Monday, May 14, 2018

Burial Mounds – A Non-Jewish Idea – Part I

Most of the followers of the Heartland and Great Lakes theories cite the Burial Mounds throughout eastern North America as proof of the Jaredite and Nephite existence there. In his DVD series on Book of Mormon Evidence (Vol.II), recorded at the FIRM Foundation’s National Book of Mormon Evidence conference by Rodney L. Meldrum, the Heartland guru, discusses the importance of burial mounds by the Hopewell Indians, claiming they were the Nephites. He also points out that the mound-builders were farmers, as were the Nephites, and that they had high death rates based on the number of bodies found in the mounds, which he attributes to the Nephite wars.
Burial Mound in Ohio

In fact, Meldrum in his writings, and on his tours, uses the Little Mound Cemetery outside Keokuk, Iowa, just south of the area he claims was Zarahemla of the Book of Mormon, to show Nephite origins. He also visits on his Book of Mormon tours, the claims that the Miamisburg Mound in Montgomery County, Ohio, was a Jaredite burial mound, near the hilltop fortification called Fort Ancient, with its Hopewell (Nephite) museum.
    However, the dating of this area is too late for the Jaredites civilization, and too early for the Nephite civilization. The Miamisburg Mound is one of the largest conical mounds in eastern North America, standing 65 feet high and 800 feet in circumference, containing 54,000 cubic yards of earth—is visible from several miles away because it stands atop a 100-foot-high ridge above the Great Miami River.
    Claiming this was a Jaredite burial site, the mound is 430 miles due east of the Zarahemla site, making it nowhere near the land the Jaredites occupied in the Land Northward. He also places his Land of Bountiful in the area of present-day eastern Indiana and Ohio, yet in southwest Ohio is where he places the Jaredite Burial Mound of Miamisburg.
The Miamisburg Burial site Meldrum claims is Jaredite, lies about 430 miles to the east and slightly south of the area he claims was Zarahemla (near Keokuk, Iowa); however, the Jaredites were some distance to the north of Zarahemla and beyond the Land of Bountiful and beyond the Land of Desolation (Alma 22:33)

In addition, Meldrum seems to ignore that early excavations of the site conducted in 1869, determined the site was started around 800 B.C. and was built in many stages through to about 100 A.D. In addition, in much of Ohio and neighboring states, around 400 A.D., the Adena culture transformed into the Hopewell culture. Yet, the Adena (Meldrum’s Jaredites) and the Hopewell (Meldrum’s Nephites), did not intermingle, or have anything to do with one another in the scriptural record. It was not until long after the last Jaredite, Coriantumr, had died that the Nephites discovered their existence after Mosiah encountered the people of Zarahemla.
    We need to keep in mind that the Adena Culture is given a beginning date of 1000 B.C., yet the Jaredites arrived in the Land of Promise around 2100 B.C. Also, the Adena were in the area of present day Kentucky, southeastern Indiana and southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as centered in the Scioto River and Hockig Valleys in southern Ohio and as far east as the Kanawha Valley near Charleston West Virginia—none of these areas are near Meldrum’s Land Northward where the Jaredites spent all their time.
    There were once an estimated 10,000 American Indian mounds and earthworks in the central Ohio Valley, Meldrum’s Land of Bountiful. Today, about 1,000 of those landmarks have survived through private landowners and local, state and federal agencies dedicated to preserving these ancient ruins.
    Many of the mounds that have been saved were of the conical variety and most of those have never been professionally investigated to determine their contents or age. Those that have been investigated were determined to be burial mounds and to have been created between 2,000 and 2,800 years ago (Ohio History Connection [formerly Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society 1885], Ohio History Center Museum, Columbus, Ohio; Jackie Barton, Director of Historic Sites & Facilities).
    The question is, and one never brought up by the Heartland and North American theorists, is what connection do burial mounds have with the ancient Hebrews or the Jews of Palestine and Jerusalem?
Unlike the Jews, Pagan cultures buried their dead in the ground 
    In a recent discovery of a major Philistine city burial cemetery in Ashkelon in Canaan, for the first time it was seen how other cultures than the Judeans buried their dead. In the very first of its kind in the history of archaeological investigation in the region, the cemetery excavations revealed a burial practice that is very different from that of the earlier Canaanites or the neighboring Judeans (Kristin Romey, National Geographic, July 10, 2016).
    Instead of laying a body in an above-ground chamber, then collecting the bones a year later and entombing them in a "secondary" burial, the individuals buried in the Ashkelon cemetery were buried individually or collectively in pits in the ground, and never moved again. A few cremation burials were also identified.
    Unlike the Egyptians, the Philistines deposited very few grave goods with each individual. Some were adorned with a few pieces of jewelry, while others were buried with a small set of ceramics or a tiny juglet.
    On the other hand, the Jewish people took the burial of the dead quite seriously; it was the way a community paid its last respects to the one who died. The Scriptures laid down quite firmly that no dead body was to be left unburied—even that of one’s worst enemy. Perhaps one of the stronger horrors that a Jewish person could imagine was stated in Psalm 78: They have thrown the bodies of thy servants as food for the birds of heaven; wild beast feast on the corpses of the just.
    Jewish law (Halachah) is unequivocal that the dead must be buried (code of jJwish Law, Yorah Death  348:3; 362:1). In Jewish law, the human body belongs to its Creator. It is merely on loan to the person, who is the guardian of the body, but he or she has no right to deface it in any way (See Maimonides, Laws of Murder 1:4; Ridvaz, Laws of Sanhedrin 18; Shulchan Aruch Harav (by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi) Laws of Body Damages 4).
    The body must be "returned" in its entirety, just as it was given (Adapted from a letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, dated 26 Nissan 5729 (1969).) Additionally, Man was created in "God's image and likeness” (Genesis 1:27). Any violation of the human body is considered, therefore, to be a violation of God Himself (Genesis 9:6).
    Utmost respect for the sanctity of the human body is also the overriding concern which pervades the process of preparing the deceased for interment. The funeral is scheduled for the earliest possible time, ideally on the same day as the passing, so that the body reaches its eternal rest as expeditiously as possible. The honor of caring for the dead is traditionally reserved for the most respected members of the community, who are expected to maintain the highest levels of decorum, privacy, and respect throughout the entire process.
    According to traditional Jewish sources, the merit of facilitating the proper burial of a Jewish corpse is immeasurable. Even the High Priest, who was even prohibited from attending the funerals of his next of kin, was required to preoccupy himself and personally bury a met mitzvah, an abandoned Jewish body which had no one to attend to its proper burial.
    Also, according to Jewish law, an object which facilitated the fulfillment of a mitzvah must be accorded respect, and cannot be casually discarded. Examples: papers upon which are inscribed words of Torah, tzitzit fringes, or leather tefillin straps. Such articles must be buried with due respect. How much more does this idea apply to a body. In the words of the Talmud: "even the wicked among [the Jewish people] are full of mitzvot"! Or, to quote the prophet Isaiah: "And your nation are all righteous people."
    Jews are commanded in the Torah not to follow the practices of the non-Jews. Cremating the dead was (and, in fact, still is) a ritual observed by many pagan cultures, and thus is also a violation of this biblical prohibition. During times when many of their non-Jewish co-citizens regularly cremated their dead, the Jews were distinguishable by their commitment to bury their dead with dignity.
    This fact was already noted by Tacitus, the famed 1st century Roman historian. Understanding the great importance of this mitzvah, the Israeli army is known to take great risks, venturing behind enemy lines to bring back to Israel the bodies of their fallen comrades. It is safe to assume that the deceased's soul is certain to evoke heavenly mercy and blessings upon those individuals who ensured that its body was accorded its final proper respects.
    The question is, then, how did the Jews bury their dead? And are burial mounds a Jewish custom?
(See the next post, “Burial Mounds – A Non-Jewish Idea – Part II,” for an answer to this important question, for however the Jews of Lehi’s time buried their dead, it would have been how Lehi and his family would have continued the practice in the Land of Promise)

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