30 October 2012

Ancient Maya golden tablets lost in Guatemala?

During his recent visit to Utah, Daniel heard about a German researcher who says that texts in ancient Mayan tell of a record on gold tablets. Dr. Lund also mentioned it as part of his keynote address at the recent BMAF conference. Supposedly, gold tablets on which the Maya recorded their laws are now buried under the waters of Lake Izabal in Guatemala. This amazing information comes from writings in the Dresden Codex and was deciphered by Joachim Rittsteig.

A story this revolutionary bears further scrutiny, so Daniel decided to check it out. Described as an expert in Mayan writing and professor emeritus at Dresden University, Joachim Rittsteig has been studying the Dresden Codex, one of only four books in Mayan that survived widespread destruction and book-burning by Diego de Landa and other early Catholic priests during the conquest. After 40 years of study, Rittsteig claims that page 52 of this folded Mayan book, named for the city in which it currently resides, holds the key to the location of 2,156 gold tablets, weighing a total of eight tons and buried in a stone box. Rittsteig believes the tablets were housed at the mythical city of Atlan on the shore that sank into Lake Izabal during an earthquake in AD 1224. Amid a considerable amount of controversy, he headed an expedition in 2011 to the lake, but ended up not finding anything significant.

Joachim is actually a retired math professor, who has had a lifelong interest in Maya history and has written about it. His study of the codex has been on his own, apparently without any formal training. The Dresden Codex was discovered in 1739 in the possession of an anonymous rich man in Vienna. It was donated to the Saxon State Library in Dresden, and is considered the most complete of the Mayan codices and the oldest known book from the Americas. It was written in the 11th or 12th centuries AD around Chichén Itzá and may be a copy of an original text from 300 or 400 years earlier. Many credentialed Maya scholars have condemned Rittsteig and his methods. The general scholarly consensus is that the codices contain religious and calendric information. Its astronomical tables are very accurate and many of its signs are numeric, but no one apart from Rittsteig believes it is a treasure map. Because of damage during WWII and reconfiguring of the pieces, there is some confusion as to the correct page numbering. As best as we can tell, page 52 is shown here.

On the topic of the codices and how much they can tell us of ancient Maya culture, we turn to the words of Michael Coe, a very accomplished and renowned Maya scholar, whose quotes have often been used by critics of the Book of Mormon as evidence against it. In his book, The Maya, he wrote, "Our knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and Pilgrim's Progress)."

So, did the late-Classic Maya of the Yucatán write their laws on golden tablets that were kept in a city in central Guatemala? Would they have written about it in a book with tables for the Moon and Venus, locations of the Rain God, and ceremonial instructions? That remains to be seen. While we find the whole idea a bit suspect, the the idea of important writing on gold tablets in Mesoamerica from a non-LDS source is worth considering. If not from deciphering the codex, where did he get that idea?

Click here to read an article about Rittsteig and his expedition.
Click here to see a German page with a description of the gold tablets.

24 October 2012

Back from this year's BMAF conference

Daniel and Derek were at this year's Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum's annual conference. There were some great speakers this time and some very insightful information was shared. The conference was held at the Salt Lake Sheraton again, but this time the room was expanded for a larger audience. Daniel was the final speaker and his presentation on Hard Evidence for Horses in Ancient America was well received. The event was recorded, and video is being made available on the Internet. We will let you know if any of Daniel's talk will be uploaded and viewable.

The day before the conference, Daniel had a full schedule, meeting with LDS travel agencies, visiting the office of a new online bookstore, and being interviewed by Mills Crenshaw on his radio show, Drive Time Live. Among the callers was Carl, a self-professed atheist or ex-Mormon who was rather antagonistic toward any suggestion that there was any supporting evidence for the Book of Mormon. Daniel did his best to answer the barrage of accusations thrown his way, but did it make any difference? Probably not. Listen to the show and decide for yourself.

The first video to be completed is of Kirk Magelby's presentation on the history of Book of Mormon research. John Welch joined him for an interesting exchange.

Click here to listen to Daniel on Drive Time Live with Mills Crenshaw.
Click here to watch Kirk Magelby and John Welch's presentation.

15 October 2012

What's in our books

We've had some questions lately about what is in the new book, An LDS Guide to the Yucatán. Is the information new? If you already have An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica, do you need the new one? Our answer is yes. The new book is about a completely different trip to Mexico, concentrating on sites just in the Yucatán Peninsula. It also has some good supplemental info. Here is a list of the sites covered: Ek Balam, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Loltún Caves, Kabah, Xpujil, Calakmul, Becán, and Cobá

There are also chapters on traveling in Mexico, 2012 and the Maya calendar, a pronunciation guide and timeline specific to this area, and appendices with information on sites and studies we have done since this visit.

In addition to the chapters about why we look to Mesoamerica as likely Book of Mormon lands, historical similarities, a pronunciation guide and timeline specific to this area, and info on traveling in Guatemala and crossing its borders into neighboring countries, An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica contains chapters on these sites: Kaminaljuyú, Lake Atitlán, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Palenque, Tikal, Yaxhá, Quiriguá, and Copán

Nothing has been duplicated; it's all new! Hopefully, this clears up any confusion.

12 October 2012

Daniel scheduled to be a guest on a Utah radio show

On Friday 19 October, Daniel is scheduled to be an in-studio guest on Mills Crenshaw's radio show, Drive Time Live. The show airs at 3:00 pm Mountain Time on KTALK AM630 in Utah. This opportunity came about because the producer for the show heard and called in to speak with Daniel during his appearance on Mormon Miscellaneous in August.

He is looking forward to talking about the new book, his latest research, and the BMAF conference the next day. This will be his first time in a radio studio, so it should be an interesting experience.

Click here to see the schedule on Mills Crenshaw's blog.

06 October 2012

Daniel speaks on Simply Spiritual Solutions

Recently, Daniel was contacted and asked to be the guest on an Internet radio show called Simply Spiritual Solutions. The host is Dr. Lisa Hurtt and she discusses spiritual and paranormal topics with her guests. There wasn't time to make a new post about it, because the request came with short notice, but Daniel is always eager to accept these opportunities, so he said yes. There wasn't much time to prepare, but he had a very enjoyable time talking with Dr. Hurtt about LDS doctrine and teachings concerning the pre-existence, the spirit world, and our purpose on earth. We are always surprised by the amount of interest that exists in what are really just basic doctrines of our church. More radio show hosts and producers have contacted Daniel to schedule him on future shows, so we will keep you informed when that happens. Even though the topics covered don't relate directly to our studies into Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon, Daniel is still more than happy to talk to anyone who will listen (as usual).

Click here to listen to an archive of the show.

04 October 2012

An LDS Guide to the Yucatán is now available!

We are pleased to announce that our new book, An LDS Guide to the Yucatán, is now available for download as an e-book from Cedar Fort's website. It is a multi-page, fully formatted color PDF, so it can be read on most computers, tablets, and mobile devices. As you can see, Cedar Fort's designers have once again produced a beautiful cover, worthy of the exciting information contained inside.Those familiar with the beautiful images and informative graphics from our first book should easily recognize and appreciate our latest effort, which continues with the same look and format.

An LDS Guide to the Yucatán will soon be available directly for Kindle, Nook, and other formats. We will keep you informed as to when that happens. And for those of you who are already into digital books, An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica is now available for Kindle, directly from Amazon.com.

Click here to purchase An LDS Guide to the Yucatán from Cedar Fort.
Click here to purchase An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica for Kindle.

01 October 2012

A busy October

There is a lot to announce this month. First is the Book of Mormon Annual Conference on the 20th. Daniel has been asked to be the final speaker. His topic will be Hard Evidence of Horses in Ancient America. Originally, he had planned on headlining a cruise to Book of Mormon lands this week, but that has been rescheduled for next year. However, for him speaking at the conference is almost as much fun. Click the image for a larger view of the program.
As you can see, there are some great presenters this year, as always. The keynote speaker is LDS author and scholar John Lund, so this will be a great event. Afterwards, Daniel and Derek are putting together a fireside at Derek's home in Bountiful.

Daniel is scheduled to be an in-studio guest for a Utah radio show on Friday the 19th, and there is news on the new book's availability. More to come soon.

Click here for more conference details and registration at the BMAF website.