A Summary of the Archaeology of the Central American Area.

Some Words of Caution.

Hugh Nibley commenting on archaeology and the Book of Mormon says "The Book of Mormon is so often taken to task by those calling themselves archaeologists that it is well to know just what an archaeologist is and does. Book of Mormon archaeologists have often been disappointed in the past because they have consistently looked for the wrong things. We should not be surprised at the lack of ruins in America in general. Actually the scarcity of identifiable remains in the Old World is even more impressive. In view of the nature of their civilization one should not be puzzled if the Nephites had left us no ruins at all. People underestimate the capacity of things to disappear, and do not realize that the ancients almost never built of stone. Many a great civilization which has left a notable mark in history and literature has left behind not a single recognizable trace of itself. We must stop looking for the wrong things." (1) (For a complete treatment by Nibley on archaeology and the Book of Mormon see "The Archaeological Problem" in An Approach to the Book of Mormon p. 431-443.)

John Clark attempts to give us the proper perspective on archaeology and the Book of Mormon "It has been my experience that most members of the Church, when confronted with a Book of Mormon geography, worry about the wrong things. Almost invariably the first question that arises is whether the geography fits the archaeology of the proposed area. This should be our second question, the first being whether the geography fits the facts of the Book of Mormon-a question we all can answer without being versed in American archaeology. Only after a given geography reconciles all of the significant geographic details given in the Book of Mormon does the question of archaeological and historical detail merit attention. The Book of Mormon must be the final and most important arbiter in deciding the correctness of a given geography; otherwise we will be forever hostage to the shifting sands of expert opinion." (2)

In view of the statements above, it should be obvious that archaeological science cannot effectively disprove the geography of the Book of Mormon. This is because archaeology is an incomplete science (incomplete in the sense that all knowledge of a former culture will never be completely discovered or known) and can only give us information on the partial and fragmentary evidence which is normally found. Therefore, whereas a lack of evidence cannot disprove Book of Mormon culture, favorable evidence would tend to confirm the veracity of the book.


What could we expect to find in the way of archaeological remains in Book of Mormon lands?

In the land northward (which according to my model would be Nicaragua to Mesoamerica) there should be extensive remains of Jaredite culture including land cropping, agricultural pursuits, husbandry, mining and metallurgy; cities and public buildings (probably patterned after near eastern architecture of the time); evidence of near eastern culture and traditions; and evidence of extensive warfare.

In the land southward (according to my model Costa Rica and western Panama) we should find evidence of Nephite habitation beginning about 590 BC, starting in the land of their first inheritance, and gradually spreading outward with an incremental increase in population. There might be some remains of small nomadic groups of Jaredites in the land southward, but we should not find any Jaredite buildings or cities. Evidence of the Nephite faction should begin shortly after 590 BC in the land of Nephi (according to my model the Volcan area of Panama), and spread northward to the land of Zarahemla (central Costa Rica in line with my model) around 200 BC. All evidence of the Nephite faction south of the land of Zarahemla should end by about 120 BC (although there may be some minor intermingling of Nephite and Lamanite cultures from 20 BC to 20 AD, when many of the Lamanites were converted and the borders were opened).

Mulekite habitation in the land of Zarahemla should begin about 300-200 BC, and be superimposed by the Nephite faction about 200 BC. Apparently, to a certain extent at least, the Nephite and Mulekite factions maintained separate cultures including language, habitation and traditions, so we might expect separate but adjacent (twinned) cities, varied burials, varied ceramics, varied ceremonialism, etc.

The Nephite faction should be characterized by a lack of idolatrous or heathenistic ceremonialism; more advanced technology reflected in weapons, ceramics, metallurgy, and written language; simpler burials (probably similar to ancient Hebrew burials) with few artifacts or heathenistic overtones; remains of wooden building sites connected by roads and paths (with few or no stone buildings); road systems connecting cities or villages; and many cities encircled by remnants of trench or moat fortifications. There should be evidence of increasing warfare from about 200 BC onward.

The Lamanite faction should have been the sole inhabitants (although there may have been small remnants of previous inhabitants present in scattered, disorganized groups) southward and eastward from the land of Nephi. They also gradually spread northward overlapping the culture of the Nephite faction, especially after 300 AD. The Lamanite faction was characterized by a more nomadic lifestyle (although they did maintain settled communities); less advanced technology; more idolatrous and heathenistic ceremonialism; and more elaborate burials with heathenistic overtones and artifacts (and possibly including secondary burials.) All of this may have been overprinted by subsequent foreign cultures.

Are any of these expectations met in actual archaeological finds in the model area we have proposed? Actually the match is quite good. In the land northward (Nicaragua through Mexico) there are extensive ruins of majestic stone cities and ceremonial complexes of the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, Aztec, etc. cultures. These date from as early as 1500 BC, and may be patterned after similar structures in Sumeria and the far east. There is substantial evidence of sedentary communities based upon an agricultural economy. Corn first appeared in the early Jaredite times and was a major food source permitting an advanced civilization. The earliest evidence of a written language is found among Olmec artifacts and is similar to early Chinese script (although some say it is similar to African Mandan). Mesoamerican art and sculpture compare favorably with early Chinese examples which may have originated in the near eastern Sumerian region as well. This Mesoamerican influence extended from the Mesoamerican area as far south as the Nicoya region of Nicaragua (3).

There is one major problem which confronts all who try and match Book of Mormon geography to the Mesoamerican area. The greatest and most majestic of the ruins found there were built after (according to modern dating techniques) the Jaredite and Nephite cultures were destroyed (about 300 BC for the Jaredites, and 385 AD for the Nephites). However, as Michael Coe points out, most of these sites were inhabited earlier and were remodeled, rebuilt and expanded many times by each subsequent group (3a). For example at Izapa, mound 30a, which is a late middle formative (about 300 BC) 10.5 meter high Olmec pyramid, Lee observes that there were eleven known stages of construction, all occurring before 600 BC (4).  So it appears that many of the Mesoamerica sites were built over a long period of time.  As a result, the Classic and Post-classic Maya would not have to build the entire structure, but would add another layer to the pyramid, or a new facade to the temple. So the feat of these latter groups would not be nearly as great as first appearances might suggest, but only the end of a long cumulative effort. begun in most cases by Olmec era peoples.

Speaking of the Costa Rican area (my proposed land southward), Snarskis summarizes the prehistorical cultural development of Costa Rica: "Starting c. 1000 B.C.: a few small sedentary communities with pottery and perhaps a northern south American subsistence pattern, i.e., mostly root cropping, followed by a rapid increase in population and social complexity, perhaps stimulated by developing maize agriculture, complimented by polycropping and hunting. A culmination occurred around time of Christ in sedentary, fairly large nodes of population, characterized by stratified society with complex ritual connections to Mesoamerican trade networks, and probably a redistributive hierarchy....the first 5-6 centuries A.D. saw sporadic intergroup resource competition and warfare,.... possibly indicating population pressure, apparent intromission (c. 500-700 A.D.) of foreign peoples and traditions; changes in house and tomb forms; the gradual degradation of ceramics..." He also notes that at this time they broke into smaller units with an occasional strong leader who was able to organized several smaller units into a hierarchy (5).

In general, this seems to be a close match to the Nephite history as outlined in the Book of Mormon. Note especially his observation that there was a culmination around the time of Christ with sedentary, large cities, a stratified society and complex trade connections to the north. Also his description of warfare and intrusion of foreign peoples and traditions beginning with the 5th century AD is very interesting, and closely matches Nephite history.

But if the Costa Rican area is indeed the home of the advanced Nephite culture why is so little notice given to Costa Rican archaeology, and why aren't there spectacular finds such as those of Mesoamerica? First of all, the Nephites built with wood as has been previously mentioned, so little remains above ground. Solc (6) observes that in the Diquis region "Nothing remains above the surface of the ancient culture except a few indistinct petroglyphs and stone pillars to mark graveyards." This is just what one would expect of wooden construction. Hugh Nibley (7), as quoted above, emphasizes that "Nephite communities will give no spectacular ruins."

Second, the area has not been as thoroughly excavated as has Mesoamerica. Where excavations have been conducted, much has been found, some accidently, as along the railroad lines. Yet most of these sites are buried with no obvious above surface ruins. And because the area has been heavily developed, many sites have been destroyed or obliterated through agricultural or construction activities.

It is obvious that the overshadowing magnificence of the Mesoamerican ruins have tended to obscure the less spectacular cultures to the south. As Abel-Vidor (8) points out, comparisons with "Post-classic nuclear Mesoamerica or Central Mexico has virtually precluded appreciation of the uniquely innovative character of the archaeological protohistoric cultures of Greater Nicoya [and the same could be said for all of the southern Central America]." Yet Solc (9) observes that "This culture [speaking of the former Guetar-chibcha culture of Costa Rica and Panama] reached the same level as the culture of Mexico and Peru, with the exception of stone buildings." Indeed the artifacts, such as ceramics, figurines and metal castings, appear very advanced, even though the architecture may seem simple or primitive in comparison with Mayan sites.

Archaeological Features.

The Costa Rican area has been divided into three zones for archaeological purposes. The first, the Greater Nicoya region, includes northwestern Costa Rica and southwester Nicaragua. The second, the Atlantic Watershed, includes the Meseta Central, eastward to the Caribbean and northward to the San Juan Basin. The third, the Greater Chiriqui region, comprises southern Pacific Costa Rica (the Diquis region) and the Chiriqui province of Panama The last is the least studied of the these three zones. The artifacts found in the three zones are distinctly different, especially after 500 AD. The Nicoya zone appears to have been the southernmost extent of the Maya-Olmec influence, and forms the boundary between Mesoamerica culture (Jaredite milieu in my opinion) and the South American culture (Nephite-Lamanite in my opinion). The Atlantic Watershed zone is comprised of four or five subzones of diverse geography; however, these all share similar artifacts which suggests that they shared common cultural traditions. South of Limon, Costa Rica, the archaeology appears to change, resembling the culture of northwestern Panama.

The Atlantic Watershed Region.

This region includes the areas we have designated as the lands of Zarahemla, Jershon, Gideon, Manti and the eastern portion of the land of Bountiful. This, and the Greater Nicoya region, are the most thoroughly studied areas (although not nearly as thoroughly studied as Mesoamerican sites.) Many of the early sites in the Atlantic Watershed were discovered when a railroad line was built northwest from Limon to access and develop banana plantations. This line cut through the large site of Las Mercedes, as well as uncovering many smaller sites. This cluster of sites is called La Linea Vieja (the old rail line). Another rail line was built up the Reventazon Valley which in turn uncovered another group of sites, especially around the city of Turrialba. Solc notes that the artifacts from this area of Costa Rica resemble those from Chiriqui, Panama but are more perfect and reached a higher state of art. (10)  The earliest definite radiocarbon dating in this region (c. 500 BC) comes from the La Montana site  north of Turrialba.

The years 500-100 BC are poorly known in the Atlantic Watershed region. However, "from 100 BC to 200 AD there was a veritable explosion of sites (i.e., poplulation) and a trend toward social stratification...Sites of the El Bosque (middle Atlantic watershed) and Pavas (Central Highlands) phases, dating from c. 100 B.C.--500 A.D., are numerous and large." (11)  After 500 AD there was a decline in technical skills such as lapidary and ceramics (12).   "Some El Bosque phase (cemeteries cover several acres and contain hundreds of tons of volcanic-stone cobbles brought from river beds anywhere from 50 meters to several kilometers distant." (13)  The El Bosque type ceramic is technically very well made and shows a dominance in ceramic craft which disappears in later periods.  The El Bosque phase sites show a pattern of dispersed villages of several houses, usually located on alluvial terraces.  (13a)

Most of the jade objects found in Costa Rica are from the Mayan era. Compositional analysis has indicated that the majority of the Costa Rica jade  was imported from the Montagua region of Guatemala. (13b) Only one Olmec style jade object has been found that can be identified with the Olmec era according to Snarskis. (14)

Guayabo  is one of the best known, and thoroughly studied, sites in Costa Rica, and will serve as a general model of what can be expected at other sites. It was built between two rivers and is located on the slopes of Turrialba volcano 20 kilometers NW of the city of Turrialba. "The ruins, which cover 218 hectares, have only been partially excavated. Although smaller and less spectacular than the Mayan ruins in Chiapas, Yucatan and Guatemala, Guayabo is an important key to Costa Rica's pre-Columbian past. Anthropologists estimate that there were approximately 10,000 people who lived at this site. Prominent at the site are "large rounded crossshaped formations made of stones smoothed by the river. These monticulos probably served as foundations for wooden huts."

"A broad, paved ceremonial avenue (calzada) points, straight as an arrow, toward the summit of the Volcan Turrialba. This amazing road is similar to the famous Calzada de los Muertos in Teotihuacan near Mexico City. In many places sacrificial altars and pottery jars are still to be found. Most were religious." "Unfortunately, the artifacts that remain represent only a small part of what the original inhabitants left behind. As in most Latin American countries, huaceros, or grave robbers, got to the site long before the archeologists. An aqueduct that still functions carried water to a cleverly-designed reservoir, assuring that the inhabitants had plenty of water throughout the dry season. The massive stone graves, overgrown with moss and vines, and petroglyphs on a monolithic structure depicting a jaguar and a crocodile give researchers yet another mystery to solve." (15)

Another source commenting on Guayabo observes that there are "raised mounds of earth supported around their bases by large rounded stones and interconnected by cobblestone walkways. It is assumed that buildings once stood atop these mounds, but because they were built of perishable materials, no evidence of them remains. Other preserved features include a still-functioning aqueduct system, burial sites, and numerous petroglyphs. Many high- quality examples of pottery, gold, and stone workmanship on display at the National Museum [of Costa Rica] came from this site. Archeologists estimate that half of the village area still awaits excavation. The site was discovered in the late 1800's, presumably by colonists who were clearing the land for coffee plantations." (16)

Other sites in the Atlantic Watershed Region.

Costa Rica Farm. Located on the Linea Vieja between the General and Costa Rica rivers, this site covers 2500 acres and is divided into twin sites, La Union Norte and La Union Sur. Different types of burials are mingled together. This is the only site in the area with finely polished Black Ware similar to pottery in Chirique, Panama. Some of the graves resemble niches, one above another, oriented in an E- W direction (17).

Las Mercedes. This is a large site located on the Linea Vieja. Stone mentions that this community is "separated into units according to custom" although I am not sure what she means by this. (17)

La Montana. This site which was discovered in 1977, is located near the city of Turrialba.  It features the earliest carbon-14 dated pottery in the region (500 BC).   The La Montana pottery resembles earlier pottery from farther south. (18)

Pavas. This site was discovered during construction in a suburb of San Jose . It was excavated through salvage achaeology in the midst of a building project. It is the type site for others of a similar age (200 BC to 400 AD) in the vicinity. It features a cemetery with bottle shaped tombs and secondary burials. Many of the grave artifacts had been burned which is a sure sign of ceremonialism. (19, 20)

Aguas Claras, La Bijagua, La Fortuna.   These are three important sites lying North of the Guanacaste, Tilaran and Central ranges, and including the eastern plains of San Juan River.  Aguas Claras is located at the foot of the Miravalles volcano, La Bijagua between the Miravalles and Tenorio volcanoes, and La Fortuna. These site are situated on mountain. spurs or small plateaus near rivers. They are connected by ancient trails which cross the mountains to Guanacaste and lead northwestward to the waterways of the San Juan Valley.   La Fortuna is on the crossroads of trails from Guanacaste, the San Juan waterway, and the Caribbean estatuaries. The site of Venecia (near the above three sites (also called Cutris) was destroyed by tractors by angry landowner who claimed that pothunters were making it impossible to farm. (21)

Tatisco.   A unique tumbaga (an alloy of gold and copper) figurine was found at this site tentatively dated 400-1000 AD. According to archaeologists, this is the earliest metal object to have been found in Costa Rica. (23)

The following sites in the Atlantic Watershed are mentioned in the literature, but I have no specific information on them: Orosi, Retes, El Molino, Bremen Farm (Ancient Pocora), La Fabrica, Chaparrón, Anita Grande, La Cabaña, El Molino, El Cristo, Finca Guardiria, Severo Ledesma, Barrial, Tibas, Barrial de Heredia, and Parrita.

Some observations about burials in the Atlantic Watershed region.

Ancient burials in this region suggest a cultural mixture because of different types of graves located side by side, these include secondary burials (24, 25).

A number of uniquely carved and decorated graves stones were found along the Linea Vieja and in the Reventazon Valley (26).

Hartman deduces from the abscence of weapons in burials that these people who were buried in Costa Rica were peaceloving and placid. (27).

Some burials resemble niches, one on top of the other, oriented east to west. A deep pit would be dug in the beginnig, then one grave placed on top of another in the manner of secondary burials (28).

The graves at the site of Las Mercedes were separated into different units. (28)

The burials at Pavas were secondary burials with burned artifacts, a sure sign of ceremonialism. (20)

El Bosque phase (100 BC-500 AD) cemeteries often cover several acres and contain hundreds of tons of volcanic-stone cobbles brought from river beds anywhere from 50 meters to several kilometers distant. (13a)

The Greater Nicoya Region.

Nicaraguan area.  This includes the Pacific Coastal region of Nicaragua westward from Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua.  There were many substantial Indian settlements, such as Salteba and Subtiaba (near present day Leon), in the western Nicaraguan region at the time of the conquest. The early Spanish Fathers estimated that there were 600,000 Indians living in Nicaragua prior to the conquest.  Squires, who spent some time in Nicaragua around 1850 as a US ambassador, describes some of the Indian customs at the Indian city of Sutiaba. The lands of Subtiaba "are inalienable, and are leased to the inhabitants at low and almost nominal rates. Every citizen is entitled to a sufficient quantity to enable him to support himself and his family; for which he pays from four rials (half a dollar,) to two dollars a year [in 1850]. This practice seems to have been of aboriginal institution; for under the ancient Indian organization, the right to live was recognized as a fundamental principle in the civil and social system. No man was supposed to be entitled to more land than was necessary to his support; nor was he permitted to hold more than that, to the exclusion or injury of others." (29)

Squires quotes the Fray Bobadilla, one of the early Spanish priests in Nicaragua, who describes a "spacious and sumptuous temple which the Indians, under the special direction of the devil, had erected" in Subtiaba. There they had statues or idols which were apparently objects of worship. Bobadilla prevailed upon the Indians to take down the idols and set up the cross in their stead. He mutilated the faces of the idols with a mace, and intended to further destroy them, but "during the night some did take them away and buried them, so that they could not be found." Later a Catholic church was built on the site of this temple. (30)

A number of these carved rock images (scroll to bottom) have been found on the western side of Lake Nicaragua. Most of them were found on Zapatera Island, and a few on Omatepe. The first of these antiquities were shown to Squires (31) in about1849 by the Nicaraguan Indians. They do not appear to be in place, but have been transported and often buried. Squires notes that many of them had been intentionally hidden from the Spaniards as mentioned above. From 1849 to 1942, 120 of these statues were found by 9 different investigators on Zapatera (32). They do not appear to be stelae of the Mayan pattern, but are angular, anthropomorphic or zoomorphic figures, about two to five feet tall, which even at the time of Squires' (1849) visit were reverenced by the local Indians.

Further suggesting heavy populations, one study mentions a site on the Rivas Isthmus where the broken ceramics were so abundant that they were cleared off the fields and stacked in the fence rows much as rocks would be gathered out of a stony field. I have lost the source, but will add it as soon as I find it.

Discovered sites in this area include: Granada, Tepetate, San Antonio, El Pachote, Ometepe, Finca de Cana, Rivas area, San Dimas, Las Marias, El Jobo and San Pedro.

Nicoya area.  This area includes the Guanacaste and Nicoya regions of Costa Rica.  There are a substantial number of sites located in this area, however, I have not been able to find much published information about them.  Stone notes that the graves of the earlier periods in this region were principally primary burials. However, from 800-1200 AD this reversed and the majority of burials were secondary suggesting a trend toward increased ceremonialism (possibly increased paganism). (32a)

Discovered sites in this area include: El Hacha, Chahuite Escondido, Papagayo, Nascasolo, Vidor, La Guinea, Novica, Matapalo, Huerta del Aguacate, Bolson, Las Huacas, Panama Salinas, Puerto Culebra, Hunter-Robinson, Ruiz, Jicaro, Hacienda Tempisque, Guaitil, Mojica, Mendez, Guayabo de Bagaces, Las Pilas, San Pedro, Nosarita, and Nosara.

The Diquis Region.  This region includes the Diquis area of Southwestern Costa Rica, and the adjoining Chiriqui area of Panama, which are both similar archaeologically.

Diquis area. This is the least studied of the regions of Costa Rica. It includes ceremonial sites such as Barriles in Panama, and Bolas which include stone-faced earthen mounds and terraces or platforms. The preferred locations for these sites were highland valleys or upland ridges. (33) The Carbonera era figurines from the Osa Peninsula [which we feel may have been the Land of First Inheritance] suggest a style which is older and more foreign than the general Diquis zone. (34). The Aguas Buenas period sites date as early as 1000 BC. However most of the sites are dated later. The cemeteries of period VI (1000-1500AD) which are located on high sharp ridges, are rich in cast gold pendants and other metal artifacts. (35)

Murcielago, which is a period VI site (1000 -1500 AD), is a very large site (almost 4 sq. kilometers). It features house foundations, which are twelve to twenty meters in diameter, surrounded by gently sloping pavements of river cobbles and a complex system of pavements and ramps connected living areas. This site is similar to architectural complexes of the Central Highlands. (35)This region includes the Diquis area of Southwestern Costa Rica, and the adjoining Chiriqui area of Panama, which are both similar archaeologically.

Other discovered Diquis sites include: Aguas Buenas, San Vito, Piedra Pintada, Coquito, Ceiba and Caracol.

One of the archaeological puzzles of the region are the large (see web.ku.edu/~hoopes/balls for more information) stone balls (bolas) which were carved by the ancient inhabitants. They approach perfect roundness, and are generally from one to two meters in diameter. So far no one has conclusively determined their purpose.

Chiriqui province.  In 1606 Melchior Hernandez visited Chiriqui and found the region to be densely populated with Indians (36).  Early Spanish Fathers estimated that there were 200,000 Indians in Panama prior to the conquest.  Yet few remains of this extensive culture are evident today. Vaclav Solc, who researched the Chiriqui area about 1970 (37) notes that no signs of this ancient culture remain above the surface except a few indistinct petroglyphs and stone pillars to mark graveyards. He observes that the ancient inhabitants of the Chiriqui province of Panama (which would be my proposed land of Nephi) seem to appeared with a fully developed culture. He suggests that either the relicts of their predecessors have not been found, or that they migrated from another location which had a fully developed culture (38). Solc again emphasizes the advanced status of Chiriquiran relics. "It is inconceivable that such uniformity could have resulted from inertia without any sign of development or decline". (39) He further suggests that there were two waves of Chibcha culture as represented in two distinct styles of burials (40). At the time of Solc's investigations, there was a tribe of Indians called Dorask, which were said to have light colored skin. At that time there were only fourteen members of this tribe still living. (42)

At the ancient twelve acre graveyard at Bugaba there were two types of burials, oval and quadrangle, with the quadrangle graves oriented in a NS direction (41).

Solc dates the ancient cultures of Chiriqui as Post Classic, however, his dating of these cultures is based on indirect evidence, and comparisons with neighboring areas and artifacts, and as a result can only be considered tentative. An example of this inferred dating is the occasional occurance of glass beads in the graves. Solc assumes that these are of European origin and thus Post Conquest which may be accurate, but what if they are not of European origin?. Another difficulty with dating results the extensive destruction of sites and evidence by grave robbers and others seeking the golden objects which were buried with the ancients (see Gold of Chiriqi). (43)

One of the ancient sites in Chiriqui is Barriles, which is located a short distance from Volcan, Panama.  This site is dated by archaeologists at about 200-400 AD.  It was probably the ceremonial hub of surrounding settlements.  "Barriles was located on the fertile slopes of the Barú volcano, which today is in the province of Chiriquí, encompassing and inhabited zone, a cemetery and a ceremonial hillock. It was discovered and studied by U.S. archaeologist Mathew W. Stirling in the 1950's. Stirling, who was the only one to see it in its original form (it was altered later when statues were removed and sent to museums) described a ceremonial hillock culminating in a stony rectangular plaza decorated with mysterious petroglyphs and a line of statues starting east of the hillock.

"Barriles civilization is famous for its stone statues and beautiful and curious 'metates', flat stones on which corn was ground. The statues usually represent a man holding a head-trophy. Sometimes, a second man carries an axe on his shoulder. This peculiar kind of sculpture suggests a warriors' culture with slaves and caciques (chiefs).

"The gigantic metates of Barriles were used in ceremonial rites associating corn with fertility. The monocolor pottery made during that period is called 'Bugaba', and has a red or dark orange tone but is varied in designs, often repeating those found in Barriles statues.

"According to Panamanian archaeologist Olga Linares, Barú volcano erupted in the 5th century A.D., provoking the disappearance of that strange civilization, and with it, the stone statues and Bugaba pottery. After a period of uncertain definition for the archaeologists, the region was occupied by two cultures known as the San Lorenzo and Classic Chiriquí phases. Those periods are characterized by a great variety of earthenware: the thin and elaborate type called 'Bisquist': a three-color one with red and black designs over a cream background; another called "fish tripod" because it has three legs and features a fish, and lastly the 'negative' painted technique. The ceramic was covered by wax designs and painted. The wax was later removed leaving the design in 'negative' ". (44)


From the above it can be seen that the Pre-Columbian civilization of Costa Rica was both extensive and fully developed. There are numerous large sites with projected populations that match BofM demography as well as the approximate historical time frames. However, in line with expectations, there are no stone ruins as the ancient inhabitants of Costa Rica built their structures of wood and thatch. On the other hand, there is evidence of building foundations, walkways, roads and water systems. The Atlantic Watershed region (which includes the land of Zarahemla according to my model) seems to have achieved the most advanced culture of the immediate area. It reached its zenith around the time of Christ, but was in decline by 500 AD, with evidence of increased warfare, thus matching BofM history. The northern area (Nicoya) marks the boundary between two major cultural groups which fits the Desolation-Bountiful boundary between the former Jaredites and their remnants, and the Nephite-Lamanite culture. The bi-cultural nature of the Nephite-Mulekite group is suggested by evidence of twinned cities, mixed burials, diverse ceremonialism, and selective use of Jade (which we propose is a Jaredite cultural trait which reflects the Mulekite's Jaredite acculturization [45]), which are found in the archaeological sites of the Atlantic Watershed region.


(1) Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd ed. [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988], 431.

(2) Hauck, F. Richard, Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon (Reviewed by John Clark), FARMS Review of Books, vol. 1 (1989),  p. 21.

(3) Solc, Vaclav. Chirique Culture. Naprstek Museum. Prague. 1970. P.12.

(3a)  Coe, Michael. The Maya. 1999.  p. 54.

(4) Lee, Thomas. Chiapas and the Olmec in Sharer, Robert J. and Grove, David C. Regional Perspectives on the Olmec. Cambridge. University Press. 1989. p. 207.

(5) Snarkis, Michael. "The Archaeology of Costa Rica" in Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York. 1981. p. 81.

(6) Solc op. cit.p.13.

(7) Nibley, Hugh. An Approach to the Book of Mormon. Priesthood Manual of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1957. p.374.

(8) Abel-Vidor, Suzanne. "Ethnohistorical Approaches to the Archaeology of Greater Nicoya" in Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York. 1981. p.89.

(9) Solc op. cit. p. 18.

(10) Ibid. p. 24.

(11) Snarkis op. cit. p. 42-44.

(12) Ibid. p. 55.

(13) Ibid. p. 50.

(13a)  Ibid. p. 54-55.

(13b)  Lange, Frederick et al.  "Perspectives on Costa Rican Jade: Compositional Analysis and Cultural Implications" in Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York. 1981. p. 170.

(14) Ibid. p. 54.

(15) http://www.latinamericavacationguide.com/travel/MonumentoNacionalGuayabo2577_Overview.ht ml

(16) http://www.angelfire.com/bc/gonebirding/crnps.html#GuayaboNM

(17) Stone, Doris. Pre-Columbian Man in Costa Rica. Peabody Museum Press. 1977. p. 142-3.

(18) Snarskis op. cit. p. 40.

(19) Ibid. p. 48.

(20) Stone op. cit. p. 156.

(21) Ibid. p. 148, 162.

(22) Snarskis op. cit. p. 50, 54-55.

(23) Ibid. p. 55.

(24) Stone op. cit. p 5.

(25) Solc op. cit. p 22.

(26) Stone op. cit. p. 6.

(27) Solc op. cit. p. 23.

(28) Stone op. cit. p. 143.

(29) Squires, E.G. Nicaragua; its People, Scenery, Monuments, Resources, Condition, and Proposed Canal. Harper and Brothers, Publishers. New York. 1860. p. 274-5.

(30) Ibid. p. 308.

(31) Squires op. cit. p. 308.

(32) Arellano, Jorge Eduardo. La Colecion Squire. Estudio de Estatuaria Prehispanica. 1980.

(32a) Stone op. cit. p. 58, 69.

(33) Snarskis op. cit. p. 73.

(34) Ibid. p. 76.

(35) Ibid. p. 80-81.

(36) Solc op. cit. p.8.

(37) Ibid. p. 13.

(38) Ibid. p. 43.

(39) Ibid. p. 43.

(40) Ibid. p. 20.

(41) Ibid. p. 26.

(42) Ibid. p. 16.

(43) Ibid .p. 42.

(44) http://www.vivapanama.org/PrecolumbianHeritage.htm

(45) It should be noted that Snarskis (op cit p. 54) claims that only one of the many recovered Jade artifacts from Costa Rica is of Olmec age, however, the majority of Jade artifacts from Costa Rica come from one Guatemalan source and were apparently brought to Costa Rica as trade goods. They are fairly difficult to date, and can only be dated by style, comparison or association, so his claim may be incorrect.

Primary and Secondary Burials.   In a primary burial the body is placed and left in the original tomb. In a secondary burial, the body would be buried in a temporary tomb or grave, and then the bones would be removed when the flesh had rotted away, and placed in the permanent burial, often in a container. Sometimes the body would be desicated over a smoldering fire, or in other cases partially cremated, according to the prevailing custom. Secondary burials usually involved more ceremonialism, and were often accompanied by more artifacts