The Book of Mormon says the people of Zarahemla (commonly called Mulekites) sailed across the sea from the ancient Near East ca. 588 BC and made landfall in the land northward, then settled permanently in a sparsely-populated part of the land southward Alma 22:30-31
, Omni 1:15-16
. This means they must have sailed past the Olmec capital, La Venta,which was going strong in 588 BC.
The presence of Jewish/Phoenician seafarers in what is today Tabasco, Mexico would have been sensational news to the Olmec and we have good evidence that they memorialized the inter-cultural encounter
in stone on La Venta Stela 3 excavated in 1943 by Matthew W. Stirling and Philip Drucker. This sculpture is generally dated ca. 600 - 550 BC and is sometimes euphemistically called the "Uncle Sam Stela."
Drucker said "... the principal figures on this monument represent a meeting of Olmec and non-Olmec personages." Philip Drucker, "On the Nature of Olmec Polity" in The Olmec and Their Neighbors: Essays in Memory of Matthew W. Stirling
, Elizabeth P. Benson,Editor,Washington,D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1981,p. 44. He goes on to say that La Venta Monuments 13 and 19 also depict non-Olmec foreigners arriving at the site.
Tatiana Proskouriakoff called the person on the right "... a bearded man with a conspicuously aquiline nose." She called the figure a "bearded visitor" and a "bearded stranger." She said "... these figures represent two racially distinct groups of people." Tatiana Proskouriakoff, "Olmec and Maya Art: Problems of Their Stylistic Relation" in Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec October 28th and 29th,1967
, Elizabeth P. Benson,Editor,Washington,D.C. Dumbarton Oaks,1968, p. 122