May 18, 2011

Zarahemla and Bountiful

Based upon my opinion that the Isthmus of Rivas, in Nicaragua, is the Book of Mormon's narrow neck of land, I have identified Costa Rica and Panama as the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi. Some have ridiculed my theory saying that this area did not have a large enough population, or significant archaeological sites. I have responded to these critiques previously and will add additional support today.
I would like to discuss two specific sites that I have designated for the cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful. These were large population centers and were the principle Nephite “lands” for much of their history. I have suggested that Zarahemla was located near the present city of Turrialba, in east-central Costa Rica. Bountiful has been placed at, or near, the present day city of Puerto Viejo de Saripiqui, on the north-east coastal plains.
Is there any justification for these placements? I believe there is. The geography fits their respective locations, and there are archaeological sites dating to the proper time frames. Turrialba is located on a tributary of a major river which I feel was the River Sidon. It is in a beautiful valley with a multitude of identified archaeological sites in the immediate area. Puerto Viejo is located at the point of a ridge of low hills and at the junction of two major rivers, and on the opposite side of the mountain range from Turrialba.

The Museo de Costa Rica, which has been designated as the agency in charge of Costa Rican archaeology, has recently developed a web page which details much of what is known about the various archaeological sites in the country. I believe that there are now over 4000 such sites which have been discovered, and the country has only received a cursory review, often as a response to construction projects.
One function of their web page allows the viewer to see all the identified sites in a particular area. I have used this function to identify the clustering of sites in the above mentioned areas. 

Site cluster at Turrialba
The map of the cluster of sites around Turrialba is particularly impressive and is the densest cluster of any in the country. I assume that this would have been the case with the Nephite city of Zarahemla. There are 289 individual sites shown on this map, each identified by a yellow dot and an enclosing red circle. Unfortunately the web site doesn't indicate the age of the various sites and many would date to times after the Nephite extinction. However, the clustering of sites does indicate the importance and favorable location of the area, something that would have been true of Zarahemla, even after it became a Lamanite city.

The second map is of the Puerto Viejo area and shows a clustering of sites as well. This is the area in which I believe the city of Bountiful would have been located. The clustering isn't as intense as that at Turrialba, but Bountiful wasn't as old and developed as Zarahemla, so one would expect less growth. If I am correct, this would have been the area in which Christ appeared to the surviving Nephites following His resurrection.
Site Cluster at Puerto Viejo

One thing should be noted in conclusion. These sites don't contain monumental architecture such as is found in Mesoamerican sites. Some may conclude that this fact invalidates them as contenders for Nephite cities. However the contrary is true. As the Nephites did not build with stone, but with wood, one should not find stone structures in Nephite cities. In addition, pyramidal structures were not part of the Nephite culture. These were typical of the Jaredite culture which was located to the north. So the absence of stone buildings, stone walls and monumental pyramids is an argument in favor of their athenticity.   

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