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Note: This article is a reprint from the Meridian Magazine 11 October 2005.
We also refer you to George Potter’s Website www.nephiproject.com for this and more information about the trail of Nephi though Arabia. We are pleased to endorse it and reprint it by permission for the benefit of our AAF subscribers.
Discovering Nephi’s Harbor at Bountiful
Part One: Khor Rori, a New Maritime Paradigm
By George Potter & Richard Wellington
Several LDS authors have suggested plausible locations for the land of Bountiful, as described in the Book of Mormon.
Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton focused on the inlet bay at Salalah, the ancient al-Balīd. [i] This inlet bay — called a Khor in the local Arabic dialect — exhibits attractive features that would support an identification of Bountiful with this area.
Warren and Michaela Aston, on the other hand, were able to explore farther a field because the military conflict that limited Lynn Hilton's travel in southern Oman in 1976 had ended by the time the Astons came to Oman in the early 1990s. After an on-site review of inlet bays and verdant areas along the south coast of Arabia, the Astons settled on the Wadi Sayq (Khor Kharfot) as the spot which they felt most fully met the requirements for Bountiful as Nephi's narrative photograph hints at them. [ii]
Though these two sites — al-Balīd and Wadi Sayq — possess remarkable features that could connect them with Bountiful, there is another. In our view, this other inlet bay, named Khor Rori, offers a dimension that the other two do not, the three maritime resources that Nephi would have needed to reach the Promised Land:
1. The raw materials necessary to actually build an ocean-going ship,
2. A reasonably large natural harbor where Nephi and his brothers could construct, launch and moor their ship, and
3. The means by which Nephi could learn to sail such a vessel.
Without all three of these resources, Nephi could not have made his journey. For any site to qualify as a candidate for Bountiful, it must have possessed these characteristics during his era. We propose that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the ancient frankincense port of Khor Rori possessed the unique maritime resources needed by Nephi, as well as all the other attributes mentioned in his record. [iii]
Khor Rori lies in the same fertile plain that Hugh Nibley [iv] and the Hiltons [v] suggest was probably Bountiful. Today, large fruit plantations are found along the beach at Taqah, just two miles from the Khor.
The inlet was the premier port of Dhofar and is generally regarded as the port known to the Greeks as Moscha. It is a large waterway extending more than 1½ miles inland. The Khor has several natural places where ships could moor, making it the likely reason that Khor Rori and the adjacent town of Taqah were called Merbat (the moorings) anciently.
The Khor is fed by freshwater from Wadi Dharbat, a large natural spillway carrying rainwater from the Jabal Samhan mountains. Frankincense grew on the hills of Dhofar and was harvested by the local people in antiquity, the ‘Adites. Frankincense is a sweet smelling gum made from the sap of the Frankincense tree (Boswelia sacra). It was highly prized and used in temple ceremonies in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Israel from very early times.
On the slopes of the mountains overlooking the plain of Dhofar, the ”Adites built a large settlement set on the banks of what were once three converging streams. This site, called Hagif #240 by archeologists, is the largest Bronze Age” [vi] site in all Oman site and stretched over three miles. Adites artifacts are found at Khor Rori. [vii]
A native population at Bountiful is consistent with Nephi’s description of it being outside of the wilderness [viii] (1 Nephi 17:4, 5). Also in harmony with Nephi’s Bountiful, the Adites cultivated gardens and orchards, and legend holds that they ate fruit at every meal. [ix] Later, in the Iron Age, the “Adites built settlements inland at Shisr and near the coast at Ain Humran to enable them to control the trade by land and by sea.” [x] In order to gain control of the frankincense trade, this area was invaded around the time of Christ by King ”Il'ad Yalut, king of Hadramaut, who established an impressive port city named Samhuram — meaning ‘the plan is great’ or ‘the great scheme.’”
Today there is a sandbank across the Khor, closing it off from the sea. This was not always present, however. Scientists believe that a drop in the sea levels around the 14th-15th centuries A.D. caused the closure of the harbor’s mouth. Radiocarbon dating establishes that there was a stable and final closure occurring around 1640-1690 A.D. [xi] Huge cliffs line the sea entrance to Khor Rori forming natural breakwaters that allowed ancient ships to sail out 200 yards into the Indian Ocean proper with protection from the surf. This was the great strength of Khor Rori as a port; the natural breakwater provided protection from both the summer southwest monsoon and the winter northeast monsoon winds. Thus the port could be used all year for shipping and shipbuilding.
In Part Two in this series, we will examine the specific resources Nephi required to build his ship. In Part Three we will explain why these resources where found only at Khor Rori in Nephi’s time, and thus provide an explanation as to why the Lord had Lehi travel 2100 miles across the hellish desert of Arabia in order to build his ship.
[i] . Lynn M. Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail, 105-7
[ii] Warren P. Aston, "The Arabian Bountiful Discovered?" Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 7/1(1998):4-11
[iii] . Abundant and a wide variety of fruits (1 Nephi 17:5; 18:6); wild honey (1 Nephi 17:5); a mountain nearby (1 Nephi 17:7); ore available locally (1 Nephi 17:9; see Wm. Revell Phillips, "Metals of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 9/2 (2000): 38.
[iv] .Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert.
[v]Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi (Springville Utah: CFI Inc, 1996), 150.
[vi] The Bronze Age for this part of the world was 2350-1200B.C.
[vii] George Potter & Richard Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, 2003), 155.
[viii] Ibid., 124.
[ix] Ibid., 125-129, Qur’an 26:134.
[x] Clapp, 207.
[xi] . Dr. Eduard G. Rheinhardt, Assistant Professor, School of Geography and Geology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. Personal communication with the authors, 12 April 2001.
Copyright © George Potter