Jan 8, 2010

The Jaredites and Indian Traditions

Do we have any historical information relating the Indians of Central America to the Jaredites? In fact we do.  There are persistent legends among the earliest post conquest historians relating traditional stories claiming that their ancestors came from the Tower of Babel, passed through China, crossed the ocean, and settled in the Americas.  Others explain that they are descendants of the Jews and Hebrews and of the posterity of Abraham.
Most researchers have tended to ignore or deny these accounts claiming that the Indian histories had been tainted by their conversion to, or contact with, Christianity.  But this is a weak argument as these same researchers go on to accept at face value many other accounts of the native histories dealing with other aspects of their history, even though some of them are only fables, and others are of questionable validity.  Also it is unlikely that the native Americans would focus on an obscure and brief Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (it is only 9 verses in the book of Genesis).  Perhaps it was not even mentioned by the early Catholic priests, when so many other important doctrines of Christianity would have been of much greater importance.  It is also likely that there would have been a tendency to simplify and minimize the doctrine for the “new” converts.

The following are opinions and comments from leading authorities and scholars regarding the traditions and histories of the native Americans of Mesoamerica.

Charles Dibble (a linguist and an authority on the Aztec language) has observed that the young Indian priests were trained to memorize the historical language and repeat it word-perfect, and that errors were severely punished.  Therefore it is unlikely that they would knowingly change the traditional histories just to please the Spanish conquerors.

Miguel Leon-Portilla, a respected Mexican historian, observes:
“in the Indigenous centers of education the priests and teachers explained the paintings of the codices, making the students literally fix in their memory the commentaries.  A systematic tradition arose, supported in the testimony of the codices that were transmitted faithfully from generation to generation.
 In a later paper Leon-Portilla concludes
“There is no doubt that colonization impacted the continuity of the oral tradition, and in some places completely obliterated all evidence of the timeless traditions of the elders.  On the other hand, there is also testimonial evidence by witness accounts such as Andres de Olmos (an early Franciscan priest) who claims that the indigenous transliterated directly from the pre-invasion manuscripts....without changing or altering the content and context of these.”

These ancient native traditions, history and teachings were highly respected and would not have been altered on a whim or to please the conquerors.  This would have been akin to altering the wording in the Bible just to satisfy a non-believer.  It simply would not be done!

David Becraft, a linguistic scholar, concludes
“It seems unlikely that the oral tradition was altered substantially by the indigenous people studying in the Eurocentric institutes of education (missions).  There is no evidence to believe that because of a supposed Christian influence, the Nahua (Aztec) altered the oral tradition of their elders.....to please their new teachers.”

According to Elizabeth Boone, an authority on Mesoamerican art, even scribes who had no knowledge of the oral traditions continued transliterating without altering the documents.

Thus we see that there is no reason not to accept these sacred traditional accounts as valid.  The native scribes could be trusted to have given an accurate rendering of their history, and because of their traditional training and culture, they would have been reluctant to alter or embellish them.  Many of the supposedly “perverted” histories were built into their pre-conquest calendars-such events as the creation and the flood.  They had specific words, which were apparently part of their pre-conquest language, to describe these events such as ark-toptlipetlacalli and the Tower of Babel-zacualli.
However, there does seem to be some confusion and ambiguity in these histories as they mix references to Asiatic peoples from the Tower of Babel, or Mesopotamia, with Jewish and Hebraic emigrants.  Obviously such accounts are not referring to the same people.  However, this confusion is understandable if we remember that there were at least three separate ancestral groups which came to the Americas.  These were, of course, the Jaredites, of whom we have been speaking, the Lehites (Nephites and Lamanites) and the Mulekites.  The original stories of these first emigrants could easily have been confused or intermingled, and perhaps in the case of many of the conquest era Indians, they could actually have been mixed descendants of all three.

The Native Histories
Now we are ready to discuss the actual native histories themselves.  But first one caveat.  Veytia warns us that often the early Indians would mislead the Spanish historians because they did not trust them and had earlier seen them burn their ancient written histories.  Often they would tell them lies or fables or relate the histories in an allegorical style.  The historian Ixtlilxochitl (who we will shortly consider) even reports that they tried to deceive him, even though they knew that he understood the ancient writings and was familiar with the histories, because they suspected that he was a Spanish sympathizer.

First we will consider the report of this Ixtlilxochitl (pronounced Eesh­tleel-sho-cheetal).   Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl was a native historian born about 1570.  He was the son of a Spaniard and an Aztec princess and understood the traditions and language of both cultures.  He was commissioned by the Spanish viceroy to write a history of his people (the Toltecs? or Aztecs) and used the native histories and picture writing as a basis for his work.  His Relación histórica de la nación tulteca (or Historical Account of the Toltec Nation) was written between 1600 and 1608.  He writes:
“The Tultecas understood and knew of the creation of the world and how [God] created it, and the other things that are in it, such as plants, mountains, animals, etc., and, in the same manner they knew how God created a man and a woman from whom men descended and multiplied... .
And they say that the world was created in the year of the ce Tecpatl, and this epoch up to the deluge they called Atonatiuh, which means age of the sun of water, because the world was destroyed by the deluge; and it is found in the Tulteca histories that this age and first world, as they called it, lasted 1,716 years; that men were destroyed by very great storms and lightnings from heaven, and the whole world was without a thing remaining, and the highest mountains ... were covered with water ... and how men began to multiply from a few that escaped this destruction within a Toptlipetlacalli, which ... means closed ark... .
And how afterwards men, multiplying made a very tall and strong Zacualli, which means the very high tower, in order to shelter themselves in it when the second world should be destroyed.
When things were at their best, their languages were changed and, not understanding each other, they went to different parts of the world, and the Tultecas, who were as many as seven companions and their wives, who understood their language among themselves, came to these parts, having first crossed large lands and seas, living in caves and undergoing great hardships, until they came to this land which they found good and fertile for their habitation.
And they say that they traveled for 104 years through different parts of the world until they arrived at Huehue Tlapallan, their country, which happened in ce Tecpatl, for it had been 520 years since the Deluge had taken place, which are five ages.”
Here we are told that the ancestors of the Mexicans had a knowledge of the creation of the world, the flood, and the events at the Tower of Babel.  The group of seven friends and their families left Babel and crossed large lands and seas, traveling for 104 years before arriving in the Americas, 520 years after the flood.  One hundred and four years is an age according to the pre-columbian Mesoamerican calendar, and 520 years equals five of these ages so these times may have a symbolic meaning.

A second quote from Ixtlilxochitl:
It is the common and general opinion of all the natives of all this Chichimeca land, which is now called new Spain, besides appearing in the demonstration of their pictures, that their ancestors came from Occidental (western) parts, and all of them now called Tultecas, Aculhuas, Mexicanos, and other nations that are in this land say that they are of the lineage of the Chichimecas, and are proud of it; and the reason is, according as it appears in their histories, that the first king they had was called Chichi­mecatl, who was the one who brought them to this New World where they settled, who, as can be inferred, came from the great Tartary (Asia east of the Ural mountains), and they were of those of the division of Babylon, as it is declared more at length in the history that is written.
And they say that they traveled for 104 years through different parts of the world until they arrived at Huehue Tlapallan their country, which happened in ce Tecpatl, for it had been 520 years since the Deluge had taken place, which are five ages."
In this report Ixtlilxochitl notes that they came from the west, gives the name of their first king, suggests that they came from the great Tartary, that they were of the division (or inhabitants of) Babylon, and that they traveled for 104 years before arriving at their final destination.

We have already mentioned the account of Bernardino Sahagun, but will give his full acount here.
"Concerning the origin of these peoples, the report the old men give is that they came by sea from the north, and it is certain that they came in vessels; but it is not known how they were constructed. But there is an accepted tradition among all the inhabitants, that they came out of seven caves, and that these seven caves are the seven ships or galleys in which the first settlers of this land came to this land. From what can be gathered from probable conjectures, the people first came to settle this land from the direction of Florida, and came coasting along the coast disembarking in the port of Panuco which they call Panco, which means 'place where those arrived who crossed the water.' This people came in search of the terrestrial paradise and they had as a family name Tamoanchan, which means 'we are looking for our home.’
This report speaks of the seven caves or ships which we have already discussed.  But then Sahagun conjectures that they came from the east, by way of Florida, coasting along the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico.  There are other reports which mention the same things.  This would tend to contradict my theory.  However it can be seen that 1) this is only a conjecture, and 2) that it may have confused two different arrivals, that of the Jaredites and that of the Mulekites.  It is very possible that the Mulekite group originally came from the east and landed at the Mexican port of what is now Panuco.

Next we have several lengthy quotes from the Historia Antigua de Mexico (Ancient History of Mexico) by MarianoVeytia.  Veytia was a Spanish gentleman, born in Mexico, who lived from 1720 to 1778.  While many Spaniards considered the ancient Indian writings to be worthless and of the Devil, Veytia felt they were extremely valuable and that they contained the history and cultural details of the ancient inhabitants of the continent.  He was trained to read and interpret them by Lorenzo Boturini Benaducci, who had earlier collected many Indian manuscripts and learned to read them from the Indians themselves.  Boturini was planning to write an account of them himself before his untimely death.  Veytia subsequently inherited many of Boturini’s papers, and from his prior knowledge, his Indian contacts and the Indian manuscripts wrote a detailed history of his findings sometime before his death in 1778.  The following are excerpts from the listed pages of his book.
“[In my writing I am] following the ancient monuments and manuscripts that I have gathered in interpretation of the historical charts of the Toltecs (who were the wisest among all these nations), I say that the origin and first parents of all of them were seven families who, in the scattering of the peoples because of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel, joined together because of finding themselves of one language that they called Nahuatl, which is known as the Mexican language, and they traveled to these parts, where they established themselves and multiplied, and went on dividing into towns and nations.”  P. 40.
Veytia here indicates that he is following the manuscripts themselves and not earlier historians or commentators.  He considers the Toltecs to have been the higher civilization.  He states that they originated from seven families who were dispersed from the Tower of Babel and that their language was Nahuatl.  They traveled to the Americas, established themselves, multiplied, and divided into nations.
Regarding the histories: he indicates that some were written as a straight-forward history, while others were written as allegories.  The children of noble status were taught these writing skills as we are taught reading and writing in our schools.  p. 41.
“The first progenitor and father of their nation (Toltec) was named Tepanahuaste, which means the Lord of the Hollow Pole and that Tepanahuaste was at the construction of the great wall, as they called the Tower of Babel, and with his own eyes he saw the confusion of tongues, after which the Creator God commanded him to come to these extensive lands to distribute them among men.”  P. 47.
In this reference Veytia gives the name of the founder and indicates that he was present at the confusion of tongues and that God commanded him to travel to the Americas.
“They would include this event of the confusion of tongues on their charts, painting a round hill on the front of which a medal is seen placed, and a face engraved on it like that of an old man with a long beard, and outside the medal there are many tongues that surround it and form a border.”  P. 48.
He here describes the glyph used to denote their origin at the tower.  If this glyph could be found among any of the Maya or Aztec glyphs that have been discovered, it would be a proof of the Indians Jaredite origin.
“In this confusion of tongues, they say that seven families found themselves to be of the same language, which was Nahuatl, and today it is known as the Mexican language, and as they understood each other among themselves, they joined together, and together they undertook their pilgrimage through various lands and countries, at random and without a certain destination, until finding land that seemed suitable and appropriate for them to settle, and having walked for one age, which among them was the space of 104 years, crossing mountains, rivers, and arms of the sea, which they indicate on their charts, they arrived at the place where they made their first settlement at the northern part of this kingdom, which they called Tlapallan, which is interpreted as the Bermeja [red land], because the land was red, .....” p. 49.
Here again we have reference to the seven families.  Their language was Nahuatl, and if it is the same, this language is still spoke among some Indians in southern Mexico.  They traveled for 104 years.  They crossed mountains, rivers and arms of the sea to get to their destination.
“…the coming of these seven families (which I suppose were already numerous then) from the countryside of Sennaar (Mesopotamia) to these regions, was through the Tartary...” .p. 49
They came from Mesopotamia by way of the Tartary (eastern central Asia).
“On the charts they indicate the site where they departed from this other side, which they call Culhuacan, which means place of the snake, in which they subsequently founded a settlement of the same name which still remains,...” p. 50.
The site from which they departed Asia (possibly coastal China) was called Culhuancan which means place of the snake.  They had founded a settlement there.
“The manner in which they had to pass through these straits, sea arms and rivers shown was in square rafts formed of reeds or light poles, and in flat canoes to which they give the name of Acalli, which means house of water, and they paint them that way, and on them they paint the persons traveling, some sitting down and others lying down or stretched out along the raft or canoe.  But on none of the many maps I have seen do they show how they controlled them, because no person is seen swimming to guide it, nor can an oar or paddle be seen with which to steer it from on top,...” p 51.
I feel that the square raft is symbolic of boats or barges.  House of water (or water house) could be descriptive of the Jaredite barges.  It is interesting that there was no way to control them and no steering mechanism.

Next we have the History of the Xpantxay de Tecpan, a tribe of Guatemala.  They write:
"We the principal ones, this is our title (pedigree), how our grandfathers and fathers came, they came in the night, in the darkness.  We are the grandchildren of the grandfathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they are called.  In addition we are of Israel.  Our grandfathers and fathers remained in Canaan in the land of God, that our Lord gave to Abraham.  We were also in Babylon, where all the men made a great house and great building. ------- He changed their language and they all became different.  ----- Then they separated and dispersed over all the world.  They went away to discover her mountains and her valleys.  Then our grandfathers and fathers came and passed over the sea..  --------   Afterwards they rose up and came to the shore of the sea and crossed over in seven ships like those of the Spaniards.  They landed and rested there the seven tribes of the Lords-----."
This report introduces some new claims.  First that they are of the blood of Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that their ancestors dwelt in the land of Canaan.  Apparently they had knowledge of the Abrahamic covenant and promises.  Second, we have their claim that they were also descendants of the Jaredites who came from the dispersion at the time of the Tower of Babel and crossed the sea to the Americas.  Third, they came in the darkness.  Could this refer to the darkness of the ships?  Fourth, they crossed the sea in seven ships which they say were like those of the Spaniards.  This later point would seem to contradict my model, but could also just be a comparison to ocean going ships as they probably had not seen anything like them before.

Next we have an excerpt from the Annals of the Cakchiquels, a Guatemalen group speaking of their origins.
"From the west we came to Tulan, from across the sea; and it was at Tulan where we arrived, to be engendered and brought forth by our mothers and our fathers" so they told us. ----- Thus they spoke to the thirteen clans of the seven tribes. ----- The seven tribes were the first to arrive at Tulan so they said.”
In this report we see that their fathers came from the west, from across the sea.  This would of course be the Pacific Ocean.  It mentions the 13 clans of the seven tribes, which I believe refers to Jared, his brother, and their five friends.

In the Popul Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, we find this poetic reference to their origins.
In a certain time that now no one is certain of and which no one can now remember well,
Who it was came here to plant (sow) the grandfathers and the grandmothers,
These, they say, arrived, came, by water in the ships they came, in many groups,
And there they arrived at the edge of the water, on the coast of the north,
And there where they left their boats is called Panutla,
Their priests led them and their God was speaking to them,
Those that were there were the wise ones, those called possessors of the books of pictures,
But they did not remain for much time, the wise ones then left, once more they entered into their boats.
This excerpt from the Popul Vuh instructs us that long ago in the past their ancestors came across the sea in many groups.  They arrived in the north at a place called Panutla (this could possibly be Panuco).  Their ancestors were led by God, were the wise ones, who possessed the books of pictures or histories.  But they did not remain in the original landing place, but boarded their ships and sailed again (a possible reference to the Mulekites).

To summarize: among the things we can learn from these histories is the following:
1. The ancestors of the Aztecs and the Maya had several different origins:
1) Some were descendants of Abraham.
2) Some were descendants of people who left the Tower of Babel at the time of the dispersion.
2.  They came from Babylon and the Tartary or eastern Asia.
3.  They crossed the sea from the west, in the dark, in seven ships.
4.  There were seven original families (and possibly 13 clans or sub-groups).
5.  The pre-conquest Maya and Aztecs had a knowledge of the creation, the flood, and the dispersion at the Tower of Babel.
6.  There appears to have been at least two ancestral groups, one crossing the Pacific from the west, and the other crossing the Atlantic from the east.
7.  God spoke to their ancestral leaders and directed them.
8.  The legendary seven caves of the Indians are the seven barges or ships that they used to cross the Pacific Ocean.
9.  It took them 104 years to make the full journey (the length of the journey will be discussed in another section).

Assuming that the traditions of the Aztec and Maya were handed down from the ancestral Olmec, we can now establish some correspondences between the Olmec and the Jaredite peoples.  The ancestral Indians came from the Tower of Babel in Babylon, passed through the Tartary or central and eastern Asia, crossed the Pacific in ships, arriving from the west, and landing somewhere near Mesoamerica—so did the Jaredites.  The boats of the ancestral Indians are described as “caves”.  The barges of the Jaredites were enclosed and dark like a cave.  The Lord directed and led the Jaredite prophets.  The leaders of the ancestral Indians were spoken to and led by God.   The Jaredites had a knowledge of the creation, the flood and the confusion of tongues—so did the ancestral Indians.  So from these correspondences we can, in my opinion, conclude that Olmec era peoples and the Jaredites are one and the same.

1 comment:

  1. I don't see how a reference to the Tower of Babel supports the Jaredite connection in the least. I am a firm believer in the historicity of the Bible, including the dispersion from Babel and the confusion of tongues. But this story entails that *everyone* dispersed from Babel! All nations came from there, and thus all peoples have memories of that tower. One finds it not just in Mesoamerica, but in China, among the Aboriginal Australians, and countless other places. More difficult for believers in the Book of Mormon is that no mention is made of any Jaredite survivors except Coriantumr. That the Jaredites were entirely lost is manifest in the fact that King Mosiah was only able to translate their records by divine power. Had Jaredites and their tradition made a major contribution to the Lehite civilization, undoubtedly the capacity to study their records would never have been so totally lost. Contemporary LDS ideas about the substantial survival of Jaredite culture demythologizes the text without warrant based on the implausibility of single battles completely annihilating an entire civilization. Yet that is what Ether presents us with. Day by day, night by night, the two armies are whittled down until every Jaredite except Coriantumr is dead.

    The loss of the Jaredite tongue likewise fits with Joseph Smith's consistent preoccupation with the pure tongue of Adam throughout his life. Brigham Young's glossolalia is pronounced the pure language of Adam by Smith. Adam-Ahman-Ondi is reputed to be Adamic. Adamic plays a key role in Joseph's study of the papyri which became the source/inspiration for the Book of Abraham. That the Jaredites would be possessed of an unconfounded language that was later lost fits hand-in-glove with those things which fit Joseph Smith's mind. They do not fit Mesoamerican history or tradition.