John E. Clark’s article “Archaeology and Cumorah Questions” in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, 2004, pp. 144-51, is the seminal work, the icing on the cake, of refutations regarding whether Cumorah in Palmyra has any relevance to Book of Mormon geography.
Here, in one article, one may learn the cons against Palmyra being the place of the final Nephite battle. There is one serious flaw however, the assumptions or framework established by the geography hierarchy at Book of Mormon Archaeology Forum (BMAF) is skewed, which shows all throughout Clark’s paper.
Nevertheless, we, the supporters of the western New York model, are glad to have the criticisms identified and we would like to give credit to Clark for inspiring a key element used for identifying true Book of Mormon lands: Fringe Theory.
Clark criticizes thus:
Adena and Hopewell peoples lived in Pennsylvania and western New York, but this region represented the impoverished FRINGE of their culture. (John E. Clark, “Archaeology and Cumorah Questions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: vol. 13, no. 1, 2004, pp. 144-51)
Reaching forth from the old Hemispheric Model theory is the view that Book of Mormon people and culture were dominant. Now, there is wide acceptance that both ideas are false. Neither Book of Mormon peoples or culture were dominant! Thus, when mesotheorists demand cultural evidence, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouth.
It is not possible to find as a dominant culture an acknowledged sub-culture group (Nephite). Looking for dominating cultures that can be identified as “Nephite” lures researchers into untenable realms, as Thomas Stuart Ferguson discovered.
Clark assures us that everything to be discovered in western New York has been discovered; there are no anomalies, unturned stones, unexplored areas, biases, or destroyed evidence:
New York lacked cities and cereal agriculture until after AD 1000 and is thus not the place where the events described in the Book of Mormon took place. We are not missing archaeological evidence of indigenous peoples, their settlement patterns, or subsistence practices for the time periods under consideration. These are reasonably well known for each period from a variety of evidence, and they simply do not fit the requirements specified in the Book of Mormon.” (fn. It is important to note that other places in the Americas do fit these requirements, and this is what most of the debate is about. See John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, 1992.)
Quite simply, if the Hopewell culture extended to western New York during Book of Mormon time (as Clark recognizes they did) and if the Hopewells had cereal agriculture (which they did), then Clark’s criticism against western New York is unfounded:
The Squawkie Hill phase is still imprecisely defined. In fact, in the absence of habitation sites and with the limited cultural and skeletal data available, it is impossible or imprudent to attempt a reconstruction of either the manner of life or the physical appearance of these people. Projectile points, chiefly of large size, probably for arming javelins and hand-held spears, and bone fishhooks proclaim the already ages-old basic hunting-fishing economy in our area, which, however, has as yet supplied no trace of cultigens, although maize horticulture is now definitely established for the Hopewell culture of Illinois and Ohio. “ (William A. Ritchie, The Archaeology of New York State, 1965, Revised, 1980, pp. 214-215)
Corn has been found:
On Elm Creek, near the village of East Randolph, is an embankment and trench of circular form two hundred. and. eighty feet in diameter. From the appearance of a successive growth of timber it would indicate a remote date of construction. Within and adjacent to this work numerous caches and hearths have been discovered, some of which contained the remains of charred corn. In the vicinity, where the ground has been cultivated, hundreds of relics used by those ancient warriors have been found. (Frederick Larkin, M.D., Ancient Man in America Including Works in Western New York and Portions of Other States, 1880, pp. 8-9)
Not far from the eastern boundary of the village of Fredonia and near the Canadaway Creek, is an ancient work that attracted much attention among the early settlers of the town of Pomfret. This fortification is located on a precipitous hill whose top is nearly level, and extends to either bank across its level summit. Nearly in front of this breastwork was a deep pit built, no doubt, for storing provisions and implements of war. I was informed more than thirty years ago by one of the early white settlers that a great amount of arrow heads and spear heads, some of which were composed of copper, together with a quantity of charred corn was found in the pit. Adjacent to this entrenchment fragments of human bones have been disclosed in such an advanced stage of decay that they whitened the soil in which they were laid. (Ibid., pp. 37-38)
The largest Nephite cities and towns of the Book of Mormon narrative were located in valley settings, necessarily in areas with good agricultural land. Some areas were occupied for centuries and experienced periodic building and rebuilding. Some had temples and other religious structures, walls, gates, and dwellings. In archaeological terms, these sites should be spatially extensive and thick, with significant stratigraphy. These are the types of archaeological sites with the highest potential for visibility and the greatest probability of being located and consistently reported. We would not expect evidence of their size or date to be annihilated, even with several centuries of plowing. Rather, such activity would make them easier to find—more visible. They should have been part of the early settlers’ descriptions. New York and Pennsylvania lack sites that fit this description. Finding a 2,000- to 4,000-year-old city in New York State would be so novel that it would be reported quickly in all scientific outlets. It has never happened, and it will not happen. The most likely locations for such cities are already archaeologically well known because they are also the prime locations for modern occupation. (Clark)
Again Clark contradicts himself. First he says you must find ancient cities of a presumed kind in western New York, and on the other hand he says you won’t cause they would have been built over by modern ones. What sort of cities should we find? Hewn stone ones like in Mesoamerica? His mindset, having reached saturation by the Mayan, cannot conceive of wooden cities as described in the Book of Mormon. What should remain thereofore after all Nephite cities were burned prior to the final battle?
Archaeologists have acknowledged the fact that western New York has been:
- Has more fortifications per square mile than any place in America
- Has been populated by many different cultures
- Was plundered by treasure hunters, like Joseph, for hundreds of years
- Has been plowed over and 98% of known archaeological discoveries destroyed
And we’ll add the following:
- Obscured while Mormons are cursed, as President Benson said, for not following the teachings in the Book of Mormon. Would God allow evidences to come forth while the Book is solely associated with the Mormon Church in the eyes of the world, to confirm their anti-Book of Mormon doctrines like child baptism? Course not.
To put what he demands in perspective, ask Clark if he can locate a single city from Colonial times in western New York – he can’t. If something were to remain after 2000 years, what would it possibly be? Nothing but dirt walls and trenches that were used to fortify cities [fortifications were not used in Mesoamerica and the odd mote does not equate to Nephite fortifications].
Are there remnant, dirt walled cities throughout western New York? Yes:
Commencing at the southern shores of the northern lakes [Erie & Ontario] and extending southward a hundred miles or more we find a greater number of military works than in any other section of the United States (Frederick Larkin, M.D., Ancient Man in America, 1888, p. 72)
It has long been known that many evidences of ancient labor and skill are to be found in the western parts of New York and Pennsylvania, upon the upper tributaries of the Ohio, and along the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Here we find a series of ancient earth-works, entrenched hills, and occasional mounds, or tumuli, concerning which history is mute, and the origin of which has been regarded as involved in impenetrable mystery. These remains became a subject of frequent remark, as the tide of emigration flowed westward; and various detached notices of their existence were, from time to time, made public. (E. G. Squier, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York, Smithsonian, 1849, pp. 9-10)
I am persuaded that enough has been said to demonstrate the existence of a vast population, settled in towns, defended by forts, cultivating agriculture, and more advanced in civilization than the nations which have inhabited the same countries since the European discovery. (Governor De Witt Clinton, Memoir on the Antiquities of the Western Parts of the State of New York)
Anyone reading these statements should pause and understand, they were made by highly educated men and are not the ramblings of some armchair theorists; they are facts. Now consider the following:
- If each fortification represents a city, how many cities were there anciently? HUNDREDS
- Did the Iroquois build such fortifications? No, they built on top of them, and mostly pre-date them
- How was each city-fort being sustained? So many, for SO LONG, could ONLY be sustained BY AGRICULTURE
- Is the environment near each city-fort suitable for farming? YES
- Can a single archaeological discovery change current archaeological and cultural interpretations? YES, don’t place your trust in theories that are constantly changing
The evidence they seek has already been given.
- Cement: the box the plates were found in was composed of cement – in western New York
- Precious metals: the metal the plates were made on was gold, or an alloy of gold – in western New York
- Written language: there was a written language inscribed on plates – in western New York
The avoidance of Fulfilled Land Prophecies is the most dishonest part manifesting itself among the Book of Mormon Geography Establishment (BMGE). A stern warning to all supporters of the BMGE:
11 And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.
12 And I will fortify this land against all other nations.
13 And he that fighteth against Zion (government of the United States) shall perish, saith God.
14 For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words.
16 Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God. (2 Nephi 10)