Book of Mormon Covenant Lands According to the Best Sources


Ethan Smith

and the

Authentic Literary Setting for the Book of Mormon


Years before the earliest publication of the Book of Mormon (Grandin Press, Palmyra NY, 1830) the remains of archaic “forts … temples, altars … watch towers … monuments … walled towns …” were discovered in western lands occupied by the United States. These aboriginal ruins and other antiquities were interpreted by many to be the works of ancient, semi-civilized “tribes of Israel”. It was not uncommon for 19th century Americans (not just Mormons) to believe that “partially civilized” Israelites had been annihilated by more “savage tribes of their brethren” on the very grounds that would become the prophetic United States of America. The earth, timber and metal remains left by a forgotten people in the American wilderness were seen as indubitable evidence of the vanquished Israelite nation. (Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America - Second Edition, 1825)

So what about those wonderful stone ruins in Mesoamerica and South America? What connections did 19th century writers like Ethan Smith, see between these and lost tribes of Israel?

Smith (no relation to Joseph Smith, Jr.) announced that almost all native peoples of North and South America descended from “out cast” Israelites! The view was expressed that peoples of Mexico and South America had migrated to these countries from the north. It was concluded that these migrations commenced centuries into the Christian era, and possibly involved mingling peoples. The wondrous hewn stone “pyramids” and temples of Mesoamerica were recognized by Smith, and others, to be relatively recent works, built between the 6th and 12th centuries A.D. Such views were published before the Book of Mormon came forth from Cumorah - the western New York Book of Mormon land (not just a hill) on which Joseph Smith’s family settled. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20, Mormon 6:4)

Unlike View of the Hebrews, the Book of Mormon nowhere mentions pyramids. The reason is simple: The authentic literary setting for the Book of Mormon is set in ancient times of Joseph Smith’s own country - western New York in particular. (Ephraim G. Squier, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York, Smithsonian Institution, 1849)

Joseph Smith believed ancient peoples of Northern America eventually migrated to distant southern countries from “the lake country of America” (region of the Great Lakes), carrying their traditions (e.g. the Flood legend) with them! (Joseph Smith’s editorial on a chapter from Josiah Priest’s American Antiquities, “Traits of the Mosaic History Found Among the Azteca Nations”, Times and Seasons, June 15, 1842, Vol. 3, No. 16, pp. 818-820)

In the July 15, 1842 issue of the Times and Season newspaper, Editor Joseph Smith relates North American Mound Builder skills in timber and metal working, to the Book of Mormon account of Nephi building a temple like Solomon’s. (2 Nephi 5:15-16) The bulk of the article cites North American Mound Builder antiquities as buttressing the Book of Mormon narrative. Only as a parting note is “Stephens and Catherwoods’ researches in Central America” referred to in the article. Though Joseph Smith certainly endorses the idea that the Book of Mormon contains a history of peoples who eventually migrated to Central America, the July 1842 article is careful not to say that Book of Mormon lands are to be found there. (Joseph Smith’s editorial on Josiah Priest’s American Antiquities, Times and Seasons, July 15, 1842, Vol. 3, No. 18, pp. 818-820)

In contrast to the brash and outlandish geographic ideas of his contemporaries in the Church, there is not a single verifiable statement by the Prophet showing that he entertained either a tropical, or hemispheric setting for the Book of Mormon. A diversity of misplaced and far-flung geographic scenarios had been proffered by well meaning colleagues. These early geographies contradicted LDS scripture and each other! (Matthew Roper, “Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations, BYU Maxwell Institute, 2004)

Years after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, Apostle Orson Pratt’s unscriptural hemispheric model prevailed (for a while) as the accepted Mormon paradigm. (See speculative geographic footnotes to 1879 LDS Edition of the Book of Mormon)

Other brethren became enamored with Stephens’ 1841 bestseller, Incidents of Travel in Central America. Several eagerly sought to forge connections between the marvelous, but relatively recent stone ruins described in Stephens’ work, and the earth, timber and metal working peoples described in the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith had read both volumes of Stephens’ work, which included a brief commentary on the Mound Builder antiquities of his own country. Joseph pronounced Stephens’ history most correct. Other brethren ignored Stephens’ conclusions regarding the date of Central America’s “wonderful ruins” and proclaimed them to be the “mighty works of the Nephites. Thus began the great Book of Mormon geography misadventure! (Joseph Smith, Josiah Priest and the Times and Seasons)

The following is a selection of quotes from Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America (Second Edition, 1825) which give pre-Book of Mormon outlooks on the destruction of the more civilized Israelite society in temperate North America, and the eventual peopling of Central and South America by later migrations from the north:

Smith’s opinion on the origin and general direction of ancient migrations in America:

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... Then while the music continued, they one by one took up their dishes, and retiring from the cabin by a backward step, so that they still faced the kettles, they separated to their respective lodges; and thus the ceremony ceased."

This writer says, "The Indians believed in the existence of a great invisible Spirit, who resides in the regions of the clouds, and by means of inferior spirits throughout every part of the earth."

Their word for spirit, is manito, which he observes, "from the Arkansaw to the sources of the Mississippi; and according to M'Kenzie, throughout the arctic regions." This word, Mr. S. remarks, with many others, strengthens the opinion "of which (he says) there appears ample grounds, that the erratic tribes of the north-western region, and of the vallies of the Mississippi are all descended from one stock, which is presumed to have progressed from the north toward the south, scattering into different tribes, and falling from the purity of a language, which may originally have been rich and copious." Here is good testimony to some of the points, adduced in this work, viz. that all the Indians are from one origin; all originally of one language; all from the north-west, the straits of Beering, leading from the north-east of Asia to the north- west of America; all have one God. -- the Great Spirit above; and the feast of the first fruits is among them extensively kept.

On the seasonal ordinances of the Mosaic Law based in the temperate Northern Hemisphere:

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... "Agreeably to the theocracy or divine government of Israel, the Indians think the Deity to be the immediate head of their state. All the nations of Indians are exceedingly intoxicated with religious pride, and have an inexpressible contempt of the white people. * They used to call us in their war orations, the accursed people. -- But they flatter themselves with the name of the beloved people; because their supposed ancestors, as they affirm, were under the immediate government of the Deity, who was present with them in a very peculiar manner, and directed them by prophets, while the rest of the world were aliens and outlaws to the covenant. -- When the old Archimagus, or any one of their magi, is persuading the people at any one of their religious solemnities to a strict observance of the old beloved or divine speech, he always calls them the beloved or holy people, agreeably to the Hebrew epithet, Ammi (my people) during the theocracy of Israel, -- It is their opinion of the theocracy, that God chose them out of all the rest of mankind as his peculiar and beloved people; which alike animates both the white Jew and the red American with that steady hatred against all the world except themselves; and renders them (in their opinion) hated and despised by all."

His illustrations of the 4th and 5th arguments have been given with those of other authors.

Under the 6th argument he says: "They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They number their year from any of those four periods, for they have no name for a year, and they subdivide these, and count the year by lunar months, like the Israelites, who counted by moons. They begin a year at the first appearance of the first new moon of the vernal equinox, according to the ecclesiastical year of Moses. Till the 70 years captivity, the Israelites had only numeral names for the solar and lunar months,

* Within 20 years this trait of Indian character is much meliorated.


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except Abib and Ethamin; the former signifying a green ear of corn; and the latter robust or valiant. And by the first of these, the Indians (as an explicative) term their Passover, which the trading people call the green corn dance." Mr. Adair then proceeds to show more fully the similarity between the ancient Israelites and the Indians in their counting time, as has been noted.

Under the 7th agreement he says: "In conformity to, or after the manner of the Jews, the Indian Americans have their prophets, high priests, and others of a religious order. As the Jews had a sanctum sanctorum, (holy of holies) so have all the Indian nations. There they deposit their consecrated vessels; -- none of the laity daring to approach that sacred place. The Indian tradition says, that their fathers were possessed of an extraordinary divine spirit, by which they foretold things future, and controlled the common course of nature: and this they transmitted to their offspring, provided they obeyed the sacred laws annexed to it. Ishtoallo, (Mr. Adair says of those Indians) is the name of all their priestly order: and their pontifical office descends by inheritance to the eldest. There are some traces of agreement, though chiefly lost, in their pontifical dress. Before the Indian Archimagus officiates in making the supposed holy fire for the yearly atonement for sin, the sagan (waiter of the high priest) clothes him with a white ephod, which is a waistcoat without sleeves. In resemblance of the Urim and Thummim, the American Archimagus wears a breast plate made of a white conch-shell with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buck horn white button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of the Urim."

In this statement Mr. Adair exhibits evidence of which himself seems unconscious. He says the general name of all their priestly order is Ishtoallo. And the name of the high priest's waiter is Sagan. Mr. Faber (remarking upon this) thinks the former word is a corruption of Ish-da-eloah, a man of God; ...

On the possibility that other peoples mixed with American Israelite tribes:

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... And can we expect to find more evidence of this kind among any other people who have been more than two millenaries lost from the world, and without records or letters? Could we well have expected to find so much? Consider, our aborigines have remained essentially distinguished from all the heathen on earth, in the uniform belief of most of them at least, of one God; and their freedom from false gods and gross idolatry.

Should it even be ascertained that some customs and habits are found among the American natives similar to what is found in the north-east of Asia; this may be accounted for, without supposing these Indians to have descended from those Asiatics. For the Indians must have passed through their regions, to reach this country. They might have caught some of their manners. Some of those Asiatics might have mingled with them in their migration to this country; and though they here amalgamated with Israel, they may have perpetuated some of their own customs and manners. This is much more naturally and easily accounted for, than to account for those northern Asiatics being possessed of so much of the religious traditions of the Hebrews. If the Indians be not Hebrews, but of the wild Asiatics, their traditions are utterly unaccountable. The heathen nations, and the corrupt feelings of men, were not so found of the laws and knowledge of God, as that the ancient, far distant, and savage Scythians of the north-east should learn and retain so much of the religion of the Israel of God, and transmit it for thousands of years to the distant ramifications of their descendants over the vast continent of North and South America. Those who can believe the affirmative, (when no account can be given how the religion and traditions of the Jews could ever have been disseminated through the far distant wilds of Scythia.) ought never to complain that the believers in the Indians being descendants from Israel, ...


On the earth and timber works of an advanced Israelite people in Northern America, and their annihilation by more savage tribes of their brethren:


... Pg. 172


It is highly probable that the more civilized part of the tribes of Israel, after they settled in America, became


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wholly separated from the hunting and savage tribes of their brethren; that the latter lost the knowledge of their having descended from the same family with themselves; that the more civilized part continued for many centuries; that tremendous wars were frequent between them and their savage brethren, till the former became extinct.

This hypothesis accounts for the ancient works, forts, mounds, and vast enclosures, as well as tokens of a good degree of civil improvement, which are manifestly very ancient, and from centuries before Columbus discovered America. These magnificent works have been found, one near Newark in Licking county, Ohio; one in Perry county, Ohio; one at Marietta; one at Circleville; one at Paint Creek; one on the eastern bank of the Little Miami river, Warren county; one on Paint Creek near Chillicothe; one on the Scioto river; and other places.

These works have evinced great wars, a good degree of civilization, and great skill fortification. And articles dug from old mounds in and near those fortified places, clearly evince that their authors possessed no small degree of refinement in the knowledge of the mechanic arts.

These partially civilized people became extinct. What account can be given of this, but that the savages extirpated them, after long and dismal wars? And nothing appears more probable than that they were the better part of the Israelites who came to this continent, who for a long time retained their knowledge of the mechanic and civil arts; while the greater part of their brethren became savage and wild. -- No other hypothesis occurs to mind, which appears by any means so probable. The degrees of improvement, demonstrated to have existed among the authors of those works, and relics, who have ceased to exist, far exceed all that could have been furnished from the north-east of Asia, in those ancient times.


The later migration of peoples into Mexico and Central America from the north and their more recent works:

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... subsequent to their emigration to this continent, have traversed back and forward round the world, and learned from central Asia the arts and sciences? Had this been the case, this continents and its inhabitants would have been known in the eastern world. Such an hypothesis is vastly improbable at least. But they retained and might have made progress in arts, and some degree of science brought down from ancient Israel. Our author says; "The Taultees [sic - Taultecs?] appeared in New Spain in the seventh, and the Aztecs in the twelfth centuries, (as he learned from the hieroglyphical map of the country traversed by them; -- constructed cities, highways, dikes, canals, and immense pyramids very accurately designed of a base of 1416 feet in length." How striking the view here given of their historical hieroglyphics ancient dates, and emigrations! as well as geographical and mechanical improvements! Can such improvements be imputed to a northern Scythian origin? ...



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... Accordingly we find in Oaxana remaining monuments of Mexican architecture, which proves a singularly advanced state of civilization. -- When the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they found very few inhabitants in the countries situated beyond the parallel of 20 degrees. Those provinces (that were beyond) were the abode of the Chichimecks and Olomites, two pastoral nations, of whom thin hordes were scattered over a vast territory. Agriculture and civilization were concentrated in the plains south of the river of Santiago. -- From the 7th to the 13th century, population seems in general to have continually flowed towards the south. From the regions situated south of the Rio Gila, issued forth those warlike nations, who successively inundated the country of Anahuac. -- The hieroglyphical tables of the Aztecs have transmitted to us the memory of the principle epochs of the great migrations among the Americans." This traveller goes on to speak of those Indian migrations from the north, as bearing a resemblance to the inundations of the barbarous hordes of Goths and Vandals from the north of Europe, and overwhelming the Roman empire, in the fifth century. He adds; "The people, however, who traversed Mexico, left behind them traces of cultivation and civilization. The Taultees [sic] appeared first in the year 648; the Chichimecks in 1170; the Nahualtees in 1178; the Acolhues and Aztecs, in 1196. The Taultees introduced the cultivation of maize and cotton; they built cities, made roads, and constructed those great pyramids, which are yet admired, and of which the faces are very accurately laid out. They knew the use of hieroglyphical paintings; they could found metals, and cut the hardest stones. And they had a solar year more perfect than that of the Greeks and Romans. The form of their government indicated that they were descendants of a people who had experienced great vicissitudes in their social state. But where (he adds) is the source of that cultivation? Where is the country from which the Taultees and Mexicans issued?

Semi-civilized Israelites annihilated in Northern America. Peoples of Mexico and Central America came from the north:

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No wonder these questions should arise in the highly philosophical mind of this arch investigator. Had he known the present theory of their having descended from ancient Israel; it seems as though his difficulties might at once have obtained relief. These accounts appear mostly strikingly for favour our hypothesis. Here we account for all the degrees of civilization and improvements existing in the past ages among the natives of those regions. How perfectly consentaneous are these facts stated, with the scheme presented in the preceding pages, that Israel brought into this new continent a considerate degree of civilization; and the better part of them long laboured to maintain it. But others fell into the hunting and consequent savage state; whose barbarous hordes invaded their more civilized brethren, and eventually annihilated most of them, and all in these northern regions! Their hieroglyphical records, paintings and knowledge of the solar year, (let it be repeated and remembered) agree to nothing that could have descended from the barbarous hordes of the north east of Europe, and north of Asia; but they well agree with the ancient improvements and state of Israel.

Our author proceeds; "Tradition and historical hieroglyphics name Huehuetlapallan, Tallan, and Aztlan, as the first residence of these wandering nations. There are no remains at this day of any ancient civilization of the human species to the north of Rio Gila, or in the northern regions travelled through by Hearne, Fiedler, and Mackenzie. But on the north west coast, between Nootka and Cook river, especially under the 57th degree of north latitude, in Norfolk Bay, and Cox Canal, the natives display a decided taste for hieroglyphical paintings." (See Voyage de Marchand, p. 258, 261, 375. Dixon, p. 332.) "A harp (says Humbolt) represented in the hieroglyphical paintings of the inhabitants of the north west coasts of America, is an object at least remarkable, as the famous harp on the tombs of the kings of Thebes. I am inclined to believe that on the migrations of the Taultees and Aztecs to the south (the tribes noted as most improved)

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some tribes remained on the coast of New Norfolk and Nee Cornwall, while the rest continued their course southward. "This is not the place to discuss the great problem of the Asiatic origin of the Taultees, or Aztecs. The general question of the first origin of the inhabitants of the continent, is beyond the limits presented to history; and is not perhaps even a philosophical question." Thus our author declines giving any opinion on this subject. But he here gives it as his opinion that these more improved tribes in New Mexico came from the north-west coast, and left some of their half civilized brethren there. Among the hieroglyphical paintings of the latter, it seems, the harp is found. Was not this a noted Israelitish musical instrument? How should the American Indians be led to paint the Jewish harp? The Jews in Babylon "hung their harps upon the willows." And it is as natural an event that their brethren, in the wilds of America, should place them in their silent hieroglyphical paintings. Whence could have been derived the knowledge of the accurate hieroglyphical paintings, which this most learned author exhibits as found among some of the Indians; unless they had learned them from people to whom the knowledge of hieroglyphics had been transmitted from Egypt, its original source? It appears incredible that such improvements in this art, and the knowledge of the Jewish harp, should be transmitted from the ancient barbarous people of Scythia. If any can believe it, it is hoped they will be cautious of ever taxing others, with credulity. Such evidence, it is believed, weighs many times more in favour of their Israelitish extraction. M. Humbolt informs us from Mozino (of whom he speaks with great respect,) relative to Indians of Nootka, on the north-west coasts. Of the writings of this author, he says; "These embrace a great number of curious subjects; vis. the union of the civil and ecclesiastical power in the same persons of the princes -- the struggle between Quaulz and Matlax, the good and bad principle by which the world is governed; -- the origin of the human species at the time when stags were without horns, birds without wings, &c.; -- the ...

Intermingling of southward migrating tribes. The annihilation of a more civilized nation of Israelites in North America, and ancient evidence of their defensive works in earth, timber, rock and metal:

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... shafts of the golden candlesticks; and on the hem of the high priest's garment; -- bells and pomegranates. These ideas were familiar in Israel; but probably in no other nation. Our author speaks of the language of some of the Indians in the south "of which the mechanism proves an ancient civilization." Dr. Edwards (Mr. Boudinot informs) was of the same opinion of the North American Indians: and he pronounced this ancient origin of their language to have been Hebrew.

It seems the Spanish missionaries found such traces of resemblance between some of the rites of the religion of the natives of Mexico, and the religion which they wished to introduce, that our author says, "They persuaded them that the gospel had in very remote times, been already preached in America. And they investigated its traces in the Aztec ritual, with the same ardour which the learned who in our days engage in the study of Sanscrit , display in discussing the analogy between the Greek mythology and that of the Ganges and the Burrampooter." It is a noted fact that there is a far greater analogy between much of the religion of the Indians, and Christianity, than between that of any other heathen nation on earth and Christianity. The aged Indians, noted in the proceeding pages, testified to this, when the children from the missionary school came home and informed what instructions they had received. The old Indian said; Now this is good talk. This is such as we used to hear when we were children from the old people, till some of the white people came among us, and destroyed it back again!

Our author again says; "The migrations of the American tribes having been constantly carried on from north to south, at least between the sixth and twelfth centuries, it is certain that the Indian population of New Spain must be composed of very heterogeneous elements. In proportion as the population flowed toward the south, some tribes would stop on their progress and mingle with other tribes that followed them." All seem to agree that the Indians came

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from the north-west, and overspread the continent of the south. Our author, speaking of the conjecture of the Indians descending from a people in the north parts of Siberia, says; "All these conjectures will acquire more probability, when a marked analogy shall be discovered between the languages of Tartary and those of the new continent; an analogy which according to the latest researches of M. Barton Smith, extended only to a very small number of words." I forbear to offer any further remarks upon these testimonies incidentally afforded by this most celebrated author. Let them be duly weighed by the judicious reader; and he surely cannot doubt but the natives of America came from the north over the Beering's Strait's; and descended from a people of as great mental cultivation, as were the ancient family of Israel. He must abandon the idea of their being of Scythian descent. He will find much evidence of their being all from one origin; and also much evidence in favour of the hypothesis, that some of the original inhabitants laboured to retain their knowledge of civilization; but that an overwhelming majority abandoned it for the idle hunting life.

In the Archaeologia Americana, containing Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society," published at Worcester, Mass. in 1820; are found antiquities of the people who formerly inhabited the western part of the United States." Of some of these I shall give a concise view, as additional arguments in favour of my theory, that some of the people of Israel who came into the western continent maintained some degree of civilization for a long time; but that the better part of the outcast tribes of Israel here finally became extinct, at least in North America, under the rage of their more numerous savage brethren. I shall present also from this interesting publication, some new and striking arguments in favour of the American natives as being of Israel.

Relative to the ancient forts and tumult, the writer of the Archaeology says; "These military works, -- these walls and ditches cost so much labour in their

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structure; those numerous and sometimes tasty mounds, which owe their origin to a people far more civilized than our Indians, but far less so than Europeans; -- are interesting on many accounts to the antiquarian, to the philosopher, and the divine. Especially when we consider the immense extent of country which they cover; the great labour which they cost their authors; the acquaintance with the useful arts which that people had, when compared with our present race of Indians; the grandeur of many of the works themselves and the total absence of all historical records, or even traditionary accounts, respecting them. They were once forts, cemeteries, temples, altars, camps, towns, villages, race grounds, and other places of amusement, habitations of chieftains, videttes, watch towers, and monuments." These certainly are precisely such remains as naturally might have been expected to be furnished by a better part of Israel placed in their "outcast" state, in a vast wilderness, with the degree of civilization which they possessed when banished from Canaan; and were situated in the midst of savage tribes from their race, who had degenerated to the hunting life, and were intent on the destruction of this better part of their brethren. Thus situated, and struggling to maintain their existence, and to maintain their religious traditions, they would naturally form many of the very things above enumerated, walled towns, forts, temples, altars, habitation of chieftains, videttes, and watch towers. These cannot be ascribed to a people of any other origin, with any thing like an equal degrees of probability. The whole process of the hypothesis stated in relation to these two branches of the descendants of Israel, when finding themselves lodged in this vast wild continent, is natural and easy.

The above publication of the American Antiquarian Society, decides that these Indian works must have been very ancient, and long before this continent was discovered by Columbus.
French forts and works in the west, are also discovered; and many articles on or near the site of those old forts, evidently European

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and modern. But these are clearly distinguished from those ancient forts and remains. Of the authors of those many ancient remains, this publication says; "From what we see of their works, they must have had some acquaintance with the arts and sciences. They have left us perfect specimens of circles, squares, octagon and parallel lines, on a grand and noble scale. And unless it can be proved that they had intercourse with Asia and Europe; we now see that they possessed the art of working metals." If they had been favoured with intercourse with any civilized parts of Asia or Europe, this thing must have been ascertained; and this western continent would not have been unknown to the literary eastern world. Such intercourse then is inadmissable. They probably must have derived their art of working metals, from the commonwealth of ancient Israel. They professed something of this knowledge. But none of the barbarous hordes in the north east of Asia, in these ancient days, did possess the knowledge of such arts. Speaking of the wells of those ancient works, the writer observes; "These wells, with stones at their mouths, resemble those described to us in the patriarchal age." Surely this is not unfavourable to the idea of the authors of those wells having been the descendants of Jacob.

To throw light on my hypothesis, I shall add a concise description of several of those ancient works in the west and south; and a few of the articles there found. These are largely given with their drawings or plates in the publication of the American Antiquarian Society, published at Worcester in 1820; -- a book worthy of the perusal of all.

Near Newark in Licking county, Ohio, between two branches of the Licking river, at their junction, is one of the most notable remains of the ancient works. There is a fort including forty acres, whose walls are ten feet high. It has eight gateways, each of the width of about fifteen feet. Each gateway is guarded by a fragment of a wall, placed before, and about nine feet within the gate, of the bigness of the walls of

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the fort, and about four feet longer than the width of the gateway. The walls are as nearly perpendicular as they could be made with earth. Near this fort is another round fort containing twenty-two acres, and connected with the first fort by two parallel walls of earth about the size of the other walls. At the remotest part of this circular fort, and just without a gateway, is an observatory so high as to command a view of the region to some distance. A secret passage was made under this observatory to an ancient watercourse. At some distance from this fort (but connected by a chain of internal works, and parallel walls) is another circular fort of about twenty-six acres, with walls from twenty-five to thirty feet in height, with a ditch just under them. Connected with these forts is another square fort of about twenty acres, whose walls are similar to those of the fort first described. These forts were not only connected with each other (though considerable distance apart) by communications made by parallel walls of five or six rods apart; -- but a number of similar communications were made from them by parallel walls, down to the waters of the river. All these works stand on a large plain, the top of which is almost level, but is high land by a regular ascent from near the two branches of the river, to a height of forty or fifty feet above the branches of the river. At four different places at the ends of these internal communications between the forts and down to the river, are watch towers on elevated ground, and surrounded by circular walls. And the points selected for these watch towers were evidently chosen with great skill, to answer their design. These forts and chains of communications between them, were so situated as nearly to enclose a number of large fields, which it is presumed were cultivated, and which were thus far secured from hostile invaders. From these works are two parallel walls leading off probably to other similar places of fortifications at a distance. They have been traced a mile or two, and are yet clearly visible. The writer says; "I should not be surprised if these parallel walls (thus leading off) are found to extend from

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one work of defence to another for the space of thirty miles -- such walls have been discovered at different places, probably belonging to these works, for ten or twelve miles at least." He apprehends this was a road between this settlement, and one on the Hockhocking river. And he says; "the planning of these works of defence "speaks volumes in favour of the sagacity of the authors."

Some small tumult, probably for burying the dead, and other purposes, were found here. And the writer says of articles there discovered; "Rock crystals, some of them very beautiful, and hornstone, suitable for arrow and spear heads, and a little lead, sulphur, and iron, were all that I could ascertain."

Four or five miles southerly from this is a stone fort enclosing forty acres or upwards. This contains two stone tumult; "Such (says the author) as were used in ancient times as altars, and as monuments." -- He adds; "I should rather suspect this to have been a sacred enclosure, or "high place," which was resorted to on some great anniversary." He deemed its design religious. At the mouth of the Muskingum, in Marietta, are notable instances of these ancient works. They stand on an elevated plain, on the east side of the mouth of the Muskingum, half a mile from its junction with the Ohio. Here are walls and mounds, in direct lines, in circular forms, and in squares. A square fort, called the town, encompasses forty acres by a wall of earth, from six to ten feet in thickness at the base. Each side has at equal distances three gates. From the middle and the largest gateway next the Muskingum, was a covert way, secured by two parallel walls of earth about sixteen rods apart. The highest part of these two walls is about twenty-one feet; and of forty-two feet thickness at the base. This extends about twenty-two rods, to where the river is supposed then to have run. Within, and at a corner of this fort, on an oblong elevated square, upwards of eleven rods in length, and between eight and nine rods in breadth. Its top forms a level, nine feet in height. The sides

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are nearly perpendicular. At another side of the fort is another elevated square, nearly as large. And at a third place is a third, still a little smaller. Near the centre of the fort is a circular mound, thirty feet in diameter and five feet high. At the corner of the fort is a semi-circular parapet, guarding the gateway, and crowned with a mound. South-east of this fort is a smaller fort of twenty acres, having a gateway in the centre of each side, and at each corner; each gateway being defended by a circular mound. On the outside of this smaller fort is a kind of circular pyramid, like a sugar loaf; it is a regular circle, one hundred and fifteen feet diameter at the base; and thirty feet in height. It is guarded by a ditch four feet deep, and fifteen wide; also by a parapet four feet in height. These works are attended with many minor walls, mounds, and excavations. One of these excavations is sixty feet in diameter at the surface; and was when first discovered twenty feet deep. Another within the fort is twenty five feet in diameter; and poles have been pushed down into its waters and rotten substances, thirty feet. Its sides project gradually towards its centre; and are found to be lined with a layer of very fine clay, eight or ten inches in thickness. It is supposed to contain hundreds of loads of manure. Old fragments of potter's ware have been picked up in this fort. This ware was ornamented with lines on the outside, curious and ingenious; and had a glazing on the inside. This ware seems to have been burned, and capable of holding water. The fragments when broken are black, and present shining particles when held to the light. Pieces of copper have at various times been found among these ancient works. One piece was in the form of a cup, with low sides, and the bottom thick and strong.

Tools of iron not being found in these works, in no sign the authors did not possess them. For had they been there, they would, no doubt, long since have been dissolved by rust. Some remains of iron particles however are found, as will be seen.

Ancient North American defensive works, metal blades, breastplates and mass burials. Vast populations in Northern America anciently:

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On the waters of the Scioto, at Circleville, Ohio, is a notable instance of these military works. Here are two forts adjoining; one an exact circle; the other a square. The former has two walls, with a ditch between them. These walls are twenty feet in height. The inner wall was of clay; the outer of earth taken from the ditch between the walls. The walls of the square fort are ten feet in height; with eight gateways, besides the one leading into the adjoining circular fort. Each of these gateways is defended on the inside with a mound of earth four feet high, and forty feet in diameter at the base. Each mound is two rods within the gateway, and direct in front of it, no doubt for defence . The square and the circle of these forts are said to be most exact; and are thought to indicate much mathematical skill; as not the least error can be detected in their device.

In the centre of the round fort was a mound ten feet in height, and several rods in diameter at the base. On its eastern side and extending six rods, was a pavement, a half circle composed of pebbles. The top of the tumulus was about thirty feet in diameter, with a way like a modern turnpike leading to it from the east.

This mound has been removed and its contents explored. Some things found in it shall be noted. Two human skeletons. A great quantity of heads, either for arrows or spears. They were so large as to induce a belief they must have been the latter. The handle of the small sword, or large knife, made of an elk's horn, was here found, and is now in a museum at Philadelphia. A silver ferrule encompassed the end containing the blade; which silver ferrule, though black, was not much injured by rolling ages. The blade was gone by rust. But in the hole of the handle, there was left the oxyde or rust of the iron, of a similar shape and size of the shank formerly inserted. Some bricks well burnt were here found. And a large mirror of the length of three feet, half a foot in breadth, and one inch and a half thick, formed of isinglass, and on it a


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plate of iron "which (says the writer who has an eye witness) had become and oxyde;" or plate of rust. -- "The mirror (he adds) answered the purpose very well for which it was intended."

About forty rods from this round fort, was another tumulus, "more than ninety feet in height," says the writer in the Archeology; which was placed on an artificial hill. It appears to have been a burying place; and probably was a high place of worship. Immense numbers of human nones, of all sizes, were here found. Here were found also with those bones, stone axes and knives, and various ornaments.

Not far from this tumulus was a semi-circular ditch. The informer remarks it was six feet deep when he first discovered it. At the bottom lay "a great quantity of human bones." These are supposed to be the remains of men slain in some great battle. They were all the size of men, and lay in confusion, as though buried in a pile, and in haste. Here might have been about the last of those more civilized people who inhabited that station; thus entombed in a ditch by a small residue of their brethren spared; or by their enemies, if all in the fortress were cut off.

The article discovered in the great tumulus were numerous; something seemed to have been buried with every corps.

On the river Scioto, mounds are frequently found, usually on hills with fair prospects to the east. Near Chilicothe are some interesting ones. In Chilicothe, Rev. Dr. Wilson of that place gives a description of one. It was fifteen feet high; sixty feet in diameter at the base; and contained human bones. Under its base in the centre lay a skeleton on a platform of twenty feet, formed of bark; and over it a mat formed of some bark. On the breast lay a piece of copper; also a curious stone five inches in length, two in breadth, with two perforations through it, containing a string of sinews of some animal. On this string were many beads of ivory or bone. The whole appeared to have been designed to wear upon the neck, as a kind of breast-plate.


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Another curious set of Indian works are found within six miles of Chilicothe, on Paint Creek, the accurate description and drawings of which are given in the Archaeology. Here the great wall encloses a hundred and ten acres; the wall twelve feet in height, with a ditch about twenty feet wide. It has an adjacent enclosure of sixteen acres, the walls like the other. In a "sacred enclosure" are six mounds. The immense labours of this place, and cemeteries filled with human bones, denote that a great people, and of some degree of civilization in ancient days dwelt here.

A stone mound was discovered in the vicinity of Licking river, near Newark, Ohio; and several others in different places. These contained human bones, and such articles as the following; "urns, ornaments of copper, heads of spears, &c. of the same metal, as well as of medals of copper." A minister of Virginia, writing to the Antiquarian Society relative to the ancient Indian monuments at Grave Creek, near the mouth of the Monongahela, says; "In one of the tumult, which was opened about twenty years since, sixty copper beads were found. Of these I procured ten. -- They were made of coarse wire -- hammered out -- cut at unequal lengths. They were soldered together in an awkward manner -- They were incrusted with verdigrise ; but the inside was pure copper. This fact shows that these ancient American inhabitants were not wholly unacquainted with the use of metals." There are many indications that their improvements were equal to those of Israel when expelled from Canaan; as will be seen by any who will peruse the Archaeology. Several hints of them shall here be added.

Says the writer; "Along the Ohio, some of it (their pottery) is equal to any thing of the kind now manufactured." -- "It is well glazed or polished; and the vessel well shaped." Many ornaments of silver and copper were found. Many wells were dug through the hardest rocks.

A crucible was found in a tumulus near Chilicothe, which is now in the hands of S. Williams, Esq. of that place. It will bear an equal degree of heat with those


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now used in glass manufactories; and appears made of the same material.

A stone pipe is noted as found six feet in the alluvial earth; the brim of which is curiously wrought in high relief, and on the front side a handsome female face.

In removing a large mound in Marietta bones of a person were found. "Lying immediately over, or on the forehead of the body, were found three large circular bosses, or ornaments for a sword belt, or a buckler; they are composed of copper, overlaid with a thick plate of silver. The fronts of them are slightly convex, with a depression, like a cup, in the centre, and measure two inches and a quarter across the face of each. On the back side, opposite the depressed portion, is a copper rivet or nail, around which are two separate plates, by which they were fastened to the leather. Two small pieces of the leather were found lying between the plates of one of the bosses." "near the side of the body was found a plate of silver, which appears to have been the upper part of a sword scabbard; it is six inches in length and two inches in breadth, and weighs one ounce; it has no ornaments or figures, but has three longitudinal ridges, which probably correspond with the edges or ridges of the sword; it seems to have been fastened to the scabbard by three or four rivets, the holes of which yet remain in the silver.

"Two or three broken pieces of a copper tube, were also found, filled with iron rust. These pieces, from their appearance, composed the lower end of the scabbard itself was discovered, except the appearance of rust above mentioned.

"Near the feet was found a piece of copper, weighing three ounces. From its shape it appears to have been used as a plumb, or for an ornament, as near one of the ends is a circular crease, or groove, for tying a thread; it is round; two inches and a half in length, one inch in diameter at the centre, and half an inch at each end. It is composed of small pieces of native copper, pounded together; and in the cracks between


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the pieces are stuck several pieces of silver; one nearly the size of a four penny piece, or half a dime. This copper ornament was covered with a coat of green rust, and is considerable corroded. A piece of red ochre, or paint, and a piece of iron ore, which has the appearance of having been partially vitrified, or melted, were also found. The ore is about the specific gravity of pure iron."

Surely these things indicate some good degree of improvement in some of the arts of life. Multitudes of other things are noted in this, most valuable publication, in which these things are given.

The great antiquity of these works of the native is proved beyond a doubt. Trees of the third growth are found standing on them, whose annular rings show them to have been more than four hundred years of age.

And the hugeness of those works indicates a vast population.

The clergyman writing from Virginia to the Antiquarian Society, of the works at Grave Creek, says of a vast tumulus in that neighborhood, called "the Big Grave;" "It is certainly one of the most August monuments of remorse antiquity any where to be found. Its circumference is three hundred feet at the base -- Its altitude from measurement is ninety feet, and its diameter, at the summit, is forty five feet. This lofty and venerable tumulus has been so far opened as to ascertain that it contains many thousands (probably) of human skeletons, but no farther. Of the numerous Indian works of this region the writer says; "A careful survey of the above mentioned works would probably show that they were all connected, and transformed but parts of a whole, laid out with taste."

These ancient works continued all the way down the Ohio river to the Mississippi, where they increased and were far more magnificent. They abound at the junction of rivers, in most eligible positions, and in most fertile lands. The number of tumult on that river exceeds three thousand; "the smallest not less than twenty feet in height, and one hundred in diameter at the base. The largest are of huge magnitude. The informer


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in the Archaeology says; "I have been sometimes induced to think that at the period when these were constructed, there was a population as numerous as that which once animated the borders of the Nile or the Euphrates, or of Mexico. Brackenridge calculates that there were 5000 cities at once full of people. I am perfectly satisfied that cities similar to those of ancient Mexico, of several hundred thousand souls, (says the writer) have existed in this country. Nearly opposite St. Louis there are traces of two such cities in the distance of five miles. One of the mounds is eight hundred yards in circumference at the base, (about fifty rods in diameter) the exact size of the pyramid of Asychis; and one hundred feet in height." (See Archaeologia Americana, page 189.) The author says in speaking of many of these pyramids of the west; there is "one near Washington, Mississippi state, of one hundred and forty-six feet in height!" Articles found in and near these works show the improvement of the arts among those who erected them." Though these tumult were used as places to bury their dead, and places for temples, altars and religious worship; they were no doubt places also for the last resort when likely to be overcome by an enemy. Solis, a writer noted in the Archaeology, when describing the destruction of the Mexicans by the Spaniards, speaks of them as fleeing to their Teocalli. (The Teocalli were high places formed for the site of their temples, for altars, and places for entombing the dead. The name Teocalli, Humbolt informs, was given these sacred places from the name of the god, to whom the place was dedicated.) Solis informs that in the time of the conflicts of the Mexicans with the Spaniards, their Teocalli appeared like living hills covered with warriors, determined to defend their sacred places, where were their temples, altars, and the tombs of their fathers. Here they fought with desperation. The high places and great tumult of the natives on the Mississippi, no doubt were for the same purposes with those of South America. The writer of the Archaeology remarks, that had temples been built on any of their high places, probably no vestige of them would now be visible.

North American earthworks compared to biblical high places. Later migrations to Central and South America:

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These ancient works of the native Americans may well remind us of what was said in the Old Testament writings of the ancient "high places" of Israel. Psalm lxxviii. 53: "For they provoked him to anger with their high places."

How abundantly are these noted through their sacred writings. In scores of text we read them. Such a king built their high places. Such a reformer destroyed them. Such a vile king rebuilt them and so on. Here was a train of the most common events. The hearts of Israel were long and most perfectly inured to the religious use of their high places, though it was forbidden. Scott remarks that these high places were "both for idolatry; and for the regular worship of Jehovah." Solomon had used these high places. 1 Kings iii. 3, 4; "And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only he sacrificed and burned incense in high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for what was the great high place. A thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar." Scott upon the passage says; "Until the temple was builded, the irregularity of sacrificing to the God of Israel in high places -- was in some degree connived at. But the people proceeded further in it than in the days of David; and Solomon was censurable for countenancing them." It seems they had their great high places and their smaller high places, to which that ancient people were greatly attached. These high places in Israel are sometimes alluded to in a very bad sense, as when they were the seats of idolatry; and sometimes in a sense which seems more favourable. But allusions are abundantly made to them through the sacred pages; "high places" of various altitudes and dimensions "on every high hill, and under every green tree." The children of Jacob on great occasions assembled at Gilgal. The name of this place imports "a heap." Here was a pile of stones taken from the heart of Jordan, and formed into a monument at the place of Israel's first encampment in the promised land. This circumstance and the numerous monumental


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piles of stone in ancient Israel, bear a near resemblance to the many piles of stone found in this country, and particularly on the waters of the Licking near Newark, and in the counties of Perry, Pickaway, and Ross, Ohio.

Israel were ever accustomed to hills and high places for their resort to transact important concerns as well as acts of devotion. Gibeon was a great high place, as has been noted. Shiloh, a noted place of such resort, was on a high hill. This was discontinued as the place of such resort, when the loftier hill of Zion was selected in its place. The temple was located by divine decision, on this lofty mount of Zion. Ideas like these together with their other "high places," in ancient Israel, may account for the numerous and huge tumult found in this continent.

Alluding to the high places in ancient Israel, God denounced, Amos vii. 9; "The high places of Israel shall be desolate." And Jer. xii. 7; "I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies." It then follows verse 12; "The spoilers have come upon all high places through the wilderness; for the sword of the Lord shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; no flesh shall have peace." When this was written the ten tribes had been gone from Canaan many years. God had indeed "given this branch of the beloved of his soul into the hands of her enemies;" as verse 7, just recited. The subsequent verse given may be far better understood in future days, should greater light dawn on the subject, and present our natives as the tribes of Israel. They and we, in that case, shall better understand the passage, "The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness; for the sword of the Lord shall devour from the one end of the land to the other end of the land." This seems an event then future -- "The sword shall come -- "though the tribes had before been banished. This, as it related to Israel, seems to be an event to be accomplished during their out-cast state. For in the second


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and third verses, after this, is predicted their restoration to their heritage in their own land. No supposible origin assigned to American natives could so well account for what we find of the American high places, as the supposition of their descent from ancient Israel. The events upon this supposition are most natural and characteristic.

These American high places are striking resemblances of the Egyptian pyramids. Consult those in the region of Mexico, as already stated from Mr. Humbolt; and it seems as though they must have been made by the same people with those of Egypt. But the Egyptian pyramids were seen and well known by ancient Israel; and it has long been conjectured they were built by their labours during their bondage in Egypt. How natural then, that they should carry down to succeeding generations the deep impression of them in their minds. And what other nation on earth would be so likely to form such imitations of them, in a remote outcast region, as they? and especially after all we read of Israel's high places, piles, and monuments, their acquaintance with Gibeon, and Gilgal; their deep impression of the temple on mount Zion; and especially their high and sacred places at Bethel and Dan! No other account can more naturally be given of the American high places, then that they originated in those ancient impressions. Of the high places near Mexico, the writer of the Archaeology says; "The group of pyramids of Teotihuacan is in the valley of Mexico, eight leagues north east from the capital, in a plain named -- "the Path of the Dead." Here are two large pyramids, surrounded by hundreds of smaller ones, which form square streets with the cardinal points of the compass. The writer says one of these three great pyramids of Egypt, and the length of the base nearly equal to that of Cephron. These things are much in the style of the Egyptian pyramids. "Around the Cheops and the Mycerinus are eight smaller pyramids placed with symmetry, and parallel to the front of the greater," says the writer, in noting the resemblance of between these


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and the Egyptian pyramids. And after further noting the "four principle stories" of a great Teocalli, or pyramid, near Mexico, and noting its composition, he adds; "This construction calls to mind that one of the Egyptian pyramids of Sackhara, which was Six stories, is a mass of pebbles and yellow mortar, covered on the outside with rough stones." The two great Mexican pyramids (this author informs) had on their summit huge statues of the sun and moon, formed of the stone and covered with plates of gold, which the soldiers of Cortez plundered. They did not now locate upon their high places their golden calves; but statues of the sun and moon, those brightest visible emblems of their Great Spirit. Of one of these pyramids demolished, the writer says; " We still discover the remains of a stair case built with large hewn stone, which formerly led to the platform of the Teocalli."

The Archaeology informs of a pyramid toward the Gulf of Mexico discovered by Spanish hunters about thirty years ago, in a thick forest, as though concealed. "For the Indians (says the writer) carefully concealed from the whites, whatever was the object of their ancient veneration." Various authors unite in this trait of Indian character; which accounts for the fact, that so many of their Israelitish rites should remain so long concealed from us. This newly discovered pyramid was built wholly of hewn stone of vast size and very beautiful. The writer says, this pyramid "had six, perhaps seven stories." "Three stair cases lead to the top. The covering of its steps are decorated with hieroglyphical sculpture, and small niches, which are arranged with great symmetry." -- These niches are three hundred and eighteen.

The Teocalli or pyramid of Cholula, near Mexico, (noted before from M. Humbolt) is given on a place in the Archaeology, with its temple on its summit, and with its stair-cases of one hundred and twenty steps, leading up its lofty stories. This huge majestic pile was called, "The mountain made by the hand of man."

In the interiors of various of these great pyramids were found considerable cavities for repositories ...


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... As circumstances indicated that this triune vessel was a religious emblem, as the narrator of it believes; so this affords an argument of some weight that the inventors of it were of Israel.

Another argument going to the same point is this. The writer in Archaeology says; "One fact I will here mention; whenever there is a group of tumult, three are uniformly larger than the rest; and stand in the most prominent places. Three such are to be seen standing in a line on the north side of Detroit. -- Three such are to be seen near Athens; and at a great many places along the Ohio river. There are three such near the town of Piketon. "Were they not altars, (he inquires) dedicated to their principal gods?" Permit me to reply; They were much more likely to have been emblems dedicated to the one triune God of Israel.

The numerous ancient inhabitants on the Mississippi were the same race with those of Mexico and Peru. And the latter have exhibited similar ideas of the triune God. The writer of the Archaeology says of those ancient people of the Mississippi; "Their religious rites were it is believed, the same with those of Mexico and Peru." And he further notes, "Clavigero, who was well acquainted with the histories of the Mexicans and Peruvians, professes to point out the places they stopped at; and the times they continued to sojourn there. According to him they arrived at Mexico in 648, and came across the Pacific not far from the Beering's Straits." Thus all these people were of one stock.

And the writer of the Archaeology speaks of the native South Americans as having three principal gods. He says; "One of the three principal gods of the South Americans was called by a name, which signifies the god of the shining mirror. He was supposed to be a God who reflected his own supreme perfections, and was represented by a mirror, which was made in that country of polished obsidian, which is a volcanic production ...

Vincent Coon וׅינְסֶט כּוּן © Copyright 2013

Mound Builder America and the Book of Mormon


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