Book of Mormon Archaelogy Compared to Other Civilizations
CES Letter Core Question
Where are the Nephite or Lamanite buildings, roads, armors swords, pottery, art, etc.? We see evidence of Roman, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations.
Compare the absent evidence of Book of Mormon civilizations to the archaeological remains of other past civilizations such as the Roman occupation of Britain and other countries. There are abundant evidences of their presence during the first 400 years AD such as villas, mosaic floors, public baths, armor, weapons, writings, art, pottery, and so on. Even the major road systems used today in some of these occupied countries were built by the Romans. Additionally, there is ample evidence of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations as well as a civilization in current day Texas that dates back at least 15,000 years. Another recent discovery has been made of a 14,000-year-old village in Canada.
Admittedly, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but where are the Nephite or Lamanite buildings, roads, armors, swords, pottery, art, etc.? How can these great civilizations just vanish without a trace?
CES Letter, Page 12
Religious critics frequently like to assert that there is voluminous support for Biblical archaeology and none for the Book of Mormon. It is a contrived comparison because of the remarkable differences between the two worlds (Old and New) regarding epigraphic data, iconographic data, the continuity of culture, and toponyms.
When examining ancient evidence archaeologists work with a very fragmentary record. In general, they find physical evidence, but such evidence in and of itself doesn’t provide much information unless it is placed within a context—a framework by which it can be understood.
Even acknowledging the archaeological advantages for determining the location and historical actuality of biblical lands, we find that only slightly more than half of all place names mentioned in the Bible have been located and positively identified.
Despite the identification of some biblical sites, many important Bible locations have not been identified. The location of Mt. Sinai, for example, is unknown, and there are over twenty possible candidates.
The only way archaeologists can determine names is through written records. Archaeological data alone tells little about a people. Judaism as a distinct religion would not exist without the ancient texts that bound the people together. A distinct Jewish religion is not discernable in the archeological record.
The Book of Mormon provides very limited geographic data and the primary record keepers died out in the fifth century. Their enemies embraced a much different culture that was antithetical to the Nephites, their lifestyles, and record keeping.
Claims that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon are based on naive and erroneous assumptions. Without epigraphic evidence from the Americas (which is currently very limited from Book of Mormon times), it is impossible to know the contemporary names of ancient Mesoamerican cities and kingdoms.
For the time period in which the Nephites lived, scholars are aware of only a very limited number of inscriptions from the entire ancient New World that can be read with any degree of certainty. One of the very few ancient cities in Mesoamerica for which the pre-Columbian name is known is named "Lamanai"? The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as “Lam'an'ain."
To dismiss the Book of Mormon on archaeological grounds is not justified. Many recent archaeological finds are generally consistent with the Book of Mormon record even if we the exact location of Book of Mormon cities is unknown.