NOTE: Michael Hobby's current address in Mexico is:
26x 27y29 #216C
Col. Garcia Generes
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
The main website for the Zarahemla Geological Foundation Field Research base in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico is the following link:
The Zarahemla Geological Foundation is a unique, non-profit foundation. It is in every respect a true phenomenon. Dedicated to reconstructing the chronology of Precolumbian America, it has no creed except the Pursuit of Truth. Founded in 1986 by Michael M. Hobby, it has evolved dramatically over time, especially since early 1999. We have devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars to Book of Mormon-related research and will increasingly devote more as our international outreach continues to expand.
The Field Research base website will soon be available in a dozen languages. The entire corpus of research produced by Hobby, his partners, and associates over a 35-year period (1974-2009) will be translated and available in their entirety on Research Base websites. The Zarahemla Monthly e-letter will be available in the same languages.
Our research associates, members, and regional personnel are both LDS and non-LDS, all working together to further Book of Mormon archaeology, geography, numerical system studies, and geology. Members of all faiths are involved and participating in a variety ways and a variety of roles.
The ZARAHEMLA GEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION hosts this site as well, which posts Geoarchaeological and other scholarly data which tend either to support the BOOK OF MORMON (BOM) account directly, or contribute to the context of Book of Mormon periods. The ZARAHEMLA GEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION was established in 1986 by Michael M. Hobby, and coincided with the first issue of the ZARAHEMLA QUARTERLY, which was published shortly thereafter, four times each year during 1987 and 1988 by the foundation. The founding members were Hobby, his wife at the time, June M. Hobby, Troy J. Smith, the late Dr. Paul R. Chessman, professor emeritus of religion at Brigham Young University, the late Roger Chappell and his wife, Donna, and a few others. The influence of LDS scholar, Hugh Nibley was also largely responsible for Hobby's decision to pursue Book of Mormon research in the New World.
Much of the early field work and research lends strong archaeological and geological evidence, as we interpret it, for the factual basis of the BOM. The results of that previous research are found at michaelmhobbyspiritual.blogspot.com, linked to this site, and may be obtained there. The motivating thrust behind the foundation was, and is, that the BOM is not merely a fictional or spiritual literary work of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints (the Mormons), but is an actual historical record of the western hemisphere during the period and within the context to which it pertains, notwithstanding the errors, omissions, and additions thereto subsequent to its original publication in 1830. Let us say, for clarification, that the "core" of the BOM is true (IE, factual, not mythological). The position of the foundation was that it was the counterpart to the biblical record of the eastern hemisphere.
If that is true, then the conclusion is inescapable that there must at least exist abundant archaeological evidence of the BOM. To claim otherwise would be absurd and render the BOM fraudulent.
For many years following the embarrassing frustration of Benjamin Cluff's loudly celebrated expedition to discover the Land of Zarahemla, if not the city, the LDS church shunned private attempts to ascertain the historical and geographical setting of the BOM. That stance resulted largely from the early caution suggested by B. H. Roberts, a prominent theologian and scholar during that period. Roberts was in tune with the progress of American archaeology. Archaeological findings during that period seemed to suggest, at least to the dispassionate, that the BOM was entirely fallacious. Notwithstanding that caution, it seemed only logical to members, whose membership was based upon faith, not archaeological data, that archaeological confirmation would be forthcoming.
Unfortunately, geographic models advanced by church scholars and others between the time of Roberts and the modern period increasingly focused on an attempt to place the the Narrow Neck of the Book of Mormon within Mesoamerica, IE, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in Mexico. Further, the entire Land Northward and the entire Land Southward were usually, though not always, asserted to have been located there.
This turned out to be a fatal model. The reason for this stark assertion is that, if the BOM is true, notwithstanding literary exegesis similar to Biblical exegesis which suggest that it is, it must be obvious to all that as the BOM was asserted by its authors to have been written in Reformed Egyptian, although their language was Hebrew, and that they could have written in Hebrew if their metal plates had been large or numerous enough, then if the Mesoamerican model was correct, overwhelming existence of Hebrew and Egyptian, however evolved over time as all languages do, would be found within that archaeological context.
This was, and is, the root nemesis of the Mesoamerican model. Progressive decipherment and understanding of Mayan glyphs resulted in the discovery over very recent decades that Maya is one of three entirely distinct mother tongues on planet Earth. This discovery completely overturned the Mesoamerican model, although passionate proponents still attempt to advance it, ignoring the obvious.
The Foundation rejected this model from the beginning. Then, and now, we adhered to the hemispheric model. That model, as we apply it, places the Narrow Neck at the Isthmus of Panama. The Land Southward then becomes (at least the northern part of) South America, and the Land Northward consists of that area beginning at modern day Panama to (at least) the Algonquian Belt, which runs from eastern Canada and northern New England west to Alaska.
It is our hope that these initial points serve to distinguish the Zarahemla Geological Foundation from the bulk of present efforts to establish the geographic and historical settings of the Book of Mormon. Our approach differs from that of most others in that our belief system adjusts to the evidence, and is not a reflection of a model based largely on faith. All scientific and religious opinion/belief is rooted in faith to some degree, but we would be lounging on the Caribbean beach or snorkeling offshore if we didn't feel archaeological confirmation of the BOM as a factual record was achievable. It would, in essence and in fact, be rendered mythological. We are distant indeed from that opinion, and consider our physical, intellectual, and financial efforts justified; this is so because, since 1978, we have already verified much of the apparent accuracy of the BOM. So much so, that it is the by far the most encompassing and evidential single summary of any period of Precolumbian history extant.
Present archaeological consensus is an amalgamation based upon largely accurate (relevant) data, and a largely inaccurate chronological schematic of New World history. This is not due entirely to a deliberate effort to ignore data, but to ignorance and disregard for appalling errors in C-14 dates. These errors establish the present chronology of the New World. As archaeologists, we tend to adhere to data that seem to confirm the model in which we are conducting research. Admittedly, we are guilty of disregarding data which conflicts with it. We are, after all, human, so we tend to especially resist, violently in academic terms, any interpretation or model which threatens to profoundly overturn our "consensus."
If you will allow me, I will remove my archaeologist's hat and put on my geologist's hat, as I am both, and give you a clear example.
Prior to the Plate Tectonic model of geological interpretation of the earth, initially referred to as the "Continental Drift" model, we adhered to what was generally known as the geosyncline model with varying acronyms. When Alfred Wegener advanced the Drift model, it was violently opposed and "authoritatively" dismissed as nonsense, and Wegener as a quack. He did not live to see its adoption. Unfortunately, when we fix upon a given interpretive model, we tend to do so wholeheartedly, to the exclusion of all else. This is true of all fields of science, which makes it so similar in that respect to religion, IE, faith. Today, few (I doubt, any) geologists adhere to the previous model. They would be deemed "quacks."
Returning to archaeology, constrained by a firm commitment that the BOM is not a mythological invention, we face a similar event horizon. Over the space of more than a decade of intense inquiry into the apparent disparity between the archaeological record and the BOM, we made a striking discovery, which is now known as ANGULAR CHRONOLOGY. Angular Chronology is to archaeology what plate tectonics was to geology. Wegener knew that the geosyncline model explained many observed phenomena satisfactorily. It wasn't what it explained that troubled Wegener. It was what it did not satisfactory explain, what it could not explain, that troubled him. There were just too many of the latter for it to be correct. I have not the least doubt that until the day he was lost on a glacier still seeking additional evidence for his new theory that he was under the illusion that all other geologists would suddenly jump for joy and adopt his model in deference to their own, about which they had written peer-reviewed articles and textbooks and taught innumerable lectures. He was no fool.
We face the same uphill battle with Angular Chronology. The one advantage for archaeology that geology did not enjoy, however, is that the adoption of Angular Chronology does not require a more or less complete reinterpretation of the entire database supporting consensus as Plate Tectonics did. It principally requires pushing the entire block of dates farther back in time. It does so because there is a C-14 "fault" in archaeological dates very similar to a geologic fault. On both sides of a geologic fault, the stratigraphy is essentially the same, but they are offset. One side had slipped along the plane of the fault, normally down, but often up, from the same stratigraphic sequence on the other side of the fault plane. In southern Europe, it has long been recognized that a C-14 "fault" runs across southern Europe. The C-14 dates are in sequence, but a 500 to 1000 year discontinuity exists. It was surprising and seemed totally illogical, but there it was. It was catastrophic in a sense, because it had the effect of reversing the direction of cultural influence in early times. Egyptian dates were (again, as a block) on average displaced 600 years. Angular Chronology made it possible to resolve a displacement of New World dates of an equal order of magnitude. Our book, ANGULAR CHRONOLOGY: PRECOLUMBIAN DATING OF ANCIENT AMERICA, was the first assertion of that phenomenon. It is available for purchase at:
What is most gratifying is that Angular Chronology brings the Book of Mormon into the new chronological alignment of C-14 dates, at least in the northern hemisphere. Within that context, the Maya, by Angular Chronology, could NOT have been the Nephites. They were the Jaredites, a far earlier culture that overlapped the Nephite culture marginally at the terminus of Jaredite civilization. As expected, it is the same overlap we see in the archaeological record of the OLMEC period overlapping the Maya period marginally at the terminus of OLMEC civilization.
We will return to Angular Chronology. Let us now define the Programs and Goals of the foundation. As we have said, new research results pertaining to the BOM will be posted on this site where they will be largely available to read or copy without charge.
An e-magazine, bulk mailed as a normal newsletter to those who do not use the internet, the Zarahemla Geological Monthly, replaces the QUARTERLY, and will become available within a few months. It will bear a nominal cost of approximately $19.95 per year, with a student discount, to support it online. As we have no intention of departing from, but rather enhancing, our full-color format of previous years, the regular edition will likely cost more in the neighborhood of $29.95, due both to mailing and color-printing costs.
When the Quarterly first appeared, a marathon cross-country effort by Roger and Donna Chappell, mentioned previously, placed it in 116 LDS Book Stores. Roger, in addition to being a friend of Dr. Chessman, was a great blessing to, and supporter of, the foundation. Paul Chessman was another. Without such icons, June and I and Troy (Smith) could not have achieved what we did during those early years. During a dinner together, Paul told Roger, "Michael Hobby is closer to proving the Book of Mormon than any of us." Such unfailing commitment remains vital to our continued success. It is our hope that this site will draw others of equal energy and commitment to the Foundation.
The Quarterly was also available in the BYU bookstore, the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU, from Sounds of Zion (which also distributed the Zarahemla Fireside Broadcasts), and in the Latin American Library at Tulane university, which subscribed to it. As our research is much broader-based and more diversified today, the Zarahemla Geological Monthly is considered a better vehicle.
The GOALS and PROGRAMS of the Foundation during its early years were as follows:
1. Publication of the ZARAHEMLA QUARTERLY
2. The ZARAHEMLA FIRESIDES radio broadcasts aired on KBYU on Sunday evenings, and on Galaxy II satellite, transponder II; 5.94mghz on Wednesday evenings.
3. The ambitious DARIEN-ORINOCO FUND. This quote best defines what the Darien-Orinoco Fund was tasked to achieve,
"This program, estimated to cost at least 1.4 million over a six-year period, will involve the field verification of the River Basin-based geography [of Book of Mormon "Lands"] presented in Volume II, issue Number One. A specially designed, Mobile Research Station . . . the "MRS" . . . a rivercraft equipped for the type of activities required will be outfitted to conduct explortion from the pertinent Latin American rivers. . . . This exploration will be exciting and fruitful, utilizing all that we have learned to date, and broadening the conquest of Book of Mormon geography based upon a single Hill Cumorah in New York, and the Isthmus of Panama as the Narrow Neck of the Book of Mormon."
Although many of the tasks of the Darien-Orinoco fund as first envisioned were completed, particularly those north of the Isthmus of Panama, we could not have envisioned the eventuality encountered south of Panama. Video footage of some of the more salient realizations will be posted for one-click viewing on this site. I can only emphasize that we encountered much more than expected in South America. Most American archaeologists, including me, even from the finest schools like Tulane, tend to become more familiar by far with North American archaeology than with South American, and our archaeological heritage is fascinating. Here, it is all around us; not as readily recognizable as in Mesoamerica, but to the trained eye, everywhere. South America is for logistical and financial reasons, and in the minds of many, security reasons, less intensely studied. We all review whatever site reports are available, but in the final analysis, nothing really substitutes seeing with your own eyes, conversing with the locals, discoveting and confronting archaeology that may never appear in any of our journals.
South America holds the "Final Solution" to Book of Mormon geography. The multiplicity of cultures, languages, dialects, population movements, shifts of power over time, and (here's a biggie) transoceanic contacts and colonization still contested by uninformed, poorly read, or recalcitrant archaeologists, provide a panorama both conducing of and confusing to high resolution of BOM geography.
As the Darien-Orinoco fund was largely supported by me and me alone, a turn of the economic environment postponed much of that portion of the tasks. However, many powerful discoveries were made. One in particular of interest to all is what I encountered during one of my trips to Venezuela. Unlike Colombia and Peru, which energetically support and honor their archaeological heritage, as seen in their many museums, Venezuela was and is relatively quiescent. There is a reason for this.
Between the Cordillera de Merida on the west and the looming precambrian Guayana Shield, one of the largest cratons of the South American plate, lie the vast Llanos (plains). Unlike the Guyana Shield, with it highland plateau, from which Angel Falls spills to the valley floor far below, the largest drop of any known falls in the world, the llanos are relatively flat. The llanos, like the Guyana Highlands (Video of the flat table-mountain surface of the shield will be posted here), are cut by many rivers. Although the shield is massive, and underlies French and British Guiana and Suriname on the east, northern Brazil to the south, Venezuela itself beneath the central plains all the way to Colombia, it is most pronounced in southeast Venezuela and controls the path of the Orinoco. Because most of central and northernmost area of Venezuela comprise a large plateau, the majority of the rivers are tibutaries to either the Rio Apure, so laden with eroded sediments it looks like flowing mud some days, or the Rio Orinoco itself, which flows eastward along the edge of the shield to the Atlantic, where it forms an enormous delta complex visible on any map. Even the Apure is a major tributary; its confluence with the Orinoco is at San Fernando de Apure, a quaint and lovely city.
Rivers are not lines of flowing water except in the upper drainage basin. On more level terrain, they have the meandering shape of a serpent. As they flow, the cut and fill the topography. On the deep, cutting side, which boats navigate, they constantly eat away at the stratigraphy. On the fill side, they constantly drop part of their suspended load. The vast plains of Venezuela have been almost completely reworked many time by its rivers, eliminating whatever features were once present.
However, there are higher areas which have never been altered. One of the typical features of these areas across the entire plain are calzadas, Spanish for "highway or road." They tend to be about a meter or two higher than the surrounding topography, and 5 to 10 meters wide. They stretch for kilometers and have mound groups associated with them. What this amounts to is a fully inhabited area of a precolumbian civilization. Yet few of these mounds have been excavated or even noted on an archaeological map. South of the Apure, midway between Barinas and San Fernando de Apure, I observed a preponderance of calzadas and mounds I found on no government map available at the time.
The shield is cut by many rivers which now flow through deep canyons reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, but they all originate within the shield and empty into tributaries of the Orinoco except for the southeastern quadrant. I met individuals who had explored some of these rivers for pristine fishing and collecting of artifacts, many of which I examined. Yet the government has placed little emphasis on these as yet unexplored and undocumented sites. In Puerto Ayacucho, deep in the Amazonas territory of Venezuela, I met with a Catholic father who had extablished a tiny museum in that small town. It had no tour guide and was always closed. After locating the Father, he unlocked it and took great care and pride to ensure that we saw everything on display, and many things that were not. There, I found mammoth bones and teeth, a petrified wood statue of what looked like an Egyptian with a spear, wearing a skirt and boots and a headdress I would have considered typical had I seen them in the museum in Cairo; but I wasn't in Cairo this time.
I met with the Director of the government museum collection in Caracas, but was surprised at the paucity of the organized exhibits. When I complained of this, the Director, knowing and only because of the fact I was an archaeologist, took me to the back room, a warehouse of stacked, piled, unsorted artifacts, many of unknown provenance. I must in fairness emphasize that the Director shared my interest and enthusiasm for Venezuelan archaeology; the problem was token government funding.
She made it clear prior to entry that I could not use the camera suspended around my neck at any point there; however, as she was escorting me around, explaining what she could, she was called to the phone by the only other employee not out to lunch at the time. As soon as she left, I took photographs of a stack of architectural building blocks and carved stones that came from a location far to the south within the interior of the Amazonas territory. These consisted of,
- Stone columns almost identical to Type II-B Mediterranean hexagonal stone columns(!!)
- Stone building blocks with Monkey and other very high relief tropical faces on one end, depicting Amazonian ecology, designed to protrude from the wall after it was built
- Other astonishing architectural components.
These were unlike any architectural materials known in northern South America of which I was aware, atypical of Amazonian archaeology known at that time, and seemed to represent a FOURTH MAJOR Stone-building civilization in northern South America not yet documented. And where was it? In what we believe was the Land of Zarahemla. The mighty Orinoco, shallow enough to walk across in the headwaters area I visited, but farther down, one of the worlds major north-flowing waterways; the River SIDON of the Book of Mormon.
At this point, the most productive work possible capable of the FINAL SOLUTION awaits. More than perhaps anything, what we most need now are private individuals, businesses, or groups willing to help fund the Darien-Orinoco Fund. Again, it is our hope that this site will help connect us to them.
Time will tell.
Michael M. Hobby