Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: The difference between Old and New World archaeology’

Return to article »

Published: Monday, May 23 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Scottsbluff, NE

Archaeology studies times long before the development of writing.

Agriculture began before writing, independently at numerous locations and spread. The rise of agriculture in Europe leads back to the Near East.

Then there are the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the people of India and China, with incredible studies of agriculture and migrations.

DNA shows distinctive markers to the Near East not found in America. The BofM is fiction.

Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish Populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes, 2000

The Earliest Neolithic Cultures of Northeast China: Recent Discoveries and New Perspectives on the Beginning of Agriculture, 2000

The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East, 2001

Y-Chromosome Lineages Trace Diffusion of People and Languages in Southwestern Asia, 2001

Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe, 2005

Mitochondrial DNA Variation of Modern Tuscans Supports the Near Eastern Origin of Etruscans, 2007

Identifying Genetic Traces of Historical Expansions: Phoenician Footprints in the Mediterranean, 2008

Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact, 2008

Genetic Structure of Europeans: A View from the North-East, 2009

Danbury, CT

Climate, continuity of culture, lack of translatable text are some of the reasons why it is more difficult to find archeological history in the New World. But to say there is NO evidence is ignoring reality. Anyone who says that has obviously not travelled much in either region - Old or New World. I have had guides in Mexico and Central America talk to me (without knowing my background) about evidence of people coming from the sea and commonalities with Old World culture, timelines of events that coincide with Book of Mormon events, etc. that it piqued my curiosity after going in without expecting to find anything supporting the Book of Mormon.

One of the things I love about studying archeology is I realize how little we really know about the past and that most of it - in both hemispheres - remains to be discovered. To say categorically that we "don't know" something is a statement made in ignorance and precludes us from discovery.

Lehi, UT

Great article.
Comparing BoM archeology to Biblical is apples to oranges.

One wonderful thing about BoM archeology is that the many evidences found testify to the divinity of Christ, as does the Bible.

Critics of the Divine Christ also argue that Jesus and the Bible are simply fabrications set in real history, just as they argue that the Divine miracle-performing Buddha and Greek gods etc, were fabrications set in real places and history.

The BoM cant be argued away.

MichaelM, Dm, etc, again you make assumptions. We have discussed them often.

Consider two more things: DNA studies change regularly, so this might be outdated, but-

1 The people most closely related to Indigenous Americans are apparently Jews and Turkic North Central Asians. IAmerican markers are not prevalent in East Asia.
Ancient NCA were reportedly redheads etc. Leading non-LDS scholars indicate that modern NCA are related to Manasseh through an ancient prehistoric line.

These same markers could be FOUNDERS or have entered America early.
2 Leading scholars recently (2009Perez study and others discussed) say IAmerican morphology is not East Asian, its Near Eastern (part of Asia), Polynesian, Armen, etc. They explain invader DNA is sometimes buried with few interactions.

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

I have wondered why there is not more epigraphical evidences on metal in both new and old world. Certainly writings on metal would likely survive the elements easier than other writings (other than stone) and could be a wealth of information should they be discovered.

The Book of Mormon talks as if metal writing was common in both the new and old world. My assumption is that the Plates of Brass taken from Laban were not an only copy. I would guess that if the scribes went to the effort to preserve the Old Testiment writings on metal as was done on the Plates of Brass that it would have been repeated. Similarly it appears there was a great deal of writing on metal done during the Book of Mormon era. Stories indicate that a room filled with metal plates was seen by JS in the Hill Cummorah. The Nephite scribes wrote more than one version as JS was given an "abridged" version of the plates after losing the first 116 pages.

My point is that the BofM seems to indicate metal writing was common. I wonder why they are not a part of the archeological record?

Ogden, UT

Most of those with their sophisticated-sounding criticisms are actually anti-scientific.

Rather than seeking knowledge and truth through testing null hypotheses using scientific method, they set out to "prove" their own pre-formulated theory trying to "find" data that they believe will substantiate what they already believe.

They're like police investigators who arrest a suspect and then try to find evidence that will produce a conviction.

Michael, as a true scientist, allows findings to lead him to a correct conclusion.

It is the simplest thing in the world to be a critic. It requires no actual knowledge, just an idiosyncratic belief in one's position without gathering data.

That lack of data leads them to conclude they've therefore proven nonexistence.

Scottsbluff, NE

I read an interesting article dealing with pre-Columbian migrations to America. I found it quite applicable to the BofM.

It is in Current Anthropology Volume 38, Number 3, June 1997 and is titled: "Robbing Native American Cultures", by Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, and Warren Barbour.

Here are some quotes from it.

"They have also accepted a theory and a methodological approach that grossly distorts the historical record at the expense of Native effect, trampled on the self-respect or self-esteem of Native Americans by minimizing their role as actors in their own history, denigrating their cultures, and usurping their contributions to the development of world civilizations."

"There is hardly a claim...that can be supported by the evidence found in the archaeological, botanical, linguistic, or historical record."

"a number of tactics commonly used by pseudoscientists, including an almost exclusive use of outdated secondary sources and a reliance on the pseudoscientific writing of others."

The apologists are trying to mix the BofM people in with a large population of others. At what point do we realize and admit that this is offensive, racist and without scientific support?

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

To follow on my above point a bit -

If the process of writing on metal was successful enough to produce the Plates of Brass in the Old World and at least a long and abridged version of the Book of Mormon along with a room full of other writings in the Hill Cummorah in the Old World, wouldn't that process have been duplicated throughout the culture as an effective way of recording and preserving important writings?

I recognize that a very small percentage of the population could read and write in both worlds. But wouldn't a successful process such as metal writing be duplicated and passed down through generations and picked up by other cultures coming into contact with the Israelite and Nephite scribes resulting in more widespread writings on metal?

I know Mike has talked about very limited evidence of this. But I guess I am wondering why we think that we haven't found more metal plates or other forms of writing on metals when it appears to have been an established practice in both the Old and New Worlds?

Bluffdale, UT

What happened to the Brontosaurus? I grew up with archeological fact that the brontosaurus was real. We had the skeleton right? But, further scientific study proved archeology wrong. Now we have a completely different understanding of these giants.
So, it goes with Mesoamerica. Too many non-archeologists dismiss the science of dating, DNA, etc. because they dont fit our assumptions of BOM history. But, science and archeology are getting better. And as we do there is usually a better explanation how the BOM fits in.
Example- although Chichen-Itza is far too modern to be part of the Nephite nation; scientific dating has discovered other grand cities that existed perfectly in that time like Monte Alban. We cant jump to conclusions prematurely. However, at the same time, we should never ignorantly dismiss scientific and archeological breakthroughs either.

Connell O'Donovan
Santa Cruz, CA

New World and Old World?? Really?!? I haven't seen those terms in an "academic" setting since the 1950s. Not only are they deeply inaccurate, but Eurocentric, patronizing, and colonialistic. In this context "Middle East" and "the Americas" seems vastly more accurate and academically appropriate. This makes me seriously question Michael Ash's credentials for writing this series.

Provo, Ut


Simply including scientific nomanclature, such as "null hypothesis", as a decoration to your argument, does not automatically give you credibility.

Secondly, painting critics as biased researchers with predetermined conclusions does not somehow remove the inherent flaw of all BoM research. Perhaps some critics do have their a priori's, but make no mistake - every single Mormon apologist does also. Ash is not able to follow the evidence where it takes him, as he has an agenda to find evidence or conditions suitable to a Mormon world-view. That's the whole point of these articles.

Third, Ash is not a scientist. He has been challenged on that point many times and remained silent. None of the biographies on him from websites or books that he has published, list legitimate scientific credentials - or any other academic credentials for that matter.

Lastly - Criticism is an essential component of scientific inquiry. And yes it does require knowledge, else how would you criticize??? Very few Mormon critics will claim "non-existence" on the basis on no evidence. What we claim is, no evidence. I simply won't believe religious claims without evidence. No evidence is not a defense for the BoM!!!

Saint George, UT

Idaho Coug,

There is one reason for the lack of epigraphical evidences on metal or any other material...the Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic priests they brought with them. They destroyed almost all the records they deemed as pagan writings. Many Mayan and Aztec records were destroyed by them. If they were on metal plates, which I suspect they were, the metal most common was gold and they were melted down and sent on to Spain. The lack of records is not a mystery, the Spanish and the Catholics destroyed perhaps millions of records, many of which may have had references to BOM traditions or history.

Bountiful, UT

Something I hadn't thought of before that Ash brought up, what would happen to a record written on metal plates after a couple thousand years? Ash mentions the climate of Mesoamerica and its potential effect on artifacts, but what effect would the climate of Mesoamerica, and subsequently the climate of New England have had on metal plates over the course of many, many years? I'm wondering if any of the claimed witnesses described any aging effects on the plates such as discoloration or deterioration. Would the leaves of a book that old turn or rustle with a metallic sound like the pages of a book as described by witnesses?

David Whitmer said the plates had a whitish, yellow color. Joseph Smith said the plates had the appearance of gold and said Moroni referred to them as gold. Whitmer also said the rings were made of silver and the plates made of lead or gold. I'm wondering what gold, silver, or gold and silver alloys would look like after a thousand years or so?

Ogden, UT

Dear Mormoncowboy,

You prove my point unequivocally: "every single Mormon apologist does also."

You're still seated firmly in the seat of "the critic."

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

To Rebagli - thanks for your reply. The Spanish were on a mission to spread Christianity. I wonder if they would have had motivation to preserve traditions or writings that seemed to talk of Christ (as BofM writings would have done)? the Spanish did destroyed a great deal of the culture they came across but a great deal survived. Just not anything so far written on metal.

What do you think about Middle Eastern metal writing? The BofM claims it was done extensively via the Plates of Brass by at least 600 BC. It's a stretch to think the Plates of Brass an only copy. One of the biggest problems Biblical scholars have today is trying to conclude what was originally written as we currently only have copies of copies of copies many of which are shown to have been altered over time. It seems a process such as preserving these sacred texts on metal would have prevented this problem and given archeologists such rich material to work with today.

But it seems that we have found much more evidence of writing on parchment than on metal even though logically metal should have survived much better.

Bluffdale, UT

Before we dismiss the observations of scholars due to their non-degree science background, we should remember that the scholars and historians are often the ones that link several science theories together. Mr. Ash does not have to have a science degree to link archeology with written studies anymore than an archeoligist needs to be the one that moves the shovel.

Phoenix, AZ

It seems Mr. Ash is always preparing us for reason as to why there is no historical evidence to support the Book of Mormon; as anything more than fiction. But, nevertheless he thinks we should believe and accept it as real because he says it is, and the prove is just around the corner. Perhaps, but so far there hasn't been much prove of Santa Claus either; I wonder why. I guess because the North Pole is too cold for evidence. Maybe it would be better to focus in on the good of the spirit of the Book of Mormon (and Santa Claus) as stories of inspiration and social teaching. Much the same as the Koran, Dianetics, etc.

Lehi, UT

If I remember correctly scholars on a PBS Special (Bibles Buried Secrets) explained that, until recently, scholars argued the Bible, the entire concept of Israel, and YHVH etc were all invented.

That changed recently when a boy was banging on a floor and it broke through. Below they found a room with metal scrolls (silver), from around the time of Lehi. They contained Biblical quotes from before Babylon.

It is still apparent that Israelites were polytheistic before Babylon and Plato (Moses, Abraham etc), and that the Bible went through revisions in Babylon, but scholars claimed this recent discovery gave some of the first hard evidence that the Bible and Israelites even existed before the exile.

IdahoCoug (notice those meridian license numbers yet??, also, theres an infamous anti-Mormon in Meridian, Jd, heard of him? might be Episcopalian now??)

ICDmBm, whatever: Engraved plates have been discovered in America and ME. Clearly both had the technology. Dont know why on prevalence, but as mentioned lw, and repeatedly, BoM plates were hidden, sacred. Anything Nephite and not hidden was likely melted, destroyed by Spaniards, Lamanites.

Thanks honest LDS.

YarrlyDarb, : ) MC/Dm isnt honorable Mormon or Scientist, hes been challenged and found wanting. ; ).

Clearfield, UT

There is a general consensus among non-Mormon archaeologists (including the Smithsonian and National Geographic) and even some Mormon archaeologists that the archaeological record does not substantiate the BoM account, and in some ways directly contradicts it. Former BYU anthropology professor, Dr. Raymond T. Matheny said in 1984: after working in the area of Mesoamerican archaeology for twenty-two years, his conclusion was that the scientific evidence simply does not support the existence of the peoples and events chronicled in the BoM, be it in Central America or anywhere else in the western hemisphere.

Due to the difficulties that confront Mormon archaeology, most Mormon apologists analyze archaeological findings for parallels and correlations with information found in the BoM. Although LDS scholars have found no indisputable proof of the book's historicity, they have accumulated a large amount of research which they use to support their conclusions. These correlations are disputed by non-Mormon archaeologists who see no such parallels. Non-Mormon scholars, historians, and archaeologists have concluded that the body of evidence found disproves the conclusions of Mormon apologists and the historical authenticity of the BoM. Ash's credentials do not support him as an expert and can be disregarded.

Provo, UT

Years ago I interviewed the author of "Christ Walked the Americas." He wouldn't read the Book of Mormon. Later I helped make a film about a group of native Americans who resisted the early attemps to convert them to Christianity because they believed they were children of a Heavenly Father and Mother. Then I studied DNA markers at the U of U and one of the students in the class carried a complete set of neanderthal markers which our teacher said was supposedly impossible. From these experiences and many more I learned two things. Few things in science are absoulute, they are plastic and that a single new piece of data can change both the interpretation of past data and the theory it was based on, Second no one sees the world as it is but as they are, so your personal belief system affects your every interpetation. Oh but it is fun to speculate and argue.

Salt Lake valley, UT

The problem I see with comments given about Ash's articles is that persons making comments have strong viewpoints for or against the BoM. Instead of having open minds about the BoM, they have already formed their opinions for or against the book.

The value I see in Ash's articles is that he is presenting the viewpoint that current evidence about ancient America doesn't *prove* the BoM false. We LDS have to be careful to not make the mistake of believing that current evidence *proves* the BoM true. In other words, I see Ash's articles as arguments for our having open minds about the book.

Persons who believe the BoM to be true use a system based on faith to accept the book. Persons who believe the BoM to be fiction use a system based on physical evidence and, in some cases, on logic. It's no wonder that the two groups disagree. My personal belief is that the two viewpoints will eventually converge, but at the present time they are far apart.

to comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments