6. How Bad Was the Destruction at the Time of the Crucifixion?
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6. How Bad Was the Destruction at the Time of the Crucifixion?
Copyright © 2015 by Jerry L. Ainsworth
I have attended most Maya conferences for the past twenty-five years, and during that time, I heard only one report of a Maya city that burned around the time of the crucifixion. Dr. Marcello Canuto of Yale University reported that the city of Achates burned around AD 50. This city is located in northwestern Belize.
During the twenty-five years, I have heard of other Maya cities that were burned—but none dating to the same time period as Dr. Canuto reported. Historical reports document that the city of Teotihuacan burned around AD 400, and I have heard reports of other Maya cities burning at varying times between AD 400 and the time of their demise. In other words, just as places have burned in the United States during the last 350 years, some Maya cities have burned during the last fifteen hundred years.
Time Required for Rebuilding
When we say the city burned, we must be clear what we are talking about. These cities consisted of large stone structures (buildings, pyramids, etc.), as well as small stick-and-thatch roof huts in which the common people lived. Therefore, when a city burned, what mostly burned were the thatch-roofed huts of the common people. These kinds of huts can still be seen, as the Maya of Mesoamerica still live in the same kind of structures.
Because stone does not burn, the public ceremonial and religious buildings did not burn. To the degree that evidence could be determined of the fire on stone buildings (scorched stones), one of two things have happened to the blackened stones. The first thing is that these people rebuilt their public buildings (pyramids etc.) every fifty-two years. So if there were scorched Nephite pyramids, they would have been covered over by subsequent stone structures that were built over them.
Destruction by the Lamanites
A second thing that may have happened is that Lamanites could have completely torn down the Nephite structures in the land southward once the Lamanites took them over in AD 350 when Mormon gave all cities in the land southward to the Lamanites. Stones from the deconstructed buildings may have then been reshaped and used in the building of new structures. If so, we are not going to find much evidence of fires in Nephite structures for this time period.
As for the “vast destruction” at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, my perspective is that even if every Nephite home were burned to the ground (which was probably not the case), all of those homes could have been rebuilt within a month. All that is needed are tools with which to cut some sticks and thatch and then some cord, and a home can be put up in short order. If my home burned, it would take at least six months to rebuild it, and it would require some great rebuilding expense. Not so among the Nephites.
The other parts of the vast destruction included roads being broken up, but they would not be difficult to repair. Because they were made of stone, those in charge simply sent out work crews to reset the stones and so forth—not a big deal.
Certainly some stone structures collapsed, as indicated in the Book of Mormon, but those also could be easily rebuilt. The Nephites mass produced cut stones for buildings, somewhat similar to our mass producing automobiles. If half of the automobiles in the U.S. were destroyed by a storm, Detroit and Japan would not need much time to replace most of them because mass producing automobiles is what they do.
As best as I can determine, the destruction was not so vast that the boundaries of Book of Mormon lands were altered. The boundaries for Zarahemla, Bountiful, Desolation, the east sea, and the narrow pass all appear to have remained the same after the crucifixion.
Covered by Lava
Archaeological reports give evidences of cities that have been covered over by volcanic eruption. At least one city close to Mexico City is covered by lava, but the date of that eruption is more recent than AD 34—perhaps AD 1500. Other than recent eruptions, I don’t know of reports of eruptions around AD 34. I don’t even know if eruptions back that far can be dated accurately. In either case, I simply am not aware of any reports going back that far. And I should be quick to add that just because I don’t know of them does not mean they do not exist.
Buried by Mountains
I have asked geologists if the Maya mountains (my candidate for the mountainous burial of the city of Moronihah) are relatively new mountains, and I am told they are. When I asked for a date as to when these mountains may have been formed, I was told around ten million years ago. And I should hasten to add that these are the same people who told me that the eastern coast of Belize sank and that the Yucatan rose a little—around fifty thousand years ago.
I then told the minister of geology of Belize, “Well, the Maya must have built cities under water then, as there is a Maya city under water off the eastern coast of Belize.” He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
As for evidence of the “thick vapors,” I don’t know of any evidence, nor do I know what kind of evidence analysts should look for. I do, however, have one piece of anecdotal information respecting this topic. After traveling in Mesoamerica for many years, I was in Oaxaca one Easter with Esteban Mejia observing the public celebration in the town square of the city of Oaxaca.
It is the same kind of celebration I have seen in the highlands of Mexico, San Cristobal de las Casas, and elsewhere. People by the thousands have wooden noisemakers, called matracas, that they use for this celebration. These are small noisemakers that we would equate with a New Year’s Eve celebration. They consist of a small wooden stick that has another part at the top. When it is whirled in a circle, a clacking sound is made.
During this celebration, I turned to Esteban and said, “I believe when I return to this place next year, I am going to bring some plastic matracas with me, and we can give them as gifts.” He said, “Don’t do it, as the people would only accept such a gift, or use it, if it was made of wood.” I then asked why, and he told me the following story.
This celebration of the wooden matracas is done in remembrance of the Catholic Easter mass in these parts of Mexico. As part of the Easter mass, the priest walks down the aisle with two sticks, beating them together (making a wooden noise). When asked why he did this, the priest said, “I don’t know. It was part of a Maya celebration that they had us incorporate into the mass many many years ago. If you want to know why, you will have to ask one of the Maya elders.”
So Esteban then went to some of the older, influential Maya elders and asked them why the beating of the wooden sticks was done during Easter mass and what the significance was. The Maya elders explained that it was done in remembrance of a time period that goes back before anyone can remember—when there were three days of darkness among the people during which time no fire would burn and there was no light.
Because people still had to cook, eat, and conduct business, each person carried two sticks and struck them together as they walked, making a sound so as not to bump into other people.
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