here. You can even find a brief description on the Wikipedia Maya Calendar page (see short count).

An understanding of the Short Count/Katun Round comes from only a few initial authors, and I don’t believe it was always used as they describe. So I’ll attempt to explain the way I think it was used. It seems likely that early in Mesoamerican history (from 600 BC to ~100AD) the tzolkin portion of dates was used as a Katun Wheel tracking years more often than archaeologist realize. For example, the date 8 Kab would be used to say the 8th year of the sacred score Kab instead of 8th day of the sacred month Kab instead of the traditional 8th day of the sacred calendar month Kab. This sacred system of tracking years used 20 cycles (a score) of 13 years each, totaling 260 years. I believe the special ‘variant’ glyphs, commonly seen, were then used for the ‘score’ glyph to double its value extending the systems reach to 520 years. Note also the Aztec Calendar stone and its ‘weeks’ or 52 boxes of 5’s around the center. This is speculated to be 52 ‘weeks’ of 5 days in a sacred round/tzolkin of 260 days which seems like it must have been used as a microcosm for the 52 years of the sacred round aligning with the Long Count. This is a big deal, since Mesoamericans counted by 5s, it means that a date that looks like a tzolkin number telling the day on the sacred calendar could actually be a Katun Round number telling the year in the 52 year Round. This system would explain the dates seen so prevalently in writers like Ixtlilxochitl. Thus:

  • The Haab’ tracked days and months — The Tzolkin sometimes tracked sacred months, but often dualistically used the same notation & symbols/numbers to track the years in a short count of 520 years.
  • Both of these systems used the Tzolkin convention of: day/year | month/sacred cycle or score of years (example: 8 | Kumkʼu)
  • These two numbers/symbols can then be used to track either 260/520 days or 260/520 yrs.
  • ——- first let’s explain the math of the Tzolkin as day tracker ————-
  • 13 days = 1 sacred month
  • 20 sacred months = 1 sacred year (a Tzolkin year) = 260 solar days. (then we repeat)
  • 1 solar year (Haab) = 28+8 sacred months = 1.8 sacred years (tzolkin year)
  • 52 solar years (full sacred cycle) = 72 sacred months
  • ——- now let’s do the Tzolkin as a year tracker ————-
  • 13 Tzolkin years = 1 score of years = 4745 days (13y×365d)
  • 20 Tzolkin years or 1 score = 1 sacred round = 260 solar/Tzolkin years = 94,900 solar Tzolkin days (260×365d)
  • 2 of these cycles gets us to 520 years

So in summary. The Tzolkin/Haab was dualistic. It could count for “days, and months and times/seasons and years” (see Gal 4:10, D&C 121:31, Gen 1:14). The Tzolkin could be a sacred 13day/20month cycle equating to a sacred year of 260 days OR it could be a solar 13year/20score cycle equating to 260 solar years (or doubled to 520 solar years). Note also that the bible might have used a VERY similar system and that what I call ‘scores’ (20 year periods), they call a ‘time’; and that the ‘doubling’ of the time with a ‘variant’ would make it a ‘times’. A convention likely applied to each of the major cycles of 260/520/1040 (coincidentally enough 260+520+1040=1820, the date of the first vision was time, times & half a time after Christ’s birth according to Mesoamerican epochs).

The Year Bearers: Note that many Mesoamerican dates are referenced using the year bearer system. With this system each year was referenced by the Tzolkin coefficient for the first day of the year. Thus since EVERY year starts with the same Haab date of 1 Pop (1 Izcalli) in Aztec, that portion is omitted and only the Tzolkin coefficient is given. So a date like 9 Flint/ Etz’nab’/ Tecpatl, 1 Mat/ Pop/ Izcalli is given as just 9 Flint/ Etz’nab’/ Tecpatl and corresponds to only ONE year in each 52 year sacred round. Note also, as explained here, that many different regions used different starting days for their year bearers at different times, which can make correlating historic dates using the year bearer, very difficult. Of course, this also extends to the sacred round haab/tzolkin date in general—when working with historic dates, these dates can be notoriously inaccurate because of regional changes made to the calendars over time.

Understanding the Three Celestial Cycles: There are three very obvious celestial events which most cultures have used to track time and align celebrations/holidays with and they involve the brightest orbs in our sky; the Sun, the Moon and Venus. We know that the Haab tracked the solar year. But its not fully understood how the tzolkin might have been used to track the Moon & Venus, although its theorized they were.

The first is obviously the solar year. It controls the seasons and thus is the most important. Its length is 365.242 days for the tropical or synodic year (one revolution from equinox to equinox) or 365.256 for the Sidereal year (one revolution in relation to viewing fixed stars or constellations). This cycle controls the length of the day, temperature and seasons, so obviously ancient cultures wanted to commemorate the equinoxes so they knew when summer and winter were coming and going.

Second is the lunar cycle. It controls the tides, fish harvests and possibly even child bearing. One full lunation or lunar cycle as viewed from earth is 29.53 days making each quarter phase last about 7.4 days. Lunar cycles fit into the solar cycle 12.48 times, so it is natural to fit 12 ‘moonths’ into a year. However those 12×29.53 days only equal 354.36 days so we’re left with 10.882 ‘left over’ days where the lunar year grows out of alignment with the solar year. (That’s a bit more than a full month each 3 years! — so more about that later.)

Third is the Venus cycle. Venus is often the most obvious star in the sky because it nearly always either precedes or follows the suns rising and setting. Because of this ‘coupling’ with the sun, its often called the ‘evening and morning star‘ and is represented as a son or bride to the Sun in religion & mythology. (Jesus/Messiah is referred to as the Morning star in 2 Peter 1:19, Job 38:7, Rev 22:16, Num 24:17) It’s cycle or period is usually measured from one of its transits/conjunctions across the sun to another (where it switches from morning star to evening star). A process which takes 584 days (583.92 to be exact). 263 as a morning star, 50 days absent behind the sun/below the horizon, then 263 days as an evening star, and finally, 8 days absent/obscured by solar glare (and sun being at its back) when between the Sun & Earth. See video here. Its raising and setting are tracked by the temples at Teotihuacan and show interesting relationships with the Mesoamerican calendar.

Many ancient calendars used similar geometric shapes to visualize celestial mathematical relationships. On the Aztec calendar the sacred round of 260 days. (52 ‘weeks’ of 5 dots/days each) can clearly be seen around the month ring which total 260 total days. These were likely used as a microcosm of a ‘great cycle’ of 260/520 years spoken of by chronologers like Ixtlilxochitl, using the same ‘year for a day’ prophetic calendar found in the bible. See the ‘similarities’ section for how the mayan 520 year cycle might correlate to the Jewish 490 year cycle.

Understanding the Venus Cycle: It is VERY likely the sacred round or Tzolkin tracked the Venus cycle and somehow tied it to the solar (and lunar?) year. As mentioned above, Venus is a “morning or evening star” for approximately 260-263 days each year. And 5 synodic periods/orbits of Venus is almost exactly 8 Earth years (& 13 sidereal Venus years). So it lines up 5 times each 8 years, 15 times each 24 years, 25 times each 40 years 30 times each 48 years and 50 times each 80 years. These periods are VERY handy for a culture that counts by 5’s and 20’s. So lets explore how this might relate to the Sacred Round and or Jubilee. Questions to explore…

  • Do the Jewish spring and fall festivals line up with the spring and fall equinoxes at some point in the 49/52 year Jubilee? (note, this would be latitude specific.) When does the Jubilee line up with Venus’ 50 days in the sun/underworld?
  • Did the Mulekites/Nephites purposefully travel to the same latitude as Jerusalem (31.5 N), or Sanai (28.5) in order to build a city & temple where the calendar matched the Jewish feast/holidays? Did Nephi ‘modify’ the calendar and holy days to fit Monte Alban, and then Mosiah do the same to fit Cholula (so that the sacred round is changed from 59/80/52 in order to work with the equinoxes of those cities?)
  • The feast of weeks (7 weeks after Pentecost) is a microcosm of Jubilee (7 sabbaticals after what?). Is there some correlation here? Might the sabbatical years actually be intended to represent the 7 ‘leap months’ added every 19 years? Might the sabbath day be meant to be a ‘leap day’ which wasnt counted, so that two 14 day ‘weeks’ could actually be 12 days long (matching the months/zodiac)?
  • The Hebrew calendar tracks each 19 years, inserting its leap month 7 times in the 19 years. Leaving 13 years untouched. This seems strangely similar to the Haab and Tzolkin? Could the Haab originally have been 19 year coefficients instead of 18 months? Could the 13 Tzolkin coefficients be related? (unlikely)
  • How does the Oahspe cosmic serpent calendar correlate to the Egyptian/Jewish one? Did they match the cube/sum to the 4 seasons & creation/destruction periods of the Aztec Calendar? Did they match the 7.5 Dan’has to a week? Did they match the 12 squares to the months & zodiac? (chart this on a circle and see if you can make sense of it). Is the 144,000 years of a ‘cube’ supposed to correlate with the 144,000 days of a Baktun (~400 years)? I suspect these are only VERY loosely correlated if at all, the Oahspe calendar being much older, and only partially available to Egypt/Israel. (they were more just trying to match the sacred numbers to their festivals and seasons)

Examples of Mesoamerican Dates

Monte Alban Stelae 12 & 13594 BCE4snake, 8flower and 10jaguar, 4something
Monte Alban Danzante FigureMarch 16, 692 ADbarely legible Haab? of 4-something
siteNameGMT (584283) DateLong CountLocation
Takalik AbajStela 2236 – 19 BCE7.(6,11,16).?.?.?
Chiapa de CorzoStela 2December 6, 36 BCE /
October 9, 182 CE or
Tres ZapotesStela CSeptember 1, 32 BCE7.,
El BaúlStela 1March 6? 11 – 37 CE7.,,, or
Takalik AbajStela 5August 31, 83 CE or
May 19, 103 CE or
This interpretation is horrible! Do your own.
Takalik AbajStela 5June 3, 126 CE8.
La MojarraStela 1May 19, 143 CE8. | glyph-18 (left most date)
La MojarraStela 1July 11, 156 CE8. (or 9.9?)Once again, (or) interpretation wrong for some reason… why?
Near La MojarraTuxtla StatuetteMarch 12, 162 CE8.
TikalStela 29July 8, 292 AD8.| 13 Men 3 Zip Mexico
CopanStela 15AD 504?Copan has 8+? Stela’s with dates ranging from 504 AD to 761 AD. THIS IS YOUR BEST BET OF DECODING MAYAN DATES.
Read its history at
CopanStela PMarch 623 AD9., 2 Ajaw 13 Pop
CopanStela N17th March 761AD9. 1 Ahau 3 Sip
Yaxchilán, Chiapas Lintel 375 July AD 5349., 11 Ahaw 8 Sek
Piedras NegrasBurial 5July 5, 674 (check)
TikalAlter 14March 16, 692 AD9. | 8 Ajaw 8 Wo
ToninaMonument 101January 15, 909 AD? ????
last Long Count date in the Classic Maya lowlands.
Chichen ItzaInitial Series lintelJuly 28, 87810.| 9 Muluk 7 Sak
Chichen ItzaSE PillarMay 6, AD 998 and Jan. 30, AD 998| 2 Ajaw 18 Mol and|10 K’an 2 SotzNo Longcount, only solar round date. says. ’10 K’an [the] day, 2 Sotz’, eleventh tun [of K’atun] 2 Ajaw’. Only fit is that date. See great article at:
TortugueroMonument 6December 23, 201213. 4| Ajaw 3 K’ank’in
La CoronaHS 2, Block VDecember 23, 20123. 4 Ajaw 3 K’ank’in
(more dates here?)
QuiriguaStela CAugust 11, 3114 BCE13.|4|8,_Quirigua.PNG, WRONG DATE, CHECK ME!
CobaStela 1December 23, 201213. | 4 Ahau 8 KumkʼuPlaces nineteen 13’s before this date for some reason.

Notes Concerning Ancient Calendars from Oahspe

This background information from the text ‘Oahspe’ is very insightful when it comes to making assumptions about possible ancient calendar systems. Of particular note are the ideas that many cultures (like the Israelites) combined the calendars of surrounding cultures in order to create ‘short and long’ count calendars (ie. the ‘prophetic calendars spoken of in other parts of the text). As well as some cultures counting ‘two years’ to the same amount of time that other cultures called ‘one year’ (Note that Ixtlilxochitl does this). As also, its ‘creation cosmology’ is insightful when comparing this type of ancient reasoning to the cosmology we find in Mayan myth and/or ancient books like The Kolbrin.

2. And he placed the sun in the midst and made lines thence to the stars, with explanations of the powers of the seasons on all the living.
3. And he gave the times of Jehovah, the four hundred years of the ancients, and the halftimes of dan, the base [number] of prophecy; the variations of thirty-three years; the times of eleven; and the seven and a half times of the vortices [orbits/frequencies] of the stars, so that the seasons might be foretold, and famines averted on the earth. (Oahspe, Book of Osiris, XII)

Note that the ‘times of eleven’ or variations of thirty-three years (3×11) is tracking the Solar cycles or Solar Max. The well known cycle of 11.01yrs when the sun switches polarity. (apparently 3 of them makes some type of repetitive cycle of solar variability, having to do with Jupiter & Saturn’s orbit and their tidal effects on the sun). The ‘7.5 times of the vortices’ must be something else I’m not aware of. If you know what it is… contact me! (likely some kind of planetary alignment that also includes other planets so the tidal forces of the sun make an even bigger difference). It does seem to match the alignment of Earth & Venus with the Solar Max. Earth & Venus conjunct every 1.5987 earth years (583.92 days), and 6.5 to 7.5 of these equal the Solar Cycle (see this article). Another less likely possibility is that the solar orbit of Venus (sidereal period) is 7.5 earth months (225 days / 30 = 7.5), but since most cultures have different spans for months I’m not sure what that would prove. 7.5 yrs is also the time it takes for Saturn to move through 3 zodiacs (or 1/4 the full 12 or 360 degree celestial equator).

…The times by the learned gave two suns to a year, but the times of the tribes of Eustia gave only six months to a year. Accordingly, in the land of Egypt what was one year with the learned was two years with the Eustians and Semisians.
3.God said: My people shall reckon their times according to the place and the people where they dwell. And they did this. Hence, even the tribes of Israel had two calendars of time, the long and the short.

To events of prophecy there was also another calendar, called the ode, signifying sky-time, or heavenly times. One ode was equivalent to eleven long years; three odes, one spell, signifying a generation; eleven spells one Tuff. Thothma, the learned man and builder of the great pyramid, had said: As a diameter is to a circle, and as a circle is to a diameter, so are the rules of the seasons of the earth. For the heat or the cold, or the drouth or the wet, no matter, the sum of one eleven years is equivalent to the sum of another eleven years. One spell is equivalent to the next eleventh spell. And one cycle matcheth every eleventh cycle. Whoever will apply these rules to the earth shall truly prophesy as to drouth and famine and pestilence, save wherein man contraveneth by draining or irrigation. And if he apply himself to find the light and the darkness of the earth, these rules are sufficient. For as there are three hundred and sixty-three years in one tuff, so are there three hundred and sixty-three days in one year, besides the two days and a quarter when the sun standeth still on the north and south lines.

In consequence of these three calendars, the records of Egupt were in confusion. The prophecies and genealogies of man became worthless. And as to measurements, some were by threes, some by tens, and some by twelves; and because of the number of languages, the measurements became confounded; so that with all the great learning of the Eguptians, and with all the care bestowed on the houses of records, they became even themselves the greatest confounding element of all. (Oahspe, Book of Arc of Bon, XIV)

Egyptian calendar of 363 days. Also using the ‘year for a day’ system. So a week had 11 days, with 3 weeks in a month and 11 months in a year. And this system was projected onto years as well, creating a 363 year cycle.

4. And from this time forth My spiritual (etherean) hosts shall not remain in heaven (atmospherea) more than eight years in any one cycle. This, then, that I give to thee shall be like every dawn of dan, some of one year, some of two or three or four or more (years), as the time requireth.

5. And thou shalt dwell in thy kingdom seven years and sixty days, and the time shall be called the first dawn of dan, and the next succeeding shall be called the second dawn of dan, and so on, as long as the earth bringeth forth.

6. And the time from one dawn of dan to another shall be called one dan’ha; and four dan’ha shall be called one square, because this is the sum of one density, which is twelve thousand of the earth’s years. And twelve squares shall be called one cube, which is the first dividend of the third space, in which there is no variation in the vortex (whirlwind) of the earth. And four cubes shall be called one sum, because the magnitude thereof embraceth one equal of the Great Serpent. (Oahspe, Book of Ah’shong, II)

Oahspe suggests that the ancients appear to have created ‘Galactic prophetic calendars’, where they extrapolated the short term ratios of a day, week, month, year into cosmic ages. They believed to understand (through revelation) the time it took of the Solar system to orbit the Galactic core, calling it the ‘celestial serpent’ (see Oahspe, ref, ref). The epochs were tied to the 11 year solar cycle, which they believed caused the weather (and other events) to repeat on a 33 or 33×11 year cycle. This formed the basis of their galactic solar cycle calendars.


6 gen.7.5 dans4 dan’ha12 sqrs4 cubes
1 dan1 dan’ha1 square1 cube    1 sum
  • 1 Generation = [could be 11 to 100 years;     ~33 years]
  • 1 Dan = 6 Generations               [33×6= ~198 years] [mean = 400 years]
  • 1 Dan’ha = 7.5 Dans                   [231×7= ~1386 years]      [mean = 3,000 years]
  • 1 Square = 4 Dan’has             [1617×4= 5,544  years]     [mean = 12,000]
  • 1 Cube = 12 Squares                   [6,468×12= 66,528  years]    [mean = 144,000]
  • 1 Sum = 4 Cubes     [77,616×4= 266,112 years] [mean = 576,000]
  • 1 galactic year = 4.7 million years
  • 1 dan = ~428 years (400 years)
  • -about 10,980 dans in a galactic orbit/year. (a lot like an hour in a solar year; there’s 8760hrs/year)
  • -about 391 squares in a galactic year (fairly similar to our 365 days in a solar year)

Relevant Publications


  • Still need to find a reference book of ALL archaeological long count date inscriptions and compare them to figure out where they fit in that 520 method I figure out.
  • Replace the long count list/table with a better formatted one (from the spreadsheet I’m building).
  • Then get the Dresden codex and other historical codices and compare those….
  • Find more references to the ’52 weeks’ (of 5 days each) on the Aztec Calendar stone, and the double of 52×10=520.

The Narrow Neck as Baja and the Sea of Cortez

Where is the Book of Mormon Narrow Neck

Book of Mormon accounts are always “BY” the narrow neck, never ON the narrow neck.
“Where the sea divides the land”, NOT where the land divides the sea
Narrow Passes are never said to be ON, or even next to the narrow neck .

34 And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east. (Alma 50:34)

9 And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side. (Alma 52:9)

5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward. (Alma 63:5)

6 And the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful;
7 And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country.(Hel 4:6–7)

29 And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward. (Mormon 2:29)

5 And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward.
6 And there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force. (Mormon 3:5–6)

30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.
31 And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.
2 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.
3 And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward. (Alma 22:32–33)

19 …And in the days of Lib the poisonous serpents were destroyed. Wherefore they did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest. And Lib also himself became a great hunter.
20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.
21 And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants. (Ether 10:20–21)



I believe many of the best correlations between the Book of Mormon’s internal geography and modern archaeological findings have been missed or passed over by Book of Mormon geographers almost exclusively because of misunderstandings surrounding the ‘Narrow Neck of Land’ mentioned in the text. Although a single verse in Alma 22 may give the impression that the narrow neck is an isthmus, nearly every other indication actually goes against this notion. In this article, we’ll go through each verses relating to the Book of Mormon narrow neck to make a case that it is actually Baja California, which served as the predominate geographic delineator between the Land Northward and Land Southward in ancient times—much the same way as the Rio Grande river and Sonoran desert serves as the main delineator between the United States and Mexico in our day. Following are just a few of the reasons why a correlation between the narrow neck and the Baja peninsula seem to be the best fit to the text.

  1. Joseph Smith seems to have believed that the land of Desolation was the desert Southwest & Eastern plains areas of the United States with Bountiful & Zarahemla in Meso/Central America. Since Desolation bordered the narrow neck, only Baja makes his model work.
  2. Not a single occurrence in the Book of Mormon is said to happen ON the narrow neck. Instead all mentions of it are in regard to being BY the narrow neck.
  3. The language in Ether 10:20 (and possibly Alma 63:5) seems to suggest a large inlet or gulf of the sea “which divides the land”, NOT an isthmus of land which divides the sea itself.
  4. The given widths of the ‘narrow passes’ mentioned in the Book of Mormon are FAR less than any Mesoamerican Isthmuses.
  5. None of these passes are said to go from ‘the east sea to west sea’. And none are actually mentioned in conjunction with a ‘narrow neck’.
  6. If the ‘narrow pass’ of Alma 52:9 were an isthmus north of Zarahemla, then the statement regarding fortifying it so the Lamanites cant harass Zarahemla on ‘every side’ makes little sense.
  7. If the narrow neck were an isthmus, it seems strange that the city of Bountiful or any other east coast city south of the east narrow pass of Alma 52 are not mentioned in regard to Nephite retreat and final battles of Mormon chapters 1-7.
  8. By far, the best archaeological correlation for the truly urban portrayal of the land of Zarahemla in Book of Mormon times (200 BC to 300 AD) is the Mexican highland. But this region is largely ignored by Book of Mormon geographers because it is NORTH of Central America’s isthmuses. (see this interview of Michael Coe on Book of Mormon urbanization here)

Joseph Smith on the Land of Desolation

On two, and possibly three occurrences, Joseph Smith is directly quoted by a first hand source as stating that the Book of Mormon Land of Desolation extended from the desert Southwest to the Great Plains of North America. This region is of course, one of the more obvious geographical candidates for a region where the text claims the people “did dwell in tents [teepees/wigwams], and in houses of cement” because it was one of the only regions especially having “but little timber” (Hel 3:6–9).

Although of late recounting, Mosiah Hancock gives a first hand account of Joseph Smith saying,

The next day the Prophet came to our home [and said,] ‘Now’, he said, ‘I will show you the travels of this people’. ‘You will build cities to the North and to the South’… ‘and you will have to go to where the Nephites lost their power… Placing his finger on the map, I should think about where Snowflake, Arizona is situated, or it could have been Mexico, he said.’ (Mosiah Hancock, Autobiography, 1834-1865 BYU Special Collections, full account available here. Original)

Levi Hancock, early friend of Joseph, member of Seventy and Council of fifty quotes Joseph Smith as saying to member of Zions Camp that the land of Desolation extended into the Great Plains.

Joseph Smith addressing himself to Sylvester Smith and said, “This is what I told you and now I want to tell you that you may know what I meant. This land [of western Missouri] was called the land of desolation and Onedages was the King and a good man was he. There in that mound did he bury his dead (Autobiography of Levi Hancock (1803-1882), pg. 27 – emphasis added. Original)

Both these quotes fall in line with Joseph’s well known support of a continental model for the Book of Mormon, and possibly give support to the two map-like documents of questionable origin, but in the church archives which attribute Joseph Smith as drawing the travels of Moroni which place the “sand hills in south Arizona” [Desolation?], north of the Land of Bountiful in “Sentral America”. (read about them here)

Nothing in the Book of Mormon actually happens ON the Narrow Neck

Its somewhat odd that in all the Book of Mormon accounts of occurrences in the Land of Desolation of things happening in association with the ‘narrow neck’, nothing ever happens ON the narrow neck. Instead its always explained as occurring BY the narrow neck.

Take Ether 10:20–21 for instance. Many Mesoamerican models attempt to equate the Jaredites almost exclusively with Olmecs living in their correlation for the land of Desolation which is on the isthmus of Tehuantepec. But note the wording of the text for Lib’s city. It isn’t built ON the narrow neck of land, but BY the narrow neck of land, BY a place where the sea divides or cuts into the land. (suggesting some kind of deep bay or inlet).

20 And [Lib and his people] built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land (Ether 10:20)

Does that wording really sound like an isthmus? Or does it sound more like the ‘narrow neck of land’ a geographic identifier representing a truly narrow neck of land and sea inlet like the Baja Peninsula? This reading makes even more sense when we apply it to Alma 63:5 where Hagoth is said to build and launch his boat BY the narrow neck and yet still in the borderland of Bountiful near the Land Desolation.

5 …therefore [Haggoth] went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck [of sea?] which led into the land northward. (Alma:63:5)

This makes little sense in relation to an isthmus like Tehuantepec, as launching south of it into the West Sea (Pacific) does not really provide much of a shortcut into the ‘land northward’ which is said to be an ‘exceedingly far distance’ and have large bodies of water and homes made of cement for lack of trees (Hel 3:4–11). It does however make a lot of sense if this is talking about the same ‘place where the water divides (cuts into) the land’ of Ether, which provides a travel corridor to take people from the mouth of the Rio Grande de Santiago in West Mexico, up the sea of Coretz to the Colorado River and into the Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora and all the regions of the ancient Puebloan people in the Desert Southwest.

The ‘Narrow Passes’ don’t go from sea to sea and are NEVER said to be ON the Narrow Neck

Have you ever noticed that most the time when Mormon speaks of the entire width of the land or isthmus he lived on, he usually uses the descriptive phrase “from east sea to the west sea

-“divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west…” (Alma 22:27)
-“cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east…” (Hel 3:8)

But when he refers to Desolation or Bountiful on the Book of Mormon’s “narrow neck”, he only specifically mentions ONE sea. It’s always seemed odd to me. Almost like the ancient author might THINK it’s an isthmus of sorts, but tries to stick to the wording of the maps & texts he’s copying which NEVER clearly say “from the east sea to the west sea” as they did with other parts of the land. Instead its always explained in terms of a pass on only one sea, with an ambiguous reference to the other.

-“distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea…” (Alma 22:32)
-“fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified…” (Hel 4:7)

In our model, rather than being oddities, each of these phrases ends up being a truly specific description of different aspects of the ‘narrow neck’ area. Which I interpret as Baja California, the Gulf of Baja or Sea of Cortez, and the narrow coastal passes between the Sierra Madre Occidental and Oriental and the east and west seas. This interpretation comes not only because it matches perfectly with the archaeology, and is really the only way to make a continental model of Book of Mormon lands which matches with both the text and early LDS prophetic statements. But also from noticing the overwhelming inclusion of the sea of cortez in the histories and mythologies of the Aztec and other mesoamerican cultures in the writings of early Aztec/Spanish historians like Ixlilxochtl.

In Modern times we separate the two regions of North America & Mesoamerica by the U.S./Mexican Border and the desolate central Mapimi depression/Chihuahua Desert of North Mexico. However, in both colonial and Book of Mormon times, when nearly all travel was along the West Mexico coast the two perhaps were colloquially separated in the minds of natives by Baja and the narrow neck of sea. (the sea of Cortez & Baja)

The Narrow Neck [of sea], not just a Narrow Neck of land

At least two references the the Book of Mormon narrow neck seem to be jointly referring to a narrow neck of sea next to a narrow neck of land instead of just a narrow neck of land. Note the language in Ether 10:20 where Mormon says the narrow neck is “by” [or next to] “the place where the sea divides [cuts or splits into] the land”. Note it does not say what we would expect of a city on an isthmus such as so many Book of Mormon model’s suggest with the Olmec— in which cases we would expect the city to be built “on the narrow neck of land… where the land divides the sea“, but instead Lib’s city is bywhere the sea divides the land‘. It’s this strange wording that first led me to wonder if ALL the references to the narrow neck were better explained by having Baja and the Sea of Cortez being the narrow neck.

20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land. (Ether 10:20)

Of course, there’s nothing in the Book of Mormon specifying that there is only one narrow neck, so those who see the Olmec as the best fit for the Jaredite heartland could still hold that view while espousing our continental model, however the fits are far more incredible with only a single narrow neck (Baja), narrow coastal passes of east and west Mexico and adjusted timeline to account for radiocarbon dating issues. A second example of where the text seem like it could be actually referring to a sea inlet as the narrow neck is found in the reference to Haggoth in Alma 63:5. In this verse we are told that Haggoth launches a ship into the sea… once again by the narrow neck instead of on the narrow neck. But in this case the very case seems strange because it’s talking about a narrow neck leading into the land northward, BUT in relation to sea travel. Could it be that in this case it is a narrow neck of sea that’s leading into the land northward? Once again, a place ‘where the sea divides the land.”

5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck [of sea?] which led into the land northward. (Alma:63:5)

The width of the ‘Narrow Passes’ are FAR less than Mesoamerican Isthmuses

Note that in the two examples of distances given in the Book of Mormon for the width of these passes we have a day or day and a half’s journey. Much as in the works of early Spanish codices transcribers like Ixlilxochitl, distances are always expressed in days instead of linear measurements. And although some debate exists on the distance of a day’s journey, Ixlilxochitl and most scholars place it at around 15 miles. Compare then the day and a half’s journey of Alma 22:32 and the days journey of Hel 4:6–7 (15-27 miles) to the shortest distances across Isthmuses like Tehuantepec (125 miles) or the Isthmus of Guatemala (160 miles) or even the narrowest part of the Isthmus of Darian in Panama (36 miles) and we see the problem with associating the Narrow Neck with these locations.

Even if we suggest the ‘defensive lines of Hel 4:6–7 and Alma 22:32 are simply fortified passes ON the Narrow Neck or Isthmus we still run into a MAJOR problem in all these locations, as NONE of them have defined narrow coastal passes on both sides which are 15-27 miles wide! The Northern coastal plain of Tehuantepec for instance is 50-60 miles wide! (Putting aside the fact that Tehuantepec’s passes face north and south, not east and west as the text suggests.

A place that DOES have easily fortifiable narrow coastal passes which span between the sea and steep mountain chains is northwest and northeast Mexico between the Sierra Madre Occidental, Oriental and the sea.

34 And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east. (Alma 50:34)

9 And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side. (Alma 52:9)

5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward. (Alma 63:5)

6 And the Nephites and the armies of Moronihah were driven even into the land of Bountiful;
7 And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day’s journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country.(Hel 4:6–7)

29 And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward. (Mormon 2:29)

5 And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward.
6 And there we did place our armies, that we might stop the armies of the Lamanites, that they might not get possession of any of our lands; therefore we did fortify against them with all our force. (Mormon 3:5–6)

30 And it bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their first landing.
31 And they came from there up into the south wilderness. Thus the land on the northward was called Desolation, and the land on the southward was called Bountiful, it being the wilderness which is filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.
2 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.
3 And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward. (Alma 22:32–33)

19 …And in the days of Lib the poisonous serpents were destroyed. Wherefore they did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest. And Lib also himself became a great hunter.
20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.
21 And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants. (Ether 10:20–21)

Another possibility: Mormon’s culture believing there to be a ‘Narrow Neck’ in North Mexico

In addition to the above reasoning it seems quite likely that ancient Mesoamericans had a different view of their continents geography than we do. A study of ancient maps and geographies shows that modern LDS Scholars have expected too much from ancient Book of Mormon authors by supposing pre-Columbian cultures had a modern understanding of continental geography and shorelines. Indeed, although many ancients understood well the spatial relationships for populated places, or places they had been, the detailed understanding of uninhabited wildernesses and continental shorelines seems to have been very poor. Especially among cultures without widespread use of boats or nautical navigation technology.

Aztec map, Codex Xolotl showing the spatial relationships of the Valley of Mexico juxtaposed against the Sebastian Munster map (1448-1552): Novae Insulae XXVI Nova Tabula (1540) [Rare 2nd State of first map of the continent of America]. Each are examples of the rudimentary spatial relationships inherent in pre-modern geographers views of the world. See high quality versions here and here.
To see a full catalogue of known Mesoamerican cartographic or map representations read "Mesoamerican Cartography" by Barbara Mundy or "The origins and development of the cartographic tradition in the central Mexican highlands" by Chris Helmke

Our model proposes that much like Sabastian Munster’s early map of the New World (featured above), Book of Mormon authors may have thought there to be another ‘narrow neck’ between the narrow coastal ‘passes’ of Northern Mexico. A misunderstanding likely caused by a belief that the Eastern and Western Sierra Madre mountain ranges were one and the same range. An easy mistake to make given their lack of travel through the nearly impenetrable and uninhabited Mapimi Basin of the Chihuahua Desert. Indeed historical texts show that essentially ALL ancient travel & trade, occurred along the ‘narrow passes’ between the coasts and the steep mountain ranges, with only a few sparsely inhabited mining communities existing in the Deserts of the northern interior.

We believe this to be the primary reason why LDS scholars have failed to find a convincing continental model, which Joseph Smith and the early LDS leaders so obviously believed in. Indeed this simple over-expectation of ancient geographical understand seems to be why the body of LDS scholarship has overlooked the common-sense correlations between American prehistoric ruins and the Book of Mormon text. For instance, the Book of Mormon plainly suggests Zarahemla to be the largest city on the continent. It also tells of a sister-city of sorts built by Lachoneus in the ‘Land Zarahemla’ to which the Nephite people are gathered to just before the time of Christ in order to protect themselves from the assault of the guerilla forces of the ‘Gadianton robbers’. How could one NOT immediately think of the ancient cities of Teotihuacan and Cholula? These being by FAR the largest and most influential ancient cities of North America. Teotihuacan, with its ‘cultural neighborhoods’, matching almost perfectly in character and construction to Lachoneus new city built for hundreds of thousands of refugees.

So also with the Book of Mormon’s ‘land of desolation’ which was comparatively desolate of trees and peopled with cultures ‘expert in cement’ (ref). How could one NOT think immediately of the Southwest’s Ancestral Puebloan cultures matching perfectly with their ubiquitous desert adobe and rock great houses? There is simply nowhere else in North America with such ‘desolate’ landscape and widespread use of rock and adobe (cement) used for building not just temples and monuments but homes as well. Not to mention Joseph Smith is quoted by Mosiah Hancock saying that the Southwest was the Book of Mormon land of Desolation ‘where the Nephites lost their power’ (Autobiography of Mosiah Hancock, typescript, BYU-S. Compiled by Amy E. Baird, Victoria H. Jackson, and Laura L. Wassell).

Again, the same is true for the Eastern US hopewell ‘mound-builder cultures’ and their obvious fit for those in the ‘Land Northward’ of ‘many lakes and waters’. (refs) The obvious fit of these cultures and their proximity to Joseph Smith’s ‘land of Cumorah’ has caused thousands of LDS researchers to divide from the Mesoamericanists and create a slew of ‘Heartland’ Book of Mormon geographical models in order to accommodate the slew of early LDS leader quotes, revelations, archaeological ruins and common sense correlations between this area and the text.

The problem, of course, is that these overwhelmingly obvious correlations do not work with Mormon’s ‘narrow neck’, which is said to be north of Zarahemla and Bountiful. (As well as a few radiocarbon dating issues we cover in another section). Because of this, most serious LDS scholars have looked south of the isthmus of Tehuantepec, isthmus of Guatemala, or isthmus of Panama. A correlation which forces one to ignore EVERY major culture in North America apart from the Maya (the Lamanite core in our model). But of course, because essentially ALL the greatest Mayan cities are east of the possible candidates for the River Sidon, as well as significant issues with Moroni’s ‘east sea cities’ (ref), these models must throw out even the largest and most influential Mayan cities from any possible correlation with the Book of Mormon. With our continental model, essentially EVERY significant ancient culture in the North American continent, as well as their largest cities, are part of the Book of Mormon narrative. From the Maya to the Zapotec, Huestec to Mixtec, Teotihuacan and the Mexican Highland to the Toltec and Chichimec to the Ancient Puebloan/Anasazi to the Hopewell. The list goes on and on, of overwhelming correlations between the Book of Mormon text and archaeological ruins, geographic relationships, language relationships, Native American mythologies, settlement patters and more.

Book of Mormon Geography
Illustration depicting the actual geography of North America versus what the ancient authors of the Book of Mormon may have thought the geography looked like

A few more examples of ancient maps, and how even among people’s with advanced writing and sea trade, knowledge of coastal geometries was rudimentary. Especially concerning areas where few lived or traveled.

Map of Ariana based on Eratosthenes' data (195 BC) in Strabo's Geography ( 63 BC – c. 24 AD)
Map of Ariana based on Eratosthenes’ data (195 BC) in Strabo’s Geography ( 63 BC – c. 24 AD)
Old antique map of Africa by S. Munster | Sanderus Antique Maps Old antique map of AFRICA showing: AMMON (IN LIBYA) MELLI: Latin- flowing with honey Mono Giant:

Surrounded by Water

Interestingly, the native word for the mexican highland and particularly the narrow highland of west-central mexico was thought to mean, “surrounded by water”. Cem Ānáhuac is a composed náhuatl name, consisting of the words “cem” (totally) and “Ānáhuac”, in turn a composed word from “atl” (water) and “nahuac”, a location prefix that means “surrounded “. The name can then literally be translated as “land completely surrounded by water “, or “[the] whole of [what is] beside the waters”.

Codex Quetzalecatzin, in the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress. The map covers an area between Mexico City and Puebla. With Nahuatl stylised graphics and hieroglyphs, it illustrates the family’s genealogy and their descent from Lord-11 Quetzalecatzin, who in 1480, was the major political leader of the region. It is from him the Codex derives one of its many names’. The document dates to between 1570 to 1595 and would have been made by an indigenous painter and scribe. See this link for more codice maps.

Verse by Verse Analysis To References of the Narrow Neck

The Narrow neck, pass or defensive line mentioned as one of the most prominent geographic features of the Book of Mormon has proved to be incredibly enigmatic.  Far greater than the problems of King James Isaiah, Pauline language parallelisms, anachronistic metals or European animals in the Book of Mormon (which can generally be explained by proposing differing manners of dynamic equivalence translation and channeling processes), the narrow neck problem can almost seem insurmountable. Attempts to correlation the Panama Isthmus with the Book of Mormon gain few supporters for reasons that have been described elsewhere (ref). Perhaps the most supported theory of correlating the Isthmus of Tehuantepec with the Book of Mormon’s “narrow pass” has its own difficulties. Foremost of these is the fact that this model forces both the Nephite and Lamanite lands to be in historical Mayan territories. In these model’s Zarahemla (and the entire Nephite culture) are correlated with mundane Mayan cities which bear essentially no early cultural differences from their surrounding peoples (Lamanites)! Additionally these models require the Jaredites (Olmec) to pass writing to the Lehites (Maya) instead of the other way around as described in the Book of Mormon text. The political and religious dominance of the Epi-olmec and Mexican Highland cultures spanning from the formative to the classic are a far better match (and perhaps the only truly plausible match) with what the Book of Mormon narrative depicts of the Nephite/Lamanite religious and political rivalry..

Reference wording sea west mentioned? sea east mentioned? days jour-ney directional indicators
Alma 22:32–33 “small neck of land” or “the line Bountiful” yes possibly 1.5 from the east to the west sea
Alma 50:34 “the narrow pass” yes separately   by the sea, on the west and on the east
Alma 52:9 “the narrow pass”   no    
Alma 63:5 “the narrow neck” yes no   the west sea
Hel 4:6–7 “the line” yes possibly 1 from the west sea, even unto the east
Mormon 2:29 “the narrow passage”   no    
Mormon 3:5–6 “the narrow pass”   no    
Ether 10:20–21 “narrow neck of land” inferred inferred   place where the sea divides the land


Available literature in Joseph Smith’s day clearly called the Isthmus of Panama a “narrow neck” (see here for instance), But also, made clear that its distance was more than the “day” (ref) or “day and a half” (ref) mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  its curious then that if Joseph or some contemporary wrote the Book of Mormon, they would represent the geography SO horribly.    Letter from Balboa dated January 20, 1513. “The Indians state there is another ocean 3 days journey from here… they say the other ocean is very suitable for canoe traveling is always calm…”  (reference here)


This map from 1566 is one of the oldest printed maps of North America. Created by Paolo Forlani, the first edition was published in 1565. This second edition was published by Venetian Bolognino Zaltieri after Forlani sold the plate to him. This is one of the first maps to show the Bering Strait - here called the Strait of Anian. It was an educated guess, as it was not discovered until 1648. The map was bought by the Bartholomew family, who collected antique maps

This map from 1566 is one of the oldest printed maps of North America. Created by Paolo Forlani, the first edition was published in 1565. This is one of the first maps to show the Bering Strait – here called the Strait of Anian. It was an educated guess, as it was not discovered until 1648. Like many ancient maps, the geography is a very rough rendition of the true landscape. High quality version available here.

1569 Camocio Map. Several maps associate tolm or ‘tollan’ with Teguayo. Tolm is generally found in the present-day U.S. Southwest on 1500s-1600s era maps. Several maps, including the 1569 Camocio map, show its full spelling as Tolman, which is likely a variation of the Toltec homeland ‘tollan’. See here and here for a similar but higher quality version.

Map made by Italian Jesuit Giulio Aleni while he was working as a missionary in 1620s China

1620s Wanguo Quantu map, by Giulio Aleni, whose Chinese name (艾儒略) appears in the signature in the last column on the left, above the Jesuit IHS symbol.

1609 Shanhai Yudi Quantu (not by Ricci)

1728 Barreiro Map This is the oldest post-Columbian map which depicts the four migration points of ancient Mexican Indians found in later maps. Some sources also point to this region as a former home for people from Central and South America. See here for an ultra high quality version.

Mexico's huge closed basins (endorheic basins). These large desert regions have no outlet to the sea, and drain internally into large ephemeral lakes and desert playas.

Red outlines show Mexico’s huge closed basins (endorheic basins). These large, sparsely inhabited, desert regions have no outlet to the sea, and drain internally into large ephemeral lakes and desert playas. Settlement and travel through these regions seems to have been extremely rare anciently.

Map available to Joseph Smith in the early 1800's, done by John Carry, in 1811.

Map available to Joseph Smith in the early 1800’s, done by John Carry, in 1811.


Animals in the Book of Mormon

ElephantsCureloms and CumomsCattle, Oxen, and Cows
Ass & Horse


Many Book of Mormon critics try to show issues or anachronisms with the lists of animals found in its narrative; for example the Wikipedia articles on Book of Mormon Archaeology and Book of Mormon Anachronisms. The Book of Mormon certainly has its major issues.. (see Arguments For and Against the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon), but reading these animal issue attacks always seems strangely biased to me. In fact articles like this have so many blatant falsities that they’re a bit difficult for a well-read person to stomach. Debunked statements on their being no evidence of the domestication of certain animals, or no evidence of the ancient use of metal plates, or no evidence of certain animals in the new world are peppered throughout many similar critical articles. I have huge problems with many of Mormonism’s exclusivist truth claims; and the Book of Mormon has a lot of other problems to overcome; however, regardless of whether you believe the Book of Mormon narrative or not you have to consider the fact that the mention its assorted animals is not a deal breaker for it being a truly channeled translation of an ancient history. Especially when one considers the possibility of a very “loose translation” (dynamic equivalence instead of formal equivalence) in the channeling process of the book.

Throughout this article, keep in mind that our model places the Nephites primarily in the Mexican Highland, the Land of Nephi in the Oaxaca highland (Monte Alban), the Lamanite heartland in Chiapas & the Yucatan and the Nephite ‘Land Northward’ and Jaredites primarily in the U.S. Southwest, Northwest Mexico and the Eastern U.S.— the early Jaredite record being an abridged oral & channeled history spanning from the Ice age to the Nephite era.

The Book of Mormon makes clear that both Jaredites and Nephites who lived in ancient times on this continent had domestic animals of various kinds. They also speak of wild varieties of presently domesticated animals. The earlier people, the Jaredites (unknown beginning to ~300 B.C.), are reported to have had,

all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cumoms. (Ether 9:18–19)

The Nephites (c. 600 B.C. – 400 A.D.) on the other hand tell us,

that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. (1 Nephi 18:25; cf. Mosiah 5:14; Enos 1:12; Alma 5:59; Alma 17)


Note that Elephants are in the list for animals useful for the early Jaredites. With the exception of small island pockets, and a few DNA samples in Northern Alaska, evidence for the extinction of remaining North American Elephants (Mammoth & Mastodon) and other megafauna during the Younger Dryas climate event by the radiocarbon dates of ~10,000 BC is overwhelmingly conclusive. This requires that the early Jaredite record was older than most people believe. (Perhaps including the Book of Mormon authors themselves?) Unless radiocarbon dates for that highly variable climatic period are somehow wrong, it seems likely that the Jaredite record (much like the Biblical & Babylonian records) may have presented spliced or fragmented genealogies in a condensed, linear form leading back to the ancient Babel tower myth where mankind spread throughout the globe. (In other words there is likely missing time that is not accounted for in the record.) The mention of elephants and other extinct animals, along with the obvious fact that the Book of Mormon tells us the Jaredites were the first inhabitants of this continent is the most striking evidence for our correlated timeline which correlates the early pre-dearth Jaredites with North American Paleo-Indians living prior to the end of the ice age. (The “dearth” in Ether 9:30 being the younger dryas: a massive episode of climate change ending the last ice age cycle.) Because of the mention of elephants as well as two other apparently extinct megafauna which were “especially useful [for the food of] man”, correlating the Paleo-Indian with the archaic cultures of North America is really the best plausible correlation. This is certainly plausible since the record itself does not give any concrete dates for the Jaredite culture (only a genealogy table). There are literally thousands of archeological sites showing that the Clovis and Paleo-Indians lived on diets rich in megafauna.  Many archaeologists have in fact suggested that these native American groups may have been responsible for hunting many of these animals to extinction. This highly debated theory gives a lot of weight to the idea given in the book of Ether where it states that BOTH a climate event and hunting did them in.

30 And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth.
31 …And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee… towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla…
34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. (Ether 9:30–34)

size comparison of mammoth, mastodon and African elephants

Cureloms and Cumoms

Many other extinct Pleistocene megafauna fit the description of Jaredite animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Paleoindians were known to subsist on Gomphotheres and perhaps even giant sloths; short-faced bears; several species of tapirs; saber-toothed cats like smilodon; dire wolves; saiga; camelids such as two species of now extinct llamas and camelops. Since it is generally accepted that “cureloms and cumoms” were especially “useful for the food of man”  (Ether 9:18–19), and unknown to Mormon in translation (not necessarily Joseph Smith), I think the most likely candidates are the giant sloth, wooly rhino and camelids.

18 …and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.

19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

A few of the many North American megafauna which co-existed with the paleoindians. (nearly all of which went extinct at the end of the ice age (which we correlate with the "great dearth" spoken of in the Book of Mormon).

A few of the many North American megafauna which co-existed with the paleoindians. (nearly all of which went extinct at the end of the ice age (which we correlate with the “great dearth” spoken of in the Book of Mormon).

Cattle, Oxen, and Cows

Concerning the Jaredite “cattle, of oxen, and cows” mentioned in Ether 9:18, likely matches would have to be American Bison (subfamily Bovinae/bovine), shrub ox (family Bovidae: went extinct with other megafauna); Harlan’s muskox (family: bovidae, subfamily: caprinae), Moose (family Cervidae, could have been classified as either cow or horse by Mormon/Ether depending on their cultural classification system) and for Mesoamerica and 1 Nephi 18:25, Baird’s Tapir which is locally known as the “Mountain Cow”. Each of these species ranged far south of their current habitat during the last Ice Age. There is of course no evidence for moose or shrub ox in Mexico, so the only option for the Nephite list is Bison as an Ox, which historical accounts put as far south as Zacatecas (Lst et. al 2007); and Tapir, perhaps as a swine or cow type animal. (It’s certainly nothing like a horse! LOL)   And since the Nephite list excludes “cattle” we can assume they were not yet familiar with cows as a herd animal (such as Bison herds on the plains) at the time 1 Nephi 18:25 was written.

cattle, oxen and cows

cattle, oxen and cows

Large tapir.

A large Baird’s Tapir. Also known to the indigenous as the “Mountain Cow”.


Possibilities include North American Mountain Goats. (Our current scientific classification system does not include this animal in the Capra genus with most goats, but Joseph or Mormon could have very well have been referring to this type of animal).

The North American Mountain Goat.

The North American Mountain Goat.

The Nephite animal list differentiates between “goats and wild goats”. Although modern botanists classify North American antelope into a different family than goats (Antiloocapridae vs. Bovidae), you can see how similar the the two animals look. Antelope were known to be a major food staple of assorted Mesoamerican groups like the early Zapotecs ranging as far south as Oaxaca. This may very well be the wild and non-wild goat that the Nephites were referring to.

North American pronghorn antelope compared to both European and Middle Eastern varieties of goats.

North American pronghorn antelope (left) compared to both European and Middle Eastern varieties of goats (middle and right).


Many species of wild sheep are indigenous to north america. Including Rocky Mountain big horn, Dall Ram, Desert big horn. See wild sheep of north america for details. Note that sheep are not mentioned in the Nephite animal lists, only the Jaredite. This is fitting since, unlike antelope (goats) and bison (cows), no North American sheep are known to have ranged very far south into Mexico.

A few of North America's native sheep species include the Peninsular Ram, the Dall's sheep the Peninsular Ram and the Rocky Mountain Ram

A few of North America’s native sheep species include (shown from left to right above) the Peninsular Ram, the Dall’s sheep the Peninsular Ram and the Rocky Mountain Ram.


Note this is not mentioned in the Nephite list of animals, only the Jaredite list.. Perhaps because many of the larger ranging North American peccaries (Including the long nosed and flat-headed peccaries) went extinct with other megafauna. Pigs (family Suidae) are not native to the Americas, however peccaries, which are native to the Americas (family Tayassuidae) have roamed limited parts of the continent since the demise of their relatives at the end of the ice age. Tapirs are also somewhat reminiscent of pigs. They are prevalent in central america and grow to be six and a half feet in length and can weigh more than six hundred pounds. Many zoologists and anthropologists have compared the tapir’s features to those of a cross between a pig and a cow.

Extinct North American peccary, living meso-american jungle peccary and north american dessert javelina

Extinct North American peccary (shown left), living North American dessert javelina (center), and Mesoamerican jungle peccary (right).

Ass & the Horse

Domestication of caribou, bison, reindeer, and even elk are not uncommon.

Isolated domestication of caribou, bison, reindeer, and even elk are not uncommon.

Horses aren’t specifically mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being the type of animal that carried people. In fact in the instances that they are mentioned in relation to “chariots”, the wording could easily be referring to some type of supply slay (3 Nephi 3:22; Alma 18:9–12).  So its actually pretty plausible that the Book of Mormon translators used the biblical/European word “horse” to refer to a different type of native animal.  Just as Reindeer are the “horse” of Norse peoples, it seems fairly possible that the purported Book of Mormon channelers translated words for White-tale and Mule Deer (or even Elk, North American caribou or moose for those living farther north) in instances it was used. Note this is exactly what was done by early Aztec writers, as Sahagún in his Florentine Codex calls the Spanish horses “deer”.  (see Bk 12, Ch. 1 par. 7 & Bk 12 Ch. 7 par. 8)  In fact in the second instance Sahagún’s reference to the Aztec calling the Spanish horses “deer”, the wording sounds as though they were somewhat familiar with the idea of deer in warfare as supply animals but completely amazed by deer which were strong and tall enough to actually carry a man.

Their deer carry them upon their backs. They are as high as rooftops. (Sahagún, 1545-1590)

In fact, both elk and deer have been readily domesticated in modern times. Elk farming in North America has become increasingly popular in recent years and Siberian natives have been domesticating elk and deer for thousands of years. Europeans also have occasionally domesticated deer for hundreds of years. (Although they don’t tend to stay domesticated long.) Deer in most national parks and many urban settings as well as Elk in National Parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone have become so docile as to cause problems by their constant dependence and interaction with people. There are even numerous historic images of old cowboys riding elk. It seems logical that if many Nordic cultures could get a caribou to pull a sleigh then it is certainly plausible that some talented ‘deer whisperers’ could train a strong mule deer to pull a ceremonial supply ‘chariot’ as mentioned in Alma 18:9–12. I also find it interesting that settlers named the deer species O. hemionus “Mule Deer” because the animals large ears reminded them so much of a Mule or Ass. Deer are incredibly common in Mexico and even provided a main source of food for cultures as far south as the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala.

In fact, in the next section an example from an early Spanish historian is given of the kings of the valley of Mexico fencing in herds of deer.

The idea that Book of Mormon references to “horses” refereed to tapirs, is far too much of a stretch in my opinion. I’m not sure why anyone would suggest such a thing when there are such better alternatives.

comparisons of African wild ass, European ass and North American mule deer.

Comparisons of African wild ass (left), European ass (center) and North American mule deer (right).

Comparison of modern horse and North American cow Elk.

Comparison of modern horse and North American Elk (shown at right).

Flocks & Herds

The Book of Mormon makes frequent mention of “flocks and herds”. In addition to the animals mentioned above it is relevant to note that archeological evidence shows that many Mesoamerican peoples bred, raised and subsisted on animals such as dog, turkey, rabbit and deer. Archaeological evidence indicates dogs and deer were a substantial part of the Mayan diet. In fact, at the Colha site, white-tailed deer accounted for up to fifty percent of the Maya meat source. Likewise, Zapotec cultures relied heavily on domesticated dog and turkey. It makes sense that, many of the references to “flocks and herds” may be referring primarily to these animals. Early Zapotec peoples are also known to have subsisted on antelope— of which similar species have been readily domesticated in various areas of Asia and Africa.  Peccary and tapir are also well known indigenous animals which could have been primary components of Book of Mormon “flocks and herds”. Although evidence for animal domestication in Mesoamerica is hard to come by, this may well be because it is often difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between a wild animal and a domesticated animal from archaeological food remains.

The early Spanish chronology Mariano Veytia in his “Ancient History talks about the ancient emperors created fenced enclosures for deer & other animals, 

“Nezahualcoyotl… gathered a large stash of materials, and prepared a large number of workers; and seeing the site of Chapoltepec as suitable for a hunting forest, he ordered it to be formed, fenced, and stocked with deer, rabbits, hares, and other animals, allocating it as a place of amusement” (Ancient History, p.142)

No evidence of these fences have been found by archaeologist… almost certainly because they were made of reeds or some other highly perishable material.

Below is an example from Nara deer park in Japan, of how easy it is to partially domesticate wild animals… you simply need to give them a reliable food source.

Although it is certainly possible that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith or one of his contemporaries, instead of being channeled from heaven or translated from an ancient record–the supposed animal “anachronisms” are not a very solid argument against its authenticity.

Domesticating Deer. Nora Deer Park, Japan


Video of man Riding Buffalo

Video of man attempt at Riding Elk

Video of man attempted Moose Ride

Video of domesticating Antelope

A little detail behind why the only animals that Native American’s had much success Domesticating were, turkey, dog, and possibly deer & bison on a more limited basis.

Summary of Points

So in summary. There seems to be a lot of inconsistent thinking when it comes to animals in the Book of Mormon and particularly, Jaredite animal lists.
Elephants are only mentioned very early in the Jaredite timeline. And they are mentioned after “cattle, oxen and cows” as well as “sheep, and of swine, and of goats”, and in conjunction with 2 animals with no modern translation.

-So if the Book of Mormon “elephants” are tapirs… what are “swine, and cattle, oxen and cows”
-If b.o.m. Cureloms and Cumoms are alpacas, what are “sheep and goats and horses?”
-if b.o.m. Elephants are mammoths that held out (with ZERO archaeological evidence) in some isolated pocket until 1800 BC, then what are “Cureloms and Cumoms”? And why didn’t Mormon translate these words?
-If b.o.m. Elephants, Cureloms and Cumoms still existed into Nephite times don’t you think they’d be mentioned in the Nephite animal list of 1 Nephi 18:25; cf. Mosiah 5:14; Enos 1:12; Alma 5:59?

The record states that after the climate catastrophe/dearth, ” the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured THEM ALL” (Ether 9:30–34)
I’ve found nearly all articles trying to correlate these Book of Mormon animals with real American animal groups are HIGHLY inconsistent over either geographic region or time or both.

Really the best and perhaps only way to resolve these inconsistencies, and still consider the translation of the Book of Mormon to be divine where higher beings are attempting to match ancient animals with their available modern counterparts is to suggest that Elephants are Mammoths, Cureloms and Cumoms are two other genre or species of extinct megafauna (Gomphotheres are a good possibility for one), and that the ‘dearth’ is the Younger Dryas extinction event which, along with over hunting, killed off most megafauna in the Americas.…/disappearance-of-ice-age…

To make these lists work, also requires accepting that the Jaredites ranged into North America… not just Mesoamerica or South America… as otherwise, there are just not enough good matches to “cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man… also horses and asses and elephants…

-Elephants = Mammoths
-Cureloms and Cumoms = Extinct megafauna with no similar modern equivalents. (Gomphotheres, Megatherium, Amphicyon? Paraceratherium?)
-Cattle, oxen and cows = American Bison, Shrub Ox, Musk Ox, Tapir (Note the Nephite list excludes cattle, suggesting they were not associated with herds of cow. Which makes sense if they were mainly in Mesoamerica where there were no large bison herds.)
-Goats = Pronghorn antelope and North American mountain goat. (Another evidence for the Mexican Highland model, as there is no evidence for these animals south of Oaxaca/Tehuantepec).
-Sheep = Rocky Mountain big horn, Dall Ram, Desert big horn (once again sheep are not mentioned in the Nephite animal lists, only the Jaredite which again works perfectly for Jaredites in North America, and Nephites in Mesoamerica/Mexican Highland)
-Swine = North American peccaries (only in Jaredite list… so likely not referring to Tapirs)
-Ass & the Horse = Mule deer and Elk or other types of deer (The Florentine Codex has the natives calling the Spanish ‘horses’, deer.)
Flocks & Herds = dog, turkey, rabbit and deer.

Book of Mormon Archeology Unearthed

by Thomas Weaver   

Note:  The views of this article are not entirely shared by the site author.


It may be helpful to read Introduction to scriptural archeology for an introduction to this article covering important background information on why archeological dating methods give screwed results and on the geographical alteration of the narrow neck of land.

(To clarify dates, throughout the rest of the text scriptural/historical dates are preceded by S/H; while archaeological dates, including carbon dates, are preceded by A/C. In printed versions, footnotes which reference scriptures are in red; footnotes which reference archaeological sources are in black).

Correlated timeline of archeological and scriptural dates

Correlated timeline of archeological and scriptural dates

THE SCATTERING AT BABEL AND THE EARLY JAREDITE CULTURE. Archaeologists place the first modern humans in the Near East’s fertile crescent around 100,00 years ago [72], which, according to our calibrated timeline, is immediately after the Flood. From there man was “scattered . . . abroad . . . upon the face of all the earth . . .” (Genesis 11:8) [73]; scientists following the path of homo sapiens identify a major scattering between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago when modern man spread from the Near East to Europe, the Far East, Australia, and the Americas [74]. In America, studies of hereditary traits on the first group of PaleoIndians to reach America have concluded that they consisted of no more than a handful of families (S/H: around 2100 BC; A/C: around 40,000 years ago) [75]/ [76]. The two earliest major PaleoIndian cultures that developed from this handful of families, the Clovis Culture and the Folsom Culture , spread widely but sparsely from the Southwestern United States to cover most of the continental United States [77]/ [78].

OMER AND HIS HOUSEHOLD. As this early period in American Prehistory was coming to a close, a small group of families left the core area and settled “by the seashore” directly east of the hill Cumorah (Ether 9:1–13) [79]. The group of sites, in and around northeastern Massachusetts, are called the Bull Brook Complex by archaeologists [80]. Clovis points found at several of the sites tie it to the Southwest [81]. Building on excavations by D.S. Byers in the mid-50’s [82], archaeological societies in the Northeast have pieced together the history of the Bull Brook Complex [83]. Their findings and subsequent analysis have shown the interactions of a system of organized, interdependent groups with specialized work force networks [84]. It is recognized as containing the highest level of social structure in America at that time [85], which would be expected in a “refugee camp” of the royal household [86].

PRE-DEARTH JAREDITE CULTURE. . As Moroni attests, the next archaeological period saw the rise of a richer and more diversified culture [87]/ [88]. The Plano and Early Eastern Archaic Cultures fanned across the continent (S/H: around 1600-1200 BC; A/C: around 8500-6000 BC) [89]. Scientists have found the full spectrum of plants and animals corresponding to the days of Emer. According to Moroni, during the early Pre-Dearth Jaredite time period they had “all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.” [90]Archaeologists have found many species of American bison from this time period, which ruminants are classified by zoologists as wild cattle, oxen and cows (family Bovidae, genus Bos) [91]. Similarly, there are food remains of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats at many sites from this period [92]. Peccaries are animals from this period which are classified as swine and are in the same group as domestic pigs and hogs (sub-order Suina) [93]. The “many other kinds of animals” of Moroni’s list would include deer, elk, moose, caribou, and pronghorn [94]. Thanks to new site-investigation methods, scientists have found that fruits, grains and vegetables were part of the PaleoIndian diet [95]; the Darwinian view that the PaleoIndians were merely carnivorous stockers of megafauna is being abandoned. More careful analysis of early sites and artifacts is yielding increasing evidence of fine textiles [96], which means the people didn’t just wear rough animal hides. Moroni also mentions that horses, elephants, cureloms and cumoms were useful to man, and that elephants and cureloms and cumoms were “more especially” useful to man (Ether 9:19). Potential beasts of burden which have been found in association with PaleoIndians include horses, tapirs, mammoths, mastodons, giant bison, giant ground sloths, and camels [97]. Coincidentally, the horse and the tapir would not have been very useful as beasts of burden because the Ice Age variety existent at this time were only about the size of a dog [98]; hence, it was the elephants and cureloms and cumoms which were “more especially” useful to man.

THE GREAT DEARTH. Then the PaleoIndian culture was rocked. In the scriptures, we read of secret combinations infesting society, and then a chastening, in the form of a great dearth (Ether 9:30–35). Archaeologists attest that it was probably the worst famine in North American history. Mass extinction spread across America as the Ice Age came to a rapid and catastrophic close [99]. Excess hunting by starving people and severe environmental changes drove the megafauna to extinction [100]. Scientists have found that serpents were abundant at that time in the American Southwest (as they are today) and the closing of the Ice Age caused many varied migrations in snake species across North America [101]. The serpents and the drought divided the people in the north from the fauna, which escaped to the south [102]. When the climate finally recovered, the people instigated a revolution in agriculture [103]/ [104], since they had now lost their domesticated animals.

POST-DEARTH JAREDITE CULTURE. Moroni’s next exposition on culture comes in the days of Lib (Ether 10:18–28). My corresponding period is labeled by archaeologists as the Middle and Late Archaic. Often indistinguishable from one another, these two cultural periods represent a major advancement over the preceding culture [105]. Again the culture spread across North America from coast to coast [106]. There were villages, agriculture, and widespread trade networks [107]. South of the narrow neck, in the Mexican highland and beyond, the only inhabitants we find are organized hunting parties, which “coincidentally” brought spear points of North American manufacture and style [108]/ [109]. Scientists recognize metallurgy from this time period, and copper is the most common metal found [110]/ [111]. Many fine textiles have also survived from this period [112]/ [113]. Moroni says they made “all manner of tools to till the earth, both to plow and to sow, to reap and to hoe, and also to thrash” [114]. He also says they had, “all manner of tools with which they did work their beasts” (Ether 10:26–27). Most of the tools on this list have been found by archaeologists at sites dating to the Middle and Late Archaic [115]. New weapons were also invented and manufactured, although archaeologists currently view them only as hunting weapons [116]/ [117]. Another major industry of the Jaredites was wood exploitation [118]. A huge assortment of woodworking tools has been found at Archaic period sites across the Nation [119]. Truly this was a highly-developed culture—a time of great prosperity. How tragic that they lost it all because of secret combinations! [120]

THE DESOLATION OF THE JAREDITES. The desolation of the Jaredites began in the Southwest and climaxed in New York State [121]. It is witnessed archaeologically by a widespread “cremation” burial culture [122]. Continent-wide scientists find a change in burial customs from proper burials to cremation burials and “ceremonial” burning of homes and entire villages (Shiz and his army) [123]/ [124]. Archaeologists have also found evidence of large-scale “bundle burials,” which is the practice of bundling the disarticulated, defleshed bones of dead people in bags or cordages, and then either burying them or dumping them in the trash [125]. Surely it was a gruesome scene that the first Nephites to re-inhabit the desolate land northward were required to witness and clean up [126].

Correlated timeline of archeological and scriptural dates

Correlated timeline of archeological and scriptural dates

THE ARRIVAL OF THE NEPHITES AND MULEKITES. The Jaredites were the sole inhabitants of America until two small groups of sea-going travelers crossed the Pacific (S/H: 600 BC; A/C: 3000 BC). As early as 1916 scholars had identified the general location of the two landing sites. G. Elliot Smith published an article with Science titled “The Origin of the Pre-Columbian Civilization of America” in which he detailed ethnological evidence of the landings and further showed how scholars of that day had attempted to cover up the findings because they lent support to the Bible and against Darwinism [127]. In his book, Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage describes the author’s findings: “Dr. Smith presents an impressive array of evidence pointing to the Old World and specifically to Egypt, as the source of many of the customs by which the American aborigines are distinguished. The article is accompanied by a map showing . . . two landing places on the west coast, one in Mexico and another near the boundary common to Peru and Chile, from which place the immigrants spread.” [128]Archaeological evidence has further refined these findings. Most archaeologists now agree to a South American landing, putting it a little further north, specifically in modern Ecuador [129](which “coincidentally” lies “a little south of the Isthmus of Darien” [130]). The location of the second landing spot is unknown; characteristic artifacts also point to the west coast of Mexico [131]— legend puts it at a place called “seven caverns” [132]. Both the Valdivia culture of Ecuador (the Lehites), and the Otomangue-speaking people of the Mexican highland (the Mulekites), brought the first true pottery to the Americas; in both cultures the pottery was already well-developed even at the earliest sites [133]. Both cultures are distinguished as being the first harvesters of cultigens (plants incapable of growing without human help), the most important cultigen being corn [134]. The architecture and burial customs of these two groups can easily be tied to the Old World. Square waddle and daub homes with storage pits in the floor dotted their lands [135]. Their temples and public buildings are extremely similar to those of Egypt and Israel. Subfloor burials and burial positions also match those of the Middle East [136].

EARLY MULEKITE CULTURE. The newly arrived Otomangue-speaking culture (Mulekites) began to spread across the Mexican highland (Zarahemla). Although they covered a large area, they lived in small scattered villages, and archaeologists recognize very little social structure among them [137] [138].

EARLY LEHITE CULTURE. The Valdivia culture also fanned out over a large area, stylistic pottery has been traced from Ecuador up through Columbia and Panama into Coastal areas of Guatemala and Southern Chiapas [139]. When Nephi fled from his brothers [140], it seems that he led his followers to the central depression of Chiapas and settled in the Grijalva river valley. The first cultural layers there are of a unique, tight-knit group (Zoque/early Nephite), centered around Chiapa de Corzo (the land of Nephi), which remained separate from the surrounding cultures that were developing (Maya/Lamanite) [141]/ [142]. The Nephite culture began the seeds of civilization which later influenced all of Mesoamerica, and eventually all of North America [143]. Some of the Lamanites appear to have followed Nephi’s party; a group associated with the early Maya (Lamanites) settled further up in the Grijalva river valley [144]. Other groups remained in South America which over time developed very independent cultures [145]; apparently not associated with the history outlined in the Book of Mormon.

EARLY LAMANITE CULTURE. The Lamanites (early Maya) digressed and became a very primitive people [146]/ [147]. Archaeologists label them as “hunters and gatherers,” because they stocked the forests for game, lived in tents and temporary shelters, and practiced limited agriculture [148]/ [149]. They did some fishing, and they had very limited agriculture (primarily limited to picking wild fruits and edible roots) [150]. Archaeologists think it was because they did not have the technology, the scriptures teach that it was because they were lazy.

Warfare is evident as archaeologists find a large assortment of weapons, far exceeding the needs of mere hunters [151]. The early Maya (Lamanites) set up chiefdoms in each local community; at this early date they do not appear to have been a cohesive unit, but rather groups of village communities, competing and perhaps fighting with each other for resources [152] — apparently united only in their hatred toward the Nephites [153]. Laman and Lemuel seem to have taught their children the pagan practices they had learned in Jerusalem. Archaeologists find cultic artifacts associated with the worship of a fertility goddess; they also worshipped Chac, who is the Maya equivalent of Baal from the Old World [154]. In this early period we also see the beginnings of the Jaguar cult. The Maya made costumes from the coats of beasts of prey and used these costumes in religious rituals [155]/ [156]. Early Mayan vices match those Enos and Jarom attributed to the Lamanites: pornography in the form of nude ceramic figurines, idleness, and drunkenness (typically chicha, an alcohol made from corn) [157]/ [158].

The Formative

INTRODUCTION TO THE FORMATIVE. At the dawn of the formative period there were several major demographic shifts which set the stage for the developing cultures. First, King Mosiah I and his people left the Land of Nephi (Chiapa de Corzo) and traveled to Zarahemla (central Mexico) to join the Mulekites (S/H: around 200 BC; A/C: around 1400 BC) [159]. This is seen archaeologically as an influx of Mixe-zoquean culture brings new advances to central Mexico, and public buildings begin to appear in the larger villages [160].

THE PEOPLE OF ZENIFF. Back in Chiapa de Corzo (the land of Nephi), the surrounding culture (Maya/Lamanites) destroyed all traces of the departing group (Nephites) [161]/ [162]. Shortly, however, high culture returned to the valley [163]as Zeniff and his people arrive and begin to build anew many public buildings and restore the land [164]/ [165]. The new inhabitants of Chiapa de Corzo (people of Zeniff) were an ethnically distinct group which did not mix with the surrounding Maya (Lamanites) [166]/ [167]. Initially their culture was very similar to that of central Mexico (from which they had come), but the similarities decreased as time went on and they (the people of Zeniff, now led by King Noah) became extravagant in their prosperity. Lavishness dominates the architecture and material culture of this period [168]/ [169]. Just before Chiapa de Corzo returned to Mayan Culture (Lamanites), the people of the Grijalva depression gave birth to one of the richest and most influential Mesoamerican cultures of the pre-Christian era—the Olmecs (Amulonites) [170]/ [171].

THE AMULONITES AND THEIR INFLUENCE OVER THE LAMANITES. The Amulonite (Olmec) culture seems to have developed in the lowlands of Veracruz, Mexico. The simple farming village of San Lorenzo (probably Helam) [172]/ [173]suddenly began a massive public works effort using slave labor (probably the followers of Alma) [174]/ [175]. Soon a handful of great cities commenced, and Olmec influence spread to other lands [176]/ [177]. Olmec art and religious themes support an Amulonite correlation: powerful, dominating priests, were-jaguar babies, female dancers, and a plethora of demi-gods and idols [178]/ [179]. Throughout the Mayan lands, Olmec teachers began to train the Maya (Lamanites) in the language and learning of the Mexican highland people (the Nephites) [180]/ [181]. With this new education the Maya began to prosper and make many technological advances [182]/ [183]. New trade networks spread across southern Mexico, the Yucatan and Guatemala, and all roads passed through Olmec lands, which made them vastly rich and extremely influential [184]. Some archaeologists call the Olmecs the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica [185].

THE FALL OF THE AMULONITES. As prophesied by Abinadi, the Amulonites (Olmecs) were soon devastated [186]/ [187]. Using a cesium magnetometer to detect buried basalt, Michael Coe, a professor of Anthropology at Yale University, and his group found mounds of monuments purposefully defaced, smashed and buried at San Lorenzo [188]. Other Olmec sites excavated in the area told the same story: seemingly the Maya (Lamanites) living among the Olmecs (Amulonites) in their gulf-coast empire revolted, defacing and smashing monuments, destroying buildings [189]/ [190], and as the Book of Mormon teaches us, massacring the ruling class (the descendants of the priests of Noah) [191]. The great Olmecs suddenly disappeared, but their influence over the Maya was seen forever afterward. The sparsely-populated Mayan lands were soon covered with huge temples and city-centers with art and architecture reminiscent of the Olmec style [192].

THE NEPHITES- ALMA THE ELDER AND KING MOSIAH II. Meanwhile, in central Mexico, Alma and his followers escaped to Zarahemla and established the church throughout the Mexican highland [193], witnessed archaeologically by new temples and synagogues built throughout the land [194]. Then, several decades later, Mosiah II founded a new democratic government [195], and each land began to build government buildings alongside the new temples (S/H: 91 BC; A/C: around 850 BC) [196]. Under the leadership of these inspired founders, the diverse societies of central Mexico integrated to become a very prosperous people [197]/ [198]. Unfortunately, in many communities this prosperity led to pride, social classes, and perversions, which are all quite visible in the material culture they left behind [199]/ [200].

Correlated timeline of archeological and scriptural dates


THE NEPHITES- CAPTAIN MORONI. These two great nations, the Nephites on the Mexican Plateau and the Lamanites (Maya) in Southern Mexico, Guatemala and Yucatan, began to experience greater conflicts [201]/ [202]. Foreseeing the coming challenges, Captain Moroni prepared his people and their lands [203]. First, the weak lands were fortified and the southern frontier was strengthened [204]/ [205]. Hilltop fortifications began to dot southern Mexico in Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Guerrero [206]/ [207]. Great urban fortresses were created [208]/ [209]. For example, at Monte Alban (Manti), researchers from the University of Michigan found that some leader (Moroni) inspired the people of the valley of Oaxaca to move to the top of a nearby hill in the former “no man’s land” between two warring nations, and there build a fortress with up to 10,000 inhabitants [210]. The site has natural cliffs surrounding the city, its temples and its public buildings on three sides; on the fourth side, excavators found a two-mile long wall of earth and stone which still stands almost 30 feet tall and 50-60 feet thick [211]/ [212]. No wonder Mormon venerated the leadership, courage and vision of Captain Moroni and the manner in which he prepared his people for war.

After Amalickiah’s first attack, a second phase of construction was begun in which fortified cities and hilltop fortresses were built throughout the land of Zarahemla [213]which appears to have stretched from Oaxaca to Jalisco and from southwestern Michoacan to northern Veracruz [214]. Also, the Book of Mormon records Moroni pushing the Lamanites out of the east wilderness and on the west, then building new cities in these areas in order to create a more defensible border [215]. Excavations in southern and western Oaxaca and Guerrero, as well as central Veracruz are now showing such movements of peoples and the construction of new large defensive cities and fortresses [216].

During the time that fortifications were being built in the Mexican highland, a massive weapons production industry commenced throughout Mesoamerica, both in the Mexican Highland (Zarahemla) and in Maya (Lamanite) lands [217]/ [218]. To accommodate these war preparations, the peoples of the Mexican Highland (Nephites) made major breakthroughs in agriculture and built massive irrigation systems [219]. From that time forward, urbanization and trade specialization, with accompanying prosperity, enveloped the Nephite lands [220]/ [221].

The great war of Moroni’s time, and the wars that followed, are seen archaeologically in demographic and cultural movements of this time period [222], and in numerous monuments depicting warriors and captives in both Highland Mexico and Maya lands [223]. The Lamanites displaced and jumbled the Nephites numerous times [224]. There was also a great cultural mixing when groups of Lamanites converted to the Nephite religion and went to live among the Nephites [225], and also when groups became captives [226]. Cities experienced occasional upheavals, but most of them changed hands without noticeable ruin [227]/ [228].

THE NEPHITES- 57 BC TO AD 33. Time brought greater prosperity [229], which led to ornamentation and extravagant housewares [230]. Robbers also infested the land during this period [231]—archaeologist have found that many of the graves of nobles and of wealthy people were broken into and the riches were stolen [232]. The Book of Mormon teaches that as wars continued numerous groups sought refuge and peace by migrating to far-away lands [233]. Archaeologists date the Adena people’s arrival in the Ohio River Valley at this time [234]. The Adena cleared the land of the carnage and waste the land’s former inhabitants (the Jaredites) had left [235]/ [236], and they brought a new culture with the advancements and technologies of their Mexican homeland [237]. Others moved to the Southwestern United States, becoming the earliest Mogollon peoples [238]. Those who arrived in North America found a land covered with lakes and rivers—a much more lush environment than the one they had left [239]. The Southwest Cultures are famous for their dwellings of stone and cement; cultures of the East for tents; both cultures also built simple homes of scrawny wood poles and thatched walls and roof [240]. In a short time the continent was covered with hamlets and villages [241]/ [242]. The people soon turned to pagan and perverted practices, which spoiled their previously wholesome culture [243]/ [244]. There is evidence that the first Polynesians reached the Pacific Islands around this same time period [245]/ [246].

Correlated timeline of archeological and scriptural dates

THE NEPHITES- ZION. . The destruction at the time of Christ was discussed earlier. As the ash settled [247]/ [248], a new culture spread across the land [249]/ [250]. In some ways, this new culture was more monolithic; in other ways it was more diverse. Throughout the Americas a new two-room temple replaced varying former styles [251]. A utopia of peace and prosperity is spoken of in legends [252]/ [253]. There is no evidence of weapons being used at this time [254], and the murals, figurines, and architecture show designs of nature, lines of symmetry and harmony, and displays of pleasant animals and domestic life [255]. Gone are all signs of a military elite, governmental force, and coercion [256]. The Hopewell, the Anasazi, the Mogollon, Teotihuacan, the Maya—continent-wide, the traits are the same [257]. The great peace resulting “because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:15).

The people were united in righteousness [258], yet at the same time, the culture became more diverse, as the focus turned from making a profit to making quality products and upholding the ideals of family and community [259]. Local artisans replaced the mass-production and expansive trade networks of the preceding period [260]. Thus there was no need to travel extensively “on business,” so people could spend more time with their families. Family gardens replaced mass-produced food [261]. People ate a greater variety of food, but their food was of more local origin [262]. Analysis of skeletons shows that the people were healthier and enjoyed longer life spans than during the preceding period [263]. The arts flowered during this period [264]. The number and variety of musical instruments greatly increased [265]. Pottery and other goods became more useful and more beautiful, and less ornamental and extravagant [266]. A much greater variety of artifacts is found, but in much smaller quantities than before, and with much less waste [267]. The prosperity was great throughout all of the Americas and in all areas of human development, “because of their prosperity in Christ” (4 Nephi 1:23).

In the early classic period the church became very wealthy [268]. The people donated their time and skills to the creation and maintenance of beautiful temples and public centers [269]. The population exploded [270], but at the same time, the cities became less dense as the communities were reorganized and the people spread out across the land [271]. Even the biggest “cities” were only lightly populated, yet they contained ceremonial centers and public buildings large enough to accommodate all the people of the surrounding villages [272]. Social classes disappeared, yet the standard of living increased everywhere [273]; And “they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 1:17) [274].
It was beautiful. Everything Mormon said was true. Then they lost it all. The line is not clear, but little by little it all slipped away. The late pre-classic ugliness returned, and this time it was even more vile.

THE NEPHITES- PRIDE. As the people became proud, they began to flaunt the wealth they had accumulated over many years of righteousness and prosperity [275]. In the archaeological record, we begin to find much larger houses than existed in the preceding period [276], more decorated pottery [277], personal ornamentation (including pearls and elaborate clothing) [278]/ [279], extravagant burials of the dead [280], and new long-distance trade networks [281]/ [282]. They painted murals showing images of power, with soldiers, weapons, kings, priests, slaves, and eventually human sacrifice [283]. They built new cities with defense in mind [284], and the existing cities became more dense, decreasing in total area despite the fact that the population was still growing [285]/ [286]. We see evidence of the rise of social classes, with a new elite class and a definite peasant class [287]/ [288]. The social classes are most apparent in the big cities.

Political players began to build up monuments to themselves, often showing off their accomplishments [289]. We see a cultural split, as the people broke up into different groups [290]/ [291]. As displays of wealth and power emerged in society and later in government, the church was divided, as the people in every land sought to raise up their own version of Quetzalcoatl (Christ), and to join him with a new pantheon of gods and demigods [292]/ [293]. In the major ceremonial centers, a priestly class began to exercise power and influence [294]/ [295]. Temples and temple complexes became colossal and extravagant [296], and often the priests raised themselves to the position of gods or claimed descent from the gods [297]. Priests and government leaders began to deform the skulls of their children, and to give themselves and their children tattoos and body paint, all in an effort to separate themselves and their children from the “commoners” [298]. Gated communities were developed to protect the elite from the lower class [299].

On the eve of society’s collapse, the pride turned absolutely disgusting [300]. Most of the pottery and art became warped, lewd and pornographic [301]. Mass production fed trade networks which branched across the continent and resources were exploited on a massive scale [302]/ [303]. Food production became intense, and the general health of the people correspondingly deteriorated; the incidence of disease increased significantly and life expectancies dropped drastically [304]. Body piercing became the norm [305], tobacco and drugs were used widely; smoking was done in smoke houses and in private homes, with cigarettes and with pipes [306]. Huge ball courts covered the land [307], in some places ball players rose to the state of gods [308]. The ball games became very bloody [309], and in many places they were accompanied with mass killing and human sacrificing of the winners or losers depending on the local religion [310]; in other areas the losers become the slaves of the winners’ rulers [311]. Many people wasted their income on various forms of gambling—they rooted on their favorite teams, or played games of chance with dice and bones [312]. In many areas the workmanship of the structures built during this period was poor, but it was covered with decorative plaster, and was elaborately finished [313]. Cultic symbols and status symbols are found everywhere [314].

THE NEPHITES- DESTRUCTION. Truly this society was ripe for destruction [315]. The Book of Mormon tells us that the destruction took place quickly [316]. Archaeology tells us that it occurred on a massive scale [317], larger than most probably ever imagined— although Mormon tried to help us understand [318].

The great war appears to have been started in central Yucatan by a group which archaeologists call the Putun Maya [319]. As they gained power they continued west and north, and eventually attacked the Mexican highland [320]. Great murals tell the story of their advances; they were the eagle warriors of the jaguar cult (the Lamanites), and they sought to exterminate the cult of the feathered serpent named Quetzalcoatl (the Nephites) [321]. Eventually the great city of Zarahemla (Teotihuacan) was attacked, but the invaders were pushed back [322]/ [323]. Then, as Mormon relates, Zarahemla (Teotihuacan) was laid waste [324]. Archaeologists have uncovered the entire story: the great Teotihuacan was burned and looted, monuments were defaced, columns were toppled, temples were desecrated, and the luxurious palaces were left in ruin [325].

The Lamanites’ pursuit of the Nephites can be followed from Teotihuacan to Western Mexico, to sites such as Alta Vista and Chalchihuites (perhaps Angola or the Land of David?) [326]/ [327]and then to the seashore, to Amapa and other sites in Nayarit and southern Sinaloa (probably the land of Joshua) [328]/ [329], a land archaeologists have found was filled with robbers and Maya during this period [330]/ [331]. From there the Nephites continued their flight into the “land northward” [332]. It appears that the massacre stopped when the Nephites reached Chaco Canyon (Shem), in New Mexico and were able to fortify it [333]/ [334]. There the Nephites held back their pursuers and the bloodshed stopped for a season while God sent forth missionaries and prophets to give the people one last chance [335]. Archaeologists have found circular religious structures, called kivas, appearing throughout Anasazi lands during this period [336], which perhaps shows that Mormon knew some success [337], though his own testimony indicates that any success was short lived as the wickedness persisted [338].

For ten years a peace treaty was in effect [339]; archaeology shows that the Maya (Lamanites) of Yucatan and Maya Chichimec of West Mexico came together and began building the great Toltec kingdom [340]. Toltec legend speaks of the war between Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, and Tezcatlipoca, the principal god of the Jaguar Cult [341]. The Toltecs boast Quetzalcoatl’s defeat and subsequent flight [342]. As the population of Tula was exploding [343], archaeologists find an abandonment of Yucatan by that area’s elite [344]. Recruits by the thousands flooded out of Yucatan to their new blood-thirsty, warrior kingdom centered in the Mexican Highland [345]. Many were also moved to the battle line in Western Mexico, as archaeologists find a large influx of Toltec peoples with strong Maya ties building up fortresses and making war preparations [346].

The kingdom of the Nephites centered in the Southwestern United States, and although they focused on defending the land for a short time [347]/ [348], they soon turned their focus to the “god” of money [349]. Trade networks covered the Southwestern United States [350], and turquoise, which was lusted after by the Toltecs, was mined on a huge scale to be traded for exotic Mesoamerican goods [351]. Ball courts, gated communities, lewd pottery and art, body painting, body piercing, gigantic cities, social classes—the signs of pride and wickedness—have been found by archaeologists throughout the Southwest United States and Northwest Mexico (the Nephite lands) [352].

Then, at the end of this fragile moment of peace, destruction continued [353]. The blood-thirsty Lamanites (Toltecs) based in a city just south of our narrow neck of land (probably La Quemada) came up against the Nephite armies which were based in Desolation (Zape in northern Durango?) [354]/ [355]. The Lamanites were repulsed and counterattacked, but they soon swept Desolation and later Teancum (most likely Guasave on the Pacific Coast) [356]. From there the fleeing Nephites followed the turquoise trail to Boaz [357], now known as Paquime or Casas Grandes in Chihuahua. Charles C. Di Peso, the first archaeologists to conduct large-scale excavations at the site, found signs of a great slaughter at Paquime [358]. Unburied dead bodies were strewn across the site, some had been shoved into the ducts of the water system, others sacrificed to pagan gods, but the majority were just left to rot and be preyed upon by wolves and vultures [359]. Mormon painfully records these same events, as he stood back, watching: “And (the Nephites) fled again from before (the Lamanites), and they came to the city Boaz; and there . . . the Nephites were driven and slaughtered with an exceedingly great slaughter; [and]their women and their children were again sacrificed unto idols” (Mormon 4:20–21).

The slaughter spread across the entire Southwestern United States [360]. Thousands of sites from this period have been found in which the site was either abandoned or burned or the people were slaughtered [361]/ [362]. In many places the people abandoned their scattered farms and gathered together to build great fortified cities to defend themselves, only to be massacred [363]/ [364]. But this was not a peaceful, righteous people being victimized. There is evidence of cannibalism among the Anasazi and other Southwestern Cultures (the Nephites) [365]/ [366].

Archaeologists have found human bones in cooking vessels, necklaces made of human skin or bones, and mobiles made of human bones and skulls which seem to have been used as trophies—signs of status and prestige [367]. They have found apparent ceremonial assemblages of skulls which were presented to false gods [368]. At Salmon Ruin, New Mexico (possibly the tower of Sherrizah) [369] women and children were abandoned by their covenant protectors, and the children were burned alive, caught in the top of the tower [370]. There are countless archaeological and scriptural evidences of the deplorable state of the Anasazi/Nephites; their brutal mutilation and total annihilation are painful to read about.

The destruction in the Southwest climaxed at a line of sites from Mesa Verde, Colorado (probably Jordan [371]) to Albuquerque, New Mexico [372]. The entire Southwestern United States and Northwest Mexico was left desolate, except for a few small scattered groups of refugees who hid in caves [373]/ [374]. But the destruction continued.

The line of sites mentioned above was actually a line of defense built to protect the great expanse of the American Midwest [375]. The Nephites who covered the Midwest are called Mississippians by archaeologists. Highly influenced by Mesoamerica and the Southwest [376], their culture had also passed through the cycle of simple and peaceful [377]to ugly and proud [378]. Their artwork from this period glorifies death and perversion [379]. There are carvings of goules, war dances, and the murdering of captives, and these are found alongside symbols of Christ (hands with marks appearing to symbolize the crucifixion) and symbols of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, displaying decapitated heads as a symbol of his power [380]. These were not ignorant people suffering for the sins of their parents; they were in open rebellion against God [381]. They refused to repent and trust in God, but rather put their trust in the arm of flesh thinking that could protect their lives. It would not be and never has been [382].

Soon after the cultures of the American Southwest were slaughtered, the Mississippian culture disappeared [383]. Huge ceremonial centers, like Cahokia in southern Illinois, built in the styles of the Mexican Highland, were suddenly depopulated without evidence of struggle or warfare—sites are not burned as in the Southwest, nor are the dead strewn across the landscape [384]. Because of the late carbon dates obtained from these sites some archaeologist have attempted to show that the people just redistributed themselves around the local area [385]. However, the Book of Mormon as well as the immense collections of arrowheads dating all the way back to the archaic found canvassing parts of New York State and the entire New England area speaks of a great desolation (The Book of Mormon states the final battles occurred in the “land of Comorah”, which likely encompasses a large portion of New England; not just around the current Hill Comorah as many have supposed) [386]/ [387].

Truly God is unveiling his truth in the eyes of all the world. It remains for us to read with faith, work with strength, and repent of our pride. We must go forward in a definite way and bring to pass the covenants of the Father and build up the kingdom of God upon the earth; both in small and simple ways and by making preparations for works of greatness.

After I had found many evidences of events in the Book of Mormon, and had developed a revised timeline for archaeology, I became curious as to whether my timeline would also work if I used it on Old World archaeology. I found many interesting “coincidences”. Following is a very brief account of a few of my findings. An entire paper on the subject will be forthcoming.

Evidence of pre-flood cultures appear to be entirely missing from the archaeological record. It is as if Earth’s baptism literally washed her clean. She contained no trace of the former sins of her inhabitants. Most of the early homo sapiens cultures that I would label Post-Flood are in the fertile crescent, and usually at a depth of between 30 and 50 feet below the surface [388].

Early Egypt was below water as Abraham attests [389]/ [390], and the earth was sparsely populated [391]. The climate during this period soon after the Flood was much milder and cooler than it is today, and the plants and animals from this period match those described in the Bible [392]. The desert climate would not come for many generations (after many droughts and curses). When we consider the depth at which these early cities are found, we realize that the only reason these sites have been found is that either the sites were continually inhabited until modern times, or the archaeologists were extremely lucky. Many early cities exist which have not yet been found as attested as by new sites which are continually popping up.

History really starts to take place after the Exodus. Let us consider Jericho. Using the “corrected” timeline we established by studying the Book of Mormon, and extrapolating our dates backward, we find that the Jericho of the Bible must be dated at around 7000-8000 BC. During this time period there was a Neolithic city at Jericho, surrounded with a great wall, and with a massive tower built right into the wall (possibly the house of Rahab/Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) [393]/ [394]. There is evidence that the people of the city were pagans, and that they were rich and proud [395]. The early city’s culture ends with the walls falling down and a new culture replacing Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, they are labeled Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (Sci- 6500 B.C.; Scr- 1450 B.C.) [396]/ [397]. Interestingly, the tower that was built into the wall survived to its full height into the next period (Rahab and her family were protected) [398].
This new nation had simple beginnings; archaeologists call it a retrogression because of the decrease in riches and more simplified art. However, there were many advances: they had a united nation seen in the form of a new wide-spread monolithic culture, they began inhabiting many new lands and developing the land, they respected their dead ancestors, they had domesticated animals, and they built nice square plaster-floored homes [399], which, “coincidentally,” were similar to the homes of the early Lehites and Mulekites [400]. After many years the nation became very wealthy (Pottery Neolithic A&B) [401], and then, as we can tell by studying cultural artifacts, the nation was divided [402]. One group inhabited the north, and the other group lived in the south (Chalcolithic Period) [403]/ [404].

The nation of Israel prospered during the entire period from the time it entered the Land of Canaan until the end of the Chalcolithic Period. Then suddenly the Kingdom of Israel in the north (the Ghassulian culture) was displaced, and new people from Syria and Southern Mesopotamia, labeled Proto-Urban A, were ushered into the region (Early Bronze Age) [405]/ [406].

The Kingdom of Judah in the south continued to prosper [407]. However, she did not learn from watching Israel fall (she did not repent), and little over a century later, she was also destroyed [408]. At the end of the Early Bronze Age every major city in the south was destroyed and depopulated—some incredibly violently [409]. The Bible clearly teaches that this was done by the hand of God—his tool being a new empire he had risen up in southern Mesopotamia—the Kingdom of Babylon [410]. Archaeologists also find this new kingdom in Mesopotamia but they have called it the kingdom of Akkad [411]. Judah was left desolate. Only small scattered villages and groups of wandering nomads remained (Intermediate Bronze Age) [412]/ [413].

When the Kingdom of Akkad (Babylon) fell [414], Judah was repopulated by a vigorous new group of people which began to rebuild the land (Middle Bronze Age) [415]/ [416]. The people prospered and the entire region flowered [417]. The succeeding period also saw a continued prosperity, but under Indo-Aryan influence (Alexander the Great) [418], followed by strong Egyptian (Ptolemaic) control (Late Bronze Age) [419].

As the period continued, Egyptian power weakened [420]and a group of “adventurers” are noted as coming down from Syria and establishing an Amorite kingdom (Seleucids) [421]. Archaeologists then find evidence of an internal revolt that occurs, led by the ‘Apiru (Hasidim under Maccabeans), in which a war commences by a guerrilla-type group of warriors that rally the principally Hebrew (Jewish) community to rise up against the Amorites (Seleucids) [422]. Many wars follow with great destructions but the nation that remains in the end is obviously Israel. The carbon dates for these events (about 1300-1200 B.C.) lead scholars to believe this may be the time of the exodus and subsequent conquest of Palestine. Little or no archaeological evidence of Joshua or the exodus exists at this time, however, and the carbon dates assigned to the various cities’ destructions do not match the Bible which declares the conquest to have occurred around 1400 B.C. [423]These discrepancies have led many biblical scholars to abandon the literal interpretation of the Bible and create many diluted theories that minimalize the book [424]. Interpreting the archaeology as evidence of the Maccabean revolt on the other hand, as we are proposing, matches almost exactly [425].

Next, archaeology shows the arrival of a new group of people called the “Sea People”. They ruled every land that touched the Mediterranean Sea [426], and though their origin continues to evade scholars they know it was somewhere in the area of Sicily, Italy, or Greece (Rome) [427]. The people conquer lands matching Rome’s accomplishment in Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Palestine [428].

Conclusions & Significance
Archaeologists and biblical scholars have long been at odds. As archaeology began to mount a horrendous amount of research, all placed by carbon dating, many biblical scholars began doubting the Bible. Scientific dates were given supremacy and new biblical scholars decided that the Bible was not completely accurate. They began trying to fit whatever they could into the archaeologists’ framework and discarded the rest as fable. The result was a great archaeological mess and a complete abandonment of the scriptures as the “Word of God” and absolute truth. Following the history of science and seeing societies turning away from God is very sad to read.

Now, our research seems to have discovered that the archaeologists are actually proving the Bible to be true and they don’t even know it because of the dating problem. So now, with the correlated time line created studying the Book of Mormon, we see the Book of Mormon proving the Bible to be true, which we are taught is one of its purposes (Mormon 7:8–9; 1 Nephi 13:38–41).

A future paper on Bible lands will show most all the fabulous stories of the Bible laid out in the dirt, just as the prophets said they happened, and just where the prophets said they happened. We will see that these wonderful stories which are disbelieved by most archaeologists, have actually been found by archaeologists!

These findings are of great importance. Our society has abandoned the scriptures. We have replaced the eighth article of faith with a new one that says: “We believe the scriptures to be the Word of God as far as they correspond with science; we believe science to be supreme truth on all subjects it chooses to address.” This cannot be. Geology, biology and archaeology cannot be allowed to replace the sure testimony we have of the creation. Psychology cannot be allowed to replace the reality of Christ as our healer. Any doctrine or teaching which denies Christ is not of God. Omitting God is denying God because God has clearly stated that he is the creator and he is the truth, the way, and the light so leaving him out is going against his word.

We need to see the scriptures for what they are—they are not exaggerated stories, and they are notjust stories told by old men who meant well but who were off on the details because they were limited to the scope of the learning of their own cultures. The scriptures are the word of God, told in truth by men who literally talked with him! They were written to warn the nations of the world to believe God and to fear God and to worship only him. The scriptural events happened just as we were taught when we were children. Moses was not just a Hebrew slave born in Egypt who had a limited understanding of time and a limited understanding of the size of the Earth, and of how the history of his people fit into the grand history of the earth. He had a deep understanding of these things because he learned them directly from God! When we realized that everything in the scriptures is literal, then suddenly we realize that we, as part of this great latter-day nation, must repent, or the destruction that has been prophesied will occur. We know that the proud and the learned who will not hearken to their Creator will be cast off forever. We must beware of those who perpetuate the Theology of Science and say there is no God because they have not seen him. These people deliberately discourage others from believing in God, and they do it using every imaginable discipline—history, archaeology, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and many other subjects. We must not allow people who live in sin, and therefore have not eyes to see, to lead us, for they will then be “blind leaders of the blind.” We must beware of the fanciful doctrines of Satan—precepts of men so wonderfully mingled with scripture that they appear to be true. We must beware of those who look beyond the mark. They despise plainness, and they “kill” the prophets with their words and their doctrines. God has taken his plainness away from them and has given them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it.

A new generation is being raised up, and to them God will prove all his words, because they believe. God will show them how he changed the times and seasons in order to blind the minds of the proud and the learned, that they would not understand his marvelous workings. (D&C 121: 12) This generation will prove the scriptures to be true, every whit. Fools have mocked the words of Moses and Mormon and Moroni, but they shall mourn. God’s great work will go forth!

I would plead with everyone to make the scriptures a more integral part of your education. I would encourage anyone with problems to seek from the Word of God first and only believe other teachings as they compliment the teachings of the prophets. I would encourage students to first read God’s take on every issue before diving into your studies so that you can have the spirit of prophecy and discern between truth and the speculations of man. Science is wonderful, it is the process of seeking truth in the world around us, but it is not absolute truth, it is not infallible, and it is not the word of God. Search the scriptures specifically on the subjects you are studying and you will be overwhelmingly amazed at the wealth of information.

Selected Bibliography can be found here