Friday, January 19, 2018

Who First Settled Here? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding why there is no concrete evidence of the Nephite Land of Promise in terms of everyday archaeological findings. In answering the oft-asked question, “Why is there no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?” 
     One of the problems when this question arises is the lack of real understanding on the part of the questioner as to what archaeology does, what it finds, and how we know what it is or is not. Stated differently, this common query often expresses the questioner’s incorrect assumptions about archaeological methodology–assumptions usually based on the questioner’s lack of knowledge about a very specialized academic area.
Critics seem to think that there should be signs of some kind, some written material to point out a Nephite location that would authenticate the Book of Mormon

One can only wonder what might have taken place if the engraved plates of Nephi, which Mormon abridged, had been found by a secular archaeological team digging in the mountains of northern Ecuador, instead of by Joseph Smith obtaining them from an angel at the Hill Cumorah in western upstate New York. What if the newspaper headlines had screamed that an ancient record of a 2500-year-old-civilization had been found in South America amid the hundreds of ruins down there? What if it had not been a religious book, but strictly a record of an ancient people who sailed to the Western Hemisphere from the Middle East in 600 B.C.?
    Do you think the results might have been different? Would scientists throw it out and ridicule it because it mentioned horses and elephants, Hebrew and Jew, and gave a history of a people who carved out a new life in a new world, building all the ancient sites now found there and dating them all by what was written? Might not scores of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians beaten a path to South America to study this people and their historical sites in which they built, lived and fought numerous wars before being annihilated?
    More importantly, would there be people saying “show us the evidence of this people in South America?” No, they would be bumping into these sites every time they turned around. They would marvel at the method of building construction the ancients achieved, and would be linking accomplishments with the Egyptians and the Hebrews and their stone cities in the Middle East with these stone cities in South America.
    They would be revising their old paradigms of a Siberian land bridge and highway across Alaska, and how people got from the Middle East to the Americas. There would be ships built like Nephi’s (however they might determine such construction) and groups sailing the currents Nephi describes.
    If it wasn’t such a sad disclosure of human nature, it would be downright humorous.
    But it does point out one simple fact. Once you tie something into religion, you cast aside your believability. Science cannot handle God and for the most part, will relegate Him to some forbidden corner of history rather than recognize the great things He has done and how impacted each one of us are on the things He has and does do for mankind.
    However, that aside, let us take a look at what we need to know before we dive into archaeological matters, i.e., the location of the Land of Promise and all that is involved in determining that one simple fact.
    First, let’s take a look at what archaeological evidence means in relation to the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon. Since people are always telling us what is not correct about the Book of Mormon, its geography, and the location of the Land of Promise, perhaps we should ask them “What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite record?”
    Would finding the existence of horses and elephants do it? Would finding barley and wheat growing anciently in the Americas do it? Would finding a plant that cured malaria as Alma states do it? Would finding the tower Mormon describes Noah building do it? Would finding the myriad and complex roads and highway system described in 3 Nephi do it?
    Well, we can easily cast those aside, for evidences of horses and elephants in South America in the pre-Columbian period living at the same time as man, has been found—but all it has done is create stronger criticism. Also, barley has been found to have grown ancient in the Americas in the time frame needed, but that has not convinced anyone of anything—the critics just switch to another issue. Nor has the knowledge that quinine, the cure for killing fevers of malaria been found to not only be indigenous to Peru in South America, but until the Dutch replanted starts in Indonesia in the 17th century, it was found nowhere else in the entire world. Still, that has not convinced anyone, neither scientist nor layman.
    Neither has the finding of a complex road system dating to Nephite times, nor a tower found by the invading conquistadors on a hill overlooking an ancient city, nor two unknown animals, nor two unknown grains—nothing yet found that matches the Nephite record has had any impact on the sectarian world who rejects the record out of hand because it is a religious record as well as a limited history of such a people.
Left: The llama and alpaca, two of the most beneficial animals for man found anciently only in Andean Peru; Right: The highly nutritious grain quinoa, and along with kiwichi, two of the most beneficial grains known to man found anciently only in Andean Peru
    What about something else? Would finding two unknown animals indigenous to the region that meets the criteria stated do it? Would finding two unknown grains on a nutritional level with corn, wheat and barley do it? Would finding gold, silver and copper in quantities that exceeded anywhere else in the world do it?
    Again, two unknown animals that fit perfectly the description in Ether are found in the Andes of South America—and are not only indigenous to the area, but found nowhere else and that is the llama and alpaca. Has that changed anything? Lessened the criticism? Not at all. Well, what about finding two unknown grains on a par nutritionally with corn, wheat and barley. Quinoa and kiwicha, two unknown grains outside of Andean South America until recently, and indigenous to the area for thousands of years, and two of the most nutritious grains found anywhere in the world. But that didn’t change anyone’s mind, either. Nor has the fact that between Peru and Chile, without question they own the gold, silver and copper producing markets of the world. None of these facts, which all point to Book of Mormon descriptions of the Land of Promise, have swayed very many people to look into South America.
    Why is that? It is as though people do not want to know the truth, they merely want to hold on to their pre-conceived paradigms, to keep their reputations intact, their careers on track, and their control over what is correct and what is not.
    For critics of the work, some may have moved from “Joseph Smith got it wrong,” to “Wow, Joseph smith sure made some lucky guesses.” If that is a step in the right direction, then good. However, it seems more like a grudging concession and nothing more—South America is still not the place, and the Book of Mormon is still full of problems. Certainly these nine areas do not amount to “proof” of anything.
    Of course the Book of Mormon mentions cities, trade, warfare, towers, and the use of armor–all of which did exist in the ancient Americas–yet their existence has not convinced critics that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text. Thus, it can be seen that archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon–which does exist, does not constitute proof, nor does it translate into belief.
    Another step in archaeology that has to be understood is that archaeologists generally work with a very fragmentary record, yet, when they find evidence, in and of itself the evidence doesn’t prove anything until it is placed within a context—a framework by which it can be understood.
    Quoting one archaeologist: “If we find a pot (or, more likely, a fragment of a pot), that unfortunately provides little evidence concerning the civilization that created or used the pot. Contextual clues–-such as other artifacts uncovered near the pot–-may provide some help concerning the time frame in which the pot was last used, but it certainly doesn’t provide conclusive evidence as to what the civilization, or the individuals in that civilization, were like.”
(See the next post, “Who First Settled Here? – Part III,” for more information on the existence of matching locations within South America to the descriptions of Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni, that show the history of the Nephite Nation)

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