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Finding Zarahemla?


Bill Hamblin

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Suppose we have a pristine archaeological site in Mesoamerica. What evidence would we need to find to demonstrate that this site is Zarahemla? How would you go about establishing a test for such a question.

There are some basics we might look to in such an instance.

For example -- to first excavate and document the site, apart from any prejudgements

as to its origin and culture. In doing such work we would naturally establish differing

levels of occupation, for even a continuously occupied site will exhibit evidence of

rebuilding, and very often strata upon strata, in nice historical sequence. Or, as is

often found in Meso-American structures, buildings inside of buildings.

In our excavation and documentation we would attempt to establish dates for the

different levels of occupation -- by chemical, molecular, or atomic dating, or by

dendochronology, or other means. We would look for evidence of fossil pollen, of

domesticated plants, of food remains in fire pits and dung heaps --- and, most of all

for pottery shards. The latter evidence might begin to give us some idea as to how

the long-dead inhabitants were linked (by culture and/or trade) with other users and

makers of earthenware.

Once that basic documentation was taken care of, THEN we might look for inscriptions,

artwork, docoration, architecture, patterns of building layout, temple alignments, and

dozens of other pieces of evidence, by which we could match the inhabitant of the site

with the inhabitants of neighboring sites, and establish some measure of relatedness.

In the "Holy Land," this sort of process has been carried out for many decades, in

regard to the "Philistine" occupation of southern Palestine. Like the Lehites spoken of

in the BoM, the biblical Philistines landed upon the shore of a new country, within a

rather limited region, and spread outwards, carrying their previous cultural traits,

agricultural tool-kit, pottery technology, weaponry, etc. with them. By the time they

reached as close to Jerusalem as Beth-Shamesh, they were beginning to blend in

with the locals (Canaanites, Gibeonites, Israelites) in such a way that there was

some cultural hybridization taking place. But still, today archaeologists can identify

with a considerable degree of confidence what IS a Philistine site, and what is NOT.

I would offer this sort of scientific discovery as a possible model for Zarahemla.

Uncle Dale

ps -- When I was a young man, I asked an RLDS elder when/where we would find

a Nephite archaeological site. His answer was that until we had looked under every

rock in the Americas, we might never find such a place. Years later I asked the

same fellow a similar question. His answer: "We'll probably never find Zarahelma,

for it is probably by now buried under a K-Mart parking lot and will never be dug up.

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ps -- When I was a young man, I asked an RLDS elder when/where we would find

a Nephite archaeological site. His answer was that until we had looked under every

rock in the Americas, we might never find such a place. Years later I asked the

same fellow a similar question. His answer: "We'll probably never find Zarahelma,

for it is probably by now buried under a K-Mart parking lot and will never be dug up.

Funny, as I read the opening statements of this topic, I was thinking something along these same lines. With so many people settling across the US before there was any real restraints or information about artifacts, much could be lost and never known.

They discovered the bones of a Mastadon right there in Orem when they were putting in a new freeway entrance just a few years back. We would have to literally dig up every square inch of land from here to the edges of each and every coast to totally illiminate the posiblity.

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David Bokovoy:

Better yet. In modern English and Reformed Egytian as the Nephites used it. :P

It seems to me that a serious misconception exists, that a Nephite site would have to abound in reformed Egyptian inscriptions. Seems to me that the reformed Egyptian spoken of in the Book of Mormon was a sacred shorthand, like its Old World counterpart, used specifically by the scribes.

I doubt the rank and file Nephites wrote in it at all. Heck, even the Book of Mormon scribes struggled with it, grew weary of it and longed for an easier mode of writing.

If any inscriptions are going to be found at all, they are probably going to be in Hebrew, or some Nephitish dialect of Hebrew. Those are scarce enough in the Old World; why should we expect them to be abound in the New World?

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If any inscriptions are going to be found at all, they are probably going to be in Hebrew, or some Nephitish dialect of Hebrew. Those are scarce enough in the Old World; why should we expect them to be abound in the New World?

How about in a Mesoamerican language, i.e. Olmec or Mayan, transliterated, along with a ruler's name in Olmec or Mayan which transliterates to one of the names in the BoM. That's how inscriptions in the Old World go, and some have indeed been found.

James Clifford Miller

millerjamesc@cox.net

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None of the things Uncle Dale suggests would allow us to identify any specific site as Zarahemla.

True -- Perhaps the very best that we might hope for, is that in the very earliest

layers of occupation, we might find objects/plants/animals of an obvious "Old World"

origin. Or, failing that, pottery forms directly transferred from a known culture of

the Old World -- or other evidence of Old World technology -- say, the tools and

cooking equipment and draught animals that go along with wheat-based agriculture.

To find that sort of thing, in an area commonly thought by Latter Day Saints as having

held ancient Zarahemla, would be a beginning -- but even that much would not

necessarily demonstrate that the inhabitants were Mulekite colonists, or by what name

the site was known to those who lived there.

Obviously what I have suggested, as a beginning, is only that -- a beginning point,

from which much additional scientific work and historical scholarship might proceed.

Uncle Dale

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Hi Uncle Dale,

That still wouldn't do it. Even if every item mentioned in the BOM were found at a site it would neither demonstrate that the site was a BOM site at all, nor that it was the specific city of Zarahemla.

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Hi Uncle Dale,

That still wouldn't do it.  Even if every item mentioned in the BOM were found at a site it would neither demonstrate that the site was a BOM site at all, nor that it was the specific city of Zarahemla.

from the Pickle jar: a stone "Z" on the mountain side?

Just so long as it was not on a slope of the western side of the Wasatch front.

That would be just a little TOO convenient.

Uncle Dale

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The only way to do it would be to find enough to reconstruct the culture and history of the people that inhabited the place. If you find detailed writings (unlikely) about certain unquestionable BOM events then you know you've got something good. Maybe not Zarahemla specifically, though still a BOM city. If these writings could prove what the religion or history was like then there would be the key, but nothing less. Of course, that's all very unlikely on many different levels. I had never quite thought of it this way, but it's a valid insight and a good question. Often the critics assume that we should be able to prove things, but they themselves aren't even aware of what kind of proof they're demanding. Eh, just an obvious evidence of bigotry.

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Based on what is told about Zarahemla (both the city, and the "land of") in the Book of Mormon, perhaps these characteristics could be divined for the city or land:

- Ruled by a King (named "Benjamin") around 130 B.C. (Mosiah 1:1)

- No contention in the land at this time.

- Around 124 B.C., people obeying the Mosaic law (Mosiah 2:4)

- Between 86 - 83 B.C., no contentions or wars (Alma 4:1)

- Around 83 B.C., the presence of a Jewish or pre-Christian religion (Alma 6)

- At least some people had swords, spears, bows, arrows and slings (Alma 17:7)

- Near a narrow strip of wilderness on the South (Alma 22:27)

- Nearly surrounded by water (Alma 22:32)

- Around 74 B.C., ruled by a Christian named "Alma" (Alma 30:29)

- Located west of Antionum, south west of Jershon (Alma 31:3)

- Ruled by a King named "Ammaron" around 66 B.C. (Alma 52:3)

- Insurrection in 62 B.C.; change in rulers (Pachus is new ruler) (Alma 61::P

- Battle in the city between armies of Moroni and Pachus; Pachus slain, Pahoran back in judgement seat (Alma 62:7)

- Around 51 B.C., the land falls to Coriantumr (Helaman 1:22)

- Many surrounding cities fall to the Lamanites; great slaughter ensues (Helaman 1:27)

- Zarahemla is recaptured by Moronihah. (Helaman 1:33)

- Zarahemla is taken over by Nephite dissenters and Lamanites; much work of death (Helaman 4:5)

- Around 30 B.C., 8,000 Lamanites in the land and round about baptized (Helaman 5:19)

- A.D. 34 - Fire! (3 Nephi 8:<_<

- A.D. 52 - Rebuilt! (4 Nephi :unsure:

- Borders of Zarahemla near the waters of Sidon (Mormon 1:6)

There's plenty of wiggle room in any one of those to make the city absolutely invisible to modern researchers, which apparently is just how God likes it.

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Lets run this tape forward in time a few millenia.

What if future archeologists discovered the long lost ruins of New York City after 2,000 years of being lost to history and knowledge. Could you reasonably expect that they would find conclusive evidence of a LDS temple, that it would be recognized as a dominant portion of the discovery, and that they would recognize it for what it was?

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Okay...didn't the Nephites speak Hebrew? They would have spoken Hebrew initially, at least, and no mention is made in the BoM that they ever stopped. So we've got Hebrew.

Next, we know that the BoM was written in Reformed Egptian, and we have examples of it in the Anthon Transcript.

Third, there are Greek names in the BoM, so we can add Greek to the list.

Sooooo...if any ancient city is discovered with inscriptions, murals, pottery, etc. with Hebrew, RE, or Greek, then we've got something significant. Especially significant would be some ancient Reformed Egyptian writing that matches up with the Anthon Transcript RE. That would be an extraordinary, undeniable "hit."

Once you find a city with any or all of these languages, then you're on to something. And you'd be even MORE onto something if this city contains artifacts like metal swords, chariots, artistic representations of horses, sheep, oxen, etc.

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Lets run this tape forward in time a few millenia.

What if future archeologists discovered the long lost ruins of New York City after 2,000 years of being lost to history and knowledge. Could you reasonably expect that they would find conclusive evidence of a LDS temple, that it would be recognized as a dominant portion of the discovery, and that they would recognize it for what it was?

Maybe not. But they might find the statue of liberty, or the empire state building. The surrounding geography might still fit the description. Maybe sunken ferry boats are discovered, along with remains of ferry docks and shipping ports. The discovered writings may include a lot of "yous guys" and "thems people" type grammatical errors. You may find skeletons executed mafia style, and lots of giant signs with the word "TRUMP" on them. Maybe a giant baseball arena is uncovered, with Yankee logos all over the place. These would all be clues that match up with what you know of New York City.

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Maybe not. But they might find the statue of liberty, or the empire state building. The surrounding geography might still fit the description. Maybe sunken ferry boats are discovered, along with remains of ferry docks and shipping ports. The discovered writings may include a lot of "yous guys" and "thems people" type grammatical errors. You may find skeletons executed mafia style, and lots of giant signs with the word "TRUMP" on them. Maybe a giant baseball arena is uncovered, with Yankee logos all over the place. These would all be clues that match up with what you know of New York City.

The problem is, the sole record you have of the existence of the city is a dog eared book titled "New York City 22nd Ward History"

Do you see the point? Its certain that lots of things existed in Zarahemla, but the record we have is a religious record, not a guide to tell us about the Zarahemlan equivalent of the Empire State building, or who the business mogules were, or what tourist attractions exitsted.

Zarahemla was no more a hogogenous city than is New York City.

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Often the critics assume that we should be able to prove things, but they themselves aren't even aware of what kind of proof they're demanding. Eh, just an obvious evidence of bigotry.

What are we doubters supposed to do? I'm very well aware of what I am demanding; It is no different than any other archologist, scientist (which I am not) base criteria of their research.

Where's doubter's bigotry; is asking proof bigotry? I have never seen a physical evidence which will support BoM's veracity. Travelling across US, hiking numerous Native American sites, Chaco Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, Seminole Canyon, Mesa Verde, Mexico, Canada, Eastern US, I found evidence of countless Cultures, I have not seen a single item in these sites or museums which would help the cause of BoM .

For some of us it is hard to live in constant cognitive dissonance.

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What if future archeologists discovered the long lost ruins of New York City after 2,000 years of being lost to history and knowledge. Could you reasonably expect that they would find conclusive evidence of a LDS temple, that it would be recognized as a dominant portion of the discovery, and that they would recognize it for what it was?

Let's suppose someone 2,000 years in the future writes a book stating that everyone in New York City for hundreds of years was Mormon, including a description of periods of war and destruction within specific time frames tied to this religous belief, as well as naming specific Mayors of the city for certain time periods. Should future readers expect any kind of archaeological collaboration?

I would even suggest that the Book of Mormon describes a religious homogeny more akin to 19th Century Utah than 21st century New York.

And if researchers 2,000 years from now know as much about 19th Century Utah as modern researchers know about Mesoamerica, I think they would be able to determine the "Mormon-ness" of the people from the buildings, the artwork, and any history or religious texts left behind.

What if someone suggests that the 19th Century settlers of Utah were in fact Muslim (or Hindu, or pre-Scientologists), and not LDS. Would it be possible to find any sort of evidence that would falsify this hypothesis? Or would a preponderance of LDS artifacts just show that these Muslims (or Hindus, or pre-Scientologists) were just a subset of the existing population, except for their thousands of converts and frequent instigation of laws based on their religious beliefs at the hands of faithful leaders?

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Hello Dan,

It should have been quite large. Rather than Mayan glyphs, I would expect to find Egyptian or Hebrew writing.

And yet based upon literacy trends in the ancient Near East, I would highly doubt that many of the Nephites could actually read and/or write, let alone leave Hebrew/Egyptian records.

Indeed, Nephi seems to possess an almost immediate need to explain the origin of his highly unusual skill which allows him

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