by the gold of the pharaohs and the mighty ruins of
Babylon, Book of Mormon students have declared themselves "not interested"
in the drab and commonplace remains of our lowly Indians. But in all the Book
of Mormon we look in vain for anything that promises majestic ruins."
Nibley, An Approach to the Book of
Mormon (Melchizedek Priesthood manual, 1957), appendix section titled
"Looking for the Wrong Things", pp. 440-441)
ravages of nature, scavenging and demolition have taken a heavy toll on
archaeological sites in western New York
. A comment made by Nephi and Isaiah applies:
multitude of their terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away..." (2
Nephi 26:19, Isaiah 29:5)
the appendix of An Approach to the Book
of Mormon (under the section titled "Vanished Worlds");
Professor Hugh Nibley discourses on the loss of monuments of the past
and of antiques:
was rich in
megalithic monuments at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but now they
have vanished. In every civilized country societies were founded in the
nineteenth century to stem the tide of destruction that swept away monuments
of the past with the increase of population, the opening of new lands to
cultivation by new methods, the ceaseless depredations of treasure and
souvenir hunters. But the antiquities went right on disappearing.
Schuchardt, Alteuropa (Berlin: De
same thing happened in
. We too easily forget what a wealth of imposing ruins of the Heroic type once
dotted the eastern part of the country. "Not content with having almost
entirely exterminated the natives of this continent," an observer wrote
at the beginning of this century, "unsatisfied with the tremendous fact
that we have violated covenant engagements and treaty pledges with the Indians
a hundred times over, we seem to be intent on erasing the last vestige of
aboriginal occupation of our land." [Warren K. Morehead,
(Cincinnati: Clark, 1890), pg. 107] This was written in an appeal to save some
of the great mounds of Ohio: "There are a number of structures of earth
and stone scattered throughout our state...All such earthworks are, of course,
placed on summits of high hills, or on plateaus overlooking river valleys."
, "it seems as if blockhouses or bastions of wood had been burned down
when once protecting the gateway." [Ibid, pp
This is not only an excellent description of Book of Mormon strong
places, but it also suits exactly the picture of the standard fortified places
. Hundreds of such hill forts have been located all over Europe and the
, where they seem to represent the normal life of the people over, long
periods of time." (An
Approach to the B. of M, pp 438-439)
summarizes the archaeological problem:
of Mormon archaeologists have often been disappointed in the past because they
have consistently looked for the wrong things. We should not be surprised at
the lack of ruins in
in general. Actually the scarcity of identifiable remains in the
is even more impressive. In view of the nature of their civilization one
should not be puzzled if the Nephites had left us no ruins at all. People
underestimate the capacity of things to disappear, and do not realize that the
ancients almost never built of stone. Many a great civilization which has left
a notable mark in history and literature has left behind not a single
recognizable trace of itself. We must stop looking for the wrong things."
(An Approach to the B of M,
Site of an
ancient breastwork of timber surveyed by E. G. Squier in Ontario County, New
forts, or places or resort..." (Alma 48:8)
lacks archaeological support for many of its claims. This has not prevented
Bible maps from featuring "the traditional route of
or "Mt. Sinai",
neither of which are agreed upon by religious and secular
authorities. We should recognize that the northern
American setting of the Book of Mormon, deserves to be mapped. A map should
be based chiefly on scripture. LDS scripture and the
statements of Joseph Smith, show that at least some lands of the Book of
Mormon are in the neighborhood of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Finger
Lakes (Cumorah in its land of many waters). The emphasis placed here on LDS
scripture and verifiable statements of Joseph Smith should not be taken to
mean that archaeological correlations have never been found in the region of
the Finger Lakes.
are filled with the instruments of warfare that had been fashioned by the red
men and so freely used in that historic era. The opinion is expressed in those
relic halls that western
was the site of an ancient battlefield. There is more evidence of a well
planned defensive warfare in that locality than there is in any other region
on the American continent." (I.
H. Smith, History of Duchess County, pg. 13)
to their demolition, the remains of numerous earth and timber fortresses could
be found throughout the counties of
State. Ephraim George Squier, commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution,
documented this fact.
In 1848, E. G.
Squier devoted eight weeks to searching out these remains. He had no exact
means of dating the various earth and timber works which he surveyed. He
erroneously proposed that the irregular shape of the earth-works (compared to
more geometric earth-works of the Mississippi Valley) suggested that the
New York earth-works were of "the period succeeding the commencement of European
Monuments of the State of New York,
by E.G. Squier, pg. 10)
But upon concluding
his report Squier states:
"By whom were
the aboriginal monuments of
Western New York
erected, and to what era may they be ascribed? The consideration of these
questions has given rise to a vast amount of speculation... If the results
arrived at have been erroneous, unsatisfactory, or extravagant, it may be
ascribed to the circumstance that the facts heretofore collected have been too
few in number and too poorly authenticated to admit of correct conclusions..."
"In respect to
date nothing positive can be affirmed. Many of them [old fortified towns and
citadels] are now covered with forests... I have seen trees from one to three
feet in diameter standing upon the embankments and in the trenches; which
would certainly carry back the date of their construction several hundred
years, perhaps beyond the period of the discovery in the fifteenth century..."
M. of the S. of N. Y., pp. 81-82)
some of the fortifications Squier visited were constructed in more recent
centuries. Evidently native peoples of
continued to build earth and timber fortresses long after Book of Mormon
times. Their entrenchments, banks of earth and timber palisades are a far
better match for the constructions described in the Book of Mormon than any
of the stupendous stone buildings found in Central and South America.
Contrasting the works of the mound builders with
Mesoamerica stone ruins, Hugh Nibley observes: “A closer approximation to
the Book of Mormon picture of Nephite culture is seen in the earth and
palisade structures of the Hopewell
and Adena culture areas than in the later stately piles of stone in
Though such piles as the great pyramid-temple of Chichen Itza
are surpassed by few buildings in the world in beauty of proportion and
grandeur of conception, there is something disturbing about most of these
overpowering ruins… The great monuments do not represent what the Nephites
stood for; rather they stand for what their descendents, mixed with the
blood of their brethren, descended to…” (Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book
of Mormon, pp. 272-273)
temple-pyramid of Kukulcan
features in the background of the popular LDS painting
"Christ in America". The scene may be interpreted to depict a visit by
Kukulcan to the people of the Yucatan in the 11th century AD or later,
but a scene from the Book of Mormon, it most certainly is not!
points out that the ancient stockades of Western New York are not unlike
structures made by natives of Australia, the British Islands, Mexico, Peru,
the Pacific Islands, and the Steppes of Russia. The general nature of such
defenses is not unique to any one culture.
Opposed to the
theory that the
"Mound-builders" were an advanced race not related to "the
Indians", Squier contends that the ancient fortresses of
Western New York
were constructed entirely by ancestors of indigenous people. The Book of
Mormon does not disagree. Squier, however, seems incredulous towards the idea
that natives of
might have some connection to peoples of the Middle East. Squier is willing to concede that some of the earth-works could be very old,
as long as no credence is given to the idea of a lost race:
Western New York
are of remote ancient date, they were not only secondarily
but generally occupied by the
Iroquois or neighboring and contemporary nations..." Squier
M. of the S. of N. Y., pg. 82)
Squier, nearly all of the earth and timber works served as defenses:
positions, general close proximity to water, and other circumstances no less
conclusive, imply a defensive origin. The unequivocal traces of long
occupation found within many of them, would further imply that they were
fortified towns and villages, and were permanently occupied. Some of the
smaller ones, on the other hand, seem rather designed for temporary
protection, - the citadels in which the builders sought safety for their old
men, women, and children in case of alarm or attack."
M. of the S. of N. Y., pp. 81)
As for the number
of ancient works in New York State, Squier informs us that:
"In the short
period of eight weeks devoted to the search, I was enabled to ascertain the
localities of no less than one hundred ancient works,
[including works in Seneca,
Wayne, Niagara and
counties, pg 11] and to visit and make
surveys of half that number. From the facts which have fallen under my notice,
I feel warranted in estimating the number which originally existed in the
State at from two hundred to two hundred and fifty. Probably one half of these
have been obliterated by the plough, or so much encroached upon as to be no
longer satisfactorily traced." (A.
M. of the S. of N. Y., pp. 11-12)
works which enclosed areas ranging from less than an acre to over twenty
acres. He notes burial pits and
mounds containing numerous human skeletons. He mentions artifacts of silver,
copper and brass found at various
county in the State had originally a greater number of aboriginal monuments
within its boundaries, than the
Onondaga", remarks E. G. Squier. Squier realized that much evidence of
's ancient civilization had already vanished. In his own words,
had "been so long settled, and so generally brought under cultivation,
that nearly all vestiges of its ancient remains have disappeared. The sites of
many are, however, still remembered; but even these will soon be forgotten."
M. of the S. of N. Y., pg. 27)
refers to the local tribe. The similarity to the name "Onandagus"
("Onendegus", or "Omandagas", variously spelled) revealed by the Prophet
Joseph Smith during
's Camp, is noteworthy. The fact that "Onandagus" is
never mentioned in the Book of Mormon is certainly not proof that this
notable individual was unknown to Book of Mormon peoples. The archangel
Raphael is never mentioned in the Bible and yet was as well known to the
Jewish people as
Gabriel. The striking similarity between the name "Oneida" (county and ancient people of New York)
and the Book of Mormon place name "Onidah", is also noteworthy.
Monuments of the State of New York Surveyed by E. G. Squier
The Central American Pyramid
of Kukulcan, built between the 9th and 12th Centuries A.D.
“An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me… in all
places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone,
thou shalt not build it of hewn
stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar...”
(Exodus 20:24 - 26)
Familiar Patterns in
Temples Made to Strange Gods
the recent discovery of a 10th century
wall at Jerusalem,
there is still little archaeological proof that Solomon’s
existed. On the other hand, similar temples have been found throughout the Levant (the eastern
Mediterranean region). The physical
similarity between these temples and the one
built by Solomon described in
the Bible, does not mean the GOD of Israel was worshiped at these sites.
Northern Syria the excavation of a temple
dating back before Solomon’s, has excited Bible scholars. Though erected to
the worship of another deity, the architectural similarities between the Syrian temple
and Solomon’s is described as nothing short of “striking”. The close
architectural and decorative parallels between the two temples leads some
scholars to posit that temples like the one in Northern Syria (‘Ain Dara), may
have influenced the Phoenician engineers and craftsmen who later built Solomon’s
temple. (John Monson, “The New ‘Ain
Closest Solomonic Parallel”, Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June
2000; see also ‘Ain
– Northern Syria, BAR, 200th
No Central or South American edifice or temple complex holds
a menorah to the Solomonic similarities of the pagan ‘Ain Dara temple. What can
be said then for alleged parallels between Solomon’s temple and the temple
complex at Izapa Mexico?
(Michael De Groote, “Hebrew design in Mesoamerica: Temples match”, Mormon Times, October
2009) No single building at this Central American complex matches Solomon’s temple. If you
cleverly size and impose make-believe rectangles on a whole layout of buildings,
clipping and cutting through a building here and there, you may convince
yourself that part of the complex fits proportions (certainly not the size)
of Solomon’s temple.
What is this supposed to prove? That Israel’s God was
worshipped at Izapa? That the temple complex was built by Hebrews? That Book of
Mormon real-estate lies in southern Mexico? None of these notions fit
Israelite temple proportions are three dimensional,
not just 2-D. This fact alone tends to flatten the whole claim.
The peoples of Izapa predate the Nephites of the Book of Mormon. The
of Solomon and the earlier
Tabernacle of the Congregation incorporated architectural elements found in
other cultures, i.e. Egyptian and Phoenician. So even if an architectural analog
to Solomon's temple could be found in Mesoamerica or even in temperate North
America, it wouldn't prove
an Israelite connection.
But, what about sacred ratios? How
impressed should we be with the proposition that some architectural ratios at
the Izapa complex match Israelite temples?
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…, in which each number is the sum of the
previous two, is called the Fibonacci sequence. Ratios of these numbers can be
found in nature, art and architecture. One special ratio resulting from
Fibonacci numbers is called “the Divine Proportion” or “the Golden Ratio”. The
ratio of a Fibonacci number to the one just before it in the sequence is
approximately the Golden Ratio. As the ratio is taken of greater
and greater Fibonacci numbers the result gets closer and closer to the
Golden Ratio (about 1.618).
The ratio of the breadth of Noah’s
to its height is approximately the Golden Ratio.
(Genesis 6:15) The
ratio of the length of the Ark of the Covenant to its width or to its height is
approximately the Golden Ratio.
(Exodus 25:10, 17) The same is true for
the ratio of any side of the Levitical altar to its height.
(Exodus 27:1) Does
this mean that everything in nature, art and architecture that approximates
the Golden Ratio ties back to ancient Hebrew culture? Of course not! No more
than the ratios of other Fibonacci numbers present in the
architecture of Solomon’s Temple, e.g. 1:1, 2:1,
3:1, 3:2 etc.
proportions are therefore not uniquely Hebraic.
It seems that some
fixate on hewn stone ruins, even though the Book of Mormon does not lead us to
Nephi had the means or manpower to build, in a timely way, a hewn stone
reproduction of Solomon’s Temple.
(See 1 Kings 5:13-18,
reference to 17a)
According to the Bible, the Jerusalem Temple involved tens of thousands of
Wood and metalworking are the only skills mentioned in connection
Nephi’s American temple. (2 Nephi 5:15-16, Mosiah 11:8-10) Nephi
directed the construction of other buildings besides a temple! Stone masonry is
nowhere mentioned. The Bible, on the other hand, repeatedly lists hewn stone, wood and
metalworking. (1 Chronicles 22;2-5)
Mesoamerican stone ruins fixation; draws from the influence of John Lloyd Stephens’ bestseller,
Incidents of Travel in Central America,
Chiapas and Yucatan; published more
than a decade after the Book of Mormon.
Copyright © 2008 by W. Vincent Coon
'AIN DARA temple and Solomon's Temple share very similar plans.
Archaeological Review, 200th ISSUE, pg. 81)
Stone Chamber found in North Salem, New York. A nearby barn and farmhouse were
constructed in 1710 and 1730 by the ancestors of the family that presently owns
the land. Family records indicate that at the time of the first field clearing,
the chamber was already standing.
(The Search for Lost America - The
Mysteries of the Stone Ruins, Salvatore Michael Trento,
lines, superimposed on a collection of several buildings located at Izapa,
Mexico - an unconvincing attempt to fit the plan of Solomon's Temple
A “temple mound” situated above the Ohio River near
“Fragments of burnt limestone may still be seen on the top. The mound is a
rectangle two hundred and twenty-five feet long by one hundred and twenty feet
broad, and seven feet high.” In contrast to the hewn stone buildings and altars
mound has the right dimensions to have accommodated a timber and burnt lime
plaster ("cement") building of the size and proportions of Solomon’s
Maclean, The Mound Builders –
Archaeology of Butler
1904, pp. 222-223)