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Rappleye: In Maya Classic Art
Rappleye: "In Maya art from the Classic period (ca. AD 300–900), at least, an animal (often a dog) is frequently depicted as traveling near the litter as part of the entourage, thus indicating that both animal and royal litter would need to be made ready for a royal visit."
Another important thing to remember is that the Book of Mormon is a translation, and translations sometimes create anachronisms, or at least misconceptions, that were not there in the original text. The King James Bible, for example, frequently mentions candles and candlesticks, yet ancient Jews and Israelites did not use candles, but rather oil lamps, thus more contemporary translations properly use lamps and lampstands instead.
Although not strictly an anachronism in the Biblical world, the use of chariot in the King James rendering of Song of Solomon 3:9 is another example where the translation may create a misunderstanding. The Hebrew word here is afiryon, which actually refers to a litter or palanquin, which is “an enclosed couch carried by bearers.” This interesting bit of trivia may be relevant to references to chariots in the Book of Mormon.
Although late-19th century French archaeologist Désiré Charnay actually reported finding “chariots” in Mexico, these were merely “toys,” or figurines. No chariot-like wheeled vehicles have yet been found in pre-Columbian America, but litters or palanquins like that mentioned in the Song of Solomon were known and widely used for royal visits in Mesoamerica as early as the Late Preclassic period (ca. 300–50 BC). Although such a “chariot” would not be drawn by horses, it is important to notice that neither are the chariots in the Book of Mormon ever described as being pulled by horses, but rather are simply prepared with horses. In Maya art from the Classic period (ca. AD 300–900), at least, an animal (often a dog) is frequently depicted as traveling near the litter as part of the entourage, thus indicating that both animal and royal litter would need to be made ready for a royal visit.The chariots of Lamoni are twice made ready for occasions not unlike those in which royal litters would be used to “conduct [the king] forth” (Alma 18:9) in Mesoamerica. Understanding the Book of Mormon in the context of translations, with the difficulties and imprecisions that all translations come with, can thus accommodate the mention of chariots, but it creates a considerably different picture than what we are used to envisioning here.
- Neal Rappleye, "Put Away Childish Things: Learning to Read the Book of Mormon with Mature Historical Thought," FairMormon Conference 2014.