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Book Of Mormon & Archeology?


Dale

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How do we know Book of Mormon believing scholars arn't reading the Book of Mormon content back upon Meso-American archeology? Atleast works like An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon try & harmonize the text with archeology. Other works of critics of Book of Mormon historicity try & build up conflict between the text & archeology. Who has the correct approach to the Book of Mormon and archeology?

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How do we know Book of Mormon believing scholars arn't reading the Book of Mormon content back upon Meso-American archeology? Atleast works like An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon try & harmonize the text with archeology. Other works of critics of Book of Mormon historicity try & build up conflict between the text & arceology. Who has the correct approach to the Book of Mormon and archeology?

Hi there!

The discipline of archaeology can speak for itself... it's the interpretation of archaeological evidences that come into question, and therefore, the scales tip toward the weightier response.

~serapha~

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How do we know Book of Mormon believing scholars arn't reading the Book of Mormon content back upon Meso-American archeology?

That is an important question, Dale. The process of reading any text back onto a context is pretty common. The most typical is the way most people read the Bible, which is usually read back onto a modern culture. The fact that it can be done is one of the reasons that has allowed people to continue to follow the Bible's teachings for so many years. Of course, a similar process is usually done for the Book of Mormon as well.

Your question, however, is whether or not the text is inappropriately read back onto a Mesoamerican context. That happens when there isn't a fit between the text and the context, but one creates a fit by manipulating the data. There are books written by LDS authors that do this. While it is certainly a danger, it isn't an inherent danger. The same scholarship used as a model for creating the connections provides the constraints that control for the more egregious connections.

What controls are there? The data themselves serve as one control. One cannot read back a text onto a context and do it so selectively that one ignores significant amounts of data from the time and place used as a context. Most of the controls, however, are in the nature of what fits.

Randon connections are pretty useless. Connections that are just as easily based on independent invention (such as those that use nature as a model, or pretty pragmatic solutions - i.e. adobe bricks) are not helpful. Complex sets of interrelated and otherwise arbitrary data are the most compelling because of the arbitrary connections holding the set together. If one finds a part of the set that is one thing, but finding the entire set becomes much more telling. The more of those that are found in the correct time period, the better.

My final check is one I call productivity. When most ancient writers wrote, they assumed that their reader understood the culture and history of the writer. This certainly still happens in many types of modern writing - humor tends to rely heavily upon that assumption. For the ancient text, however, the modern reader is so far removed from the historical and cultural context as to be unaware of it. Therefore, the texts tend to have elements that are enigmatic when read against the modern context. When you find an otherwise good fit in a time and place, and that historical and cultural context of that time and place provide a cultural and historical backdrop that explains otherwise enigmatic passages, then you have a context that is productive - one that supplies missing information.

The productivity check is the one I suggest makes the biggest difference between reading the Book of Mormon against a Mesoamerican background and reading it against Joseph Smith's time period. Aspects of the text can be read against both of those contexts (and are, of course). Is the text's production culture modern or ancient? Those who read the text against the modern context find relevant points of content. However, they find little that is convincing of productivity. Enigmatic passages remain enigmatic - and are explained as the result of the inexperienced author. Most of the correlations are also of the type that exist for reasons best explained by independent invention (such as any argument that depends upon vocabulary).

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How do we know Book of Mormon believing scholars arn't reading the Book of Mormon content back upon Meso-American archeology? Atleast works like An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon try & harmonize the text with archeology. Other works of critics of Book of Mormon historicity try & build up conflict between the text & arceology. Who has the correct approach to the Book of Mormon and archeology?

So far, the BOM makes no direct connection to ancient America, and therefore there is no such thing as BOM archaeology. The burden is on believers.

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That is an important question, Dale. The process of reading any text back onto a context is pretty common. The most typical is the way most people read the Bible, which is usually read back onto a modern culture. The fact that it can be done is one of the reasons that has allowed people to continue to follow the Bible's teachings for so many years. Of course, a similar process is usually done for the Book of Mormon as well.

Your question, however, is whether or not the text is inappropriately read back onto a Mesoamerican context. That happens when there isn't a fit between the text and the context, but one creates a fit by manipulating the data. There are books written by LDS authors that do this. While it is certainly a danger, it isn't an inherent danger. The same scholarship used as a model for creating the connections provides the constraints that control for the more egregious connections.

What controls are there? The data themselves serve as one control. One cannot read back a text onto a context and do it so selectively that one ignores significant amounts of data from the time and place used as a context. Most of the controls, however, are in the nature of what fits.

Randon connections are pretty useless. Connections that are just as easily based on independent invention (such as those that use nature as a model, or pretty pragmatic solutions - i.e. adobe bricks) are not helpful. Complex sets of interrelated and otherwise arbitrary data are the most compelling because of the arbitrary connections holding the set together. If one finds a part of the set that is one thing, but finding the entire set becomes much more telling. The more of those that are found in the correct time period, the better.

My final check is one I call productivity. When most ancient writers wrote, they assumed that their reader understood the culture and history of the writer. This certainly still happens in many types of modern writing - humor tends to rely heavily upon that assumption. For the ancient text, however, the modern reader is so far removed from the historical and cultural context as to be unaware of it. Therefore, the texts tend to have elements that are enigmatic when read against the modern context. When you find an otherwise good fit in a time and place, and that historical and cultural context of that time and place provide a cultural and historical backdrop that explains otherwise enigmatic passages, then you have a context that is productive - one that supplies missing information.

The productivity check is the one I suggest makes the biggest difference between reading the Book of Mormon against a Mesoamerican background and reading it against Joseph Smith's time period. Aspects of the text can be read against both of those contexts (and are, of course). Is the text's production culture modern or ancient? Those who read the text against the modern context find relevant points of content. However, they find little that is convincing of productivity. Enigmatic passages remain enigmatic - and are explained as the result of the inexperienced author. Most of the correlations are also of the type that exist for reasons best explained by independent invention (such as any argument that depends upon vocabulary).

I agree somewhat. However, I would add that interpretations based on the assumption of either ancient or modern origin are not themselves evidence for making either assumption.

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So far, the BOM makes no direct connection to ancient America, and therefore there is no such thing as BOM archaeology. The burden is on believers.

I'm not sure exactly what your statement says. Does "no direct connection" mean no direct evidence has been produced? If that is the case then I respond thusly:

Nor is there direct evidence to the contrary. May I then add an apodosis statement equivelant to yours and say "therefore" there is such a thing as BOM archeology, because the label "archaeology" does not preclude looking for something that might not be there? There was no direct evidence that Troy existed, but archeologists pursued it and they found it. Much of what archaeology does is pursue hunches and guesses. Are you telling me that archaeology is not actual archaeology unless we already know what we're going to find and where it is? Does an archaeologist go through so many job descriptions in his career? "OK group, today we're not real archaeologists, we're just religionists with a pipe dream. Once we find the city that we think may be here, but have no direct evidence that it even exists (like most of the ancient cities found in the Near East), then we get to be real archaeologists again, but until then we're just amusing ourselves."

If that's not the case then I would appreciate an explanation of what you're saying.

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Dan Vogel:

Even if the Lehites were not a real people they would have to had "lived" somewhere. Using the physical description in the BoM itself, where do you propose they lived?

You mean if Lehites were a real people. This is not possible to answer because it begs the question. However, if I were you, I might consider Blake Ostler's theory that they lived on a yet to be discovered island. Desperate, indeed, but since the Tehuantepec theory is so weak, it might be the only alternative left.

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You mean if Lehites were a real people. This is not possible to answer because it begs the question. However, if I were you, I might consider Blake Ostler's theory that they lived on a yet to be discovered island. Desperate, indeed, but since the Tehuantepec theory is so weak, it might be the only alternative left.

Atlantis perhaps? :P

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I'm not sure exactly what your statement says. Does "no direct connection" mean no direct evidence has been produced? If that is the case then I respond thusly:

Nor is there direct evidence to the contrary. May I then add an apodosis statement equivelant to yours and say "therefore" there is such a thing as BOM archeology, because the label "archaeology" does not preclude looking for something that might not be there? There was no direct evidence that Troy existed, but archeologists pursued it and they found it. Much of what archaeology does is pursue hunches and guesses. Are you telling me that archaeology is not actual archaeology unless we already know what we're going to find and where it is? Does an archaeologist go through so many job descriptions in his career? "OK group, today we're not real archaeologists, we're just religionists with a pipe dream. Once we find the city that we think may be here, but have no direct evidence that it even exists (like most of the ancient cities found in the Near East), then we get to be real archaeologists again, but until then we're just amusing ourselves."

If that's not the case then I would appreciate an explanation of what you're saying.

Of course, there is a difference between archaology and "BOM archaeology." You are argue as if I didn't know the difference. There was no Troy archaeology until Troy was actually located. You can't be digging in Israel and claim you are doing Troy archaeology. So far, we have Mayan archaelogy, but no BOM archaeology.

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Dan Vogel:

I don't believe I begged the question. While it is certainly "Possible" for them to have lived on a yet discovered island. To me that speculation proves highly problematic. The distances involved and level of sophistication shown in the BoM itself would make it improbable at best.

With leads us back to the question of even assuming the BoM is a work of fiction. The BoM quite accurately describes a topograghy and cultures most consistant with MesoAmerica. Where do you propose to put the Lehites?

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Of course, there is a difference between archaology and "BOM archaeology." You are argue as if I didn't know the difference. There was no Troy archaeology until Troy was actually located. You can't be digging in Israel and claim you are doing Troy archaeology. So far, we have Mayan archaelogy, but no BOM archaeology.

And like I said in the very beginning, there is no direct evidence to the contrary. We identify the Mayans, in a capacity, as related to the Book of Mormon. You cannot prove they are not related, so we can call it Book of Mormon archaeology with the same amount of authority that you can say it's not, namely, none. You bring assumptions to the table just as much as anyone else here, so don't pretend like you have some transcendent right to define for us what exactly it is we're doing. You can only explain what you think, not the way it is. We are doing the same, only our discussion of what we think has no bearing on you whatsoever. For some reason, however, you feel indignant and have decided that we must be put in place by your utterly irrelevant opinion. Stick to your forte, which is not defining for us in what way we may and may not label our activities.

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I agree somewhat. However, I would add that interpretations based on the assumption of either ancient or modern origin are not themselves evidence for making either assumption.

Of course not. If the assumption becomes the conclusion there isn't much need for evidence in the process. Beginning assumptions are tested. Part of Dale's question is what one might use to assure that the evidence is driving the conclusions rather than the assumptions.

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There was no Troy archaeology until Troy was actually located. You can't be digging in Israel and claim you are doing Troy archaeology. So far, we have Mayan archaelogy, but no BOM archaeology.

Apparently you don't get it quite as well as you think. There is still some minor controversy over whether found Troy is Homeric Troy - most accept it - but why? There is nothing in the site that gives any clue. The clues are that it fits the geography and that the remains (some of them) are from the right time periods (though not those originally thought to be Troy).

What we have in the case of Trojan archaeology is an acceptance that a site is linked to one described in a text - but based on the fit between the text and the dirt. Since there is obviously a lot more controversy in discussing anything in the Book of Mormon as any particular site, it will be a while before there is a similar concensus. However, there is similar evidence to that on which the Trojan concensus was built.

The better question is archaeology isn't Maya but Olmec. We have artifacts - but of what? They have been called Olmec, but that wasn't their name. They have been assumed to be a single group - but they probably never considered themselves unified in any significant way. What we have is archaeology without text - and therefore no clear way to define them.

In steps the Book of Mormon. Is it a text that can fill in some of the connections? Like Homer, the text won't change the artifacts in the dirt. What can happen is that the correlations between text and dirt can be traced.

In that sense there is a Book of Mormon archaeology and it is alive, well, and producing results that are beyond random chance. That is just how Troy was found and eventually accepted.

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You cannot prove they are not related,

Actually, this should be pretty simple. History is vastly richer than any text, but still a text from a time period should have the fingerprints of its author/authors all over it. It should be simple to show that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with Mesoamerica. Except it hasn't been done and the contrary hypothesis looks pretty good.

What can be demonstrated that doesn't fit has to do with the English vocabularly of the Book of Mormon and with the traditional or assumed readings of the text. However, asking the wrong questions doesn't mean that you don't get a much different answer when you ask the right ones.

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What is the contrary hypothesis, and is this hypothesis something that is testable?

The reverse of the stated hypothesis, which was that the Book of Mormon didn't have anything to do with Mesoamerica. Ergo, the hypothesis that it does. Of course it is testable (and is being tested - that is why I suggested that it has had favorable results).

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Many scholars already show it is easy to show the text has nothing to do with MesoAmerica. I have read a stack of essays to that effect in several books. I am not convinced I need to give up on Book of Mormon historicity though. I have seen some strong arguments from the believers side also.

I am confident FARMS does not make extravegant claims about the Book of Mormon. I have seen claims from some Book of Mormon believers based on archeology I consider untrustworthy. I am satisfied with Dr. Sorensons work as mostly sound with what he has to work with. If ancient maps were discovered giving the verified names of places that would confirm, or deny his attempts to identify possible Book of Mormon locations.

Do we know enough from glyphs to know what Meso-American cities were called during Book of Mormon times?

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...I am confident FARMS does not make extravegant claims about the Book of Mormon. I have seen claims from some Book of Mormon believers based on archeology I consider untrustworthy. I am satisfied with Dr. Sorensons work as mostly sound with what he has to work with. If ancient maps were discovered giving the verified names of places that would confirm, or deny his attempts to identify possible Book of Mormon locations.

Do we know enough from glyphs to know what Meso-American cities were called during Book of Mormon times?

Dale,

I once found John L. Sorenson's work convincing but then studied Mesoamerican history from mainstream scholars, and so I am puzzled that you have studied the issue and still found his work credible. It looked credible to me because if you compare the general patterns on which he focuses - increase in population, more sophisticated society, more fighting, then less population, etc. - there is a broad parallel. But then reading Mayan, Zapotec and Olmec history convinced me that there was no genuine parallel. For example, Sorenson identifies the Nephites with the Mayans and one of their major cities with a major Mayan city, but the Mayan were on the Atlantic side, Sorenson has the Nephites on the Pacific side, and there is no real overlap in terms of culture and historical events - the Mayans were thoroughly pagan. The population sizes are also all off, way off.

As for the Jaredites, Sorenson matches them with the Olmecs, but (1) the population sizes are off by a factor of about a thousand (as in 6,000 to 6 m.), (2) their religion was thoroughly pagan and apparently revolved around a jaguar figure, and (3) the political history was more stable, and didn't match even once the difference in population sizes is excluded.

I concluded that Sorenson's methodology was to cherry-pick those historical facts that fit his theory, and then not even bother letting his readers know that they were only a small portion of the facts, and not very representative.

As for the Mayan glyphs, I know that Mayan generally has been deciphered and at least some of the cities and many of the rulers are named. I'm pretty sure that's not true for all of them.

I would suggest the following in case you haven't already read them:

Ancient Oaxaca, by Blanton, et al (most relevant to the Olmec/Jaredites)

The Cities of Ancient Mexico, by Sabloff

Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs, by Coe

The Maya, also by Coe

Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, by Hudson

The World of the Ancient Maya, by Henderson

Regards,

Kirk

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Dan Vogel:

I don't believe I begged the question. While it is certainly "Possible" for them to have lived on a yet discovered island. To me that speculation proves highly problematic. The distances involved and level of sophistication shown in the BoM itself would make it improbable at best.

This speculated island, which is apparently not far off the coast of Central or South America and also had a high degree of civilization. But, unlike Mesoamerica, it has evidence of Hebrew and Egyptian writing and a narrow neck that fits the BOM's better than Tehuantepec.

With leads us back to the question of even assuming the BoM is a work of fiction. The BoM quite accurately describes a topograghy and cultures most consistant with MesoAmerica. Where do you propose to put the Lehites?

First, I'm sure the BOM can be made to be consistent with Mesoamerica, but I think it's a lot harder making Mesoamerica consistent with the BOM. Second, I don't believe BOM geography and Mesoamerican geography are consistent.

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And like I said in the very beginning, there is no direct evidence to the contrary.

How can there be direct evidence to the non-existence of a non-existent people? The burden is yours.

We identify the Mayans, in a capacity, as related to the Book of Mormon. You cannot prove they are not related, so we can call it Book of Mormon archaeology with the same amount of authority that you can say it's not, namely, none.

The apologists' position on this has been vague. Are the Nephites equivalent to the Mayans? A sub-culture among the Maya? Or were they a distinct group forming their own city-state? Perhaps Brant might clear that up for us.

Nevertheless, because some people think the Maya came from outer space and I can't prove otherwise, there is such a thing as alien archaeology? You can't have an archaeology of a non-existent people, and archaeologically speaking the Lehites are non-existent.

You bring assumptions to the table just as much as anyone else here, so don't pretend like you have some transcendent right to define for us what exactly it is we're doing. You can only explain what you think, not the way it is. We are doing the same, only our discussion of what we think has no bearing on you whatsoever. For some reason, however, you feel indignant and have decided that we must be put in place by your utterly irrelevant opinion. Stick to your forte, which is not defining for us in what way we may and may not label our activities.

Sounds a little defensive. You have every right to do anything you want. You can even call it what you want. But that doesn't make it so. The only thing you can boast is the freedom to redefine word and terms as you please, but that hardly makes up for the lack of evidence.

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Of course not. If the assumption becomes the conclusion there isn't much need for evidence in the process. Beginning assumptions are tested. Part of Dale's question is what one might use to assure that the evidence is driving the conclusions rather than the assumptions.

It is one thing to propose a testable assumption, and quite another to produce evidence based on that assumption. For example, interpreting the contents of the BOM based on a Mesoamerican or 19th century setting is not the same as testing the BOMâ??s historicity. Iâ??m surprised that you object to that.

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Apparently you don't get it quite as well as you think. There is still some minor controversy over whether found Troy is Homeric Troy - most accept it - but why? There is nothing in the site that gives any clue. The clues are that it fits the geography and that the remains (some of them) are from the right time periods (though not those originally thought to be Troy).

I was not using Troy in a literal way, but making a point. While there might be minor disputes about Troy, there are major ones about the BOM.

What we have in the case of Trojan archaeology is an acceptance that a site is linked to one described in a text - but based on the fit between the text and the dirt. Since there is obviously a lot more controversy in discussing anything in the Book of Mormon as any particular site, it will be a while before there is a similar concensus. However, there is similar evidence to that on which the Trojan concensus was built.

I think this analogy makes my point. When evidence for the BOM is on more certain ground, then there might be such a thing as BOM archaeology. I'm not saying anything that I haven't heard Mormon arachaeologists themselves say.

The better question is archaeology isn't Maya but Olmec. We have artifacts - but of what? They have been called Olmec, but that wasn't their name. They have been assumed to be a single group - but they probably never considered themselves unified in any significant way. What we have is archaeology without text - and therefore no clear way to define them.

Are you saying the ruins and artifacts have been mislabeled? They should be Nephite? Where do you imagine the Nephites fit?

In steps the Book of Mormon. Is it a text that can fill in some of the connections? Like Homer, the text won't change the artifacts in the dirt. What can happen is that the correlations between text and dirt can be traced.

Homer led to the discovery of Troy, what has the BOM led to?

In that sense there is a Book of Mormon archaeology and it is alive, well, and producing results that are beyond random chance. That is just how Troy was found and eventually accepted.

In this sense, I would call it the archaeology of the text, but not of Mesoamerica.

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How can there be direct evidence to the non-existence of a non-existent people? The burden is yours.

Pretty difficult, huh? So why do you guys keep insisting that you have evidence?

The apologists' position on this has been vague. Are the Nephites equivalent to the Mayans? A sub-culture among the Maya? Or were they a distinct group forming their own city-state? Perhaps Brant might clear that up for us.

You're so prolific at filling in holes in history. Why don't you tell us? I'm sure at some point you'll tell us what we believe anyway.

Nevertheless, because some people think the Maya came from outer space and I can't prove otherwise, there is such a thing as alien archaeology? You can't have an archaeology of a non-existent people, and archaeologically speaking the Lehites are non-existent.

What of NHM and Bountiful and the Old World evidence? That is legitimate archeological data, and it testifies specifically of Lehi. Archeologically speaking, the Lehites are completely and totally plausible. To insist otherwise is to hold up lack of evidence as more convincing than archeological evidence to the contrary.

Sounds a little defensive. You have every right to do anything you want. You can even call it what you want. But that doesn't make it so. The only thing you can boast is the freedom to redefine word and terms as you please, but that hardly makes up for the lack of evidence.

Y'know, I presented you with a bunch of evidence in an argument about three months ago and you fell off the planet. You never did respond to my argument. In my experience, you have a proclivity for dismissing or ignoring evidence when you have no way around it.

You are right that I can't prove anything, but you can't either. In such a stalemate you find an advantage in being able to exclude us from scientific legitimacy. You do it incorrectly, as well. You say that the archaeological evidence needs to be more solid before you will grant us the right to participate in actual archaeology, but what body decides on the legitimacy of the claim? You? We're pretty exited about the things that we've found, but someone who makes their living off of not believing us is not really in a position to make any judgment on the weight of our archaeological claims, especially when he's not an archaeologist. If you want to think there's no such thing as BoM archaeology that's your prerogative, but you're stepping far outside the scope of your training and authority when you decide for the archaeological community in general how we are to be viewed.

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