long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

North American archaeology

If you look at publications by the Maxwell Institute, BYU Studies, Deseret Book, FAIR, BoMAF, etc., you will see a concerted effort to ignore and distort information about the archaeology in North America. Hopefully someday that will change. Hopefully soon. It's all quite absurd, really, when we realize that in the 1800s, LDS people considered the sites in North America as proof of the Book of Mormon. True, there were also some who also considered sites in Mesoamerica as proof of the Book of Mormon. The specific buildings depicted by Stephens and Catherwood don't date to Book of Mormon time frames, but it is plausible that Mesoamerica was the hinterlands to the narrative in the Book of Mormon text, so in that sense it was proof. The mistake since 1842 has been claiming that Zarahemla, the land of Nephi, the river Sidon, etc., were actually located in Mesoamerica. It's not a question of whether BYU and affiliates will abandon the Mesoamerican theory; it's a question of when.

While we're waiting for the Maxwell Institute, et al., there is plenty to learn. In our day, you have to look at sources not affiliated with BYU to learn about archaeology in North America. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available, with new discoveries all the time.

We extract the following examples from NPR (National Public Radio):


"The fields are called the Mann Hopewell Site, after the farmer who owned their sprawling 500 acres. Two of site's earthen structures are among the biggest mounds built anywhere by the Hopewell, which was not a tribe so much as a way of life that flourished in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. between about A.D. 100 and 500."

'It's Like Vegas ... For Archaeologists'

Amateur archaeologist Charlie Lacer began walking the Mann fields in the 1950s, collecting what he found along the way.

"You could find stuff that you could not find [on] any other site around here," Lacer says. "I mean, there [were] just tons of materials there. You couldn't pick up everything you saw — you had to be kind of selective, particularly if you were carrying this stuff in your pockets."

Lacer managed to stuff a lot into his pockets — 40,000 artifacts that he donated to the Indiana State Museum two years ago. Four hundred of those pieces are now on display in nearby Evansville for the first time ever.

Digging Deep For Clues

And that just scratches the surface, so to speak. In 2006, researcher Staffan Peterson did the archaeological version of an MRI scan on 100 acres at the site. Whenever his equipment detected an archaeological feature, a dot showed up on a map.

"Every day, we'd download our data and our jaws would drop," Peterson says. "It was kind of like buckshot, there were so many. And we were able to map out upwards of 8,000 archaeological features."

Two of the most notable features are what Peterson calls "wood henges" — like Stonehenge, but made of wooden posts — which he believes may be one of a kind in the U.S.

But there may be an even more remarkable discovery — one that could rewrite history books. Linderman says scientists are starting tests on what looks like evidence of lead smelting, a practice that, until now, was only seen in North America after the arrival of the French, 1,000 years after the Hopewell Tradition.

Lead smelting is just one of the many questions archaeologists will be targeting in upcoming digs that they hope will clear up at least a few of the Mann Hopewell Site's — and American prehistory's — mysteries.

"It's a sleeping giant," says museum curator Greenan, "and it's going to take its place as one of the most important archaeological sites in North America."

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