Phony Relics form “proof” of Mormonism?

Around the middle of August of this year, Glenn Beck on Fox News started openly talking about Mormonism, and part of his talk was devoted to various artifacts which were to authenticate the claims that the American Indians were somehow descended from the alleged “lost tribes of Israel”.  Beck cited the Bat Creek stone and some other artifacts, and spoke about them as if they were established fact and totally genuine.  For those who may be curious about these items and some others, I offer the following for you.

Robert C. Mainfort, Jr., and Mary L. Kwas
Tennessee Anthropologist Vol. XVIII, No. 2, Fall 1993

Reproduced with permission from The Tennessee Anthropologist

Debate over the so-called Bat Creek stone and related issues has monopolized a substantial amount of journal space that could have more profitably been used for scholarly articles in the field of anthropology, rather than fantasy. Unfortunately, the Tennessee Anthropologist now has the dubious distinction of catapulting the stone into some degree of national notoriety (McCulloch 1993b). We regret imposing again upon the editor and readers, but the recent attack on us in this journal leaves little choice.

Since we would have preferred not to publish additional commentary on this matter, we will simply cut to the heart of the matter and refer readers to previous articles for background material (Mainfort and Kwas 1991; McCulloch 1988).

The Inscription
In an earlier article, McCulloch (1988: 116) encouraged readers of this journal to “seek out the views of qualified Semitic . . . scholars” concerning the Bat Creek stone. This we did (Mainfort and Kwas 1991). Frank Moore Cross is recognized as the authority on paleo-Hebrew (cf. McCarter 1993). Yet McCulloch (1993a: 2), an economist by profession, claims that Cross “makes no less than three elementary and readily documentable errors of Hebrew paleography” and goes on to accuse Cross of “shooting from the hip” in his (Cross’s) assessment of the inscription (1993a: 5). What is one to make of these statements? Here we have an economist, lacking professional credentials in paleography and ancient languages, accusing a highly regarded professional Semitist of making “elementary errors” and worse. We feel that, particularly in this context, such remarks have no place in a scholarly publication.

It would seem that McCulloch has little use for the opinions of Semitists (or archaeologists) whose views do not equate with his own. Since McCulloch dislikes Cross’s evaluation of the inscription, he suggests that “readers would do well to seek out additional qualified opinions” about the Bat Creek Stone (1993a: 5). We therefore call attention to recent published comments on this topic by the Semitist P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., of Johns Hopkins University (1993):
“There are, however, paleographical difficulties with the forms of the five letters (characters i – v in McCulloch [1988] and 7 – 3 in McCulloch [1993b]; McCarter’s comments reference the 1993 article – authors) some of which do not correspond to their proposed paleo-Hebrew prototypes closely enough to be considered authentic (he [letter 5], waw [letter 6], dalet [letter 7]). Considerations of this kind have already been raised by Frank Cross, whose observations McCulloch has attempted to rebut in detail. So, for example when Cross objects to the form of the alleged Bat Creek he (letter 5) as ‘impossible in the period 100 B.C. – A.D. 100,’ McCulloch responds by calling this a ‘clearcut error,’ citing an example of what he considers an ‘essentially identical’ paleo-Hebrew he from Mark McLean’s doctoral dissertation, which Cross himself directed. In fact, however, although this he may look similar to an untrained eye (emphasis added), it is quite unlike the Bat Creek sign, most especially because it has a clear vertical stem extending below the bottom horizontal, as is always the case with the paleo-Hebrew he. There does not seem much point in reproducing here the other details of the exchange between Cross and McCulloch, except to say that after looking it over in detail, it strikes me that Cross’s analysis is reasonable and convincing” (1993: 54-55).

McCarter’s statement regarding an “untrained eye” aptly summarizes our own sentiments about the content of McCulloch’s (1988, 1993a, 1993b) excursions into epigraphy, historical archaeology, metallurgy, physics, and the history of North American archaeology.

“The traces of the sign (letter 8) that follows this sequence cannot be interpreted as a paleo-Hebrew he under any circumstances, and this rules out the reading fyhwdh, “to Judah.” Gordon’s suggestion that it be completed with a mem (as also strongly advocated by McCulloch [1993a: 3] – authors), giving lyhwdm, ‘to (the) Judeans/Jews,’ can be accepted only on the unlikely assumption that the writer omitted a yod (y) while intending to write lyhwdym” (McCarter 1993:55).

McCarter (1993: 55) also notes that McCulloch’s “translation” of the sequence lyhwd as “to Yehud/Judea” is “ruled out by other considerations.” Namely:
“Yehud was a name used in the late Persian period (538-332 B.C.) for the district of the Persian empire that corresponded to Judea in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and though it appears commonly as yhwd on coins and seals of the late Persian period (i.e., the fourth century), it would be out of place on an artifact from the time of the First Jewish Revolt. McCulloch’s appeal to a personal name in a paleo-Hebrew tomb inscription (the Abba inscription) is beside the point, since it is not simply a question of orthographic convention, as he seems to understand it, but of the currency of the name itself. It would be as if a contemporary citizen of New York should refer to his home as New Amsterdam.”
McCulloch (1993a: 6) accuses us of misrepresenting the views of Semitist and stone proponent Cyrus Gordon. He is incorrect. We were very explicit in stating that Gordon “considers some [but not all] of the signs to be Paleo-Hebrew” (Mainfort and Kwas 1991: 14) and noted elsewhere that Gordon and Cross agree that at least three of the signs are not decipherable as Paleo-Hebrew, an assessment further supported by McCarter. Parenthetically, McCulloch (1993a: 5) also mentions that Gordon also made “a few outright errors” in translating the inscription.

We will also note that McCulloch (1993a: 5-6) himself presents the views of McCarter in such a way that they do not accurately reflect McCarter’s published statements about the stone. McCarter (1993: 55) has, in fact, stated that:
“It is probably not a case of the coincidental similarity of random scratches to ancient letters, since, as noted above, the similarity extends to an intelligible sequence of five letters —. too much for coincidence.”

but goes on to say that:
“It seems probable that we are dealing here not with a coincidental similarity but with a fraud,” and, “In any case, the Bat Creek stone has no place in the inventory of Hebrew inscriptions from the time of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome.” It is quite obvious that McCarter no longer “reserves final judgment on the inscription” (McCulloch (1993a: 5).
The stone, quite simply, is a fake.

The Brass Bracelets
As we noted previously (Mainfort and Kwas 1991), C-shaped trass bracelets are fairly common on archaeological sites of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in eastern North America. Although specimens cut from heavy gauge wire seem to occur more frequently, hammered examples exhibiting seams (usually with a B-shapped cross-section) are by no means rare. Specimens of this type have been reported for the Grimsby site (Kenyon 1982), the Gros Cap cemetery (Nem and Cleland 1974), Chota-Tanasee (Newman 1986), and numerous other sites (e.g., Birk and Johnson 1992). An exhaustive listing is hardly necessary for most readers of this journal.

McCulloch (1993a:7) faults us for not citing “a single (C-shaped brass bracelet) that is actually known to have been wrought and not drawn or-cast.” Yet in attempting to marshall evidence for his contention that similar objects were “a popular ornament in the Mediterranean world,” he cites only examples of bronze, silver, and gold bracelets. Nor does he indicate that these specimens are structurally similar to the Bat Creek artifacts. This is quite unconvincing, since the issue (at least as framed by McCulloch [1993a]) involves narrow brass bracelets that exhibit seams.

The Radiocarbon Determination
The inscription is a fraud, so the radiocarbon date is immaterial. McCarter (1993: 55) rather neatly summarizes the issue:
“But even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that the wooden fragments are as old as the carbon-14 test indicates, the relevance of their date to that of the stone depends entirely on the integrity of their association with it. And if, as I’ve already suggested, this is a case of fraud, that integrity can hardly be assumed.”

The association of the brass bracelets with the burial and the wood fragments is also extremely dubious. The bracelets represent relatively modern European trade items, and simply represent another element in this hoax.

It should go without saying that no professional archaeologist would (or at least, should) use a single radiocarbon determination as the basis for a revolutionary claim. Regarding the association of the wooden disk with the stone, we stand by our previous statements thai considering the primitive excavation techniques of the day and the unreliability of John Emmert, the degree of association between the dated material and the stone is, at best, very tenuous. Nowhere do we suggest that it is only McCulloch who “alleges” an association between the stone and the wood fragments.

Cyrus Thomas And Other Early Researchers
We stand by our previous statements that Cyrus Thomas became aware that the inscription was a fraud sometime after the publication of the Mound Survey volume (1894) and prior to his North American archaeology book (1898). To reiterate, despite the significance attributed to the stone in his previous works, Thomas (1898, 1903, 1905) did not mention the stone in his three major subsequent volumes on North American archaeology and ethnology. Moreover, the absence of the stone from the other early archaeological and ethnological works we cited previously strongly underscores the fact that other researchers did not regard the stone as genuine.

We again note the circumstances regarding the fraudulent Holly Oak gorget (Griffin el al 1988). McCulloch (1993a: 16) is not correct in stating that: “Silence is hardly the equivalent of denunciation.” By this kind of illogic, the lack of articles on extraterrestrial artifacts in American Antiquity must be viewed as condoning the views of Erick van Daniken.

John Emmert
We stand by our previous assertion that John Emmert is the most likely culprit in this hoax. Andrew Whiteford (1952), who himself had WPA experience in the Tennessee Valley, commented about Emmert’s untrustworthiness over 40 years ago. Emmert also reported some non-credible discoveries during his employment with the Peabody Museum (Williams 1993).

Concluding Remarks
The Bat Creek stone is a fraud. Other related issues raised by stone proponents, including the radiocarbon date, are therefore irrelevant. The current leading proponent of the stone’s authenticity is an economist, lacking professional credentials in paleography, ancient languages, and archaeology.

The sentiments of professional archaeologists about frauds such as the Bat Creek stone were ably summarized over 100 years ago by the Reverend Stephen D. Peet (1892):

“One of the greatest among many annoyances to archaeologists is that so many fraudulent relics are found in mounds. It seems difficult to fasten the frauds on any one, for they are planted probably in the night and are adroitly covered up. Some of them are wrought with reference to the special sensation that may be made, and are very starting in their resemblance to foreign articles. These are very easily detected and are rejected at once; others, however, bear a resemblance to the relics of the Mound-builders, and are very deceiving. The most of these have some ancient alphabet, Hebrew, Phoenician, Hittite, and are recognized as frauds by these means. Among these are the Grave Creek Tablet, the Newark Holy stone, the Pemberton Ax, the Stone from Grand Traverse Bay, and a great many others. Not one of these has been accepted by the skilled archaeologists, but they have been discussed and defended by others until they have grown wearisome.”

References Cited
Birk, Douglas A., and Elden Johnson
1992 The Mdewakanton Dakota and Initial French Contact. In: Calumet and Fleur-de-Lys, edited by J.A. Walthall and T.E. Emerson, pp. 203-240. Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

Griffin, James B., D.J. Meltzer, B.D. Smith, and W.C. Sturtevant
1988 A Mammoth Fraud in Science. American Antiquity 53(3): 578-582.

Kenyon, W.A.
1982 The Grimsby Site: A Historic Neutral Cemetery. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto;


Mainfort, Robert C., Jr. and Mary L. Kwas
1991 The Bat Creek Stone: Judeans in Tennessee? Tennessee Anthropologist 16(1): 1-19.

McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr.
1993 Let’s be Serious About the Bat Creek Stone. Biblical Archaeology Review 19(4): 54-55, 83.

McCuIloch, J. Huston
1988 The Bat Creek Inscription: Cherokee or Hebrew? Tennessee Anthropologist 13(2): 79-123.
1993a The Bat Creek Stone: a Reply to Mainfort and Kwas. Tennessee Anthropologist 18(1): 1-26.
1993b Did Judean Refugees Escape to Tennessee? Biblical Archaeology Review 19(4): 46-53, 82-83.

Nern, Craig F., and Charles E. Cleland

1974 The Gros Cap Cemetery Site, St. Ignace, Michigan: A Reconsideration of the Greenlees Collection. Michigan Archaeologist 20(1): 1-58.

Newman, Robert D.
1986 Euro-American Artifacts. In: Overkill Cherokee Archaeology at Chota-Tanasee, edited by G.F. Schroedl, pp. 415-454. University of Tennessee, Department of Anthropology, Report of Investigations 38 and Tennessee Valley Authority Publications in Anthropology 42.

Peet, Stephen D.
1892 Frauds and their Perpetrators. American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 14(1): 52.

Thomas, Cyrus
1890 The Cherokee in Pre-Columbian Times. N.D.C. Hodges, New York.
1894 Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology. Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1890-91. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
1898 Introduction to the Study of North American Archaeology. Robert Clarke,
1903 The Indians of North America in Historic Times (published as Volume 2 of The History of North America). George Barrie and Sons, Philadelphia.

Thomas, Cyrus and W.J. McGee
1905 Prehistoric North America, (published as Volume 14 of The History of North America). George Barrie and Sons, Philadelphia.

Whiteford, Andrew H.
1952 A Frame of Reference for the Archaeology of Eastern Tennessee. In: Archeology of Eastern United States, edited by J.B. Griffin, pp. 207-225. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Williams, Stephen
1993 Fantastic Archaeology: Another Road Taken by Some. Paper presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Boston, Massachusetts.



Mormon church donates debunked artifacts to Michigan museum

The Associated Press/October 27, 2003


Grand Rapids, Mich. — Some of the now-debunked Michigan Relics — once considered by some influential Mormons as evidence of the church’s connection to a Near Eastern culture in ancient America — have a new home.

For decades, the Mormon Church kept a large collection of the artifacts in its Salt Lake City museum, but never formally claimed them to be genuine.

This past summer, after scholars examined the relics and declared them fakes, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated the 797 objects to the Michigan Historical Museum, which will display them next month.

The relics were once hailed as the greatest archaeological discoveries since Pompeii. But there are many clues they are really fakes, Michigan State Archaeologist John Halsey told The Grand Rapids Press.

Among the relics are engraved slate tablets. One scene depicts the crucifixion of Christ. The problem is, all the engravings tell stories of the Old Testament.

“It is arguably the largest archaeological fraud ever in this country, and the longest running,” Halsey said.

James Scotford claimed he found the first relic — a large clay casket — while digging a post hole on a Michigan farm in October 1890. He announced his discovery, touching off a frenzy of digging.

Over the next 30 years, thousands of artifacts were found, including tiny caskets, amulets, tools, smoking pipes and tablets. The items were made of clay, copper and slate, and most bore the mark “IH/,” which some interpreted as a tribal signature or a mystic symbol. Some thought it was a variation on IHS, the ancient Hebrew symbol for Jehovah.

A syndicate was formed to corner the market and sell the items to the highest bidder, perhaps the Smithsonian Institution.

Oddly, nearly all the items were found when Scotford, a former magician and sleight-of-hand expert, was present.

Almost from the beginning, skeptics doubted the authenticity of the finds. Francis Kelsey, a University of Michigan Latin professor, called them forgeries in 1892.

The relics, however, had their vocal promoters, chief among them Daniel Soper, a former Michigan Secretary of State who was forced to resign because of corruption.

In the early 1900s, Soper teamed with Scotford to sell the objects. They enlisted the support of the Rev. James Savage, a priest at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Detroit.

Historians and archaeologists today believe Savage, who became the most avid collector, was not privy to the scam, but was duped to give the finds credibility. Savage believed the artifacts were left by the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel or a colony of ancient Jews.

In 1911, Scotford’s stepdaughter signed an affidavit saying she saw her stepfather making the relics.

Savage died still believing the Michigan Relics were genuine. He bequeathed his large collection to Notre Dame University. When a pair of Mormon missionaries found the collection there in 1960, the university gladly donated it to the church.

In 1977, the church asked Richard Stamps, a Mormon and Oakland University archaeology professor, to examine the relics.

Stamps also concluded they were fakes. The copper relics, he said, were made from ordinary commercial copper stock and had been treated with chemicals to make it look older.

In 1998-99, Stamps again studied the relics in the Mormon collection and reached the same conclusion.

“Poor Father Savage. I feel so sorry for this Catholic father,” Stamps said. “I think Scotford was cranking these things out and slipping them into the ground, and I think Savage didn’t have a clue.”

Through Stamps, the Mormon Church decided to donate its collection to the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing. It arrived there recently, and workers began preparing the Michigan Relics for an exhibit opening Nov. 15 and running through Aug. 15.


Great find in West Virginia nothing more than a fraud

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 3:05 AM

By Bradley T. Lepper

In 1838, excavators of the Grave Creek Mound in West Virginia made a remarkable discovery: a small stone bearing inscribed markings that were variously read as Celtic, Norse or Phoenician.

The stone appeared to confirm the then-popular idea that an Old World culture built the magnificent and mysterious mounds of eastern North America.

Last month, at the annual meeting of the West Virginia Archeological Society, anthropologist David Oestreicher offered evidence to suggest that the Grave Creek stone can be dismissed as a fraud.

His arguments were summarized by Rick Steelhammer in The Charleston Gazette on Oct. 13.

Oestreicher found the source for the stone’s confusing mixture of ancient alphabets in an 18th-century book on the “unknown letters that are found in the most ancient coins and monuments of Spain.” According to Oestreicher, “everything on the stone,” including “impossible sequences of characters with the same mistakes,” can be found in this book.

Oestreicher thinks the perpetrator of the fraud was a local Wheeling physician, James W. Clemens. Clemens had borrowed a large sum of money to bankroll the excavations and was disappointed when nothing significant was found.

Planting the sensational artifact provided an opportunity to recoup his losses. But many scholars ridiculed the stone as a crude forgery, and Clemens’ dreams of fortune and glory ended in financial ruin.

The historian Terry Barnhart wrote that the true significance of the Grave Creek controversy is the light it sheds on the development of 19th-century American archaeology.

William Broad and Nicholas Wade, in their book Betrayers of the Truth, argue that the study of fakes and frauds show us science “as it is, as distinct from how it ought to be.”

It is a “human process governed by the ordinary human passions of ambition, pride, and greed.” And “the step from greed to fraud is as small in science as in other walks of life.”

Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society.

From “Bad Archaeology” Website

Since the unexpected discovery in 1492 of humans not accounted for in the Bible, Europeans were keen to find out where they had come from. An ingenious solution was proposed: they were the tribes of Israel that disappeared from history with the fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the middle of the first millennium BC. A whole religion has been built on these foundations.

There was also a movement in the late nineteenth century to identify the English with the same lost tribes. There are still traces of the ‘British-Israelite’ movement today.

The Israelite hypothesis


Very quickly after the discovery of the New World, Europeans began to treat its inhabitants as little more than their possessions. There was some debate about whether they were fully human and thus descendants of Adam. At first, few of their fellow Europeans protested, but in the early sixteenth century, Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474-1566) became a champion of the Native American cause. He spent many years trying to improve the conditions under which they lived in the Spanish colonies in the West Indies, Peru and Guatemala. Las Casas believed that the Native Americans should be converted to Christianity, as he was convinced that they originated in Ancient Israel and felt that the Bible contained the proof that they were members of the Lost Tribes of Israel. He was not alone and it was in no small measure thanks to his efforts that Pope Paul III (1468-1549; pope 1534-49) declared that the Native Americans were fully human, after all, in 1537.

A report by the seventeenth-century Portuguese traveller, António Montezinos (also known as Aharón Leví de Montezinos), published in 1644, reawakened interest in the subject. He claimed that there was a Jewish tribe living beyond the mountain passes of the Andes and that he had heard them recite the She‘ma Yisro‘el (the expression of the Jewish faith) and saw them observe Jewish rituals. Alas, Montezinos was a fantasist whose stories were accepted uncritically.

Having decided that some of the Native Americans practised Hebrew rites and were therefore ancient Canaanites or the lost tribes of Israel, this meant that they were in dire need of conversion. Thomas Thorowgood’s Jewes in America, or, Probabilities that the Americans are of that race, first published in 1650, was one of the first to argue for the need to convert these lost tribes. The second edition of 1660 quotes the authority of John Eliot (1604-1690), the “Apostle to the Indians”, who went on to publish a translation of the bible into the Massachusetts dialect of Algonquin in 1663. Groups like the Corporation for Propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England were founded by English settlers who believed that the Native Americans were lost Jews who would need to be reconciled with Christ at the end of time. Although the belief that Indians were Hebrews quickly faded as knowledge of their languages, customs and beliefs increased, Edward Johnson (1598-1672), author of The Wonder-Working Providence of Sion’s Saviour (published in 1654), argued that a mass conversion of Indians was necessary if America were to be the site of the new heaven and new earth.

Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657), a respected Dutch Jewish scholar, was heavily influenced by the account of António Montezinos and wrote his best-selling book, The Hope of Israel, which he dedicated to the English Parliament. Meeting Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658; Lord Protector of England 1653-1658), he petitioned for the recall of the Jews (who had been expelled from England in 1290) and expressed his belief that the dispersion of Jews to all corners of the Earth was the beginning of the redemption. Certain Christian traditions claimed that when the Ten Tribes of Israel were found and restored to the Holy Land, the return of Christ to reign supreme was not far off, a belief that is still had by some, especially American, fundamentalist churches. There was thus a considerable vested interest among some believers to identify the Lost Tribes. Now that apparently Israelite tribes had been discovered in the Americas, ben Israel argued, Cromwell must readmit the Jews to England to bring about the Messianic era. Similar sentiments were expressed, albeit in more humanistic terms, in the second half of the eighteenth century during the American and French revolutions. Some abolitionists, for instance, claimed that the Messianic Age would be ushered in when the slaves were freed and when the native Americans, as descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes, were converted to Christianity. The sometimes eccentric religious beliefs of the pioneer settlers developed political overtones, with the production of bizarre propaganda works such as the Apocalypse de Chiokoyhikoy, chef des Iroquois (published in 1777 by the newly-formed Congress and condemned by the Inquisition in 1779). This purported to be an account of the end of the world by an Iroquois prophet, denigrating the English to support the cause for American independence by showing how the Iroquois would be better off under American rule. 

This page was last updated on 23 July 2007
Written by: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

From “Bad Archaeology” Website


The most long lasting effect of these ideas about the Israelite origins of the Native Americans was the establishment of a completely new religion, which its founder, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), claimed to have been directly revealed to him in 1827. According to the Book of Mormon, the holy text of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (more popularly known as the Mormons), a people known as the Jaredites arrived in America around 2247 BCE. The Jaredites were a group of people from the Middle East who had fled their homeland, following the destruction of the Tower of Babel and built a thriving civilisation. Their civilisation was subsequently destroyed in a great battle at Hill Cumorah; there is much debate within the church about the location of this hill, which places it anywhere between the Gulf of Mexico and New York. The Jaredites were followed around 600 BCE, before the fall of Jerusalem, by further groups of Israelites, the Lamanites and Nephites, who were the builders of the earthen mounds of the eastern USA. When war broke out between the Lamanites and the Nephites, the Lamanites eventually won and wiped out the Nephites c 421 CE. The Lamanites were cursed by god for their sinful behaviour and accordingly he turned them red-skinned.

As an apparently historical narrative, the story told by the Book of Mormon ought to be testable, just like the bible, but despite many years of effort by Mormon archaeologists, no archaeological evidence has ever been found to support any of this story. Indeed, it looks like an obvious justification for European supremacy: the Lamanites (who are the Native Americans) are not only not the original inhabitants of the Americas, as the much superior Jaredites were there first, but they have also committed a sin so terrible that they now bear its mark for all time. This is exactly the same argument that was once used by Christian apologists for the apartheid régime in South Africa, who argued that the Africans, as descendants of Ham, had been cursed by Jehovah and bore the mark of the curse as their black skin. The arrival of the Jaredites corresponds neither to the arrival of the first humans in North America (the precise date is hotly disputed, but they were there by 13,000 BCE at the latest) nor to the first flourishings of any American civilisation. This causes problems for Mormon archaeologists, who are able to detect numerous civilisations in North America, none of which appears to be of the right date or to possess any of the characteristics attributed to them in the ‘divinely inspired’ Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon and archaeology


The narrative parts of the Book of Mormon are devoted to the migrations of people from ancient Judaea to America. Three migrations are supposed to have occurred: the first c 2247 BCE, involving the Jaredites, who were wiped out c 600 BCE at the Battle at Hill Cumorah; the second and third migrations, of the Nephites and the Lamanites, happened after 600 BCE, between the times of the Assyrian and Babylonian victories over Israel and Judah. The Nephites kept the Law of Moses, but the Lamanites abandoned their ancestral beliefs, as a result of which, the “Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5.21). Once again, the Nephites were wiped out c 421 CE at a second Battle at Hill Cumorah.

If the claims of the Book of Mormon to be a true record of American history are correct, we would hope to find archaeological evidence for the achievements of these trans-Atlantic Israelites. According to the Book of Mormon, the people spread from north to south and from sea to sea (Mormon 1.17), building fortified cities (Helaman 3.8-9). They had metallurgy (Jarom 1.8, 2 Nephi 5.15, Alma 43.18-19), wheat and barley (Mosiah 9.9), coinage (Helaman 3.7-12, Alma 11.5-20), domesticated elephants, horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs (Ether 9.17-19), an organised religion based around temples and synagogues (Jerom 1.8, Helaman 3.9), silk and linen (Alma 4.6, Ether 10.24), a written language known as Reformed Egyptian (Helaman 3.15, Mormon 9.32) and a military technology that included archery and chariots (3 Nephi 3:22).

Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have pointed to certain Native American seasonal festivals and other gatherings as evidence for the accuracy of the Book of Mormon. The ancient city of Kaminaljuyu (the modern Guatemala City) has been identified with Nephi, mentioned in the Book of Mormon, while a hill in New York state (USA) is identified with Hill Cumorah (although there are some non-orthodox Mormons who claim it to be El Cerro Vigia, a hill in southern Mexico, or one of a number of other sites).

The modern science of genetics has allowed archaeologists to examine the ancestries of present-day Native Americans. If they were descended from the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon, then we would expect to find close correspondences between their DNA and that of modern Jewish and Palestinian people. In fact, there is no correspondence whatsoever beyond those traits that link all humans. The DNA of all Native Americans is very similar to that of present-day Siberians, although there is also controversial evidence that some early peoples – those associated with a tool type known as Clovis points – may have migrated from Europe along the southern margins of the polar ice cap.

Things get worse for the Mormon Bad Archaeologists. No bones or seeds from any of the domestic species described by the Book of Mormon have ever been identified in the excavations of pre-Columbian sites; similarly, although meteoric iron and native copper were hammered into shapes by some Native American peoples, there is no evidence for true metallurgy before the arrival of Europeans; no recognisable Jewish temples (which ought to resemble their Old World precursors) have ever been identified, while the synagogues named in the Book of Mormon did not exist anywhere at the time of any of the supposed migrations. The technology of archery has not been recognised on American sites older than 1000 CE, almost six hundred years after the second Battle at Hill Cumorah, although it is always possible that evidence for archery at an earlier date will one day be found. The only writing systems to have been recognised in the Americas are those used by the Maya and the Aztecs, neither of which resembles Egyptian hieroglyphs, although Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion, produced a scrap of papyrus containing hieroglyphs he claimed to be a Reformed Egyptian text written by the Patriarch Abraham. Another problem that has never been explained is why Jewish people would write in Egyptian, the language of their hated oppressors, that they had never used in their native land.

Some have made claims that the physical evidence has been found. They include such things as the Bat Creek Stone, the Kinderhook Plates, the Newark Stones and the Phoenician Ten Commandments (otherwise known as the Los Lunas inscription). Not one of these has proved to be anything other than a nineteenth- or twentieth-century forgery. The fortified cities, the coins, the silken garments, the chariots and so on continue to prove frustratingly elusive for orthodox Mormon archaeology.

 This page was last updated on 28 July 2007
Written by: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and James Doeser

Of course, the proverbial “icing on the cake” is the letters from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society wherein they state that they have never used the Book of Mormon as an archaeological resource or as a scientific guide.  The Smithsonian also states the true origin of the American Indians – is basically Mongoloid and it also states that the claims about when steel, glass, and silk were actually found in the New World, contrary to the claims of Mormonism.  The National Geographic Society letter says that there is no archaeological evidence to confirm the claims of the Book of Mormon.

Here are the letters from both organizations:

Smithsonian Institution Letter



Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution’s alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology.

The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archeological research and any information that you have received to the contrary is incorrect. Accurate information about the Smithsonian’s position is contained in the enclosed “Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon,” which was prepared to respond to the numerous inquiries that the Smithsonian receives on this topic.

Because the Smithsonian regards the unauthorized use of its name to disseminate inaccurate information as unlawful, we would appreciate your assistance in providing us with the names of any individuals who are misusing the Smithsonian’s name. Please address any correspondence to:

Anthropology Outreach Office
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History MRC 112
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560



Smithsonian Institution Letter – Statement Regarding The Book Of Mormon



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.

The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern. central, and northeastern Asia. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians cane into the New World – probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Being Strait region during the last Ice Age – in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time when the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)

Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of un smelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred; certainly there were no contacts with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asia and the Near East.

No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archaeological remains in Mexico and archaeological remains in Egypt.

Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines, and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.


National Geographic Society Letter

January 11, 1990


Dear Mr. Larson:

Thank you for writing to the National Geographic Society.

The Society has never used the Book of Mormon to locate archaeological sites, and we do not believe that any of the places named in the Book of Mormon can be placed geographically by the evidence of archeology. So far as we know there is no archaeological evidence to verify the history of early peoples of the Western Hemisphere as presented in the Book of Mormon.

I hope you will find this information useful.

Yours truly,

Pamela Tucci
Research Correspondence



2 Responses to “Phony Relics form “proof” of Mormonism?”

  1. Screaming Nephite Says:

    Jerusalem, Nahom, Bountiful. Bing bang boom!

  2. avanick Says:

    Dear Screaming Nephite,
    I’m not quite sure what your point is. Care to elaborate?

    In the spirit of things that are suspect, as in the alleged ancient evidence and artifacts, let’s also consider Joseph Smith’s First vision.

    1. The Book of Commandments doesn’t mention the First Vision.

    2. The first official mmention in any form was in Doctrine and Covenants 24:6 in 1830 and only says that Joseph had received “remission of sins”.

    3. The 1832 account is the first mention of any sort of “vision”.

    4. The Book of Commandments says that the Book of Mormon, not Jesus, not God the Father, not the angel Moroni, gave Joseph his call to “restore the church”.

    5. Smith’s 1835 account and Oliver Cowdery’s 1835 account show Moroni calling Joseph to restore the church. They also show different ages for Smith’s vision. Why?

    6. There are nine different versions of the First Vision, with the majority of them appearing generally evangelical in nature until the 1838 account. Why? The 1838 account came about because of bitter strife among church leadership and also because of some top leaders leaving the church. The church also is renamed that same year.

    7. Contrary to what Smith claims, there were no revivals in 1820 but rather in late 1823 through 1824. Cowdery’s 1835 account, which has Smith being 15 or even 16, points more to the 1823-24 time period. What’s wrong here? Can’t Smith remember how old he was, and beyond that, can’t he give a straight story to Cowdery?

    8. According to Smith himself, it was his alleged diligent study of the Bible, not the First Vision, which led him to the conclusion that all churches were in error, making it necessary for him to “restore” Christianity. There are two things wrong with this – first being that it contradicts the official version of the First Vision, and second, if it were indeed through diligent study of the Bible that led Smith to the conclusion that all churches were in error, the Bible could not have been missing the many “plain and precious truths” which supposedly made the Book of Mormon necessary. If the Bible was missing so much “truth”, it couldn’t have possibly given Smith the wisdom to discern that all churches were in error. So, if the Bible did indeed have the necessary truth to show him that all churches were indeed in error, then there was absolutely no need for the Book of Mormon. Also, if all churches were in error as Smith claims, then why did he allow his mother and brothers to stay in the Presbyterian church until 1830?

    There you have it. Smith’s First Vision, considered to be one of the foundations of Mormonism, seems to be built on sand, not any kind of solid ground, with nine versions which for the most part, all disagree with each other. It would be one thing if the vision was being reported by several different witnesses of the event, but another thing entirely when they are all suppsedly all from Smith.

    Yet another thing that completely baffles me is why there were no accounts in the local newspaper from anyone in the town where Smith lived, in spite of the fact that Smith claimed he was severely persecuted by everyone in the town because he told them about his vision. If as Smith claimed, he was persecuted by so many people in his town, surely someone on that small town would have said something in the local paper about it, yet nothing exists as evidence in support of Smith’s claims.

    I’ll end with this – that Smith’s telling of his First Vision accounts range from him having his sins forgiven by Christ, to Smith knowing that all religions are in error, to two spirits telling him that all churches are in error. No matter which way one looks at it, something is dreadfully wrong.

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