Non-Mormon Archaeologists Speak on Book of Mormon Evidence

Rick Branch

Two of the most prevalent claims for the Book of Mormon are, "there is much archaeological proof to the Book of Mormon," and "the American Indians are descendants of Israelites who came to America as described in the Book of Mormon."

In fact, several Mormon organizations have been founded in order to prove these very presuppositions. One such group is the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, better known as F.A.R.M.S. In their 1988-1989 catalogue they state, "...F.A.R.M.S. exists primarily to make reliable information from scholarly studies on the Book of Mormon readily available worldwide...," (p. 1).

Since F.A.R.M.S is interested in reliable, scholarly information, they should find the following letters of much value. The letters were written in reply to inquiries made by James Fogal, who asked if there was any validity to the two claims mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article.

Professor Paul E. Minnis, from the University of Oklahoma: Department of Anthropology writes, "It is safe to say that few, if any, professional archaeologists, except those who are practicing Mormons themselves, view the Book of Mormon as a document with any archaeological value."

In answer to the second question, Professor Minnis states, "Therefore, the vast majority of archaeologists view the belief that American Indians are descendants of Israelites as completely false," (letter dated 15 February 1989).

Next, Professor Thomas J. Riley of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Department of Anthropology, explains, "If you read the Book of Mormon carefully, you will see that these early people were supposed to have horses and oxen, and that they used tools of iron as well as other metals.

"While we do have copper, bronze, gold and silver in South American and Mexican sites at a late date (post Book of Mormon), we do not have any signs of the use of iron or of any of the domestic animals that Mormons believe came with these `migrants.' We do not have wheat and barley in America, either.

"So where did the Indians come from? We have a good amount of evidence that they came from Asia across a landbridge that joined Siberia and America up to about twelve thousand years ago," (letter dated February 21, 1989, p. 1; parenthesis added for clarity).

Fogel also heard from Dr. Stanton W. Green, University of South Carolina: Department of Anthropology, who explained, "As far as I know based on my 20 years experience in archaeology there is no evidence for either claim you note in your letter.

"As for the Native American Indians, there ancestors came from eastern Asia (Siberia) and for this there is ample evidence. They crossed the Bering Strait some 15 -- 20,000 years ago. The Israeli tribes of some 5000 years ago had nothing to do with this. Native Americans are a people unto themselves with Asian ancestors," (letter dated 13 February 1989).

Dr. Green not only answered James Fogel's letter, he also forwarded it to one of his colleagues. Professor Joan M. Gero, also of the University of South Carolina provided the following information.

"Your letter inquiring about archaeological confirmation of the Book of Mormon was forwarded to me since my own research involves preColumbian South America, and particularly addresses the cultures of Peru between 200 BC and 200 AD.

"To my personal knowledge, I can not cite any specific archaeological studies that support the Book of Mormon -- I know that there is an interest in finding evidence of Christ's visit to South America during this time period, but to my knowledge no such evidence has ever been recovered.

"Similarly, I do not believe that present day North American Indians can be traced back as descendants of the Israelites -- this in fact contradicts all that presently believed in archaeology about the Asian origins of indigenous American population.

"I would have to say on both counts that the Book of Mormon is not supported," (letter dated 15 February 1989).

Despite all of F.A.R.M.S., and other similar organizations, attempts, the facts set forth by archaeologists continue to discredit the validity of the Book of Mormon. It is thus not surprising that in the final analysis, F.A.R.M.S. must admit, "However, proof of the Book of Mormon remains in the spiritual domain," (1988-1989 Catalogue, p. 1).

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