Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Rocky Mountains and Zelph's mound

Mesoamerican proponents continue to insist the Zelph's mound incident has nothing to do with Book of Mormon geography. They claim there were inconsistencies in the various accounts written in the journals of Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, etc.

But in 2010, a report on NPR showed that Joseph Smith's account of Zelph is consistent with what was discovered just a few years ago in Indiana--a site not far from the route of Zion's Camp.

1. Artifacts from the Rocky Mountains found in Indiana.
2. Evidence of connections between ancient North America and Mesoamerica (the hinterlands).
3. Evidence of pre-Columbian smelting in North America.

The latest thinking among Mesoamerican proponents regarding Zelph is probably Mark Allen Wright's proposal that North America was the "hinterlands" of Book of Mormon geography. [Note: I actually like the "hinterlands" approach, but I think it's inverted; i.e., Mesoamerica is the hinterland.]

One of the best analyses of Zelph was published by Donald Q. Cannon, here. He cites the journal entries, such as this one by Wilford Woodruff:

"He was a warrior under the great prophet /Onandagus/ that was known from the hill Camorah /or east sea/ to the Rocky mountains."

Whether it was Zelph or Onandagus who was known across the continent is unclear, but Reuben McBride also mentioned the Rocky Mountains.

I haven't had time to determine whether, in 1834, it was common knowledge that the Hopewell people imported products from the Rocky Mountains, but it seems to be a newsworthy item today.

Here's an excerpt from the 2010 NPR report about the Mann site in Indiana.

"It's like Vegas ... for archaeologists," says Mike Linderman, who manages state historic sites in western Indiana. Linderman says the Mann Hopewell Site is bigger than its more famous Hopewell counterparts in Ohio, and it's filled with even more exotic materials, like obsidian glass that has been traced to the Yellowstone Valley in Wyoming, and grizzly bear incisor teeth.
"Grizzly bears obviously are not from Indiana, never have been," Linderman says. "There's a theory out there now that instead of being trade items, these items [were] actually being collected by the people from Mann Site on rite-of-passage trips they [were] taking out to the West. You know, it's something big if you've killed a grizzly bear and you can bring its teeth back to Indiana."
Jaguars and panthers aren't from Indiana, either, but they show up at the Mann Hopewell Site as beautifully detailed carvings. Put them together with clay figurines that have slanted eyes — not a Hopewell feature — and Linderman says we could be looking at a connection between Indiana and Central or South America.
Digging Deep For Clues
And that just scratches the surface, so to speak. In 2006, researcher Staffan Peterson did the archaeological version of an MRI scan on 100 acres at the site. Whenever his equipment detected an archaeological feature, a dot showed up on a map.
"Every day, we'd download our data and our jaws would drop," Peterson says. "It was kind of like buckshot, there were so many. And we were able to map out upwards of 8,000 archaeological features."
Two of the most notable features are what Peterson calls "wood henges" — like Stonehenge, but made of wooden posts — which he believes may be one of a kind in the U.S.
But there may be an even more remarkable discovery — one that could rewrite history books. Linderman says scientists are starting tests on what looks like evidence of lead smelting, a practice that, until now, was only seen in North America after the arrival of the French, 1,000 years after the Hopewell Tradition.
Lead smelting is just one of the many questions archaeologists will be targeting in upcoming digs that they hope will clear up at least a few of the Mann Hopewell Site's — and American prehistory's — mysteries.

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