May 25, 2012


In a previous blog I discussed my proposal that the city of Zarahemla was located in Costa Rica in the Turrialba Valley.  I would like to expand on that theme, and give a few more details, as this was such an important site in Book of Mormon history.  
Concentration of archaeological sites in Turrialba region.
For those who think that Costa Rica didn't have a large enough population to qualify as the Nephite homeland, the above picture should dispel some of the doubt.  This is a satellite view of the Turrialba region with the discovered archaeological sites pinpointed as yellow dots.  There are 270 sites identified on this map with the highest concentration in what I have proposed as the Zarahemla - Gideon corridor.  This mapping is a service provided by the National Museum of Costa Rica under their Origines project. 
The four main sites, which I feel represent the ancient city of Zarahemla, are La Isabel (C-4LI), La Zoila (C-5LZ), El Mora (C-3EM), and Azul (C-23A2).  These are shown on the accompanying map with related archaeological features (however the Azul site is located off the map to the right).  They are actually one unified site, but were divided up according to the farm on which they were located.
These sites have only been superficially investigated.  They were found to be extensive sites, dating back to Book of Mormon times.  However, as the area consists of prime agricultural land, the sites have been basically destroyed by the overprint of agricultural activity (plowing, leveling, and years of planting).  In addition there has been a lot of construction activity in the building of local homes, as well as years of looting.
Archaeological map of
Turrialba area
The accompanying site map is an overview of the archaeology of the area.  This is an older map that doesn't show the great increase in housing, principally along the roads.  The main road is that laterally traversing the map and listed as the "road to Guayabo."  Among the archaeological features listed on the map are tombs, a cemetery, a portion of a stone road, and various mounds.  The area is littered with broken pottery shards, and many fine artifacts were apparently removed earlier by looters.  We would not expect to find any monumental architecture here as the Nephites did not build stone structures (under heading Building and Construction), but used wood for the homes and public buildings.  
As can be noted, the sites lie between two small rivers - the Aquiares, and the Azul.  This was a feature noted by archaeologists for this time period - the ancients tended to locate their towns and villages along, or between, small streams which were sufficient to supply water for their needs, but were not large enough to cause problems with flooding.  Small stone-lined aqueducts would be built, leading off from the main river channel, to supply the various parts of the town.  Such aqueducts have been found and restored at the site of ancient Guayabo, located about 20 miles away.  
Section of Tuccurique map showing geography and locations.
 Click to enlarge.
These proposed Zarahemla sites lie about 3 miles east of the main modern city of Turrialba, which is built on the main Turrialba River to the west, in the central part of the Turrialba Valley.  They are about 5-10 miles away from the proposed site of the city of Gideon, which would have been near the city of La Suiza on the Tuis River.  Gideon would be located on the south side of the Reventazon River, the river that I have identified as the Sidon River.  The above sites are about 5 miles to the west of the Reventazon which makes an abrupt turn to the north at the mouth of the Tuis River. 
I am including some pictures of this area from my last trip there in March of 2012.  It was cloudy and raining at the time.    
Picture of Aquiares River from main road looking north-east.
View from main road looking east.
Main road looking east.

Main road looking south-west.
Looking east on side street.
View of Turrialba Valley looking north-west along main road.
Turrialba in the distance.
View to the west.
View to the north.