The  Narrow Neck of Land &
  The Sea That Divides the Land


View of the Batavia moraine as it cuts across Lake Tonawanda.

Causeway built on sand ridges across
the Great Salt Lake to Antelope Island

This Google Earth view of the area where the moraine crosses the lakebed of old Lake Tonawanda has been modified to show what it would have looked like when water flanked the moraine on both sides. (copyright Google Earth)

    Two of the most mysterious landmarks in the Book of Mormon are the sea that divides the land mentioned in Ether 10:20, and a narrow neck of land which appears to have run right through the sea providing a dry passageway from the land southward to the land northward, both of which appear to have been created during the last Ice Age. As the Wisconsin Ice Age drew to a close, the melt water along the front of the retreating glacier pooled into the depressions that had been formed by the weight of the ice. Enormous bodies of water, much larger than the present Great Lakes, began to form. Wherever it was freed from the weight of the glacier, the land began to rise or rebound, causing dramatic changes in the size, distribution and drainage patterns of the glacial lakes. With each new shift, or uplift, the lakes spilled out in new directions. Thus, the Great Lakes experienced a number of changes during their long history. During such changes, a small inland sea called Lake Tonawanda was left ponded in the flat plains of western New York between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Radiocarbon samples of the sediment in the vicinity of Niagara Falls in 1978, led Calkin and Brett of the State University of New York’s Department of Geological Sciences to conclude that Lake Tonawanda was still in existence until about 1,000 years ago, a full 600 years after the close of the Nephite era.[1] Thus, Lake Tonawanda was a prominent feature of the northwestern New York landscape during Book of Mormon times.

   Of particular interest to Book of Mormon studies is the uncanny similarities between this small inland sea and the sea that divided the lands mentioned in the Jaredite account.

    And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.
    And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants. (Ether 10:20-21.)

     While sand ridges allowed a road to be built across the Great Salt Lake to Antelope Island, the Batavia Moraine was created by glacial drift which was picked up by the great ice sheets as they moved across the land during the last Ice Age and then left behind as high ridges once the ice melted back. Many such moraines can be found all across New York and neighboring states, with Batavia Moraine the likely narrow neck of land the scriptures refer to as connecting the lands northward and southward, one being above the long sloping ridge of the Onondaga Escarpment and southward along Lake Erie, and the other along the lowlands of northern New York bordering Lake Ontario.

    E.G. Squire found an unbroken chain of no fewer than twenty ancient fortifications which stretched from the narrow neck southward to the Buffalo River, (the proposed river Sidon), a distance of 50 miles, the reason undoubtedly being the need to protect and facilitate those crossing the narrow neck into the land northward, and the reverse.

    One can see from the accompanying illustration just how easy it was for Teancum to head Morianton’s men off at the narrow pass mentioned in Alma 50:34, for it was small enough that all he had to do was position his men across the neck at any given point, for seas barred the way to both the east and the west. Had it been miles and miles wide it would have taken an army of thousands to successfully block their path.

    And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east. (Alma 50:34.)

    From such illustrated views one has to wonder what better word the ancients could have used to describe this feature of their landscape other than narrow neck of land, small neck of land, narrow pass or passageway, all of which refer to the same narrow passageway which led from the lands to the south of the lake into New York’s northern frontier. Nothing could fit better.


1-GSA Bulletin: Aug 1978: v. 89; no. 8. pp. 1140-1154.-web site, Ancestral Niagara River Drainage:
Stratigraphic and Paleontological Setting.


      Copyright © 1998, 2010 by Phyllis Carol Olive

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