Comparing Cuicuilco and Jacobugath


Like half of what is on this blog, the following is based on an original insight made by Brant Gardner, particularly on Teotihuacan. See Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History

Mormon was a writer who was juggling three competing agendas: moralist, historian and poet. Grant Hardy has shown that as a historian, Mormon used methods which, through modern eyes, could be seen as unreliable, namely that for Mormon the reliability of a historical account was tied to the character of the record keeper:

And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record. - 3 Nephi 8:1

By modern standards, this is an irrational standard to hold for we know that bad people can keep accurate records of the past and good people can keep inaccurate records of the past; character is irrelevant when judging the methods of a historian. Mormon was also aware of the imperfect nature of his work:

And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you. -Mormon 8:12

In this post, I will argue that Cuicuilco might be the city reffered to in Mormon's book as the "great city of Jacobugath". Like the plausible equation of Samabaj with Jerusalem, it's possible that Mormon's sources made the anachronistic mistake of assuming that the ruined cities they were aware of, as having been destroyed by volcanos, were those destroyed during the crucifixion of the Savior. To see how this works, let's take a look at an anachronism made by another ancient historian, Xenophon.

Anachronism
The Greek historian Xenophon made this same type of mistake as Mormon likely did. Xenophon incorrectly records that Cyrus the Great received and distributed gold darics.The daric did not exist until after the lifetime of Cyrus. The daric began to be used during the reign of Darius; the coin(daric) was named after him. Since the daric was used during Xenphon's time, we can see how this mistake was made. Now let's look at Teotihuacan and it's relationship to the Gadianton Robbers, which will lead us to our main topic, Cuicuilco.

The Gadianton Robbers of Teotihuacan
In Helaman 3, we read the description of a group of people who migrate to a land that:

1)is an "exceedingly great distance" northward of Nephite lands
2)a land of "large bodies of water and many rivers"
3)a place where people are expert in the use of cement.
4)a place that underwent deforestation.
5)a place which had people who hailed from south of the isthmus, Nephites and Ammonites.
6)and whose inhabitants "began to cover the face of the whole earth".

From about 200AD to 600 AD the only area in the Americas that possibly matches these six criteria is the city of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is:

1)north of the isthmus of Tehuantepec
2)is in the Teotihucan Valley, a side pocket of the Valley of Mexico. The Valley of Mexico was home to Lakes Xaltocan, Texcoco, Xochimilco and Chalco.
3)Teotihuacanos made extensive use of cement.
4)It has been proposed that the destruction of the surrounding forests nessecary for the burning of the lime which went into building Teotihuacan contributed to erosion and desiccation of the region.
5)There was a strong Southern(Mayan) presence at Teotihuacan
6)Teotihuacan influence extened into the Gulf Coast of Mexico, Oaxaca and as far south as Guatemala.


If the narrow neck of land is the strait of Tehuantepec then the only place that fits this description is Teotihuacan. However, Mormon's account seems anachronistic. Helaman ch. 3 does not describe the Teotihuacan of 50BC, it describes the Teotihuacan of 250AD and the 400's AD; it describes what Teotihuacan was like when Mormon was alive and writing. Mormon, here, is guilty of anachronism.

Mormon takes the time and effort to describe a migration to what would eventually become Teotihuacan, because Teotihuacan was very much on his mind. The Teotihuacanos of Mormon's day were doing what the Gadianton Robbers of Helaman's day were doing; that is: they were usurping power and disrupting the social order. The Gadianton Robbers of Mormon's day were from Teotihuacan(Gardner, Olavarria).

As ancient historians, both Mormon and Xenophon took the conditions of their day and incorrectly retrojected them into the past. Mormon may have made a mistake, but it was the kind of mistake other ancient historians made . 



Cuicuilco = Jacobugath?
The Book of Mormon makes mention of two locales far north and "northward" of Nephite territory, the first seems to be Teotihuacan, described as it existed during the time of Mormon. The other is Jacobugath.

Jacobugath
1)was a "great city"(3 Nephi 9:9).
2)was destroyed by fire in 33AD(3 Nephi 9:9).
3)was at the northern most part of the land(3rd Nephi 7:9,12), closer to the northward cement builders.
4)like northward cement builders, is associated with "secret murders and combinations". 

Cuicuilco
1)had a population of around 20,000 people.
2)was, with 95% certainty, destroyed by a volcano between 83 BC and 18 AD.
3)65 kilometers from Teotihuacan,which is "north" of the isthmus of Tehuantepec.
4)was connected to Teotihuacan via the migration of Cuicuilco refugees into Teotihuacan space, upon Cuicuilco's abandonement.

Notice that when Mormon writes about King Jacob and the great city of Jacubath, he does so in the context of establishing a new political order, akin to building a church, and not establishing a new city, suggesting that the city and population pre-existed King Jacob's arrival:

And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them- 3 Nephi 9:9

If Cuicuilco is Jacubagath then the Gadianton tradition(s), that of Gidgiddona's day and that of Mormon's day, may have been connected via a transmission by King Jacob's people. It is believed that those who fled Cuicuilo because of, or prior to, the Xitle eruption ended up settling in or around Teotihuacan.

The dating of the Xitle eruption, which destroyed Cuicuilco, within the early first century is based on very recent research.

To some up, Mormon describes a site an "exceedingly great distance" northward of Nephite lands that, by his time, matches Teotihuacan. He also mentions the existence of a "great city" in the northern most part of the land which, at around the time of the cruxifiction, had been destroyed by fire. At the time Mormon was writing, Teotihuacan and Cuicuilco match these two sites, both of which are found in the Valley of Mexico, far "northward" of Sorenson's location for the Nephite heartland.

Also, if as Brant Gardner suggests, the Gadianton Robbers Mormon was fighting, in his day, were the Teotihuacanos, then Jacobugath's association with "secret murders and combinations" further connects Jacubagath with the deforested and cement built site(s) of the land northward, just as the two mesoamerican sites were connected via the migration of Cuicuilco refugees to Teotihuacan. For these reasons, I consider Cuicuilco a candidate for Jacobugath.

Finally, it should be noted that "one hypothesis suggests that the downfall of Cuicuilco was directly attributable to the eruption of Xitle ca. 2000 years bp. As a result, Cuicuilco's popu- lation abandoned the southern margins of the Basin of Mexico and Teotihuacan emerged as the region's dominant city (e.g. Sarmiento, 1994)". However, this theory was put into question by a 2005 study which suggested a far later eruption date for Xitle.

For the purposes of this post, I went with the eruption date, found in the latest research on the subject:

"The age of the Xitle eruption is determined from correlating paleomagnetic full vector data with the recently constructed geomagnetic secular variation reference model. The revised archaeomagnetic dates have a mean age of 2086 cal yr BP with 95% confidence interval from 1995 to 2177 cal yr BP. Bootstrap analysis of the calibrated radiocarbon and archaeomagnetic dates gives mean ages and con- fidence intervals of 2041 cal yr BP and 1968–2041 cal yr BP and 2035 cal yr BP and 1968–2073 cal yr BP, respectively. These estimates are internally con- sistent, with overlapping calendar intervals of 91 BC to AD 18 and 83 BC to 18 AD, respectively. Results support a possible link between the Xitle eruption and collapse of Cuicuilco center and the early develop- ment of Teotihuacan."

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