Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cumorah’s Artifacts

For the sake of interest, the name Cumorah is said to be from Qum ora, in Hebrew meaning “Arise-o-light” or “Arise-revelation,” an interpretation it is said with which Hugh Nibley agreed. The word, ‘qum’ קוּם (pronounced “koom”) means “to arise” “stand,” “stand up,” and is interpreted as “arise” 103 times in the Bible and “arose” 136 times. The word ‘ora’ אוֹר in Hebrew means “light.” Thus, “Cumorah means for the light (of revelation) to rise or arise.” 
 The Book of Mormon rose out of the hill Cumorah as a shining light of revelation

    This light of revelation is not subject to personal interpretation, as no scripture is, but an interpretation of its meaning as written. Cumorah is where the light of the gospel was uncovered by Joseph Smith as engraved on metal plates and eventually interpreted or translated by him. The words in the scriptural record then become the end all of understanding of the events that took place in and around the Land of Promise in the Western Hemisphere.
    One of the interesting things about the Great Lakes and eastern U.S. theorists regarding those areas being the land of Promise and the hill Cumorah in western New York being the Hill Cumorah (Hill Ramah) of the scriptures is its lack of anything solid to show this other than people’s opinions. Take, as an example, information we receive from two scriptural sources regarding the Land Northward, which some theorists want to claim is in upstate New York, would have to show some reflection of this being in order for anyone to claim the New York hill Cumorah is the Cumorah of the scriptural record.
    In Mosiah, we learn that Limhi’s 43-man expedition that went in search of Zarahemla ended up in the Land Northward, “having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel” (Mosiah 8:8, emphasis added), and also in Ether, we learn that when Shiz replaced his brother, Lib, as leader of the rebel forces, that he pursued after Coriantumr, and he did overthrow many cities, and he did slay both women and children, and he did burn the cities” (Ether 14:17, emphasis added), to show that in the Land Northward were plenty of buildings, and several hundred years after Shiz burned the cities, they were still standing for those in search of Zarahemla brought back a report that there were “ruined buildings of every kind” still visible.
These buildings would not have been made out of wood, for if they had, they would not still be standing nor their ruins visible after hundreds of years when Limhi's expedition arrived. They were made of stone, with wood framing and structural supports, stairs, wall paneling, etc., that when burned would collapse some of the stone but not all. Thus, the burning cities would still leave some of the walls and towers standing.
    The point is, that there are no such ruins anywhere in upstate New York or anywhere in New York to suggest a civilization in B.C. times that would have numbered in the millions. No bones, weapon remnants, artifacts or anything else of a society that large, that has ever been found there.
    It is one thing to say that New York was the site of the Jaredite battles and the hill Cumorah, but facts show that it was not nor could it have been. Sooner or later, intelligent people need to come to the conclusion of what the facts show and support and stop doggedly holding on to and promoting their own personal beliefs and opinions over scriptural-based fact is readily available.
    In addition, Book of Mormon artifacts, in the quantities expected from hundreds of thousands of dead resulting from a single battle in a single area, have ever been found in this area of New York. In fact, it can be said that the archaeology of New York does not support the idea that Book of Mormon peoples lived in that region or that New York’s hill Cumorah was the scene of the final battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites, let alone the final battle area of the Jaredites before them. Simply put, no Book of Mormon time-period artifacts have ever been found at the hill called Cumorah in the state of New York.
    To prove this point, let’s consider the information readily available to any researcher on this subject. In a letter from Langdon Smith of New Haven, Vermont, and addressed to John E. Clark, a died-in-the-wool Mesoamericanist and professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University and director of the BYU New World Archaeological Foundation, based in Chiapas, Mexico, we find the following.
Mr. Smith wrote the letter in response to Dr. Clark's article "Archaeology and Cumorah Questions" (JBMS 13/1—2, 2004).
    "On my dairy farm in Vermont in the mid-1950s, while harrowing in the spring, I saw a black, pointed object. It was a black chert "knife." Wow! I have always been interested in historical things. So I looked all around, but that was it. Several years ago I found another point. My farm efforts were winding down, so I had more time to look.
    "Since retiring, I have worked on some state site digs with professionals. By myself I have also found over 378 new Native American sites, obtaining Vermont State site numbers for all of them. I have made out all the required survey forms and sent the relevant information to the state offices.

    “At this time, I have close to 5,000 arrowheads with all the other tools—bifaces, preforms, knives, scrapers, and so on. Altogether I have 17,000 pieces. Each piece has been traced, with the site number and catalog numbers painted on. Maps are made of each site with X marks locating where each piece was found.
    “In working with the state, I get to see things that I'm probably not supposed to see—like a New York State site map. Around Syracuse and the areas in eastern New York State there are many sites recorded, as there are around and south of Rochester in western New York. But around the Hill Cumorah area, the closest site numbers are about 60 miles away. Wherever early American sites are, collectors will find them, plowed fields being the best place to look.
“Having been to the Hill Cumorah Pageant at other times, I knew that there were plowed fields nearby. Since I had the experience of searching and finding sites, my interest in finding sites of possible Nephite/Lamanite arrowheads was high. There were also stories of how Brother Willard Bean found arrowheads by the basketful around the hill and sold them to tourists. If battles took place at the hill, and a lot of people took part—everything sounds about right—the area should be covered with all kinds of artifacts.
    “I have made the seven-hour drive twice in the past few years. Both times I traveled to Palmyra during the early planting season—fields just plowed and harrowed, following a good rain to wash the dirt off any artifacts. There are some areas that are not plowed and cannot easily be hunted, including the seating area west of the hill and the car parking area on the west side of the highway. North of the hill there is a gully going west to east with trees growing along it, circling from west of the road past the north end of the hill to the east side. Along the whole east side of the hill is a large plowed field. To the north of the gully with trees is the farm that is owned by the Clark family. They have several plowed fields in the area.
    “Arriving at Cumorah, I have asked workers on the grounds around the visitors' center and people inside the center about arrowheads. Their comments were: "Oh yes, people find them around here all the time." I would ask, "Have you found any yourself?" "Well, no." "Do you know anyone who has found some?" "No." "Have you seen any actual pieces found by others?" "No."
    “I have walked to the big meadow east of the hill. I have searched it thoroughly. I was thinking, "There have to be remains here, but where?" No artifacts—not even flint chips of any kind. So I went north to the Clark farm. I stopped and asked the owner's wife if I could walk over the corn field. "What are you looking for?" "Looking for arrowheads—is it okay?" "Well, sure." "You must get pestered a lot by people wanting to go out there looking around." "We've been here over 40 years, and you're the first to come and ask to hunt for arrowheads."
    “If there are artifacts out there, collectors will find them, and they and their friends will be all over that area. The Clarks' fields yielded the same as the one east of the hill: not one single arrowhead and not one single piece of flint chipping.
    “Crisscrossing all those plowed fields, which are hundreds of acres, I found no evidence of any kind. If a large group of people came to this hill and had a big battle, they would have been making and sharpening more tools—artifacts. If there are no arrowheads, what about all of the broken pieces, the chips, the flakes—leftovers from making and sharpening? Some of these pieces would be smaller than a little fingernail. Where are these pieces? People do not generally pick up this trash.
Before my first trip to Palmyra, I received the name from a friend of a Mr. J. Sheldon Fisher, who lived in the small town of Fishers, about 10 miles southwest of the hill (he passed away in 2002).
    “He owned what is called the Valentown Museum. The museum barn has one floor devoted to early American artifacts; the second floor is full of all types of antiques. He was a great historian of the happenings down through time in that area. He supplied most of the early-1800s furniture used in the area's visitors' centers. There was an article about him in the 3 March 2001 Church News on his finds about an old Brigham Young home (Shaun D. Stahle, "Excavating Brigham Young's mill site"). He worked as a professional archaeologist for the state of New York for over 30 years. So he knew what he was doing.
“He said that he had a standing agreement with all of the bulldozer and backhoe people in the county. They would call him when they were about to start jobs in the area. Many times, he said, "I'd beat them to the site—I'd get there before they would." He always watched the soil as they dug it or pushed it around. But he never found any artifacts of anyh kind. I have spent evenings on both trips to Palmyra talking with him about the area and its history. His comment on my last trip was, "Oh, I hope this doesn't shake your faith." I answered, "No, it doesn't. The Church is still true. The Book of Mormon is true. And those plates came out of that hill. 'The battle'—well, it must have been at some other hill."
    Langdon Smith of New Haven, Vermont, was born on June 23, 1928 and died on Friday, April 4, 2008. If this letter is factual, it should be sufficient to close the lid on the hill Cumorah in New York.


  1. Has anyone looked for artifacts at the real hill Cumorah in Ecuador? it would be exciting to do a dig down there.

    Great articles Del - Excellent work

  2. To my knowledge no work has been done there. In fact, so little work has been done in all of Ecuador, it is hardly worth mentioning. I guess the Lord is not ready for that knowledge to come forth--it needs an inspired "Columbus" to find the way.