(Bear River City, UT, December 2000)
The Nephi Project, December 2000
Refer to Map 001 in
purpose of this paper is to suggest a new approach for tracing the Jaredite
exodus from Babel (Babylon/Shinar/Mesopotamia) to the New World: a trail
through the heart of Arabia.
Like the theories that have preceded it, this model is a supposition and
should be considered in this light.[i]
Prior models have been based on limited indirect evidence and have not
led to the identification of a specific candidate trail or campsite.
In full recognition of its speculative nature, the Arabian trail model
will suggest a specific route and point of embarkation for the Jaredites.
Current Prevailing Hypothesis
common belief among the LDS community is that the Jaredites crossed Asia and
embarked from China. The
Encyclopedia of Mormonism summarizes the most commonly cited Jaredite model, the
one formulated by Dr. Hugh W. Nibley.
The Jaredites carried on the warring ways of the
steppes of Asia "upon this north country" (Ether 1, 3- 6). Issuing
forth from the well-known dispersion center of the great migrations in western
Asia, they accepted all volunteers in a mass migration (Ether 1:41-42). Moving
across central Asia they crossed shallow seas in barges (Ether 2:5-6). Such
great inland seas were left over from the last ice age (CWHN 5:183-85, 194-96).
Reaching the "great sea" (possibly the Pacific), they built ships with
covered decks and peaked ends, "after the manner of Noah's ark" (Ether
6:7), closely resembling the prehistoric "magur boats" of Mesopotamia.[ii]
J. M. Sjodahl summarizes the popular version first formulated by Elder George Reynolds:
According to this theory, which Mr. Reynolds
characterizes as a supposition, merely, the Jaredites went in a northerly
direction from the Valley of Nimrod as far as the Caspian Sea, which they
crossed; then, turning eastward, they journeyed along the Central Asia plateau;
thence to the Pacific seaboard, most probably on the coast of China. Elder
Reynolds does not state this as a proven fact. What is actually revealed is that
their journey was a long one; beyond the limits of the inhabited world at that
The Book of Mormon does not state the direction they
traveled from the Valley of Nimrod nor does it describe geographical features
unique to Asia. Their journey was
not beyond the then inhabited world. These
areas were to some degree inhabited, but were simply not known to many in the
Near East. The proponents of the
Asia model suggest that the “many waters” (Ether 2:5) they crossed were
lakes left over in Asia from the ice age.
There are no specific words in the Book of Mormon that state they crossed
“inland sea”. The ‘sea in the wilderness’ might mean that the body of
water they came to was in the wilderness, i.e. the Red Sea (not a landlocked
sea). This is in the wilderness
(Ether 2:5-6), and the “many waters” they crossed might even have been the
great rivers of Europe.
The Asia model is rooted in a set of assumptions that may not be valid. The assumptions are derived from interpretations of verses 5,6,7,13 and 16 of the second chapter of the Book of Ether. Let’s review the important ideas in these verses:
1) The Lord commands them that they should go forth into the wilderness, (v. 5)
2) Into that quarter where there never had man been, (v. 5)
3) They did build barges which they used to cross many waters (v. 6)
4) The Lord would not suffer that they stop at the sea in the wilderness, but they went straight to the promised land. (v. 7)
5) They built barges like those they had previously built (v. 16)
The Lord brought them “even to that great sea which divideth the lands.
Now let’s consider the main points of each verse and
discuss why they might not fit into an Asia model:
1. The Lord led the Jaredites into a wilderness. After leaving the valley of Nimrod the Jaredites crossed only one geographic feature before they built their barges. It was a “wilderness” (Ether 2:5). There is no account of crossing the tropical forests of South Asia, the great mountain ranges of Europe or Central Asia. Linguist Hugh Nibley explains “what is meant by ‘wilderness’. That word has in the Book of Mormon the same connotation as in the Bible, and usually refers to desert country…in the Bible ‘wilderness’ almost always means desert”. [iv] The crossing of a series of inland seas or lakes does not conjure up the image of a desert. Of course, a wilderness could mean uninhabited land. Central Asia and China were highly populated circa 2000 B.C. The only desert segment of a Central Asia crossing would be the Gobi Desert between Mongolia and China. The Gobi would only represent a small percentage of the entire trail, and certainly not the only geographic feature.
2. A Wilderness that was a quarter where no man had ever been: Which desert did the Lord lead the Jaredites through? The one where no one had ever been (v. 5). How can a route through Asia be described as a crossing of a land in which no man had ever been?
3. Built Barges to Cross Many Waters. Shipbuilding with ancient tools was an extremely difficult, arduous and time consuming task. It required a knowledge of shipwright skills that took years to master. Even today, with pre-cut timbers, it takes a team of shipwrights using traditional tools six months build the hull of an average size Arab dhow (ship).[v] So, why would the Jaredites build a fleet of ships to cross an inland lake? Walking at a pace of 10 miles a day for 6 months, a traveler could walk almost 2000 miles, and do so without risking the dangers of a water-crossing. It seems unlikely that a migrating party would build barges to cross a lake, however large. The words many waters does not necessarily mean that they crossed different bodies of water. Many waters (v. 6) is used as a proper place noun in the Book of Mormon. ‘Many waters’ is the meaning of the word Irreantum (1 Nephi 17:5), the name of the ocean beside which Nephi built his ship. This is an important linguistic fact. Is it possible that the author of verse 6 wrote ‘many waters’ assuming that any educated person would know the location of the sea called ‘many waters’? Continuing, “They did build barges to cross Irreantum”, meaning ‘Many Waters’, for it is the English translation of the name Irreantum. Verse 6 alludes to the fact that ‘many waters’ is the name of an ocean and not a series of separate waters or waterways; i.e. they crossed “many waters” (Irreantum), not “the many waters”. In addition, verse 7 refers only to “the sea” in the wilderness, not “the seas” in the wilderness. The brother of Jared described ocean waves crashing over their barges as their barge being “encompassed about by many waters (the sea) (Ether 6:7, Italics and comment added). The internal logic and definitions in the Book of Mormon point to the Jaredites crossing only one set of many waters (the ocean or sea).
4. Suffered not to stop: At the place where the Jaredites built their barges to cross ‘many waters’, they did so to reach the promised land, not to reach the other side of a lake (v 6,7). The statement that the Lord suffered them not to stop at “the sea” in the wilderness but to continue on to the promised land could refer to their final campsite at the seashore, and not an inland sea. Apparently the Lord did not want them to settle on the seashore which is in the desert, but to build ships and continue on. The fact that they stayed on the seashore for four years before calling on the Lord to find out what their next step should be tells us that they were reluctant to face the dangers of a transoceanic voyage in ancient ships. (Ether 2:13)
5. The Jaredites Had Built Ships Before They Reached the Great Sea: The fact that they had “hitherto” built barges probably meant that the Jaredites or the friends they brought with them were shipwrights. Shipbuilding is a difficult craft, not a soft skill a family of novices could teach themselves on the shoreline of a wilderness lake. Nephi came from Jerusalem, a land with no shipbuilding lore. He studied the manner in which others built ships and was personally instructed of the Lord from time to time on how to work timbers and build a ship (1 Neph 17: 8, 18:1-4). The Jaredites were not told by the Lord “how” to build a ship, only the type of modifications needed to the barges they had hitherto built. Rather than assuming that the Jaredites taught themselves to build ships, it is more realistic to assume that the Jaredites were involved in shipping along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and knew shipwright skills. Sailing ships were invented in Sumeria (Mesopotamia) and shipbuilding had been practiced there for at least two thousand years before the Jaredites left Babylon. [vi] Two thousand years of building river barges is a very long shipbuilding lore, and this body of accumulated knowledge seems to have been taken with the Jaredites into the wilderness. Thus, the ships “hitherto” built were river barges that they had built while they lived in Mesopotamia (Babylon). The Book of Mormon seems to confirm this view, since the barges they built to cross the great sea were peaked at both ends like the magur ships in Sumeria. Such elaborate ships were probably not built in a short time and then abandoned after crossing a shallow lake. Common sense would have prevailed. The “hitherto” ships they had built to cross the Great Sea must have been similar to the ones they built for commerce in Babylon.
6. Finally, the Lord brought them to the great sea (v. 13). The Asia model assumes that the Jaredites built ships at least once before they built more barges to cross the great sea. There are at least two explanations as to why the text seems to have the Jaredites building ships twice, once to cross an inland sea and the again when they reached the great sea.
First, the primary means of long distance travel with provisions in Sumeria was their famous river barges. They were sometimes constructed of reeds, while at other times wood. Wooden vessels were preferred when they crossed open seas. Rather than looking for some great lake or wilderness sea that is distant to Babel, why not consider the sea they were most likely to have crossed, the Arabian or Persian Gulf. Not only is the Persian Gulf salt water (a sea), it is surrounded by desert (wilderness), and is almost entirely land locked except for the narrow strait of Hormuz. Ancient sea routes flourished between Sumeria, White India and the Dilmun Empire on the northeast shore of Arabia near Bahrain. It is feasible that the Jaredites started their journey sailing barges down the Euphrates river to it mouth then crossed the gulf to Arabia, landing near today’s Qatif (Dilmun Empire).
A clue in the Book of Ether suggests that they traveled first in boats. Among their initial provisions were vessels in which they kept fish (Ether 2:2). Donkeys could not carry heavy fish tank. Oxen with a cart would not only have difficulty pulling such a weight in the desert, but would need a constant supply of fresh water to keep the fish alive. A cart, Oxen and a fish tank requiring regular maintenance would seem a very high investment just to enjoy fresh fish. If they traveled by ship, a specialized river vessel, perhaps even a simple reed cage, could keep fish alive at least until they reached the gulf, at which time they would have needed to convert over to salt water varieties.
second, explanation for why there are two accounts of shipbuilding is that the
same story repeated. The reference
to ships they had “hithterto built” (Ether 2:16) referring to their
shipwright activities before leaving Babel.
With its rich shipbuilding and sailing lore, shipwright skills would have
seemed a common practice in Sumeria
A flow diagram of the text of Ether shows that it is likely that the
great sea in verse 13 is the same body of water as the “sea in the
wilderness” verse 6. The account of building ships to cross a sea is simply a more
detailed description of the same event.
Here the brother of Jared used a writing technique Biblical scholars
Doublets are found in ancient scriptures of that period, i.e. the same
event being told more than once but each time from a different perspective or for
a different purpose. Richard Friedman explains:
doublet is a case of the same story being told twice.
Even in translation it is easy to observe that biblical stories often
appear with variations of detail in two different places in the Bible. There are two different stories of the creation of the world.
There are two stories of the covenant between God and the patriarch Abraham, two
stories of the naming of Abraham’s son Isaac, two stories of Abraham’s
claiming to a foreign king that his wife Sarah is his sister, two stories of a
revelation to Jacob at Beth-El, two stories of God changing Jacob’s name to
Israel, two stories of Moses’ getting water from a rock at the place called
Meribah, and more.[vii]
The use of doublets in the Book of Mormon attest to the authenticity of its most ancient author, the brother of Jared. He used a common writing technique of the ancient Biblical prophets. In the case of the Jaredites, the first account of the building of the barges is part of a condensed history of their exodus: – they crossed the wilderness – are not allowed to stay on the sea shore – instructed to build barges – cross the ocean to the promised land (Ether 2:5-7). The second account is one of the greatest lessons of faith ever told. It describes a remarkable personal story of how the Lord helped in the building of the barges by touching the sixteen stones which thereafter radiated light, and how, through the faith of the brother of Jared, the Lord appeared to him (Ether 3-,6:1-3). The first account provides the historical stage for the second account.
A New Hypothesis
A New Hypothesis
Let’s assume for the purpose of this essay a second set of assumptions, and see where they lead.
The Jaredites only crossed one geological feature, a
The wilderness they crossed was the “quarter where
no man had ever been.”
After crossing the wilderness they reached “the
sea” called “Many Waters”, (Irreantum), the same ocean where Nephi
The Jaredites were shipwrights, and knew how to
construct magur boats, the sailing barges used in the rivers of Mesopotamia (Sumeria).
The Arabian Trail of the
The Jaredites were instructed to go north to the Valley of Nimrod where they would meet the Lord. From the valley, the Lord personally led them south into the wilderness of Arabia, eventually following the Dakaka Trail. The most likely place on the southern Arabian coast they could build their ships was the inlet harbor of Khor Rori, the same place where Nephi probably built his sailing ship. Another possible Jaredite trail through Arabia would have been the inland route to Magan.
Supporting Evidence For The
Arabian Trail Hypothesis
Jaredites Crossed the Wilderness, a Quarter Where No Man Had Ever Been
The text of the Book of Ether implies that from the Valley of Nimrod the Jaredites were led directly into the wilderness or desert (Ether 2:5). The Tower of Babel is believed to have been within the city walls of ancient Babylon[viii] (50 miles south of today’s Baghdad). The Valley of Nimrod seems to have been adjacent to Babel. That is, the Jaredites left the urban center of Babel and went only a short distance to the north to a rural area where they could gather food supplies in the Valley of Nimrod. The Bible defines the empire of Nimrod the Hunter as Babel itself, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, “in the land of Shinar” (Genesis 10:10). The LDS Bible Dictionary defines Shinar as “the lower part of the Tigris and Euphrates, and is sometimes used as an equivalent to Babylonia. The only desert proximate to ancient Babylonia is Arabia to the south. It is a land which has, since antiquity, been known as both a geographic and political wilderness[x].
2. The Ar
Rub Khali, The Empty Quarter
The Book of Mormon states specifically that, “the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been” (Ether 2:5). This clue is meaningless to most westerners, but for someone living in the Near East, where the Jaredites started their saga, it is a clear reference to southern Arabia. To an Arab, crossing the quarter where no man has ever been is as descriptive as telling an American that the Utah Pioneers crossed the Rocky Mountains. Arab mythology holds that God created the world, two quarters where people lived, one quarter was the sea and one quarter was the desert of where no man ever lived. To this day, the great sand desert of southern Arabia is called the Ar Rub Khali, or Empty Quarter. Being larger than the state of Utah, the Empty Quarter of Arabia is the largest sand desert in the world, and no one has ever found evidence that man has ever dwelt in this vast area.
If one travels south from the ruins of Nineveh into Arabia they will eventually enter the Empty Quarter. There were two possible routes through the Empty Quarter”, 1.) the Dakakah Trail through the heart of the Empty Quarter via the wells at Jabrin, Maqainame, Naifa, Shanna, Khor Daliya Mitan, Shis’r to the Salalah coastal plain in southern Oman[xi]; and 2.) a possibly trail paralleling the Arabian/Persian Gulf coast about 200 miles inland via wells at Jabrin, Liwa, Buraymi and ending at Magan near today’s capital of Oman, Muscat[xii]. I will refer to the second trail as the Magan trail. Both routes were not trails in the traditional sense, i.e. no worn tracks in the sand. The large-scale use of camels as beast of burden, and thus the establishment of the caravans and heavily traveled inland routes do not seem to have appeared in Arabia until the end of the second millennium B.C.[xiii], considerably later than Jaredite passage. Each trail was a series of distant watering holes, which if found, could support a passage with donkeys through the Empty Quarter. The Dakakah trail ended at the Salalah Coast Plain on the Indian Ocean in Oman, the place where LDS scholars believe Nephi built his ship. It is for this reason that I prefer to Dakakah trail over the Magan trail, it ended at the body of water that Nephi called Irreantum meaning Many Waters. It would also be true that if the Jaredites embarked from either the harbor of Khor Rori in Salalah or a harbors in Magan, they would have had to cross many bodies of water to reach the New World (Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Seven Seas of East Indians and the Pacific Ocean). This would not have been the case if they departed from the shores of the Pacific or Atlantic.
Lord Led Them In A Cloud
The Lord “did go forth before” the Jaredites “in a
cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.” (Ether 2:6)
The Lord led Moses and the children of Israel into Arabia (Midian) in a
cloud and a pillar of fire (Exodus 3:1.13:21)
The Lord guided Lehi and his family through Arabia by giving them the
Liahona (1 Nephi 16:10). What all three of these events have in common is that
the Lord led them into a wilderness. We
know that in the cases of Moses and Lehi that the wilderness was Arabia. The reason is simple, it is very easy and yet extremely
dangerous to become disoriented in the wasteland deserts of Arabia.
At the same time, it is fatal if one gets lost and misses the watering
holes, a rule that is never truer than in the Empty Quarter where summer
temperatures can climb to 145o degrees F.
It must be remembered that the Jaredites traveled in an uninhabited
place. There was no one to stop and
ask directions to the next well. The
Arabs have a name for wide deserts where one can become disorientated, lose his
way and perish, a taymā.
In the early part of the last century, the crossing of the Empty Quarter
was consider as great a challenge as climbing Mount Everest.
The first successful westerner to accomplish the feat was Bertram Thomas. Thomas needed the guides from the Murri tribe, the only
people who knew how to find the watering holes of the ancient Dakakah trail.
possible indicator that the Jaredites crossed a great desert is the fact that
the Lord instructed them to take large stocks of provisions with them into the
wilderness (Ether 2:1-3). Andrew
Taylor writes of Bertram Thomas’s difficulties in crossing the Empty Quarter:
The Dakaka had been composed mainly of sweeping red landscapes of hard sand, with dunes running in all directions, but after they left Suwahib, the colours became more muted, and the terrain softer – “a wide expanse of pale sands in the mood of an ocean calm” – with occasional scrub of nadh bushes. Here, the climate had been less kind: the Murri tribesmen could remember grazing their animals across this region, but now, after four waterless years, Thomas found nothing but “a hungry void, and an abode of death to whoever should loiter there”. It was a grim reason for yet more checking of supplies and calculations.[xiv] (Taylor. 100)
are two more reasons why the Lord would have needed to personally guide the
Jaredites through the Empty Quarter. First,
donkeys or oxen could not have traversed the soft dunes.
The dunes in the Empty Quarter can tower as high as 700 – 800 feet.
Even with his guides, Thomas encountered this problem.
He wrote: “Our camels,
wretched beasts, climbed arduously up to knife edge summits, and slithered
knee-deep down precipitous slopes. Here
and there, we turned back for very fear, and tried a better way…”[xv]
There are treks around the soft sands on gravel or hard sand beds that can
take the traveler and his animals from one well to the next, but a guide is
the need for fodder for their animals. The
Jaredites probably used donkeys or possibly oxen with carts[xvi]
to haul their provisions. They
took with them fish tanks, tents, beehives, and seeds. They also took their flocks with them. Without fodder, their animals would have died within days.
Bertram Thomas noted of his expedition across the Dakakah trail, “The
traveler in the desert soon discovers that the welfare of the camel is the
supreme consideration… Fodder is almost more important than water, for a camel
can carry a load for a week or more with water, but food is a daily want.[xvii]”
c.8000 to 4000 BC the Empty Quarter had marshes, springs and shallow lakes[xviii].
Thereafter, the lakes dried up and the land became a great desert.
We do not know the exact climatic conditions the Jaredites would have
found if they crossed of the Empty Quarter in their era.
There might have been more pasture areas then as compared to modern
times, but more likely the climate was similar as it is today, and the Jaredites
would have needed a guide to find where spotty winter rains had turned patches
of the desert into pasturelands. Andrew
Taylor writes of Thomas’s expedition: “Compared with the privations they had
suffered, and those that were still ahead, the trek that followed through
Dakakah sounds occasionally like a desert paradise.
There had been heavy rains, and so there was almost unlimited pasture.[xix]”
else would the Lord need to personally guide the Jaredites if it were not for
the dangers of the trek? Taylor
All travelers kept to the side of the great wastes of the Empty Quarter. Traveling into the sands, they were well aware, would mean death just as certainly as swimming out into the ocean. There was no hope of survival, nothing to sustain life – and just as important, no reason to make the journey. The Empty Quarter, they all knew, was just that – empty, barren, and hostile. It was best left alone.[xx]
Resources Needed To Build A Ship
The Jaredites needed tools and raw materials to build
eight barges. They also required a
sheltered harbor to launch the barges. Marine
archaeologist, Tim Severins built a medieval replica of an Omani sailing ship and
sailed it to China. He wrote
that his ship “required a place to build her, a port to fit her out, and a
large crew to sail her”[xxi].
Severin’s sailing ship required 400 miles of coconut rope and 140 tons of
These materials would have been available in several locations in the Old World,
but in Arabia, only in Oman, and in southern Oman probably only at the inlet
known as Khor Rori on the Salalah coastal plain.
Khor Rori itself was an excellent harbor.
It was later used as an exporting harbor for the frankincense trade.
Richard Wellington and I have provided ample evidence that ore[xxiii],
large timber (wadi Darbat or imported), and fiber for rope existed in or near
Khor Rori in Nephis time, circa 589 B.C.[xxiv]
Ships require large timbers for structural support. The leading marine archaeologists believe that the shipbuilders of Salalah used imported timbers from Melukhkah (in modern India in lower waters of the Indus river).[xxv] We have no documentation that the Salalah coastal plain was trading for shipbuilding timbers as far back as 2000 B.C.[xxvi] However, there are written records that timbers were exported from Melukhkah to Mesopotemia as early as 2520 BC[xxvii], which suggests that other seafaring ports in the region were doing so, certainly at Mgan and possibly at Khor Rori. This supposition might be irrelevant since Tim Sedor and I discovered that large native hardwoods grow in Wadi Darbat just eight miles from Khor Rori. One tree we found had a circumference of 20 feet and was approximately fifty feet tall. The Jaredites had only eight barges for two extended families and their friends and their families, plus water and provisions for a 344 day voyage (Ether 3:1,6:11) A fifty-foot long tree is probably the approximate length of the Jaredite barges which were the length of a tree. (Ether 2:17). We have no reason to doubt that these large trees grew in wadi Darbat at the time of the Jaredites.
Mountain of Exceeding Height
brother of Jared met the Lord on a mountain that he described as being of
“exceeding height”. (Ether 3:1) The great mountain noted by the brother of
Jared must have been located near the seashore where they built their ships.
Within 20 miles of Khor Rori stands Mount Samban (Sephar), which rises
from the sea to a height of 6000 feet. It
is the tallest mountain in all of southern Oman.
Mount Samban (Sephar) seems to have been a mountain of extreme religious
importance. Not only is it possibly
the mountain where the Lord appeared to the brother of Jared, it was probably
the mountain where the Lord appeared to Nephi[xxviii],
and is one of the few mountains that is mentioned in the Bible where it is known
as “Sephar, a mountain of the east.” (Genesis 10:30).
The brother of Jared molted out of a rock sixteen stones that were “white and clear, even as transparent glass” (Ether 3:1). Arabia is famous for its clear quartz, so transparent that it is cut into semi-precious stones called the “Diamonds of the Sultans” (also known as Desert Diamonds and Qaysumah Diamonds). These clear stones are found throughout Arabia and are mined in the Empty Quarter.[xxix] On the western side of the Empty Quarter just south of the town of Bishah is found along the old frankincense trail a two thousand foot-tall pure white mountain made entirely of quartz.[xxx] Veins of quartz are found in the mountains of southern Oman.[xxxi] Today, Oman exports silicon quartz sand for production in semi-conductors.[xxxii] Besides quartz, Oman mines other ophiolites (plagioclase crystals that form augites) and gems. The plagiogranites of Oman are dominated by quartz, plagioclase, albite, muscovite and epilote.[xxxiii] The Lord touched the stones and the causing the “stones to shine in darkness” (Ether 3:6,6:3). One interesting gem of southern Arabia is the “Oman Magic Perfume Gemstone” that soaks up liquids. If the gem is soaked in perfume, the stone remains fragrant for years.[xxxiv] If the Creator can make gems that retain fragrances, and quartz sand that can be used for computer chips that process and store millions of pieces of information per second, then why not a small miracle of having these stones retain light?
8. Honey bees
Honey bees were not native to much of the ancient world.
The earliest Biblical record of honey is when Jacob (Israel) instructed
his sons to take a gift of honey to the Egyptian (Joseph) to try to win the
release of his two sons (Genesis 43:11) Yet
hundreds of years earlier, the Book of Mormon records that the Jaredites took
honey bees with them from Mesopotamia to the seashore where they built their
ships. Here the Book of Mormon is
in harmony with what is known of the history of Mesopotamia (Sumeria).
From the 21st Century B.C. the cuneiform writings of Sumeria
and Babylonia mention honey bees.[xxxv]
What did the Jaredites do with their honey bees when they
left for the promised land? When
the Spanish conquered Mexico and Central America, they found that native
populations of Mexico and Central America were beekeepers.[xxxvi]
Yet, the New World bees were probably not the bees of the Jaredites,
rather bees unique to the Americas.[xxxvii]
The European honey bee which Native Americans called “white man’s flies”
were not introduced in the Americas until 1638.[xxxviii]
It is likely that the Jaredite honey bee was the warm climate dwarf bee Apis
florea. These small wild bees
range in the warm climates of southeast Asia.
The bees of Mesopotamia could have been native, or brought there from
India which had bees at that time and traded with Sumeria.[xxxix]
The wild Apis Florea bees provide an fascinating aspect of the Jaredite trail. Apparently the Jaredites left their swarms of honey bees at the seashore. We can assume this for three reasons, 1.) there is no specific reference to taking bees aboard their ships (Ether 6:4), 2.) they were traveling in the hulls of air tight barges where swarms of bees would have been poor shipmates, and 3.) Old World bees were not found in the New World. The Dakakah trail would have led the Jaredites to the most suitable place to build their barges, at the inlet of Khor Rori where Nephi probably constructed his ship. Nephi wrote that “we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey, and all there things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish” (1 Nephi 17:5, Italics add). Nephi seemed to realize that the Lord had prepared Bountiful with wild, not domesticated, honey. Honey bees are not native to Arabia, an area the size of Europe, except in Oman[xl]. The honey in Oman is still gathered mostly as wild honey, and the bees are still considered wild, being only “somewhat managed”.[xli] So how did these wild honey bees originally come to Oman? Did they fly across the Persian Gulf or were they left by the Jaredites?
The Jaredites were “a very large race of men; very large people”[xlii]
his book Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Dr. Joseph L. Allen,
suggests that the pre-Christian era Quinametzin people, the giants which came
forth from the great tower, could have been the Jaredites[xliii].
The large stature of the Jaredites presents a rather specific attribute
for the place where the Jaredites built their ships: it had very large people
living there for at least a short period of time around 2000 B.C.
The controlling tribe that lived in the Salalah plain during that time
were the Adites. According to local
tradition the Adites were giants[xliv].
However, the Adites continued to live in that region well beyond the time
the Jaredites left for the New World. There
are several possibilities here, 1.) since there are no giants living in Salalah
today, perhaps the very large Jaredites were overtime, via the oral tradition so
common in Arabia, confused with a group of large people who lived with them
while they built ships. 2.)
Perhaps not all the Jaredites or their friends decided to go to the New
World. It should be remembered that
the Lord did not suffer that they remain at the seashore, but that they continue
to the promised land. Knowing the
dangers of ancient seafaring, it is easy to see why some of the party might have
stayed behind and intermarried with the Adites.
Is The Traditional Land For Preparation
The Jaredites left Babylon bound for a promised land.
However, they did not seem overly righteous at the time.
The brother of Jared was their spiritual leader, yet at one point he had
not prayed for a long period of time (Ether 2:15).
The Lord chastised the Jaredites because of their sinning (Ether 2:15). It would seem that a preparatory period was necessary before
they would be worthy to enter a covenant land (Ether 2:8). The traditional place for preparing for a promised land has
been Arabia. Before entering their
promised land, the children of Israel had to wander in the wilderness of
northern Arabia and the Sinai peninsula for forty years.
The Lehites spent eight years in Arabia before crossing to the New World.
The great explorer Sir Richard Burton wrote of his time in Arabia:
It was a desert peopled only with echoes – a place
of death for what little there is to die in it – a wilderness where, to use my
companion’s phrase, there is nothing but He, La siwa hu – ie, where
there is none but Allah.[xlv]
President David O McKay noted the special significance of
this desert peninsula:
After a few days of fiery disputations in the
synagogues, Saul concluded to leave Damascus and go into retirement; so, bidding
his new friends good-bye, he went into Arabia in the mountains near the Red Sea.
Here he received instruction in the School of Solitude.
"O sacred solitude! divine retreat!
Choice of the prudent! envy of the great!
By thy pure stream, or in thy waving shade,
We court fair wisdom."
Like Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and even the
Savior Himself, Paul now sought to be alone with God, and to learn how to get
his spirit in communion with the Holy Spirit.
How long he remained there, we do not know. All he
says about this journey is: "I went into Arabia, and returned again to
An indication that the Jaredites needed a preparatory period is that the Lord spoke of a land of promise before the Jaredites left Babylon (Ether 1:42), yet He did not enter a covenant with them until after they crossed the wilderness. (Ether 2:8-10)
Other Points of Interest
Three other aspects of the Arabian Jaredite trail
need mentioning. However, at this
point I do not consider them supporting evidence.
First, the Jaredites, like
most ancient seafarers, seemed to have been fearful of whales: “no monster of
the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them” (Ether 6:10). This fear might have been based in reality if they embarked
from Khor Rori in the Indian Ocean. The waters off Oman have 13 types of whales
and is also the home of the whale shark[xlviii].
Second, Nephi wrote that the land Bountiful had been prepared with much fruit (1 Nephi 17:5). One possible explanation would be that the Lord had someone plant fruit trees and vines at an earlier time, which were enjoyed centuries later by the Lehites. The people who lived in the Salalah coastal plains at the time of the Jaredites were the Adites. Both the oral tradition of the area[xlix] and the Qur’an tells of the Adites having had fruit trees[l]. Where the Adites originally acquired the seeds for these trees is not known. The Hanging Gardens provide evidence that the people of Babylon had a long history of horticulture. The Jaredites took seeds with them from Babylon (Ether 1:41,2:3). However they were camped on the seashore four years before they even started to build their barges. To maintain their food stocks they must have planted the seeds and harvested the vegetables and fruits (melons and other vine crops, and perhaps even trees). If by chance they took seeds to propagate in the promised land, they probably needed to plant them periodically in order to maintain their germination rates. Today, the Salalah coastal plain is the only place in Arabia where a wide variety of fruit trees grow. It is the reason Book of Mormon scholars consider it Nephi’s Bountiful. However, unless the climate has changed considerably during the last four thousand years, it is doubtful if the tropical tree varieties growing today at Salalah were introduced by people from as far north as Mesopotamia. It is still possible that the non-tropical trees and vines that grow in Salalah were introduced from the north.
Third, The Jaredites
called the land where they built their ships Moriancumer (Ether 2:13).
Tribes in the Near East have the tradition of naming mountains, wadis and
other geographical features after themselves. Lehi was no exception naming the valley they camped in after
his son Lemuel, and the river that flowed by their tents after another son,
Laman. The tribal name of the
Jaredites was “Moriancumer”[li].
The two mountain ranges just to the west of the Salalah coastal plain are
called the Marrah mountains and the Qamar mountains, sometimes spelled Camar or
Comar. These mountains run parallel
to the Indian Ocean and follow each other.
It is common to see on maps of southern Arabia the two names written side
by side, the Marrah Camar[lii]
mountains. Of course, Latin
spellings of Arabic words change over time.
It is also true that Arabic is a vocalized language, where vowels are not
written. Removing the vowels we
have Mrncmr (Moriancumer, the land where the Jaredites built their ships)
and Mrrcmr (Marrah Camar, the two mountain ranges immediately to the
west of the Salalah coastal plain).
The Jaredite Barges Were Sailing
One might argue that it would have been much easier to
cross the ocean in barges if the Jaredites had embarked along the Pacific or
Atlantic shorelines and drifted on the currents to the New World.
How could the Jaredites have drifted through the Indian Ocean, through
the island chains of the East Indies, and finally across the Pacific?
This is a good point, but invalid for two reasons.
First, the Jaredite barges did not
drift, rather they where under wind power.
We know this because a ship cannot be steered unless it is under power.
The Jaredites could steer their barges. (Ether 2:19) They had to have had
an effective way of steering, otherwise how could they have kept together their
eight barges. If they simply
drifted they would have been lost from each other within a few days. This meant
that the barges probably had a primative square sail to help them be “driven
forth by the wind, (Ether ).
Second, the Lord
commanded them to “Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye
have hitherto built” (Ether 2:16). So
what was the “manner of barges” which were built in Mesopotamia in that era?
The answer is, river barges that used square sails and had hulls that
were “peaked” at both ends similar to the famous Viking long ships.
Sailing ships were believed to have been invented in Mesopotamia.
Dilmun seals dating back to c2500-1800 BC, show the ships in the Persian
Gulf as being under sail.[lv]
There is even a slight possibility that the Jaredites built reed barges,
similar to Thor Heyerdahl’s replica of a Tigris boat that he sailed
from Iraq to the Red Sea[lvi].
Heyerdalh’s ship was peaked at both ends.
The Mesopotamian ships were directed with steering oars mounted in the
bow of the ship. (An illustration
of a Sumerian (Mesopotamian) river barge can be seen on the internet at
The Jaredites had to prepare their ships to cross the rough waters of the mighty Pacific Ocean, not the calm waters of the Euphrates River. They had to cross open ocean waters where waves appear as mountains and crash over the sides of large ships. When in the watery valley between the Pacific waves, the ship would be surrounded by walls of water, as if in the depths of the sea (Ether 6:6,7). The traditional design of a Sumerian river barges was far too low in the water to cross an ocean. It would be quickly flooded as waves crashed over its open hull. For this reason, the Lord instructed the Jaredites to build the barges in the “manner” they had in Babylon, but to modify (Ether 2:17) them in three ways:
1) The height of the hulls were increased so that the barges rested higher in the water, and made them appear “light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water” (Ether 2:16).
2) Unlike the open hull of the Sumerian river barges, the Jaredites covered the hull of their ships with a full upper decks then sealed them tight against water. The Brother of Jared wrote “when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah”. (Ether 6:7) Noah’s ship had a full deck “finish[ed] above” Genesis (6:16) and was completely coated in “pitch” (Genesis 6:16) The Utnapishtim, the Sumerian Noah in the Epic of Gilgamesh, is said “to have built his boat with a ceiling and water plugs, and to have waterproofed the entire inside with bitumen”[lvii]. Both Noah’s ark and the Jaredite barges were revolutionary in that they had sealed decks. However the shape of their ships where quite different. Consistent with its times, the peaked ends of Jaredite barges (Ether 2:17) suggested that they retained the shape of a Sumerian river barge.
With a sealed deck that was coated with pitch, the Jaredites needed some
way to have air and light. The Lord
provided the technical help for both these obstacles.
Oxygen was provided by an ingenious system of air holes on the top and
bottom of the ship (Ether 2:20), while the light was provided by two stones
which the Lord had touched with his finger (Ether 3:6, 6:2,3).
Air holes at the top were open except during storms (Ether 2:20) so the
party could breath and see the position of their fellow ships.
The brother of Jared asked for the illuminated stones so that they could
“steer” (Ether 2:19). The
stones were placed in the front and the back of the hull (Ether
6:2). Once again, this is
consistent with the design of the Sumerian river barges.
These ships were directed by oars in the bow of the ship. With a fully
decked hull, and a air hole probably in the midsection of the deck (its highest
point), there must have been a real need for light in the front where the
handles of the steering oars were mounted inside the dark hulls.
To steer the oarsmen needed light in order to align to two oars to the
same position and angle.
The Jaredite barges were “driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8). This reference to their source of propulsion is the same as that mentioned by Nephi when he wrote of his sailing ship being “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8). It took Tim Severin six months to sail his replica ship from Arabia to China. Severin stopped for repairs and provisions, but undoubtedly had a more sophisticated sailing vessel than the Jaredites. Given the design of the Jaredite barges, the distance they traveled, and the furious winds that prevailed constantly toward the promised land, a 344 day voyage from Arabia to the New World seems an appropriate time interval (Ether 6:5,8.11).
The minimum list of criteria for qualifying any trail as
that of the Jaredites should include the following: 1.) a trail that leads through a wilderness, which probably
meant desert; 2.) a land they passed through should be for the most part
uninhabited, a land that was known to have never had a man in it; 3) there should be a good reason why the Lord had to
personally guide them; 4.) there
should be no other significant geographical features on the proposed trail,
i.e., mountain ranges, jungles, forest, since these are not mentioned in the
Book of Mormon; 5.) a shoreline
with a protected harbor and all the necessary maritime resource needed to build
ships (ore for tools, caulking material, large hardwoods for lumber, cotton or
other fiber for sails and ropes, etc. ) 6.) a history of honey bees living at
the trail’s end, 7.)
an exceedingly high mountain next to the sea;
8.) the presence of quartz or other white clear stones;
and 9.) an oral tradition that very large people lived there around the
end of the trail c2000 B.C.
An Arabian trail for the Jaredite exodus appears to satisfy these conditions. So far, the evidence for the Jaredites embarking from the harbor of Khor Rori on the Salalah coastal plain is supportive, but the evidence is still not compelling. A similar argument could be made that a Jaredite embarkation could have been made from Magan in northern Oman. Magan fits the above list of criteria, and probably had relatively good excellent marine resources for the third millennium BC[lviii]. All the same, for the first time we have a model that provides specific candidates for the Jaredite trail and embarking point. If this tentative evidence is one day shown to be fact, then the Jaredites built their barges at the same place where Nephi constructed his sailing ship. And why not.? If the Lord had reason to lead the Jaredites to a unique place where ships could be built, then why not have Nephi utilize the same resources.
[ii] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1, BOOK OF MORMON NEAR EASTERN BACKGROUND
Collective Works of Hugh Nibley, vol. 6.
Author’s interviews with traditional shipbuilders in Bahrain, October
[vii] Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: Harper Collins, 1997).
[ix] LDS Bible Dictionary, “Nimrod
George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi/Nephi Trail,
Andrew Taylor, Traveling the Sands, Sagas of Explorations in the Arabian
Peninsula (Dubai: Emirates, 1995) map “Routes Across the Sand,
William Facey, The Story of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, (London:
Stacey International, 1994) p. 34.
Taylor, p. 100.
Taylor, p. 97.
Toward the end of the fourth millennium in Mesopotamia oxen had been yoked
to sledges, the latter being eventually mounted or rollers, then on wheels.
Vehicles with disk wheels appear near the beginning of the third
millennium BC and are depicted as drawn also by equids – either onagers or
asses hybrids. The four-wheeled war wagon depicted on the “Standard”
from Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, of about 2,500 BC is pulled by a yoke team
of four equids with nose-ring control. The International Museum of the Horse, The Legacy of the
Horse, Chapter One, p. 4 (http://www.imh.org/imh/kyhpl1b.html).
Taylor, p. 94.
Facey, p. 23.
Taylor, p. 99.
Taylor, p. 19.
[xxi] Tim Severin, The Sindbad Voyage (New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1983), p. 18.
[xxii] Ibid., Preface, 46.
[xxiv]Potter and Wellington
Ministry of National Heritage and Culture (Oman), Oman, A Seafaring
Nation (Muscat: 1991) p. 14.
[xxvii]Ministry (Oman), Oman, A Seafaring Nation.
[xxviii] Potter and Wellington.
[xxix] Diamonds of the Sultans, www.adventurearabia.com/diamondsnf/htm.
[xxx] Potter and Wellington.
[xxxii] Oman Exports Quartz, http:www.tradeport.org/ts/countries/Oman/tradcx.html
[xlii] Evening and Morning Star (Aug 1832) p.2
[xliii] Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon. Orem, UT: S.A. Publishers, 1989.
[xliv] Nicolas Clapp, The Road to Ubar (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998)
[xlv] Taylor, p. 30.
David O. McKay, Ancient Apostles, p.146
[xlviii] David Doubilet and Andrea Ghisotti, The Red Sea (Smithmark, New York, 1994), p. 87,90,91)
[xlix] Potter and Wellington.
[l] The Tales of the Prophets of Kisa’I, trans. Wm. Thackston, Jr. (Boston: Twayne Publication, 1978) 109,110. Holy Qur’an iyas 26:128, 26:134, 46:21 and accompanying footnotes, Abdullah Yusuh Ail Trans., Meaning of the Holy Qur’an (New York, 1991).
[lii] The name Camar, Qamar or Comor are all Latin spellings for the Arabic word for moon. The argument would be stronger if the term were of the language of the Jaredites and not the much later Arabic language.
Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.6, Part.8, Ch.25, p.330
[liv] LDS Bible Dictionary, Cush
[lv] Ministry (Oman) p. 16)
[lvi] Ministry (Oman) p. 15).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, JAREDITES.
Facey, p. 28.