“There Began Again Great Wickedness Upon the Face of the Land”

Brant Gardner

Archaeology: At about this period in Jaredite history comes the transition from the Initial Olmec Period (1200–900 B.C.) to the Intermediate Olmec Period (900–600 B.C.). In the Initial Olmec Period, “The large Olmec capital of San Lorenzo flourished and collapsed.… San Lorenzo’s hinterland included small villages and hamlets, smaller satellite elite centers, and special-purpose shrines. La Venta, Laguna de los Cerros, and perhaps Tres Zapotes were inhabited at this time, as well, but little is known about these early occupations. For reasons still unclear, San Lorenzo entered a period of decline and abandonment prior to 900 B.C.”

The archaeological record cannot be equated one-to-one with Jaredites cities, but the descriptions (such as we have them) of the Jaredite political structure fit comfortably within the reconstructed Olmec society. The Jaredites had kings, the Olmec had kings. The Jaredites had wars, and there is increasing evidence for Olmec warfare. The Olmec were not Jaredites, but the Jaredites were probably culturally Olmec. The Olmec probably did not consider themselves a single people. The significant parallels are the emergence of cities from villages and hamlets, and the beginnings of monarchies and warfare. There is also some ebb and flow in the political power, as the waning of San Lorenzo attests. Even without direct correlations, the overall patterns described for the Jaredites during this time period accord with patterns reconstructed from the archaeological record.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6