Just ignore him, beastie. I know you can do it. Or make sure your response has fewer characters than his.
Heh. Well, this has many more characters, but isn’t a reply to DCP, so I win!!
Unless its just to have fun bantering back and forth with beastie, which i can understand might be fun in a sort of "playground-hit the girl you have a crush on" way, but then again, who doesn't have a crush on beastie?
Ok, here is my response which has nothing to do with DCP, but rather addresses Dr. Clark’s BYU devotional talk. I first sent him this email:
Thank you for taking the time to read my email. I know you are a very busy person, and well-respected in your field.
I have a few questions pertaining to your May 2004 BYU address, "Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief". These questions have bothered me since I first read your address a year ago, and someone recently provided your email so I could ask you directly.
First, regarding my own background - I have no training or formal education in archaeology or anthropology, although I do have a master's degree in education. Although this has nothing to do with my own profession, for the past couple of years I have had an intense interest in ancient Mesoamerica and how it relates to the Book of Mormon. I have read approximately thirty books by various authors on the subject, so my
comments here reflect the understandings I have garnered from those texts on my own.
I do hope that I don't sound like I'm lecturing or scolding you in anyway. That is not my intent. I feel certain you are already well aware of the particular information I to which I shall refer. I have much respect for your knowledge, and your work is cited in almost every book I've read about ancient Mesoamerica. This is why I'm confused about some
of your BYU statements.
I will first quote the section of your talk that interests me and then add my questions or concerns.
"The book's description of ancient peoples differs greatly from the
notions of rude savages held by nineteenth-century Americans. The book's claim of city-societies was laughable at the time, but no one is laughing now. As the city example shows, the lower the probability that Joseph Smith could have guessed a future fact, the stronger the likelihood that he received the information from a divine source. Consequently, the most compelling evidence of authenticity is that which verifies unguessable things recorded in the Book of Mormon, the more outlandish, the better. Confirmation of such things would eliminate any residual probability of human authorship and go a long way in demonstrating that Joseph Smith could not have written the book. This is precisely what a century of archaeology has done."
Once Spain was expulsed from Latin America in the 1820s, the door was opened to investigations and captured the American imagination. Prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, nineteenth century Americans were already aware of the fact that a massive civilization, with impressive structures, once populated the New World. The notion that the ancient inhabitants of the New World were once divided into two groups, one civilized and advanced, the other barbarous, was quite common at the period. Ethan Smith's "The View of the Hebrews" is one example of this idea. According to R. Tripp Evans, in his book "Romancing the Maya - Mexican Antiquity in the American Imagination 1820-1915", page 10:
"Following Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821, the sudden accessibility of its colonial archives and archaeological sites fueled dramatic foreign interest in the nation's pre-Hispanic past. More publications devoted to Mexican antiquities appeared within the nation's first two decades of independence, in fact, than had been produced during the past three centuries of Spanish rule. The enthusiasm generated by these publications, however - mostly reprints of formerly unobtainable colonial surveys - often compromised their author's search for archaeological truth."
Other books that addressed this topic, prior to the appearance of the Book of Mormon, were:
James Adair's "The History of American Indians", 1775
Boudinot, Elias, "A Star in the West; or a Humble Attempt to Discover
the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel", 1816
Humboldt, Alexander, "Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain", 1813
The idea that, in some way, the former inhabitants of the New World were connected to ancient Israel was another popular notion, as seen in Ethan Smith and Boudinot's work in particular. So your statement about the general knowledge about ancient America at the time of the Book of Mormon seems incorrect.
But what interests me the most was this section of your address:
"The golden plates and other relics ended up in New York in the final instance because the Nephites were exterminated in a cataclysmic battle. The Book of Mormon brims with warfare and nasty people. Until twenty years ago, the book's claims on this matter were pooh-poohed by the famous scholars. Now that Maya writing is being read, warfare appears to have been a Mesoamerican pastime. The information on warfare in the Book
of Mormon is particularly rich and provides ample opportunity to check Joseph Smith's luck in getting the details right. The warfare described in the book differs from what Joseph could have known or imagined. In the book, one reads of fortified cities with ditches, walls, and palisades. Mesoamerican cities dated to Nephite times have been found with all these features. The Book of Mormon mentions bows and arrows, swords, slings, scimitars, clubs, spears, shields, breastplates, helmets, and cotton armor-all items documented from Mesoamerica. Aztec swords were of wood, sometimes edged with stone knives. There are indications of wooden swords in the Book of Mormon. How else could swords become stained with blood? Wooden swords could sever heads and limbs and were lethal. The practice of taking detached arms as battle trophies, as in the story of Ammon, is also documented from Mesoamerica."
Although there was a long period in which Mesaomerican scholars viewed the Maya as a peaceful people, led by calendar-obsessed priests, that is not an accurate reflection of what Joseph Smith's contemporaries thought about ancient Mesoamerica. As I stated earlier, they also believed that there were likely two groups of people, and the less civilized group completely exterminated the more civilized group.
The fortified cities with ditches, walls, and palisades, was described in several publications that predated The Book of Mormon, including the aforementioned The View of the Hebrews, which states:
"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 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 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 their authors." (page 145)
Other texts of the time period also mentioned fortifications, including Alexander Humboldt's writings and John Haywood's 1823 "The Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee".
You cited bows and arrows as being confirmed in Mesoamerica. My impression remains that the standard thought on this chronology of the bow and arrow in Mesoamerica is that it did not reach that area until around 800 AD or thereabouts. Even the atlatl, which some have suggested is what the "sword" was, is dated too late for the Book of Mormon period. The breastplates and headplates, from the description of Lucy Smith, were made of metal. There was no advanced metallurgy in Mesoamerica during the specified Book of Mormon period which would have been able to produce such an item.
This next statement:
"In summary, the practices and instruments of war described in the Book of Mormon display multiple and precise correspondences with Mesoamerican practices and in ways unimaginable to nineteenth-century Americans."
concerns me for two reasons. The book of Helaman describes a conquest war, in which the Lamanites forced the Nephites to exodus their city, and the Lamanites possessed it. This type of conquest warfare was not known in Mesoamerica during that time period. Also, the end of the Book of Mormon wars describe a polity that controlled, at least during warfare, twenty cities that stretched over the Mesoamerican landscape (using John Sorenson's map). There was no polity that powerful or wide-spread during that period of Mesoamerican history.
I have read John Sorenson's Ancient Setting, as well as several articles on FARMs website, and have read Brant Gardner's explanation of these discrepancies, so am aware of the thoughts of some on this matter. I understand that some explanations do exist, but it concerns me that you did not qualify your statements in your BYU address so listeners could seek out and judge the quality of those explanations themselves. Your statements sounded far more conclusive than the actual evidence would indicate.
Thank you for any time you can take to address my concerns. I also wondered if I could share any response you may deem appropriate to share with me with others who may also have some of these concerns. If you do not wish me to do so, I will not.
I’ll come back with his response as soon as I clean up the format.