Monday, September 3, 2018

Have They Found Where Battles Were Fought Around Cumorah? – Part V “Nephite Relics in Western New York?”

Continuing from the previous post regarding the fallacy that ancient Nephite forts have been found in upstate New York, and despite stone tools, projectile points and mounds, what hard evidence of a factual nature can be shown for the North American theories of the Land of Promise, and the location of the Hill Cumorah.
    To better understand this advanced native American civilization as the author of the blog under discussion calls the Iroquois and Six Nations, we need to concentrate on their history, which is where much of the blog’s stand is taken.
The Haudenosaunee Confederation developed, before the advent of the Europeans, one of the more elaborate systems of government in final council during which the 'League of Iroquois tribes' or 'Confederation of five nations' took shape, arguably in 1570

The Onondaga are commonly known from their oral history or oral traditions of the Haudenosaunee Confederation, combined with some archaeological evidence, accounts from Jesuit missionaries, and subsequent European historians, who often give us a fairly accurate and extensive glimpse into the attitudes and interactions of these tribes, and almost all show a very warm relationship between them. While it is true that many traders in rum and weak-whiskey often turned portions of Indian settlement against the White Man who opposed such treatment of the Indians, there were some positive and worthwhile interactions between them.
    Historian Scott Stevens credits the early modern European value for the written word over oral tradition and cultures as contributing to a prejudiced, racialized element within writings about the Iroquois that continued into the nineteenth century. He noted that the Iroquois also began to influence the writing of their history in the 19th century, including the Mohawk Joseph Brant, Tuscaroran David Cusick, and Senecan John Arthur Gibson, were all important figure of that generation in rendering versions of Iroquois history in epics on the Peacemaker—“The Great Peacemaker” (Skennenrahawi or Deganawida in Mohawk), sometimes referred to as Hononhsoni:donh or Tekanawita (as a mark of respect, some Iroquois avoid using his personal name except in special circumstances) was, along with Jigonhsasee and Hiawatha, by tradition the founder of the Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois Confederacy).
The Iroquois are often characterized as one of the world’s oldest participatory democracies. Their constitution, the Great Law of Peace (Gayanesshagowa), is believed to have been a model for the U.S. Constitution, partly because Benjamin Franklin was known to have been interested in the Iroquois structure and partly because of the balance of power embodied in the Great Law

It is, in fact, more than 200 years past their time that the Iroquois Confederacy still draw strong opinions and debates regarding their role along the early American Frontier. On the other hand, the further west one travels, especially where the Spanish proceeded the European in history, we find a negative attitude of the “Indian” to the “White man.”
    Another comment by the author of the blog is that “The descriptions of fortresses in the book of Alma bear striking similarities to those found in the Great Lakes area.” The problem with this statement is simply that there are few scriptures in Alma, or elsewhere, that mention fort, forts, resorts, or fortifications, and those that do are written in language that does not describe any uniqueness about them, nor are there any significant descriptive facts that could possibly be used to compare to any other forts built in any other period or location.
    In looking at the comments in the scriptural record that describe these Nephite forts, we find in Mormon’s abridged record: “erecting small forts” (Alma 48:8); “thus he did fortify and strengthen the land” (Alma 48:9); or “Moroni had fortified, or had built forts of security, for every city in all the land round about” (Alma 49:13); or “the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance” and “the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about” (Alma 49:18); or “caused them to erect fortifications” (Alma 50:10); or “fortifying the line between the Nephites and the Lamanites” (Alma 50:11); or “all of which were strongly fortified after the manner of the fortifications of Moroni” (Alma 51:27); or “sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward” (Alma 52:9).
    From these comments, the author claims that forts in western New York match Alma’s forts. Says he: “The descriptions of fortresses in the book of Alma bear striking similarities to those found in the Great Lakes area.” One might ask how that is possible, when not one of the above scriptures suggests anything that is out of the ordinary to forts and fortifications in general. Again, we need to read the scriptural record the way it is written, not the way we think it is written, or that we think it should be written!
    In addition, the author of the blog also states that the ruins and relics found in Western New York could have been Nephite or Lamanite of the Book of Mormon period, and refers to Alma 48:8, which reads: “also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.”
    However, the rock walls found in this area certainly do not reflect the type of walls that the Nephites would have built in a non- rifle and gunpowder age, since these walls are all short, and merely stacked to hide or lay behind with a rifle in hand to shoot at the enemy. None would stand any serious Lamanite charge since they could easily be jumped over and even knocked down in many cases. It should be kept I mind that it is very difficult to shoot a bow and arrow from a prone or even kneeling position because of the length of the bow. Walls of the Nephites were deterrents to Lamanite progress, not simply to shield against incoming arrows and rocks from slings.
Some rock walls found in western New York. Note their small size and lack of defensive properties and structure 

In his comparison, the author adds: “These forts were, generally speaking, erected on the most commanding ground. The walls or breastworks were earthen. The ditches were on the exterior of works. The trenches were in some cases deep and wide, and in others shallow and narrow; and the breastworks varied in altitude from three to eight feet. They sometimes had one, and sometimes two entrances, as was to be inferred from there being no ditch at those places. When the works were protected by a deep ravine or a large stream of water no ditch was to be seen. The areas of these forts varied from two to six acres; and the form was generally an irregular elipsis; and in some of them fragments of earthenware and pulverized substances, supposed to have been originally human bones, were to be found.”
Ancient Roman fort built with a ditch all around, a stone wall, and guard towers as described in Alma 48:18; 50:4; 53:4

An old Roman fort at San Giovanni near Sassari on the island of Sardinia, off the coast of Italy, west of Rome, and half a world away from the Nephites. Note that it was built in the same manner (as most forts of the time were), with a ditch around the outside, stonewalls, and fort on top with towers at the ends and only one entrance, which just as accurately matches Mormon’s description as any other fort, and it is intact, where ancient forts around the Great Lakes are not. The point is, such Book of Mormon descriptions of forts are not unique to the Nephites nor unique in their time.
    It should also be noted that Alma 48:8 mentions nothing about timber, wood, or anything made of that material regarding the forts or walls. It does, on the other hand tell us that stone was used to construct walls that were built to “encircle them about,” meaning “roundabout their cities” and “round about the borders of the land,” and “all round about the land.” That pretty much covers the entire Land of Promise. On the other hand in this, and other scriptures, there is no mention in regard to forts about how high, how deep, how wide, or how long they were. In fact, we only know that dirt was “cast up around about to shield them from arrows and stones” (Alma 49:2,4), and this was not around a city, but only around a portion of a Nephi army that had been stationed in a retreat by the borders of Ammonihah (Alma 49:1-2), where they “dug up a ridge of earth round about them” (Alma 49:4). They also dug a ditch, not around a fort, but around the city of Bountiful and a breastwork of timbers (Alma 53:3-4).
    This should suggest to us that while ditches and embankments can disappear with the ages, weather, rain, storms, drainage, etc., that stone walls constructed to defend oneself against attack are not going to disappear over time, and while ditches may be built around a fort, the “stone walls were around the first cities, the borders of the land, and round about all the land.”
    How many stone walls do we find in the Great Lakes Area? “The Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania,” was appointed in 1893 to and also “The Frontier Forts Within the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River,” for the U.S. General Web Archives, and to list all forts discovered prior to 1783 in which fifteen forts were found and reported upon by John M. Buckalew. The earliest built of which remains could be found were Fort Augusta in 1756, Fort Horn, 1768, Fort Durkee and other Defenses, 1769.
    The point is, no forts of any kind have been found and dated before the colonial period. It is said that the Iroquoian and Algonquian had developed in New York by 1100 A.D., with their ancestors moving into New York by 800 A.D. and of course the Dutch bought Manhatten in 1626, but there are no listings of ancient forts by any of these groups having existed prior to their settlements.
(See the next post, “Have They Found Where Battles Were Fought Around Cumorah? – Part VI,” for more information on the fallacy that the ruins and relics found in Western New York could have been Nephite or Lamanite of the Book of Mormon period)

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