Saturday, April 1, 2017

What Are Defensive Walls – Part I

Time and again, various Heartland, Great Lakes, and Eastern U.S. theorists try to claim that the mound building found throughout the eastern U.S. shows that these were not only Nephite constructions, but satisfy Mormon’s descriptions of earthen walls, etc., as found in Alma Chapter 50 and refortified in Alma Chapter 52.
A drawing representing what such a dirt wall and wood timbers on top might have looked like

    The problem is, they are not reading the scriptural record the way it is written, but reading into Mormon’s words something not said, or only partially said. As an example, in Alma 50:1, he states “they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.” Now “round about” means in this case to circle or to build the earth barrier “around the city” with the intent of protecting the city from Lamanite attack. He is not saying under the city, or for burial mounds, or for decorative effigy piles—but “round about the cities.” He also says that he had this done to the cities “throughout all the land.” Consequently, any mounds of earth used by theorists to meet the comment in Alma, needs to be a protective wall “around a city.”
These mounds from “the Mound Builders” in the central and eastern U.S. are not what Capt. Moroni built as Mormon describes his work

    Now, in Alma 52:6, Mormon writes: “by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort.” To what purpose did Moroni do so, because “he kept making preparations for war” (Alma 52:7), “yea, and truly he was preparing to defend himself against them” the Lamanites (Alma 52:6). He went on to say: “Moroni also sent orders unto him that he should retain all the prisoners who fell into his hands…and he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side. And Moroni also sent unto him, desiring him that he would be faithful in maintaining that quarter of the land, and that he would seek every opportunity to scourge the Lamanites in that quarter, as much as was in his power, that perhaps he might take again by stratagem or some other way those cities which had been taken out of their hands; and that he also would fortify and strengthen the cities round about, which had not fallen into the hands of the Lamanites” (Alma 52:8-10).
    There can be no question that all of Moroni’s instructions had to do with their fighting and preparing for battle with the Lamanites. This means that any and all preparations, including digging up heaps of earth, and building walls, and fortifying and strengthening cities, had to do with defensive fortifications for the cities and/or his troops. Thus, the idea of building platform mounds upon which villages, huts, and meeting centers were then built, has nothing whatsoever to do with Alma 50 and Alma 52. Nor does building burial mounds or effigy (design) mounds. It is amazing that Heartland, Great Lakes, and Eastern U.S. theorists try to claim the idea of “digging up heaps of earth,” “round about cities,” and “around his army,” translates into platform and effigy mounds.
Not only are these mounds in the U.S. not the base for defensive walls, they are closely spaced separate mounds, which have no defensive nature at all

    It also might be asked what does: “by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort,” actually mean. Now these “walls” did not have timber upon them. Where it says, “And he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers; and thus they did cause the Lamanites to labor until they had encircled the city of Bountiful round about with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height” (Alma 53:4, emphasis added), this is not in conjunction with any other wall, but regarding the wall encircling the city of Bountiful (Alma 53:4,5).
    As an example, nothing is said of earth when talking about other walls, such as regarding the city of Gad, Mormon writes: “who were within the wall of the city…of those parts which were within the walls” (Alma 55:20, emphasis added). Later we find the same type of wall described, only in this case, we are told that Moroni “came upon the top of the wall to spy out in which part of the city Lamanties did camp with their army” (Alma 62:20, emphasis added), and was, ”let down from the top of the wall into the inner part of the wall” (Alma 62:21, emphasis added); and also “his men should march forth and come upon the top of the wall, and let themselves down into that part of the city” (Alma 62:22, emphasis added).
    None of this would be proper language, or even make sense, if describing wooden, stockade type of walls made of timber, since one cannot stand or be “on top” of a stockade wall—a parapet, yes, a block or stone wall, yes, but not a wall of wooden stakes, which is what a stockade wall is. In those cases, Mormon uses the word “timber,” which meant in 1828, “the body of stem of a tree,” and applied to “standing trees,” as in “a forest of timber.” Thus, when Mormon wrote “And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities” (Alma 50:2), he was referring to what we call a “stockade” type wall, i.e., the kind of walls that were built in the early frontier, especially around early American forts.
As these various stockade walls so clearly show, they not only cannot be stood upon, but were so built and so shaped as to keep an enemy from getting on top of, or climbing over, the wall

    Secondly, we have been all over that area and frankly, there are almost no mounds that are, or could have been, defensive fortifications—they are burial mounds, or foundation mounds where wood huts with thatched roofs or similar looking meeting centers were claimed to have been built on top. Mostly, though, what you have are mounds. Mounds, by the way, that do not fit in with anything Hebrew, Jewish, Jerusalem or even Jaredite Mesopotamia—there simply is no basis for claiming these were built by Nephites for either burial or foundation structures.
    It is interesting that in defending the fact that basically there are almost no defensive mounds found throughout the eastern U.S., that these theorists claim those were the ones destroyed by early American immigrants when they built villages, towns, and cities. Yet, with so many mounds in existence today, why were only the so-called defensive mounds destroyed?
According to Ephraim George Squier (left), newspaper editor, diplomat, and archaeologist who, with the physician and archaeologist Edwin H. Davis, conducted the first major study of the remains of the pre-Columbian North American Mound Builders, and also carried out explorations in Central America and Peru, claimed these mounds in the U.S. served three purposes—the mound builders “constructed various styles of earthen mounds for 1) religious and ceremonial functions, 2) burial, and 3) elite residential purposes. These included the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period; Woodland period (Adena and Hopewell cultures); and Mississippi period” (E. G. Squier and E. H. Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.)
    Note, that not one of the hundreds of mounds they uncovered and investigated fell into a category of forts, fortifications, or defensive walls.
    In fact, the ancient cultures were called “the Mound Builders,” “Mound City,” etc. It should be noted that the word “mound” does not appear anywhere in the Book of Mormon. Moroni caused “ridges of earth” that encircled something—either a city (Alma 50:2) or his army (Alma 49:4). However, in the entire eastern U.S., no mound encircles any area where a large, complex city would have fit, or even a large bivouacked army, with an exception found in Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, in southern Illinois where the town was protected by a sophisticated semicircular fortification system; however, this site was not built until 600 A.D. (during the Late Woodland Period, or as late as the 9th Century A.D. in the Emergent Mississippian culture period) and reached its peak in 1200 A.D. There were of course many Wood Forts in Ohio, but there are as many “experts” claiming they were built during the French Indian Wars of the 17th and 18th centuries, as there are saying they were built earlier.
(See the next post, “What Are Defensive Walls – Part II,” for more on the defensive walls described in the Book of Mormon and where we find them in the Western Hemisphere today)


  1. The conflicts and wars between the native peoples, European nations, and Settlers, would have resulted in any mound that could have been used in a defensive manner to have been used as such. Frontier forts and native villages would have been preferentially located on them during the lengthy period of conflict and colonization.

    1. The point to my previous statement (which I failed to include), is that because such sites were not used as forts and defenses, this is rather strong circumstantial evidence that such sites did not exist in the eastern U.S.