19. No Archeological Evidence for Book of Mormon

Numerous scholars and archaeologists have unanimously concluded that there is absolutely no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. For example:

"The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists…If one is to study Book of Mormon archaeology, then one must have a corpus of data with which to deal. We do not. The Book of Mormon is really there so one can have Book of Mormon studies, and archaeology is really there so one can study archaeology, but the two are not wed. At least they are not wed in reality since no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography. Biblical archaeology can be studied because we do know where Jerusalem and Jericho were and are, but we do not know where Zarahemla and Bountiful (nor any other location for that matter) were or are. It would seem then that a concentration on geography should be the first order of business, but we have already seen that twenty years of such an approach has left us empty-handed." (Dee F. Green, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, pp. 77-78)

"The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book." ("Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon," Smithsonian Institution, Spring 1986)

"With all of these great efforts, it cannot be established factually that anyone, from Joseph Smith to the present day, has put his finger on a single point of terrain that was a Book-of-Mormon geographical place. And the hemisphere has been pretty well checked out by competent people. Thousands of sites have been excavated." (Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Written Symposium on Book-of-Mormon Geography: Response of Thomas S. Ferguson to the Norman & Sorenson Papers, p. 4, 1975)

"The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has even shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere." (Michael Coe, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973, pp. 42, 46)

The Hill Cumorah

It is clear that the LDS church believes the current Hill Cumorah was the same as the one mentioned in the Book of Mormon. For example, President Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

"It must be conceded that this description fits perfectly the land of Cumorah in New York, as it has been known since the visitation of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph Smith, for the hill is in the proximity of the Great Lakes and also in the land of many rivers and fountains. Moreover, the Prophet Joseph Smith himself is on record, definitely declaring the present hill called Cumorah to be the exact hill spoken of in the Book of Mormon. "Further, the fact that all of his associates from the beginning down have spoken of it as the identical hill where Mormon and Moroni hid the records, must carry some weight. It is difficult for a reasonable person to believe that such men as Oliver Cowdery, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, David Whitmer, and many others, could speak frequently of the Spot where the Prophet Joseph Smith obtained the plates as the Hill Cumorah, and not be corrected by the Prophet, if that were not the fact. That they did speak of this hill in the days of the Prophet in this definite manner is an established record of history...." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation , Vol.3, Bookcraft, 1956, pp. 232-243)

This was confirmed through a communication from the office of the First Presidency to Bishop Darrel Brooks:

"October 16, 1990 Bishop Darrel L. Brooks Moore Ward Oklahoma City Oklahoma South Stake 1000 Windemere Moore, OK 73160 Dear Bishop Brooks: I have been asked to forward to you for acknowledgment and handling the enclosed copy of a letter to President Gordon B. Hinckley from Ronnie Sparks of your ward. Brother Sparks inquired about the location of the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon, where the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place. The Church has long maintained, as attested to by references in the writings of General Authorities, that the Hill Cumorah in western New York state is the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon. The Brethren appreciate your assistance in responding to this inquiry, and asked that you convey to Brother Sparks their commendation for his gospel study. Sincerely yours, (signed) F. Michael Watson Secretary to the First Presidency"

According to the Book of Mormon, at least 230,000 men died in battle at the Hill Cumorah. Also, this battle was about 1/10 the size of the battle which took place at the same location approximately 1,000 years earlier when, according to Ether 15:2 "nearly two millions" of the Jaredites had their last great battle.

However, there is literally not a trace of archaeological evidence to support the claim that so many men died in battle at the tiny hill now owned by the LDS Church in the State of New York called Cumorah.

Book of Mormon Metallurgy

Among the most significant cultural anachronisms in the Book of Mormon is the depiction of Nephite civilization as having iron and other metal industries; we read of metal swords and breastplates, gold and silver coinage, and even machinery (2 Nephi 5:15; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 11:3,8; Ether 7:9;10:23). However, there is no evidence that any New World civilization attained any such industry during Book of Mormon times (600 B. C. - 421 A. D.).

As former Brigham Young University anthropology professor, Dr. Raymond T. Matheny, points out:

"The tools that the people [in cultures that did have metallurgical industries] used are primitive but nonetheless they are there, and they spell out a system of exploitation of those natural resources. In refining ores and then bringing these to casting and true metallurgical processes is another bit of technology that leaves a lot of evidence. You can't refine ore without leaving a bloom of some kind or…that is, impurities that blossom out and float to the top of the ore…Also blooms off into silicas and indestructible new rock forms. In other words, when you have a ferrous metallurgical industry, you have these evidences of the detritus that is left over. You also have the fuels, you have the furnaces, you have whatever technologies that were performing these tasks, they leave solid evidences. And they are indestructible things…non-ferrous metallurgical industries have similar evidences. No evidence has been found in the new world for a ferrous metallurgical industry dating to pre-Columbian times. And so this is a king-size problem, it seems to me, for so-called Book of Mormon archaeology. The evidence is absent." (Michael Coe, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer 1973, p. 23).

Book of Mormon Crops

The Book of Mormon indicates that the Nephites produced various crops including barley (Mosiah 7:22, 9:9; Alma 11:7, 15), figs (3 Nephi 14:16), grapes (2 Nephi 15:2, 4; 3 Nephi 14:16), and wheat (Mosiah 9:9, 3 Nephi 18:18). However, there has been no archeological evidence for any of these crops. Archeology does indicate the peoples of the region ate maize (corn), lima beans, tomatoes, squash, and amaranth, but none of these crops are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

Thomas Ferguson, archaeologist, noted defender of the Book of Mormon, and founder of the New World Archaeological Foundation at BYU stated:

"I participated in excavating a trench at the edge of the Grijalva river in which we found a ceramic vessel in a stratum dating to about 200 BC… Art portrayals in ceramics, murals, and sculptured works--of ancient plant life--are fairly commonplace. Thousands of archeological holes in the area proposed have given us not a fragment of evidence of the presence of the plants mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The holes include the great one dug by Edwin Shook at Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico. He excavated a cave -- going back to 5000 BC., finding most of the major plants of the area. But no wheat, barley, figs or grapes."

Book of Mormon Animals

Similarly, the Book of Mormon describes various domesticated animals: asses, cows, goats, sheep, horses, oxen, swine, and elephants. However, Pre-Columbian evidence for such animals in Mesoamerica is scant, at best. There is no evidence of horses in Central and North America before the Spaniards arrived (hundreds of years after the Book of Mormon). Why then does the Book of Mormon refer to horses where there were none?

Dr. John L. Sorenson proposed that the Nephites were really referring to either a species of deer or tapir, but since they did not have names for these animals, they called them horses. This seems a weak response, but even if it were true it doesn't account for the many other animals and crops for which there is absolutely no archeological evidence.

Again from Thomas Ferguson:

"Evidence of the foregoing animals has not appeared in any form -- ceramic representations, bones or skeletal remains, mural art, sculptured art or any other form. However... evidence has been found in several forms of the presence in the Book-of-Mormon times of other animals--deer, jaguars, dogs, turkeys etc. The zero score presents a problem that will not go away with the ignoring of it. Non-LDS scholars of first magnitude, some who want to be our friends, think we have real trouble here. That evidence of the ancient existence of these animals is not elusive is found in the fact that proof of their existence in the ancient old-world is abundant. The absence of such evidence...is distressing and significant, in my view." (Tom Ferguson, Written Symposium on Book-of-Mormon Geography, 1978).


Does Archaeology Support the Book of Mormon? A Survey of the Evidence

Is the Book of Mormon Connected to Reality?

Is the Hill Cumorah in New York the same one in the Book of Mormon?

Apologist Response

Michael Ash responded that current archaeological findings may be based on cultures other than the Nephites and Lamanites, and that there is no archeological evidence to disprove the claims of the Book of Mormon:

"How would we know Book of Mormon peoples from non-Book of Mormon peoples? What would we look for? Almost assuredly Book of Mormon peoples would have been absorbed into the existing Native American cultures. In other words Book of Mormon peoples would have looked like, lived like, and acted like the Native American cultures that inhabited Book of Mormon lands. Without finding something like a placard that reads "Nephi slept here!", it might be impossible to recognize Book of Mormon peoples from any other non-Book of Mormon cultures.

"…the incomplete picture presented by archaeology can easily be turned against the Bible as well. McKeever and Johnson attempt to paint a picture of Biblical archaeology as a recent discipline that has uncovered vast support for the Bible, despite the fact that '90 percent of the evidence in the biblical lands is still buried in the sands'.

"Furthermore, the question seems to be not so much, "Do archaeological findings support the Book of Mormon?" but rather, "Do archaeological findings contradict the Book of Mormon?" The answer is no. Current studies indicate that the Book of Mormon fit comfortably and neatly in an ancient New World setting. There are no major areas of disagreement between the archaeological information available in Mesoamerican regions and the cultures and geographies described in the Book of Mormon." (Michael R. Ash, The Book of Mormon)