This series on restored Doctrines utilizes records of one sort of another, but there are some things that are hard evidence in the form of carvings, paintings, images in stone, wood and bone, and other such items. The brother of my wife’s sister’s husband, a well educated man, agonized over some things for which the evidence is still scarce. The horse and the elephant were two of the things he agonized about. As he slowly apostatized you could see his hurt. I was trying to find, information or evidence that would satisfy him, some of which I include in this entry. But he never saw it, a few months ago he drove off the curve of a high mountain road on a motorcycle and was killed. So, I wonder, what more could I have done? So, I am now trying to put together what I have that someone else might have the assurance the restoration is all true and Joseph got it right all the time. And if you have to wait for the evidence to be found, then be patient, wait.
ANIMALS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
Twelve animals are Specifically identified in the Book of Mormon: ass, cow, dog, goat, wild goat, horse, sheep, ox, swine, elephant, wild goat, “curelom,” and “cumon.” (1 Ne. 18:25 The Jaredites before their departure “prepared all manner of food…for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal that they should carry with them.” (Ether 6:4) For those animals useful for food they listed: cattle, oxen, cows, sheep, swine, goats, and other kinds of animals…and that horses, assess, elephants, ‘cureloms and cumoms’ were useful unto man.… (Ether 9:18-19)
HORSES AND THE JAREDITES
Horses are referred to in a number of passages in the Book of Mormon covering a vast time span. The oldest reference is to that of the Jaredites having horses, along with “all manner of cattle” (Ether 9:18-19). Have you ever heard somebody talking about horses being had by the Jaredites? This would be some time before 2300 BC. After 588 BC, the Nephites began to raise their own “flocks and herds, and animals Both the Jaredites and Nephites came from a time when horses were in great abundance and well utilized of every kind (2 Ne. 5:11). Later, the prophet Enos reported that the Nephites raised “flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind and goats, and wild goats and also many horses.” (Enos 1:21, between 544 and 421 BC) The idea of horses becoming extinct long before the Jaredites or Nephites or that all of America’s horses were derived from what the Spaniards left behinds, seems to be in error.
In 1969, a great scriptural scholar, Sidney B. Sperry wrote: “The problem of demonstrating the use of domestic animals [especially horses] among ancient American peoples is the most difficult scientific problem faced by Book of Mormon scholars at the present time.” (Sperry p. 126) More than ten years before, as a graduate student at BYU in archaeology and geology, I confronted the questions by placing those I could not answer at that time on a shelf, convinced that in time the fields of all knowledge would be increased and answers to all of them resolved. In the more than 50 years since then I have spent considerable time on Mesoamerican sites of which there are more than 5,000 and less than 2 %, and with varying degree of completeness, have been excavated, and very few of those down to the earliest levels, such as to the time period of the Jaredites, where archaeologists could uncover in their digging the bones of horses, where with current science, DNA tests can be made to ascertain if they are indigenous to America or upper Mesopotamian in origin, or evidence of any other kind that might resolve the questions.
Questions concerning horses in the American Southwest and Mesoamerica before AD 400 were stimulated by bones from the Danger Cave region of Utah, . “.…As for the horse phalange (Fig. 1) which I believe is a front one I have had around for quite some time while studying the recent equids and late Pleistocene forms. Like the humerus it is impossible to allocate specifically among the small equids. The phalange is larger than the small one I got out of Pagago Springs Cave (in southern Arizona) and referred to a Equus tau. However I find that I can duplicate it in our Pleistocene specimens from Hay Springs, Nebraska and Alaska. If I may hazard a guess I would say that it belongs to one of the small Equids that survived in North America up until almost recent times and is not from a burro or a pony that was introduced by the Spanish. Whatever species of Equus this creature belonged to we can feel safe in saying that it had a size larger than that of some of the zebras. The only Zebra I observed of this proportion was the E. gretyt. It also approaches the limb proportions of the Mongolian E. hemontus or Kang. But here the likeness ceases for I do not wish to imply that it was a zebra or Kang-like creature. In the late Pleistocene several species of small horses existed in Old Mexico which are quite well known and it may one of these. You can feel quite sure that it would not belong to the larger Equus found throughout the Pleistocene and this is the most important observation I can bring out to you. All of the E. caballus I was able to locate in the Museum Collection were much heavier-limbed creatures and did not approach this specimen even remotely. In my opinion this would rule out a Spanish importation. I paid particular attention to Arabian stocks and it was not likely that the Spanish horses were small creatures. When I compared the burros I found most of them smaller in the same degree as caballus was larger even compared mules and again they were large like caballus. The conclusion is that whatever equid this specimen belonged to, it was of about the proportions of the living Kang of Mongolia. How long some of these extinct horses survived in North America is truly an important problem for the anthropologist but it is my sincere belief that this phalange does represent an example of survival. Some of the equids from Mexico and Ecuador, South America look so recent that one would swear that they are from living forms. The South American examples I have are completely unfossilized and yet do not resemble any living Equus form. The degree of fossilization is not always a criterion of antiquity.” (Skinner, p. 307-308) Recently several discoveries of pre-Columbian horses have been reported by Sorenson and Welch. (In Largey p. 61)
NAMANGOSA VALLEY, EQUADOR ELEPHANTS
“Likewise, the elephant mentioned in Jaredite times (Ether 9:19) may be a reference to the mastodon. Long believed to be extinct before the period of the Jaredites.” (Largey pp. 61-62) “The extraordinary and momentous find in the Namangosa Valley was the recovery of a mastodon tooth from…an ancient riverbed near one of the stone built platforms ….what was extraordinary…for mastodon bones have been uncovered before in Ecuador—Max Uhle in 1928 reported that he excavated part of a mastodon skeleton in a cave high In the cordilleras—but the results of a carbon -14 analysis …yielded a date of 3530 BC, plus or minus 120 years…believed until that time that the mastodon had become extinct in this area by 6000 years BC. This explained the stone artifact of a carved elephantine creature that was recovered from an ancient crevice burial in the Namangosa Valley. It also explained carved elephant- like heads on stone mortars recovered from adjacent areas….The vividness with which an elephant-like animal was rendered in the stone pieces discovered in the Namangosa Valley suggests that it had to be alive in Ecuador within the memory of the tribes that produced these artifacts. (see images) …mastodon-like features can be seen in the clay artifacts of later cultures from Pacos Tungurashua (ca. 400 BC). Several species of animals that were thought to have been extinct thousands of years before apparently were in Ecuador long enough to have been recorded in its ancient art. …in Central America the tradition of the elephant form can be shown that the tradition may have been carried north from the equatorial belts. Pottery vessels with the unmistakable depictions of the elephant or mastodon have been recovered from archaeological sites in Guatemala, Honduras and the Yucatan. But without doubt the mastodon or elephant form played a significant role in the spiritual and religious beliefs of both South American and Mesoamerican cultures. …around the campfire, jungle- dwelling Indians recount ancient legends of a huge creature with a serpent-like nose and wings for ears that once walked the land.” (Turolla pp. 242-246) See the images included in this study.
“Most of what the Book of Mormon says about animals is plausible …considerably more acceptable to scientists, than a few years ago.” (Largey p. 62) The movement is in the direction of confirmation, that it is all true.
HORSES AND THE NEPHITES
Nephites found horses soon after they arrived in the new land. (1 Ne. 18:25) Horses were abundant in the wilderness they were traveling through, about 590 BC. Their land was full of horses. (2 Ne. 12:7; Isaiah 2:7; Enos 1:21 about 540 BC) As time went on they even raised horses. (Alma 18:9-12) Ammon was tending the king’s horses and getting ready his chariot. (About 90 BC) When wars of destruction were imminent, the people gathered together in one place “with their horses and possessions,” (3 Ne. 3:22 about 17 AD) to prepare for battle.
“There are horse bones …pre-Columbian, at the caves in the Yucatan at Uxmal. [One of my favorite places to visit while on any trip to Yucatan, that date to the time of the Book of Mormon]. There is a stone engraving of a horse at Chichen Itza on the Temple of Tableros…at Tulum in Mexico’s Yucatan there is an embossed equine on the northern wall of El Castillo.” (Lund p. 245) Henry Mercer, an American paleontologist, encountered horse bones in three of the caves of the Puuc in the Yucatan, Actun Sayab, Actun Ara and Chektalen. He identified ten layers of strata. Near the top stratum he found two horses. These are all pre-Spanish, but they were found early enough to be ignored because of the bias against there being any horses at all. (Lund pp. 244-248) Lund discusses this bias and Horses and other Book of Mormon oddities for most of Chapter 15 of his book.
The Jaredites are said to have had horses but the text says nothing about their use, though is did say they were "useful unto man"(Ether 9:19). The Nephite,s where they first settled, found horses (1 Ne. 18:25). Both the Jaredites and the Nephites were familiar with horses in their original countries, so it is not likely that they called something a horse just because it looked like one. In South America there were also Llamas and Alpacas. So I don’t think they would have confused them as horses. The text does not suggest they were ridden or used in draft work, though they may have been.
In Yucatan at Mayapan, horse remains were excavated in Cenote (water hole) Ch’en Mul. Two teeth were taken from the bottom stratum. But little study was made of them. As mentioned Henry Mercer had dug up horse bones in 1895 and Robert Hart had discovered additional horse bone fragments and teeth in another cave. In 1977, Mexican archaeologists returned to the same area and excavated in Loltun Cave. In seven levels they found horse bones with artifacts. These were dated to 2225 BC, in Jaredite times. (Sorenson pp. 315-317) No known DNA work was done on any of these specimens. A lot more detail is expected from archaeologists working in the future in Mesoamerica.
Under the auspices of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, research has sought to re-examine specimens of proposed pre-Columbian origin. Their work is a project in progress. (Sorenson pp. 317-318)
According to Allen, “Interestingly, Three bones that were discovered in a cave in Loltun Yucatan , that date to Book of Mormon times are occasionally put on display at the Maya Room of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. On one occasion we had a veterinarian with us who was able to determine that the bones were from a mare and that the horse was relatively small in size.” (ALLEN, Joseph L., p. 362)
A good summary, though it did not mention Skinner’s work, was published in BYU Studies for 2015 by Daniel Johnson with a long discussion of the Spanish origins or European origin for the horses, and other related topics. The debate will probably go on but it is a dead issue now, and future details will only elaborate on the debate in favor of the Book of Mormon. (Johnson pp. 147-179)
ELEPHANTS WERE AROUND ALSO
“The Book of Ether says that in the time of the early Jaredites (estimated on the order of 2300 BC) “There were elephants.” (Ether 9:19) known to that people, yet there is no other mention of those animals “Elephants”-surely mammoths or mastodons-survived in America for some time after the Pleistocene, although just how late is uncertain. In Florida and Utah, Mastodons….dated....around 5,000 BC… The Great Lakes around 4,000 BC, in the Mississippi Valley to near 3300 BC.” (Sorenson p.313) Tusks of several elephants have been dug out of gravel pits just north of Beryl Junction, Utah. See the images with this entry.
If someone leaves the church, or becomes in-active, over the perceived debate about horses and elephants, they do so at their own peril.
ALLEN, Joseph L.. & Blake I. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Covenant Communications, Inc., Provo, Utah, 2011
JOHNSON, Daniel, “Hard” Evidence of Ancient America Horses, BYU Studies. Quarterly, Vol. 54. No. 3, 2015
LARGEY, Dennis L., Book of Mormon Reference Companion, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2003
LUND, John Lewis, Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon, The Communication’s Co., 2007
SKINNER, Morris F., Horse Bones from Juke Box Cave, Frick Laboratory, American Museum of Natural History, New York, N. Y., 1982
SORENSON, John L., Mormon’s Codex, Neal A. Maxwell Institute BYU. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City , Utah, 2013
SPERRY, Sidney R., Book of Mormon Compendium, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1968
TUROLLA, Pino, Beyond the Andes, Harper & Row, New York, 1970