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©Robert F. Smith

August 1975

#1 V. Garth Norman, “Book-of-Mormon Geography Study on the Narrow Neck of Land

Region,” Book of Mormon Geography Working Paper No. 1 (1966/1972/1974), 124 pp.
Ms; illus. with maps.

#2 ----------------------, “Reconstruction and Correlation of the Geography of the Land

Southward, Border Regions of the Book of Mormon,” Book of Mormon Geography
Working Paper No. 2 (1966/1974/1975), 32 pp. mimeo; illus. & maps.

#8 John L. Sorenson, “Where in the World? Views on Book of Mormon Geography,” Book
of Mormon Working Paper No. 8 (1955/1963/1971/1973/1974), 24 pp. Ms; with maps.

Appendix Ibid., 29 pp. “Appendix.”

* This was a written symposium of around 20 participants organized by Dr. David A. Palmer,
with the above proposals and reviews being sent to all other participants.

James Christensen’s recent New Era photo essay, “The Land of Promise,” was beautifully
done, yet sadly disembodied. The non-specific captions, though required by the lack of a
solidly based elementary introduction to Book of Mormon geography, are even preferred by
some people, and one may be certain that, in so-called “Book of Mormon Lands” tours, as well
as during the coming 1976-78 LDS Gospel study schedule, the Book of Mormon will continue to
be treated in a kind of geographic limbo – the only aspect of LDS Gospel study which remains
uncorrelated. However, Hugh Nibley says that, if a scriptural text has a “preoccupation with
locus,” there has got to be a reason:

If we are not to think in terms of real time and place, why this persistent use of
familiar words that suggest nothing else?2

V. Garth Norman apparently believes that the partially defeatist statement of William E.
Berrett, made over 30 years ago, represents the position of the LDS Church.3 That is at least
doubtful, and I have yet to read an official statement which is so disposed. Nor can earlier
(opposing) statements be granted supreme authority:

A Reductio ad Absurdum
Norman cites criticism by J. A. Widtsoe of the 27 March 1836 F. G. Williams
“revelation.”4 Widtsoe notes that the statement cannot be tied directly to the Prophet Joseph,
and that “it came into the possession of the Church Historian as a gift from Ezra G. Williams,
son of Frederick G. Williams in 1864, . . .” The comment cited from T&S, III/22 (15 Sept 1842):
922, is not signed by Joseph. Again, the attribution can only be indirect. Otherwise we shall be
forced to take seriously all other such comments therein, e.g. that Quiriguá, Guatemala, is the
city of Zarahemla,5 or that Palenque-Nachán was built by the Nephites,6 which Norman would
seem to agree cannot be the case – at least not strictly speaking.7

The Williams “revelation” is intriguing for a very special reason. To be dated certainly
before the death of Williams (10 Oct 1842), it contains “characters” and translation

New Era, V (Jan 1975):20-29.
Nibley, “Treasures in the Heavens . . . ,” Dialogue, 8/3-4 (Autumn-Winter 1974):80-81; cf. Norman, #1,
pp. 9-11.
Norman, #1, pp. 19-20, but see p. 105; Berrett, The Restored Church, 2nd ed. (Dept of Education of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1940), 77, most of which is wisely stated.
Norman, #1, pp. 13-17; Widtsoe, Improvement Era, 53 (July 1950); cf. BYU Studies, 12:312-314; but see
Improvement Era, 53 (Sept 1950):547; and photocopy in N. C. Williams, Meet Dr. F. G. Williams (1951),
facing p. 102; John M. Bernhisel Ms, p. 135.
T&S, III/22 (1 Oct 1842):927.
T&S, III/22 (15 Sep 1842):914.
Norman, #2, pp. 21-22.
immediately above the disputed passage which, I believe, could only have been made by a
person who had actually seen the Book of Mormon plates (or transferred from a document
which had authentic Book of Mormon characters upon it) since the epigraphy of the Egyptian
demotic word for “book,” mdзt, below the English word “Book,” can be most clearly dated to
the early form common in and around the reign of Pharaoh ʼIˁḥ-mose II (570-525 B.C.).8

That Williams may have been copying much earlier Church documents is shown by the
existence of a fragment in the LDS Historian’s Office, in the hand of Oliver Cowdery, having
thereon the very same English “translation” for the same “characters” from the Book of
Mormon! Cowdery’s period within the Church thus dates that document to between April 1829
and April 1838, and probably to the early part of that period.9

David Palmer was right to have suggested avoidance of this traditional issue. The
authenticity of opposing geographical statements is hardly clear-cut, but Norman and
Sorenson, by mentioning such sources, have each made it impossible for one to remain nicely
silent. It is rather the geographical descriptions internal to the Book of Mormon in direct
correlation with geographic-anthropological reality which will be (is) ultimately convincing, pro
or con, on the historicity and authenticity of the Book of Mormon. “Conclusive proof” is not a
phrase justified by anonymous 19th century pronouncements! Unsigned articles must not be
assigned with unverified certainty, and Joseph left no statement which can be taken as his on
Book of Mormon geography.

‘arxaios & logos

I am not capable of judging the relative merits of most of the specialized archeological
reasons for the correlations of Norman10 and Sorenson,11 but the technical interpretation of the
results of Mesoamerican excavation is by no means the only matter at issue here, as I shall
demonstrate, and I must say this:

Despite my ignorance, it seems to me clear that Mesoamerican archeology is yet in its infancy
(contrary to Sorenson, Appendix, p. 6), and, despite considerable knowledge about the most
heavily excavated areas in the world, the Levant, we have yet to reach the point of diminishing
returns there at any major juncture of research. A fair notion of just what good historical
archeology is and is not can be obtained by reading James A. Sanders, ed., Near Eastern
Archaeology in the Twentieth Century (Nelson Glueck Festschrift; Doubleday, 1970).

Rylands Papyrus VI, D, 1, cited in W. Erichsen, Auswahl früdemotischer Texte, p. 108b (cf. Pyr. 267 b; CT
225, III 240/1b).
T&S, II:201; JS, 2:66-69.
Norman, #2, p. 16, and passim.
Sorenson, Appendix, p. 23, and passim.
There is much that the modern Mesoamericanist can learn from ancient Near Eastern
studies, the scriptural connection being most important – particularly as a stimulus to funding
research (other relationships to become apparent below). It is true also, as Norman observes
(#2, p. 23), that we can be fairly sure of some points being more likely than others in any given
geographical hypothesis, but that is only the beginning. Moreso than in the Near East, special
effort is required to establish certain limited Mesoamerican pivot points and then to fill in the
concordant details. Take Jaredite Ephraim, a source of iron ore. Is there a hill or source of that
sort within the limits of proposed areas of Moron, Gilgal, Nehor, Ramah, and Desolation? Many
such points await correlation, and, if the Book of Mormon is authentic, there can be but one
area which will correlate properly as the land of the Book of Mormon.

When I look at Sorenson’s map of highland Guatemala, I think wistfully of the sweat and
of the tremendous sums of hard cash once wasted by the CIA on secret Guatemalan bases at
Helvetia (a Cuban guerilla training base near Retalhuleu in the Boca Costa) and upriver from
Sayaxché (a CIA prison in the Petén). I think of the effort invested in secret machinations by the
Lamanites and Gadiantons. Would that such money and cunning could be applied to the more
wholesome pursuit of Book of Mormon geography. With proper funding, the process of
deciding on the relative credibility of various ponderous and unwieldy theories might even be
bypassed, e.g. the anthropological data (ethno-linguistic, archeological, geological, geographic,
etc.) of Mesoamerica could be fed into a computer programmed for pattern or cluster
recognition consonant with data internal to the Book of Mormon12 (I will have more to say
about patterns below). EDP may be the best friend that an analytical Book of Mormon
archeologist can find, and the statistical conclusions provided thereby might allow us to focus
our energies in the areas likeliest to produce tangible results. Such would certainly preclude
the hasty and naïve assessment of a Mike Coe,13 and would go far toward the production of a
text like Yohanan Aharoni’s The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography, trans. A. F. Rainey
(London, 1968/ Phila., 1967/ from the 1962 Hebrew edition). Biblical archeology provides an
excellent model to be followed by Book of Mormon archeologists.

Presaging what I believe to be a more popular appreciation of the probabilities for

ancient Old World – New World diffusion, and thus for a more realistic attitude toward the
Book of Mormon, are recent publications, e.g. is a social studies text prepared for California
secondary schools, pre-Columbian migrations of Chinese, Japanese, Vikings, and Central Asians
were outlined and mapped, and cognizance was taken of Turkish words appearing in Maya and
Aztec.14 Even as I write, the World Church of God’s Ambassador College has published very

Cf. Casey & Nagy, “Advances in Pattern Recognition,” Scientific American, 224 (April 1971):56-71.
Coe, Dialogue, VIII/2 (Summer 1973): 40-48.
J. Chapin, R. McHugh, and R. Gross, Quest for Liberty (Field Educational Publ., 1971), 12; Turkish and
Sumerian may be related within an Altaic substratum.
strong material along these lines.15 In his recent Mythic Image, Joseph Campbell posits “one
historic heritage and universal history of mankind,” based on such facts as the precise
correspondence of Mayan and Chinese calendars.16 Such “gentile respectability” (Nibley) has
been a long time coming. It may even be an advantageous factor for Mormons that they have
not been in the diffusionist forefront, and so have not “poisoned the wells.” An ironic

Mormons ought not to accept all such theories cavalierly. Norman, like many non-
Mormons, accepts the authenticity of the Paraíba Text (as do I). Unfortunately, he leaves the
impression that the issue is finally settled, neglecting to cite F. M. Cross’s negative
assessment.17 It is time that Mormon scholarship welcomed “opposition in all things” (II Ne
2:11-16) and faced it head on.

If God is a God of love, it seems most unlikely that he would not have revealed
himself to his other children as well. And it seems probable that his revelation
would have taken different facets and different forms according to the
differences in nature of individual souls and the differences in character of local
traditions and civilizations.18

W. F. Dankenbring, “Who Discovered America First?” The Plain Truth, XL/12 (July 12, 1975). 8-11.
Campbell, with M. J. Abadie, Mythic Image, Bollingen Series 100 (Princeton, 1974).
Cross, “The Phoenician Inscription from Brazil: A Nineteenth Century Forgery,” Orientalia, 37
(1974):445ff.; Norman, #1, pp. 6-7, and n. 1.
Huston Smith, The Religions of Man.

AJA American Journal of Archaeology

BA Biblical Archaeologist

BARS H. Nibley, “Basic Arabic Root System,” unpublished Ms, Compiègne, 1945.

CA Current Anthropology

HMAI Handbook of Middle American Indians

JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society

JCS Journal of Cuneiform Studies

JEOL Jaarbericht “Ex Oriente Lux”

LP Land of Promise (Promised Land) (I Ne 13:12, 14; Eth 7:27; but see III Ne 20:29)

NNL Narrow Neck of Land (Small Neck) (Al 22:32; 63:5; Eth 10:20)

NP Narrow Pass(age) (Al 50:34, 52:9; Mormon 2:29, 3:5)

NSW Narrow Strip of Wilderness (Al 22:27)

T&S Times and Seasons

UT Ugaritic Text

YGC W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (N.Y., 1968); pagination differs in
the London edition.

Review of Proposed Norman & Sorenson
Book of Mormon Geography Correlations

That Norman and Sorenson are arguing for their respective general hypotheses rather
than for specific local applications ought to be given heavy emphasis and constant repetition.
Finally, of course, particular instances of an overall theory must be found, and it is possible that
many/some of the current Norman-Sorenson correlates will stand the tests of time. But their
individual general theories do not stand or fall based on selected items of identification.
Therefore, although I treat herein a wide range of aspects of each theory, the questions I raise
as to this or that specific locality can have only a very slight effect on the basic pattern
advanced by each theory. General observations must carry the greatest weight. Only a
computer can now proceed from the analytic to synthetic in such complex study.

There is the danger, of course (and both Norman and Sorenson fall prey to it on
occasion), of interpreting Book of Mormon references in light of geographic facts, rather than
allowing the references to speak for themselves. This does not mean that such interpretations
are wrong, though the danger is clear. Again, much of what Norman and Sorenson give us are
no more than possible interpretations of Book of Mormon text. Possible, not compelling. They
provide us with a plethora of possibilities to be systematically checked out. In the realm of
creative theorizing, absolutism is entirely out of place.19

In view of Norman’s request that data from the Book of Mormon be studied in context
(along with other rules of analysis -- #1, p. 27), one must consider city lists (Norman, #2, pp. 9-
10), land and city clusters (Old and New Worlds), etc. These are among the contexts which will
be considered below, where it will become apparent that they best support the schema of
orientation and geographical configuration argued for by Sorenson.

There is every indication that Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon was
mechanical and literal, often following KJV precedent.20 One could, thus, expect to find Hebrew
or Egyptian terms rendered there in a consistent manner. Indeed, though Egyptian and Semitic
literature often employed standard terms in relatively new roles under compelling
circumstances, the logic of modern dynamic or free translation (metaphrase) was unknown to
them. If, for example, a term for “north” in the Old World were employed as “north-west” or
“west” in the New World, we should be unsurprised, based on comparative analysis, to find
“north” as Joseph’s (the Urim & Thummim’s) translation in each case. The ancients themselves

CA, 16:31-32.
See the unpublished M.A. thesis of M. D. Pack, BYU, 1973, and J. A. Tvedtnes in BYU Studies, XI:50-60.

were most unscientific and relativistic about such matters, freely choosing among or mixing
astronomical, solar, or local geographic directional systems.21

Whatever one makes of M. Coe’s suggestion that the Olmecs of San Lorenzo used a
magnetite compass,22 Sorenson demonstrates, with abundant examples, that more than one
approach to direction can be and has been employed in widely varied times and places,
correctly noting that some aspects of Hebrew usage had become conventionalized (as had
Hamito-Semitic usage generally), that directional symbolism in the New World could in fact be
rotated 45 - 90°, etc.23 However, it ought to be more strongly emphasized that the Book of
Mormon concept of a conventionalized “behind-west sea” and “forward-east sea” (e.g. Al
22:27) is paralleled by specific OT passages (Dt 11:24, 34:2; Joel 2:20, Zech 14:8, with hayam
haʼaḥaron, “Mediterranean,” and hayam haqadmoni, “Dead Sea,” opposite one another in the
final two instances). Elsewhere, simple “sea” is “west” (Dt 33:23, yam) “north” (Ex 10:19), or
“south” (Ps 107:3, “southern sea; Gulf of Eilat” – cf. II Chron 8:17, Isa 9:1 ǁII Ne 19:1; 1QapGn
21:17 places “the Red Sea in the East”!), all in our modern terms of reference. In both Hebrew
and earlier Amorite, of course, simple “before” and “behind” were used as complete
directions.24 That none of these terms are absolute in meaning might most readily be apparent
to those who understand that, in our own time, a word like orient, “east,” has seen
considerable broadening in meaning.

There are many directional terms used biblically, some demonstrably cognate with
certain Hamito-Semitic terms, and I long ago supplied Sorenson with an exhaustive list of them,
but much of this entails rare, even exotic usage (cf. Negeb, “Egypt,” Dan 11 – though Egypt is
not “south” of Israel), and we must be concerned with the conventional, simple, earth-bound
terms which the Book of Mormon itself appears to prefer. For, despite the obvious place of the
rising-sun (itself conventionalized by Mesopotamians25) in many systems, even the
sophisticated Egyptian could judge the direction “west” (ymn) as being on his “right” (ymn)
when facing upriver of the Nile – notwithstanding the twists and turns of the Nile as much as
90° from a true south-to-north flow.26 For a Hebrew, the same “right” orientation meant
“south” (ymn)! It is essential to know one’s point of reckoning.

One can add to this the banks of the River Seine, or the Mongolian “right”-“west”
orientation, and multiply relativistic examples ad nauseam, but the simple fact is that some of

Cf. M. Dahood, Ugaritic-Hebrew Philology, §13.170 on ˁnt:II:7-8.
R. H. Fuson, “The Orientation of Mayan Ceremonial Centers,” Annals of the Association of American
Geographers, 59:508-510; Baity, CA, 14:443; cf. Archeology, 23/2, p. 149; cf. also the Liahona.
Sorenson, #8, pp. 9-12, and Appendix, p. 13.
A. Malamat, BA, 34:14; M. H. Pope, Job, AB 15, p. 156, on Job 23:8; cf. Ps 139:9, ʼaḥarit yam.
Sorenson, #8, p. 9 and n. 6.
J. Černý, Ancient Egyptian Religion, p. 16.

the people we are considering, the Isthmus Zapotec, use the term ‘gyá’, “up, above,” for
“north”27; note the similar classical use of Latin infra hos, “lower down than them” to mean
“southward; downstream.”28 It even appears to Andrew J. McDonald, at the Univ. of Texas at
Austin, that ceremonial complexes in the Chiapas Central Depression parallel “the stem of the
Grijalva . . . as if it pointed the way north.”29 As I have indicated, local north along the Nile was
based on the very same downstream flow, though alternative solar and astronomical systems
could also be used, e.g. the astronomical orientation of Egyptian temples is mentioned by A. R.

General Configurations
Norman accepts this basic orientation, and takes as his geographical jumping-off-point
the distinction between the Lands North and South, divided by a Narrow Neck of Land, while
distinguishing as well Lands of Desolation & Bountiful, and an area of large bodies of water and
rivers (#1, pp. 31-33). In so doing, he attempts to account for Hel 3:8 in terms of his by-gosh-
and-by-golly relative continental axis (#1, pp. 33, 41-42). His failure to use one consistent
system of directional reference in his papers is regrettable, and his references to this or that
“literal” direction are decidedly non-literal.31 All of this confuses the issues surrounding Hel 3:8,
which may simply reflect formulaic language: M. D. Pack has already noted the hyperbole of
“earth” for “land, countryside.”32 The word has the same semantic range in either Egyptian or
Hebrew, and accounting for seas at each cardinal point may be equally hyperbolic or meristic.
Sorenson did not choose to deal with this unique reference, but neither his nor Norman’s
system need stand or fall on this one issue.

It seems reasonable to posit an isthmus as the NNL,33 but it hardly follows logically that
the Land Northward must be of an extent and size comparable to the Land Southward 34 (one
would like to see Tim Tucker’s forthcoming study of the Land Northward – Jaredite and
Nephite). Let us, indeed, allow the evidence to speak for itself. Norman gives no clear
interpretation of the true size of the Land Northward. The distance to “many waters” is hazy,
and the problem of a distinction between various places with lots of water becomes a guessing
game among five or more groups of lakes (cf. Jer 51:13).35 Yet, Norman and Sorenson agree

Handbook of Middle American Indians, V:294.
R. de Vaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East (1971), 202-203.
McDonald, unpublished Ms, p. 39, supplied by Sorenson.
David, Religious Ritual at Abydos (c. 1300 B.C.), (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1973).
Norman, #2, pp. 1-2, 4, 9, 13, 17-18, 23-24, etc.
Pack, “Possible Lexical Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon . . . ,” unpubl. master’s thesis (BYU, 1973),
Sorenson, #8, pp. 2-3, and Appendix, p. 23.
Norman, #1, p. 24.
Norman, #1, pp. 31-33.

that the land of many waters discovered by the Limhi expedition (Mos 8:7-8, 21:25-26) could
not have been “an exceeding great distance” into the Land Northward.36 However, Norman
unnecessarily places Ramah-Cumorah far into northern Veracruz or southern Tamaulipas, and
includes Ripliancum as part of the Land of Cumorah in northern Tamaulipas’ Laguna Madre and
the Rio Grande (leaving the erroneous impression on p. 108, that yam, “sea,” can mean “river”
– see Pack, master’s thesis, pp. 90-93).37 Sorenson argues far more convincingly for a region
limited in extent, placing Ripliancum in the Laguna de Alvarado and the Hill Cumorah in the
“Tuxtlas flanks somewhere between Tres Zapotes and Laguna de los Cerros,”38 though Shim,
Shem, Antum, Jordan, and Jashon must then be crammed into a small area en route. Colonies
as distant as the Valley of Mexico seem peripheral to Sorenson.39

This difference in extent and distance in the Land Northward naturally applies as well to
Moron, which Sorenson places in the Valley of Oaxaca.40 Norman puts it “up” in the Tehuacán
Valley of the Southern Puebla,41 though he employs a more southerly Jordan.42 The Land of
Desolation Norman sees as encompassing a timberless Oaxaca and Guerrero (the “South”
escarpment”).43 Yet Moron and Desolation may certainly have overlapped, and the strength of
Sorenson’s position stems from his understanding of Oaxaca as the Land of First Inheritance of
the Jaredites-Olmecs. For it is certainly true that “the two oldest dates for settled life of
pottery-using peoples are on the Pacific Coast of Guerrero and Oaxaca” in the late 4 th
millennium B.C.44 (on the dendrochronological recalibration of C-14 dates, see below)

Krickeberg and Covarrubias have agreed, contrary to Bernal, that the most archaic
Olmec material came from the Pacific coastal region.45 It is worth noting here, following Wolf,
that Chimalpain called the Olmeca-Xicalanca Quiahuiztecos, “People of the Rain” (cf. the 19th
Aztec day-name), and this name is identical with Mixtec Ñusabi, or Nya-Sawi, “People of the
Rain, Cloud,” who are really the same as Nahua Mixtekatl (suggesting that the Olmeca-
Xicalanca were a Mixtec or Chocho-Popoloca group).46 The name for the related Zapotecs is

Sorenson, #8, pp. 2-5; Norman, #2, p. 28.
Norman, #1, pp. 32, 106-114.
Sorenson, #8, pp. 3-6; Appendix, pp. 25-27.
Sorenson, #8, pp. 17-18.
Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 8,25.
Norman, #1, pp. 34, 37, 42.
Norman, #1, pp. 38-39.
Norman, #1, pp. 37-38, 45-46.
Sorenson, Appendix, p. 25.
Krickeberg, et al., eds., Pre-Columbian American Religions (1968/1969), 10; cf. F. Nelson, Jr., in SEHA
Newsletter, 133 (August 1973):5; Sorenson, “What Happened in Mesoamerica” (1970), 11-12.
E. Wolf, Sons of the Shaking Earth, 95; cf. Krickeberg, 12-13.

quite similar in meaning, Ben’-zaa, or Binni-Zaa, “People of the Cloud,” and this may tell us
something of Olmec origins.

Flannery and Schoenwetter found that 5,000 years of agriculture have destroyed most
of the natural vegetation on the Oaxaca Valley floor.47 To judge from the opinions of Caso and
Bernal, writing and calendar were introduced during Monte Albán Ia (covering 1125-500 B.C. on
a recalibrated scale), or earlier, and the writing and calendric style of the “danzantes” period
certainly ante-dated Lehi and Mulek (the “danzantes” resembling the Olmec dancing were-

It is certainly unnecessary to postulate that the Book of Mormon refers to every

peripheral point influenced by the main centers described within the text, though the
archeological evidence might easily and justifiably lead one to see far-flung trade relations and
cultural imperialism by Book of Mormon peoples. Here Sorenson’s “elite” concept of rule and
cult makes excellent sense.49 Sorenson thus maintains that the Valley of Mexico, Yucatán, and
the Petén are not directly referred to in the Book of Mormon.50

Sorenson reasonably ties Nehor and the other early Jaredite cities (Eth 9:23) to the
earliest high density Olmec (Tenocelome) sites in lowland central Veracruz,51 and imagines that
the standard route between Moron-Oaxaca and Nehor-Veracruz must have been the Gilgal-
Cuicatec Valley.52 Despite their agreement on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the Narrow Neck
of Land, and despite Norman’s acceptance of the Gulf Coast region as the major Jaredite-Olmec
and Mulekite habitation, here we have a major point of difference: Norman chooses the Rio
Tehuantepec drainage as “the only natural communication route to the south,” and to this he
joins his West coast Narrow Pass as “a strategic communication route,”53 though Sorenson
argues that, archeologically, Monte Albán and the western Isthmus are “only lightly allied,”54
offering his gravelly ridge-route as a credible lowland Veracruz alternative.55

Narrow is the way, . .

And few there be that find it. (III Ne 14:14, 27:33)

Archeology, 23:145.
Caso, HMAI, III:931-932, 945; letter of D. H. Kelley to J. L. Sorenson, 28 May 1970, p. 1; cf. Wolf, Sons
of the Shaking Earth, 89.
Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 1-4; Sorenson privately suggests a look at L. H. Feldman, “Tollan in Central
Mexico, The Geography of Economic Specialization,” Katunob, 8/3 (Feb 1973):1-45, dealing with the
rights and privileges of lineage lords in various traditions.
Sorenson, Appendix, p. 28.
Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 25-26.
Sorenson, Appendix, p. 26.
Norman, #1, pp. 39, 59-60.
Sorenson, Appendix, p. 23.
Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 18-20.

More evidence is required in order to settle this central issue. Particularly if we are to heed
Norman’s emphasis elsewhere on the archeological evidence.

In the meantime, one can explain Alma 50:34 as well or better following Sorenson’s
placement of the NP (Paseo Nuevo) as flanked by flood waters much of the time. As with
Norman’s proposal,56 there is no escape route for the enemy, though Norman claimed that an
east coast route provided no barrier.57 He similarly restricts Morianton’s flight to a western
NP.58 Norman is surely wrong to be so exclusive, just as he is wrong to emend the text of Alma
63:5, which he admits is already “very specific.”59 For if “narrow pass” is meant, why doesn’t
the text say so? Suddenly we have the absurd hybrid “’narrow neck’ passage.” 60

As pointed out by A. P. Stanley in the 19th century, there is ample precedent for Hebrew
maˁabar(a), “pass,” as “ford” (Josh 2:7, Judg 3:28, 12:5-6, Gen 32:22, Isa 16:2).61 J. J. Williams’
gravelly ridge route may certainly have been so regarded. If Sorenson is correct in his NP
hypothesis, then he also has a better explanation for the description of Lib’s city as “where the
sea divides the land” (Eth 10:20), i.e. flooded area, though the Rio Coatzacoalcos is a
possibility,62 and it may even refer to the NNL in a more general way.

For the border between the Lands Bountiful and Desolation, Norman points to the
differing linguistic stocks of the Zapotec and Zoque-Maya corresponding to the current Oaxaca-
Chiapas border. He likewise first employs the western-most Maya site of Comalcalco and the
original bed of the Grijalva as his East coast border.63 This makes excellent sense, and Sorenson
comes up with very similar, though farther reaching ethno-linguistic conclusions: Not only is
the Maya-Popoloca linguistic border in Tabasco-Chontalpa a fairly stable Lamanite-Nephite”
(Jaredite-Olmec-Mulekite, and Totonac) border, even in ecologico-archeological terms, but
“’Nephite’ folk spoke mainly Zoquean languages” within Zarahemla-Chiapas from the border
with Oaxaca to that of Guatemala.64 In his second paper, possibly under the influence of
Sorenson’s piece,65 Norman readjusts his Desolation-Bountiful borders, i.e. he drapes Bountiful
Land over the ethno-linguistic borderline at the old Grijalva bed in order to include southern
Veracruz and extends it southward to cover most of Yucatán (Bountiful City itself remaining at

Norman, #1, pp. 53, 62.
Norman, #1, p. 71.
Norman, #2, p. 28.
Norman, #1, p. 65.
Norman, #1, pp. 66-68; cf. Sorenson, Appendix, p. 23.
Stanley, Sinai and Palestine (N.Y., 1898), 589.
Norman, #1, pp. 77-78.
Norman, #1, pp. xiv, 30, 71-75, 95, map 13.
Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 8-9.
Cf. Norman, #2, pp. 22, 28.

Comalcalco).66 In like manner, Norman’s Land of Zarahemla is extended from the NNL, along
the edge of Bountiful Land, across his Sidon-Usumacinta River, through the Petén and the Maya
Mtns, to the Bahía de Amatique.67 Such a basic configuration crosses the ethno-linguistic
divisions mentioned by Sorenson, but also fails to take cognizance of R. E. Moore’s linguistic
distinction between the Proto-Chiapas-Tabasco Maya and the Proto-Guatemala-Yucatán Maya.
This would seem to interfere with his southern and eastern borders between the Lands Nephi
and Zarahemla.

Except for his proposed overlap of Desolation and Bountiful Lands,68 Norman’s
arrangement is untenable for other reasons as well: In claiming that there should be a highland
region of major occupation immediately south of the NP,69 he actually favors the Land of
Zarahemla being primarily in and around the Grijalva River Valley. The Usumacinta is simply
too distant, and the Olmec and later trade route southward was quite as restricted. Norman
seems to be aware of the import of the Central Chiapas Depression, but does not accept
Sorenson’s use of it as the major center of the Land of Zarahemla.70 It seems clear to me also
that, based on a claimed time gap, Norman opts for too great a distance between the NNL and
Moroni (Al 50:25-32, in the very citation he hopes will help his thesis),71 while Sorenson allows
even less distance than he himself claims is reasonable between Moroni and Bountiful. 72

In recognizing the problem of “excessive distance along the eastern border of

Zarahemla” generally, Norman actually creates greater distance and direction problems than
Sorenson, though he criticizes the more limited approach for confusing direction and lacking a
wilderness. Yet the “plain” he describes contains plenty or rain forest and swamp, and the
mountains of Chiapas are a formidable barrier.73 Indeed, though it ought to be in northwestern
Zarahemla, along the Pacific coast, Norman places the Wilderness of Hermounts in “the
northern mountain slopes facing the Gulf Coast of the northern Chiapas mountains74 (the
related NSW will be dealt with below)!

Norman seems to be unaware of adequate Tabasco wilderness for a “land of Moroni”

(Al 22:31; not “city”), and makes unclear assumptions about a wilderness on the south and east
hemming in the Lamanites – even inserting “city” for “land,” reversing the wilderness phrases in

Norman, #2, fig. 1, pp. ii, 18-10.
Norman, #2, pp. 9-14, 16.
Norman, #2, p. 26.
Norman, #2, pp. 51-62.
Norman, #2, pp. 15, 27-28.
Norman, #2, pp. 2, 5, 9-10.
Sorenson, #8, p. 8; Appendix, pp. 20, 24.
Norman, #2, pp. 9, 14, 21-22.
Norman, #2, pp. 7, 21-22; cf. fig. 2, p. iii, area C.

Alma 62:34, and unnecessarily restricting the directional interpretation to southern and
northern fronts.75 His admission that an extensive East Wilderness in the Petén and Belize
would obviate fortification76 merely confirms Sorenson’s hypothesis in a Chiapas highland
context. Moreover, H. Nibley’s analysis of the “Jershon defense zone” of Alma 35 – 43 suggests
a very limited border-buffer zone from which the Ammonites of Jershon had to be removed in
order to make room for the maneuvering of Nephite and Lamanite armies.77 Norman’s large
tropical East Wilderness is thus not called for. However, both he and Sorenson might bring
Jershon and Melek into closer proximity.

It seems to me that Norman’s interpretation of Alma 50:9 is inconsistent,78 but that, if

taken as consistent with the rest of the Book of Mormon, it would tend to support Sorenson’s
more limited view on the East Wilderness. The continental axis employed by Norman is, of
course, relative, depending on the point of observation, i.e. the wilderness “east” of Zarahemla
is simultaneously “north” of the Land of Nephi and “south” of Bountiful. At least this is true
outside Norman’s convoluted “literal” directional terms. In Sorenson’s theory, Lamanite
incursions via the East Wilderness could certainly have followed the Usumacinta or Cortes’
route of 1524-1525 A.D. It seems to me most unlikely that the Sierra de Santa Cruz constitutes
the South Wilderness, or that Zarahemla has a “southeastern coastal region”!79 The Book of
Mormon itself doesn’t justify this (Al 2, 16-7-8, 22:27-29, 50:7-11, all best explicable within
Sorenson’s arrangement).

The Narrow Strip of Wilderness (NSW) from the “sea east even to the sea west” (Al
22:27, 50:7-8) seems to require no more than a strip running straight from the east sea and
curving around along the west coast, possibly including elements of Hermounts in the
northwest, and the sought and east wildernesses. Sorenson’s explanation is certainly
satisfactory here, following, as it does, up one side of Chiapas straight from the east sea region
and curving around and down the Sierra Madre. Norman’s solution is ingenious, adding
positive factors fitting the basic demands of configuration and toponymy. Yet directional
consistency suffers thereby, and the ethno-linguistic divisions are missed. Moreover, Norman
incorrectly assumes that only one topography fits the described NSW, i.e. he allows the
montane geography to overwhelm him in disregard of Alma 50:7. Thus, his “mountain
borderline” specification goes too far,80 since Alma 50:11 can as well be used to describe
Sorenson’s Grijalva-Sidon correlation, in which the wilderness almost encircles the Nephites (Al

Norman, #2, p. 11.
Norman, #2, pp. 11-13.
Nibley, Since Cumorah, 332-343.
Norman, #2, p. 13.
Norman, #2, pp. 17-22.
Norman, #2, pp. 1-2.

22:27-29). In any case, the NSW must not be allowed to determine the basic layout of the Land

Correctly suspecting the importance of comparative toponymy in Book of Mormon
geography, Norman attempted to support his configuration of the Land Southward via an
appeal to L. F. Hills’ “correspondence” of Manati and Sibun to Manti and Sidon.81 Are such
random and loose similarities “too striking to be coincidental”? What of the capital city of the
Comora Islands (> Comore > Comoro) being Moroni! Of course the Comore Islands are
between the coast of East Africa and Madagascar . . . G. Reynolds and J. Sjodahl came up with
similar coincidences in the western hemisphere, but none are acceptable. An anti-Mormon
could as logically use such data to “prove” that Joseph concocted his geography using
contemporary maps of the world! The rigor suggested and exampled in recent archeobiblical
geography must be actively employed here.

Norman missed some of the best toponymic defenses for his position on the Land
Southward. He could have cited Lago de Izabal as located near Book of Mormon Siron, which
could be montane, and was the home of Isabel (= Phoenician Yzbl, Hebrew ‘Izbl – Jezebel,
daughter of the King of Sidon).82 The historical origin of the toponyms must be sought, as well
as a determination made of the nearness of a Zoramite region and basic border area between
the Lands of Zarahemla and Nephi (the difference in interpretation between Sorenson and
Norman is here incidental, though Norman’s position is strengthened). Parallel mountain
ranges, reminiscent of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon (= Sirion/Shirion, Dt 3:9, Ps 29:6) familiar
to Syro-Phoenicians and Hebrews, favor Norman’s placement of the border in an area possibly
associated with Isabel and Siron. Yet, of course, the ethno-linguistic borders mentioned, as well
as the expectation that the Mulekites would exercise their strongest naming influence nearer
their original landing area mitigate this correlation.

One could likewise compare Menché (Yaxchilán) with Minon, or Barrancon with Judea
(Hebrew yhd, “wadi-land” < whd, wahda, “gorge, ravine”83; Norman’s “Judea Region” =
Soconusco Region, No. 9, Barrancon84).

In response to Norman’s comments in his Appendix I,85 I know of no Book of Mormon

critic who has actually made a study of Mesoamerican toponymy, compared the results with

Norman, #2, p. 24.
Cf. N. Avigad, Israel Exploration Journal, 14:274-276; M. C. Astour, Journal of Near Eastern Studies,
30:118, UT 51:VI:20-21, I Ki 16:31, Rev 2:20.
E. Lipiński, Vetus Testamentum, 23:380-381; Ezra 5:8, Judg 1:3-4, Am 7:12, Neh 5:4.
Norman, #2, p. iii, fig. 2, “Judea Region.”
Norman, #2, pp. 24-25.

Book of Mormon toponyms, and concluded that there is no pattern or correlation. Perhaps he
could supply some citations for his claim, but it appears to me that only a few scattered and
unsystematic comments have been made on Book of Mormon toponymy (Norman’s comments
among them). None have been meaningful. Yet there must be a pattern if the Book of
Mormon is genuine! Continuous occupation of most of the relevant areas by known ethno-
linguistic groups makes that a fair assumption.86 In any case, all the basic tribes are supposed
to have survived (D&C 3:17 ǁBook of Commandments II:6, the latter being clearest).

Norman is undoubtedly correct in his assumptions about the relationships between the
Old World Judea, Sidon, Jerusalem, Jordan, and their Book of Mormon counterparts, though his
comments on Angola, Aaron, Manti, and Sidon, as related to specific New World toponyms are
simply without justification. Linguistically, Angola is more like Angora (Ankara) than Golan, and
the similarities imagined by Hills are absurd. I shall deal with the Old World patterns below.

As Hugh Nibley began insisting over a quarter century ago, the Book of Mormon
onomasticon includes Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and who knows what else, so that no
assumption need be made that Hebrew is the only or even primary source. My own survey of
the Agrinier Memo reveals not a few instances in which an Egyptian parallel is much closer than
the Semitic to the Sawi-Zaa words (Ferguson, Sorenson, and Tvedtnes possess copies of my
1969 study of the “Agrinier Memorandum”).87 However, a definitive study of this question has
yet to be made, and toward that end I recommend a look at the linguistic and lexical material
systematically presented by Vogt, Ruz, and others.88

The recent “pilot study” referred to by Norman89 was done over a decade ago (in 1964),
primarily by Pierre Agrinier, and the introduction to his “Memorandum” was published in SEHA
Newsletter, 112.1 (Feb 28, 1969):4-5. The late Prof. Swadesh apparently acted only in an
advisory capacity, but did have positive comments to make on the results, as reported by Alma
M. Reed in The Ancient Past of Mexico (N.Y.: Crown, 1966), 10.

Norman finds his “most specific” correlation in the Sawi-Zaa area to be the equation of
Book of Mormon Boaz with a Zapotec village named Baeza.90 If Norman is going to pursue such
precise toponymic correlates seriously, he ought in every case to present complete evidence for

Cf. Norman, #1, pp. 71-75, 81, 95; Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 4-5, 8-9.
Cf. Norman, #1, p. 98; Sorenson, Appendix, p. 8.
E. Z. Vogt and A. L. Ruz,eds., Desarrollo Cultural de los Mayas, UNAM (Mexico, 1964), 84-124; A. O.
Evangelina in Anales del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, XIX, 1966 (Mexico, 1967), 121-133
(both articles provided to me by Sorenson); M. Swadesh in Estudios de Cultura Maya, VII (1968):33-47;
International Journal of American Linguistics, XIII (1947):220-230; XXVI (1960):79-111; Southwestern
Journal of Anthropology, XV:20-35; Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 96:452-463.
Norman, #1, p. 97.
Norman, #1, pp. 98-99, citing Delgado.

his parallels.91 It is correct that Boaz has been analyzed by some as coming from Hebrew Be-ˁoz,
“in strength,” as if part of an intended twin-pillared phrase *yakin beˁoz, “He (God) establishes
in strength (BDB; cf. I Ki 7:21 = II Chron 3:17), or as a shortening and assimilation of baˁal ˁaz
(LXX Balaz, in the Vatican Ms), “Master of strength.” A. Parrot sees it as “power.”92 This
follows from the basic root yaˁoz, ˁaz, ˁazaz, ˁoz, “strength, power, might; courage, boldness,”
found in other proper names, e.g. ˁAzza (Gaza; BDB).93 See especially Mormon 4:20, where
Boaz and “boldness” appear in collocation – a pun?

Yet Boaz might as easily mean “quick(ness),” as in Arabic baˁz, “swiftness (of horse),” or
Egyptian (bw-)зś, “quick, hasty, fleet” (cf. Ruth 2:1, LXX Booz, BDB). In any case, if we have the
left/north pillar as “Boaz,” quite aside from etymology, where is the right/south pillar, Yakin?
With temple-building so strongly on the minds of the Nephites, it is no idle suggestion that twin
locations be sought for as somehow symbolic of the temple entrance (which faced east in the
Old World), so that whether we look for it flanking both sides of a narrow pass (cf. Matt 7:14?),
or at either end of such a pass, it would not surprise me to find some complementary site.94

Norman’s discussion of Teancum ǁTehuantepec95 immediately calls to mind the hilarity

of Hugh Nibley’s satirical lecture, “Bird Haven,”96 in which he proves, with unsurpassed humor,
that Bird Island of Utah Lake is really the Hill Cumorah! Via tortuous, yet plausible logic, one
can “prove” virtually anything. Being an archeologist of sorts myself, I realize only too well how
absurd some proposals can be. Prof. Nibley has really attempted to communicate via parody
some very serious logical and linguistic points to would-be Book of Mormon geographers; a
caveat perhaps better stated in general fashion by the late William F. Albright:

In few fields of learning has more nonsense been perpetrated by amateurs, i.e.
by enthusiasts who are unwilling to submit to the painfully rigid discipline of
linguistic method.97

Norman goes beyond the legitimate semantic range of the Semitic words and “roots” with
which he deals, and does not utilize standard phonological rules of correspondence in his

Cf. J. de la Fuente, “Notes Sobre Lugares de Oaxaca, con Especial Referencia a la Toponomia
Zapoteca,” Anales del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, II, 1941-1946 (INAH, 1947), 279-292
(recommended by Sorenson).
Parrot, Temple of Jerusalem (London, 1957), 26-30.
Cf. Nibley, BARS (1945), 19, ˁz, “mighty.”
Cf. Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri (1975), 116, on the Egyptian use of this distylos in
antes motif.
Norman, #1, pp. 99-101, revised.
Cassette Tape, CT 46, BYU Dept. of Religious Instruction, Audio-Visual Room, JSB 57.
Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed. (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1957), 45; cf. Nibley, BYU
Studies, 8:174-175.

comparisons. For such basic rules, see James Barr.98 It is perfectly appropriate to study roots
among related languages.99 However, most of what Norman presents to us comes under the
heading of “Etymology Gone Mad!” Indeed, to the extent that toponyms are based on the
name of the first possessor (Al 8:7),100 phonology, and not etymology, may become primary.
There are obvious exceptions, and even a place-name like Tenochtitlán, “Place of Tenoch (Aztec
warrior and high priest),” requires partial translation, i.e. etymological treatment.

Y. Aharoni has a chapter on “Toponymy” in his Land of the Bible. It is easily the best
available treatment of the theoretical aspects, but also includes concrete examples. It is a do-
it-yourself guide which ought to be studied before one goes traipsing off into the forest of
words which hold keys of meaning. Who could guess, for example, that Guatemala is derived
from Aztec Quauhtlemallan, “Land of Many Trees,” in turn translated from Maya Quiché,
“Forest.” Or, what can Hebrew Libnah, Arabic Tell eṣ-Ṣāfi, and Crusader Blanche Garde have in
common? Each is the name used for the same place, and each means virtually the same thing
(cf. Josh 10:29, II Ki 8:22). Such is the nature of etymology. Of course, one must be able to
translate each of the languages used or this sort of evidence never becomes apparent, much
less useful. Moreover, many toponyms are less easily correlated due to slight shifts in location,
or even due to a complete opposition of meaning in renaming, among other factors. It is easy
to be reckless in unknown territory.

Norman parses Book of Mormon Teancum as tean-cum, and suggests that the elements
are Hebrew equivalents for later tehuan, “jaguar,” and tepec, “hill”101 However, within his
three pages of evidence, only one proposition can be supported, i.e. Hebrew kum can mean
“hill” (as Eldin and Welby Ricks and others have long recognized),102 but so can Turkish hüyük
and tepe mean “hill, peak, mound,” and such elements are as common in Middle Eastern
toponymy as in that of Mesoamerica. Thus, the element cannot be used to distinguish one site
from another. Were Tehuantepec to turn out to archeologically to be Teancum, the fact would
be explicable in gross terms as the common recognition of a hill in standard geography as well
as some vague phonological similarity between tehuan- and the supposed older tean- as an
element in the name of the founder of the city (making it doubtful that anyone would attach a
meaning to the name except via etiology or popular etymology).

Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1968); The Semantics of
Biblical Language (Oxford, 1961).
Cf. V. Ancessi, Adformantes dans les langues semitiques, cited in T. W. Thacker, Semitic and Egyptian
Verbal Systems (Oxford, 1953); H. Nibley, “Basic Arabic Root System,” Compiègne, France, 1945; J. A.
Tvedtnes’ 1971 UofU master’s thesis dealt with the Semitic formative root system.
Cf. Norman, #1, p. 96.
Norman, #1, pp. 99a-101a, revised.
Cf. Nibley, BARS, 24.

None of the examples given by Norman provide the remotest possibility of an

“underlying meaning of security and superior strength,” or for any animal like a jaguar, in the
element tean-. Of course, ʼari(e), and the compound ʼAri-ʼEl, do indeed refer directly to “lion”
in Hebrew, but none of the proper nouns cited with them share any basic underlying meaning
(ʼArnon, Isa 16:2; ʼAridai, Esth 9:9; ˁAroˁer, Isa 17:2; cf. Jer 17:6; ʼAriok, Gen 14:1). One can
easily be misled by the likes of Miller or by William Smith (who first published his Bible
Dictionary well over a century ago). Surely a more reliable lexical source can be found. Hebrew
laiš, which also means “lion,” is not a composite word (= Assyrian nešu), and has no underlying
relationship whatever to the proper names listed by Norman (Lakiš, Isa 36:2; La-ʼEl, Num 3:24;
Lahad, I Chron 4:2; Laḥmi, I Chron 20:5; Laqum, Josh 19:33; Lamek, Gen 4:18). The only
composite word among them is La-ʼEl, “Belonging-to-El,” and the la- element does not imply
“authority” or “strength” any more than does the supposed element -laḥ in Telaḥ.103

Continuing his unpromising use of proper nouns (the worst place to begin etymological
comparisons), Norman finally treats what he perceives to be the elements of tean-. He believes
that it is most closely paralleled in Hebrew by *tehan, neglecting to tell us where such a form
may be found. A similar name is to be found as Taḥan in Num 26:35, and I Chron 7:25 (cf.
taḥane, taḥana, “encamping, encampment,” Ps 27:3; cf. Assyrian tênû, “couch”), and it is
probably derived from the root ḥn, ḥana, “decline, bend down, encamp” (maḥane,
“encampment,” Judg 13:25, 18:12),104 which is certainly cognate with ḥen, “favor, grace”
(ḥanan, “show favor, be gracious”; cf. Assyrian têninu), and most of Norman’s proper noun
examples demonstrate this fact (however, Ḥanok, “Enoch,” is unrelated; and Telaḥ, Teraḥ,
*Tebaḥ, and Tekoˁa haven’t the meanings Norman ascribes to them and are not interrelated
through any *te- prefix.105 For the element tean-, Norman’s search leads to a dead end. No
jaguars here.

Norman might as well have proposed Teancum as hypothetical Hebrew “Fig-Hill”

(*teʼana-kum), “Meeting-Hill” (*Taʼana-kum), or something like “Jackal-Hill” (*Tan-kum; cf. Job
30:29,Isa 13:22, 43:20, Jer 9:10; meqom tannim, “place of jackals,” Ps 44:20), which could also
mean “Serpent-Hill” (Ex 7:9, Ezek 29:3, Ps 148:7). These latter two combinations may seem
unlikely, but it is a fact that compelling correlations among the Old and New World “Nine Lords
of the Night have Egyptian Seth (Anubis ǁWepwawet ǁTyphon), lord of animals much as
serpents and jackals, matching Mesoamerican serpent and jaguar gods.106 Moreover, among
the Mayan Bolon-ti-ku, G7 is “Jaguar,” and G8 is Cum, “pot, storage jar; squash, pumpkin,

Cf. Nibley, BARS, 3.
Cf. Nibley, BARS, 7.
Cf. Nibley, BARS, 3.
See D. H. Kelley, “The Nine Lords of the Night,” Contributions of the U.C. Archaeological Facility, 16
(Berkeley: U.C. Dept. of Anthropology, pp. 53-68); my unpubl. study compares the Egyptian Ennead.

Calabaza” (= Ayotli). Kelley’s unpublished comparison of lunar animal lists demonstrates a

common place in the sequence for lion, tiger, and jaguar in Greece, Malaya, Burma, and
Mexico. Yet none of this means that we have an explanation for Teancum, or any connection
with Tehuantepec.

I have maintained for about seven years that Cumorah is most likely derived from a
Hebrew form like *qum-ʼora (cf. Isa 60:1, Job 25:3), though there are other possibilities,
including Egyptian Km-wr (cf. Pyramid Texts 1630-1631). The ra- and rah- elements described
by Norman are, however, non-existent, and have no possible relationship to meanings such as
“height, hill.”107 In his discussion of Giengola and Sherrizah, Norman goes on to make a further
shambles of elementary Hebrew (not to mention basic linguistics), and brings forward such
correct, but irrelevant points as that Zapotec la’sa’ is a reasonable equivalent of Hebrew raza
(see the Agrinier Memo for this one). Indeed, by attributing “strength” to a ridiculously wide
range of sounds, Norman finally comes close in claiming that very meaning for the element an-
,108 but her again it is an irrelevant exception in a long list of incorrect assumptions. I am
prepared to support these claims in detail on request, rather than continue commenting here.

Clusters and Patterns

Hugh Nibley first began to demonstrate the application of Old World toponymic
patterns to the Book of Mormon more than a quarter century ago.109 The patterns as I seem
them now, however, appear to be far more detailed than anyone could have guessed, though
we should hardly be surprised in view of the claimed origin of Book of Mormon peoples. Is it
possible that immigrants from the Old World could have brought mental topographic and
geographical configurations with them, or that such configurations would even tend to reflect
Old World sectarian divisions? This has certainly been true in post-Columbian times. In the
December 1958 National Geographic Magazine (CXIV, pp. 848-859), merely by inverting a map
of the Utah and Great Salt Lakes and comparing with Palestine’s Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea,
David S. Boyer was able to provide some striking toponymic, geological, and geographic, not to
mention historical parallels. In Naming Mt. Nebo and the Jordan River, surely the earliest
Mormon settlers were aware that their own “Exodus” had led them to a kind of “Promised
Land,” geographically not unlike ancient Canaan. And so it must have been that the three
migrant groups described in the Book of Mormon, upon their arrival in Mesoamerica, began to
draw analogies as well as to create new ones:

Nibley, BARS, 10.
Cf. Nibley, BARS, 1.
Nibley, “The Book of Mormon as a Mirror of the East,” Improvement Era, 51 (April 1948):202ff.

I. Ishmael, Midian, Middoni, and Lemuel are toponyms collocated within the Land of Nephi,
and located southeast of Jerusalem-at-Atitlán (in Sorenson’s orientation),110 with the Pacific
coast functioning as an analog of the Mediterranean coast, and the biblical eponyms and
toponyms being clustered in a similar pattern: Ishmael, Medan, and Midian were sons of
Abraham (Gen 16:15-16, 25:2), and among the sons of Ishmael were Duma, Massaʼ, Temaʼ, and
Qedmah (Gen 25:13-15); all were Bne-Qedem, “Easterners” (Gen 25:6, Judg 6:3), though some
of them could be located south or southeast of Old Jerusalem (Speiser finds Qedem to be “a
vague geographical concept for ‘desert land’”111). Ishmaelites, Midianites, and Medanites all
apparently participated in the sale of Joseph (Gen 37:25, 27-28, 36). Massaʼ “Burden,” located
in the Wādī al-Qurā near Temaʼ, is mentioned in Assyrian and early North Arabic inscriptions,112
and was the home of the only biblical Lemuel (Prov 31:1; cf. Prov 30:1 – in each case, the
Hebrew text reads Massaʼ). Like Duma, an oasis in the Nefud, Temaʼ and Massaʼ were caravan
stations on the major ancient spice routes probably familiar to Lehi (though he chose the less
traveled coastal route of the Tihama in making good his escape from Judah through Edom; cf.
Jer 40:11-12). Book of Mormon Gideon is properly located on the east border to face Lamanite
incursions, just as the biblical hero faced Midian (Judg 6:3, 7:1, 8:10, Karkor probably being in
Wādī Sirḥān).

II. Amalekites, Amlicites, and Amalickiah(ites) belong to the above grouping. The Lemuelites,
Ishmaelites, Lamanites, Amalickiahites, etc., were led by Amalickiah (Al 47:35, 49:9) in attacks
from the east upon Nephite cities (Al 49:10-16, 51:23-30), Amalekites made similar eastern
attacks (Al 43:4-6, 13-15, 31-32), and the Amlicites likewise (Al 2:15-20, 34-35) – each of the
three being Nephite turncoat groups. Amaleki I, as a descendant of Chemish (Omni 10, 12),
provides an indication of the continuity of the desert tradition, i.e. Chemish, as in Carchemish,
is a conventional transliteration of the name of the Ammonite and Moabite national god,
Kemosh/Kammush (Judg 11:24, Jer 48:7; Isa 10:9 ǁII Ne 20:9). Again, Gideon is rightly placed to
reflect the Old World pattern (Judg 6:3, 33), and biblical Amaleq was a descendant of Esau (Gen
36:12, 16, in Edom), the Amaleqites being long-time opponents of Israel in the East and South
(Ex 17:8, Num 13:29, 14:43, I Sam 15:2-7). Biblically, here and above, the clans may all be
termed “Ishmaelites” (Judges 8:24) in a broad sense. Gad and Gilead are also to be placed in
this basic configuration (Judg 7:3, II Ki 15:27-29).

III. King Tubaloth, the brother of Amalickiah, also battled the Nephites. If his name reflects
biblical Tubal-Qayin (Gen 4:22), then we may have a parallel for another member of the
Midianite amphictiony (tribal league), the Qenites, who appear to have lived in the south
wilderness of Judah, among the Amaleqites (I Sam 15:6). It is worth noting that the Almicites,

Sorenson, Appendix, p. 11.
Speiser, Genesis, AB 1, p. 187.
F. V. Winnet & W. L. Reed, Ancient Records of North Arabia, pp. 101-102.

along with the Lamanites, marked themselves in fulfillment of a curse (Al 3:4, 13, 18), as if
descendants of an eponymous ancestor, Qayin (Gen 4:15). Of course, Qayin and Qeni both
mean the same thing in Hebrew,113 while Anatolian Tubal/Tabal have also the very same
meaning in Sumerian, “metal-worker, smith”114 (Gen 10:2, Isa 66:19, Ezek 27:13). The pattern
is there in more than the suggestive toponomy (see my Fig 1, below).

IV. Not only are Jerusalem and Judea(h) “northward” of these three groups of Bne-Qedem, but
Helam is also properly oriented in the Old and New World accounts (cf. Sorenson’s orientation;
II Sam 10:16-17): Book of Mormon Helam is in the same general relationship to Judea(h),
Jerusalem, the three numbered groupings (above), to Siron (Isabel), Sidon, and Sidom, as is
biblical Ḥelʼam to the identically named biblical regions, and to Sirion/Shirion, “Mt. Ḥermon;
Anti-Libanus” (cf. Jezebel of Sidon; Sorenson is correct, incidentally, in noting the confusion
between Sidon and Sidom in the Original Ms and 1st edition of the Book of Mormon115 – indeed,
mimated or nunated form, the meaning remains the same), Moreover, all these toponyms with
the exception of Judea(h), and Jerusalem (which are vaguely separated), have the same basic
relationship to one another in orientation in both Old and New World maps.

V. Book of Mormon Riplah, if it is related to ancient Riblah, does not fit as well into this
detailed schema unless Gideon and Siron are shifted to the “south” of it in any Book of Mormon
map. There is the likelihood, of course, that some such correlation will be accidental, and that
the Mulekites early provided Zarahemla-Bountiful with a group of toponyms north Israelite and
Syro-Phoenician in origin. Such names would be located naturally to the north of the more
southerly and desert-fringe names employed by the early Nephites, though the records held by
the Nephites were cosmopolitan in background. Separate patterns may thus have been
discerned, or created, and then laid over others. Three separate groups clearly mixed their
traditions in the course of time.

VI. Egypt provides an example of the division of lands into northern and southern regions, and
even the syntax of Egyptian Pз-tз-rśy > Pathros, “The-Land-Southward” (Isa 11:11 ǁII Ne 21:11),
matches that Book of Mormon land in which one finds Manti and Hermounts (cf. Egyptian
Hermonthis, city of Mntw), Amnihu, Ammonihah, and names such as Ammon and Ammonites
(cf. the Egyptian “City of Amon,” Noʼ-ʼAmon). Could we also compare Gimgimno, a Nephite city

Albright, YGC, 38-42.
JCS, 23:65.
BYU Studies, 13:217.





of unknown locus, to Egyptian Kipkipi (possibly near Wādī Gabgaba?), the refuge of
Tanoutamon after his flight from Noʼ-ʼAmon?116 Could Minon bear some relationship to the
Southern Egyptian god Min? None of these comparisons need be pressed for a general pattern
to emerge.

VII. The Mixtecs know the Verde River as Yutatnoho, “River of Origin,” i.e. at the source of the
river, near Apoala or Achiutla, Oaxaca, where the first man and woman grew from two trees.
One might compare this with the Canaanite mythology surrounding the site of Aphaca, at the
source of the Adonis River above Byblos, as the “Source of the Two Deeps.”117

VII. Worldwide Church of God commentator W. F. Dankenbring mentioned that

the Mixtec Indians squeezed royal purple dye out of the snail Purpura patula of
the Pacific Ocean; the Phoenicians performed the same feat with the snails
Murex truncatus and Murex brandaris found in the Mediterranean.118

Of course, the names Canaan and Phoenician each mean “reddish-purple.” The Pacific as an
analog of the Mediterranean could hardly have been missed by a knowledgeable Mulekite or
Nephite. These last two Mixtec patterns merely strengthen a well-documented orientation for
a “west” coast.

IX. Jaredite Heth, Nehor, Shem, Kish, Akish, Nimrod, and Jared are properly “northern” in
orientation, i.e. paralleled in Mesopotamia and Anatolia, and may be thus only accidentally
located north of Nephi and Zarahemla. Ablom can be paralleled by Ugaritic ʼAblm, “City of
Running Waters” (1 Aqht:168, 171), of unknown locus, but the same in meaning as later ʼAbila
(Abilene) in North Gilead. The KJV translated the same word elsewhere incorrectly as “field” (I
Sam 6:18; cf. Gen 50:11, Judg 7:22, 11:33) – “brook, river” would be better.

X. One might expect Gilgal to be in the vicinity of Jordan, as in the Old World, though only
Jaredite Gilgal appears to fit the pattern, and Nephite Gilgal need not be northern. In any case,
Joshua is on the opposite (“south”) side of the Narrow Neck, if that can be seen as a significant

One pattern that has always lain in the back of my mind asking for explanation has to do
with the respective corridors of escape for Coriantumr and his people, and for the Nephites
under Moroni. Did each group follow the same route before the final battle at Ramah-
Cumorah? By different routes, e.g. via the Rio Papaloapan and by the Rio Tehuantepec?119 An

Cf. Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 25, 28; JAOS, 94:325.
Albright, YGC, 120-121; UT 51:IV:21-24 = CTA 4.4.21-24.
Dankenbring, The Plain Truth, XL (July 12, 1975):10.
Norman, #1, p. 59.

escape route ought to be specifically compared in each case. Where are the Valleys of Shurr,
Corihor, and the Hill Shim?

City lists (their sequence or clustering) can often be used to establish general locations
of unknown members of a sequence. J. Chadwick recounts the value of this in finding unknown
cities in Mycenaean Greece,120 and Aharoni matter-of-factly employs many such sequences in
his Land of the Bible. Norman seems to understand this in his discussion of Alma 56, and
presents a compelling argument for the proximity of Antiparah, Judea(h), and the City by the
Sea121; he also deals well enough with the Retreat of 328 A.D. (better as 325 A.D. – cf. Tikal
Stele 9),122 but possibly goes too far in his interpretation of the order of Lamanite attack on the
cities “on the east borders by the seashore” (Al 50-51; Norman discerning two separated
clusters of cities).123 However, the methodological approach is sound, and a significant
question about Omner is raised. I believe that Sorenson’s interpretation fits the text as well, if
not better.124 One might also examine the city destruction-list in III Ne 8 – 9 for clues to
location or archeological condition. Most sequences must, however, be slowly built via careful
reading of the text. Field work comes next.

Comparative dating is very important for tying events together, and such gaffs as that
Lehi left “Jerusalem in 600 B.C.,”125 or that “Babel” somehow helps us to see that Book of
Mormon history spanned about 2500 years126 leave us in the “dark ages” of Book of Mormon
research and prevent establishment of reliable or realistic dating systems. In the first place, the
departure from Jerusalem can have been no earlier than 597 B.C., and may have been later.127
In the second place, “Babel” is never mentioned by the Book of Mormon, and Ether plainly
points to a more northern area and a more ancient time. Indeed, biblical archeology does not
accept the famous Tower of Babylon as the actual tower of the story in Gen 11, but considers it
a late interpolation.128 The span of Book of Mormon history is at least 3500 years.

Sorenson has suggested that cognizance be taken of the Mesoamerican calendar in

calculating Book of Mormon time – years, i.e. based on the Mayan tun or 360-day year (LC).129

Chadwick, Scientific American, 227 (Oct 1972):36-44, 128.
Norman, #2, p. 3.
Norman, #2, p. 8.
Norman, #2, pp. 9-12; cf. Sorenson, Appendix, p. 19.
Sorenson, Appendix, pp. 6-8.
Norman, #2, p. i.
Norman, #1, pp. 23, 27, 78.
J. Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, 2nd ed., pp. 588-595.
Albright, YGC, 99-100, though his chronology is yet too low.
Sorenson, “Observations on Nephite Chronology,” April 1970.

A date figured by this means places the birth of Christ, 600 tun-years after the first year of the
reign of Zedekiah, from 4 to 6 B.C. 33 years and 4 days later Christ is crucified (in the 34 th year,
1st month, and 4th day = Judahite Friday, 14 Nisan), meaning that Jesus could not have died later
than 30 A.D.,130 nor earlier than 27 A.D. The detailed reasons for these judgments on the limits
of absolute dating cannot be gone into here, but the meaning for synchronic correlations of
events in the Book of Mormon with those in Mesoamerica can be of great import in
understanding Book of Mormon geography and archeology (both Norman and Sorenson made
limited synchronic assertions in support of their respective configurations). It may be useful to
demonstrate the sort of thing which can be done with absolute dating via the above

Stelae Correlations

Tres Zapotes Stele “C”, 31 B.C. ǁ 39th-58th years of the Judges; Lamanites gained
possession of the Land of Zarahemla to the borders of Bountiful (Hel 4:5-8).

El Baúl Stele I, 36 A.D. ǁ 39th-40th years of the New Chronology, in which perhaps,
Zarahemla was rebuilt, and in which the Church prospered (IV Ne 6–10).

Tuxtla Statuette, 162 A.D. ǁ time of Amos, son of Nephi, when all was peaceful,
though Lamanites began again to be in the land (IV Ne 18–21).

Tikal Stele 29, 229 A.D. ǁ time of “great division among the people” (IV Ne 35-

Tikal Stele 9, 328 A.D. ǁ period of repentance of the Nephites under Mormon,
according to prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite – Aaron the King of the
Lamanites (Mormon 2:9-15).

This is but a first step. Note that the specific dating correlations accompanying current
editions of the Book of Mormon are in error nearly throughout by at least three years,
e.g. Norman speaks of the Retreat of A.D. 328,131 where 325 A.D. is more realistic; he
states that the Nephites regained possession of their land in A.D. 367132 (Mormon 4:15),
but 364 is better – also the date of the epistle of Mormon. No synchronism with the

See E. J. Brandt in the Ensign, IV (Sept 1974):19.
Norman, #2, p. 8.
Norman, #1, p. 88.

events recorded in dated Maya inscriptions is possible until optimum accuracy has been
achieved for dated Book of Mormon events.133

Relative chronological correlations are of equal value (and can be mixed in with
absolute dates), though the available typological, stratigraphic, and radiocarbon data
are more frequently employed by standard archeology. Relative sequences have been
worked out in considerable detail in both the Old and New Worlds. Yet – it now
becomes apparent – the dates assigned to many of these sequences are centuries out of
line, and this fact is compounded by the common misunderstanding of the earliest Book
of Mormon dates. Though he does not say so in the paper here under review, Sorenson
has had a complete dendrochronological recalibration of Mesoamerican C-14 dates
ready for several years now, and has long since dealt with “The Years of the Jaredites” in
plausible terms (April 1970), i.e. ca. 3100 – 580 B.C., on the basis of approximate biblical
Flood/Tower dates and the text of Ether. My independent reasons for having adopted a
similar Jaredite chronology are more detailed, and it is gratifying to find the recalibrated
C-14 dates coherent and supportive.

Norman, on the other hand, seems unaware of the pressing need for
recalibration, e.g. his date for the beginning of the Bajío phase (Lib phase) of San
Lorenzo-Tenochtitlán ought to be recalibrated upward from the standard 1350 B.C. to
ca. 1625 B.C.134 My own imprecise recalibration of such dates gives a general idea of
the correlative changes which are required:

San Lorenzo-Tenochtitlán

Ojochi Phase135 1700 - 1625 B.C.

Bajío 1625 – 1510
Chicharras 1510 - 1450
San Lorenzo 1450 – 1125
Nacaste 1125 – 840
Palangán ? 825 – 450

Cf. M. Coe, Visible Language, V:293ff.; the 50 volume corpus of Maya inscriptions being prepared for
Harvard’s Peabody Museum, by I. Graham and others, will be of tremendous importance in this
endeavor; the Dresden Codex is seen by Smiley as covering 103 B.C. to 812 A.D. – CA, 14:433.
Cf. Norman, #1, pp. 76-80; F. W. Nelson in SEHA Newsletter, 133 (August 1973).
See generally issues of the journal Radiocarbon. Other specific references may be of help: C.
Renfrew, Scientific American, 225 (Oct 1971):63-70, 72; C. Renfrew & R. M. Clark, Archaeometry, 16
(1974):5-18; J.O.D. Johnston, “The Problem of Radiocarbon Dating,” Palestine Exploration Fund
Quarterly, Jan-June 1973; I. U. Olsson, ed., Radiocarbon Variations and Absolute Chronology,
Proceedings of the 12th Nobel Symposium at the Institute of Physics at Uppsala Univ. (N.Y./Stockholm,
1970); H. E. Suess, ZPysik, 303 (1967):1-7; G. A. Wright, AJA, 77 (April 1973):197-201.

A late 4th millennium B.C. zero date for the “Great Tower” and Jaredite civilization is
made most likely for several reasons:

I. Scripturally, the name “Nimrod” correlates well with the 1st Dynasty of Egypt (Gen 10:6-9, Eth
2:1-4, Abr 1:21-25), the first Pharaoh being a cousin of Nimrod I. The Turin Canon places the
beginning of Dyn. I at between 3119 and 3089 B.C., and the C-14 recalibrations for Egypt make
this eminently reasonable.136

II. The Goodman-Martinez-Thompson (GMT) zero date for the Maya Long Count is set at 13
August 3113 B.C. (4 Ahau; cf. the 11 August 3114 B.C. date for 8 Cumhu),137 while Venus tables
in the Dresden Codex led Smiley first to put the date in 3384 B.C.,138 then with Robinson, at 23
July 3392 B.C., with Procyon “precisely on the celestial equator.”139 Spinden and Makemson,
supported by Kulp, put the zero date at 10 March 3374 B.C., and Kelley has insisted on a vernal
equinoctial date.140 Ca. 3000 B.C., the vernal equinox was in Taurus, i.e. the Pleiades, and near

III. D. H. Kelley has noted the Jain “pattern of combined evolution and devolution going
on eternally,”142 and that the “last age is said to have begun with a mass conjunction of
the planets at the spring equinox of 3102 B.C. . . . . According to the Iranian Abu
Ma’shar, this was the date of the Flood, thus apparently combining Mesopotamian and
Hindu views.”143

IV. The late 4th millennium also saw early Purrón coinciding with the earliest pottery in
Mesoamerica – at Puerto Marquez, Guerrero, and in Oaxaca – as well as with the start
of agriculture in Oaxaca.144 Cf. Valdivia A and Middle Jomon pottery in Ecuador.

V. The contemporary proto-literate Jemdet Naṣr period in Mesopotamia had been

preceded by a general destruction of temple-platform complexes, by the first known
development of writing, cylinder seals, potter’s wheel, metal tools and weapons
(including use of meteoric iron),145 wheeled vehicles (carts and chariots throughout

Olsson, RVAC, 40.
C. Riley, Origins of Civilization, 174, 228, n. 6.
Astronomical Society of the Pacific Leaflet, 392 (Feb 1962).
CA, 14:413.
CA, 14:413, 433; Fuson, AAAG, 59:506, thinks that C-14 supports an independent Spinden date of
3373 B.C.
CA, 14:405, 408, n. 21; my thanks to Sorenson, who directed my attention to this source.
Kelley, SEHA Newsletter, 137 (March 1975):3.
Cf. B. Warren, “Problems of Archaeological Analysis in Southern Mesopotamia and Western Iran,”
May 1968, pp. 2-3.
Flannery & Schoenwetter, Archeology, 23/2:145.
Cf. Scientific American, 222 (Mar 1970):50-56, 146.

Europe and Asia),146 henges and megalithic structures,147 and bastioned walls from Los
Millares (and Chalandriani) to Arad 4. These in the centuries immediately preceding
Jemdet Naṣr.

VI. By the time of the first urban levels at Syrian Byblos, or the Eye Temple at Tel Brak,
and of the Jemdet Naṣr Chapel at ˁUqair, one finds uniform word-lists and forms
throughout Mesopotamia, Sumerian or Semitic – this included the first appearance of
LU.GAL, “Mighty Man” (Jemdet Naṣr Tablet, Uruk IIIb). All these before the beginning of
the 3rd millennium B.C. on a recalibrated scale.

VII. The presence in the Jaredite onomasticon of Semitic and north Sumerian (EME.SAL)
dialectical word forms leads one to place the Jaredites in the vicinity of the North
Mesopotamia Jebel Sinjar, and the Valley of Nimrod in the Lake Van region, well prior to
the rise of the kingdom of Akkad148 (Micah 5:5, “land of Assyria” ǁ “land of Nimrod”149).

For those and other reasons, a third millennium B.C. date for the Jaredite migration
would be an anachronism.

Concluding Remarks
As Sorenson points out, the temperate altiplano of certain highland areas is
suitable to cultivation of crops like “wheat,” “barley,” and probably sheum,150 and that
changes in climate may have had an effect on plant and animal life.151 Of course, there
is no guarantee of survival either of the plants and animals themselves, or of
archeological evidence for them.152

Sorenson may correctly have foreseen that the long gap between Nacaste and
Palangán phases at San Lorenzo-Tenochtitlán need not be maintained in the face of C-14
recalibration.153 I would also like to see this transition period more carefully treated.154

Levant, V:1-2-126; Scientific American, 219 (July 1968):82-90.
CA, 14:399.
Cf. Albright, YGC, 93; Kramer, JAOS, 88:108; Orientalia, 39:103-110; van Dijk, Orientalia, 39:302-310;
Mallowan, Iraq, 26:82b, pl. XX; Oates, Iraq, 30:13; Busink, JEOL, 21:94-96; Nibley, Lehi in the Deseret and
the World of the Jaredites, 158, n. 23; Cassuto, Commentary on Genesis, I:288.
Dahood, Biblica, 52:216.
Sorenson, #8, p. 13.
Sorenson, “What Happened in Mesoamerica,” 24, 27, citing Flannery and Cook in nn. 27d, 32; cf.
Sanders and Marino, New World Prehistory (1970), 28.
Cf. Yen & Brand in Riley & Kelley, eds., Man Across the Sea (1971), 340, 357; Van Beek, ed., Hajar bin
Humeid (1968), 367; Baity, CA, 14:411; Anati, Palestine Before the Hebrews (1963), 241, 311.
Sorenson, “What Happened in Mesoamerica,” 24.
Cf. Norman, #1, p. 75.

There is no justification for Norman’s statement that the City Bountiful had been
captured by the Lamanites.155

Sorenson ought to take note of some of Norman’s more detailed rationales for
this or that identification,156 though Norman’s archeological data support, or do not
conflict with the Sorenson position at most points.

If it should ever become possible to fund and openly conduct excavations under the
heading of “Book of Mormon Archeology,” I recommend that highest priority be given to the
areas of agreement among the theories proposed for this general Mesoamerican region:

1. Joshua in the Arriaga-Tonalá sector, including perhaps Tiltepec, Tzutzuculi, and Horcones.

2. Hagoth’s Port at Mar Muerto.

3. City by the Sea in the Izapa region, including perhaps El Jobo, Huehuetan, and Huixtla.

4. City of Lib as San Lorenzo-Tenochtitlán.

5. (Lehi-)Nephi and environs as Kaminaljuyú and the surrounding area.157

Other areas of agreement are relative, e.g. David, and the places “east” of the Sidon River
(Gideon, Antionum, and Jershon; cf. also Siron, Hills Riplah and Amnihu, as well as Sidom and
Aaron?). Specialists will no doubt have preferences already in mind, and not all of the efforts
directed toward uncovering correlative details ought to be in field research. Old excavation
reports need to be gone over again and again. Theses must be written, and hypotheses laid out
for the widest possible criticism. The papers here under review have been rare steps in the
right direction, and I have learned a great deal by being permitted to study them.

* * * *

Norman, #1, pp. 55, 67.
Cf. Norman, #2, pp. 7, 27.
See Sorenson, #8, maps V-VII.