In his Letter to a CES Director, Jeremy Runnells asks why horses are mentioned in the Book of Mormon when, supposedly, no horses existed in pre-Columbian America.
Anachronisms1: Horses, cattle, oxen, sheep, swine, goats, elephants, wheels, chariots, wheat, silk, steel, and iron did not exist in pre-Columbian America during Book of Mormon times. Why are these things mentioned in the Book of Mormon as being made available in the Americas between 2200 BC – 421 AD?
This post will address horses while forthcoming articles will explore other alleged Book of Mormon anachronisms including elephants, iron, sheep and so forth.
Why are horses mentioned in the Book of Mormon?
Contributor: Rian Nelson
The Book of Mormon talks about horses.
“There were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men.. . . .” (1 Nephi 18:25).
Why haven’t archaeologists found ancient horse bones anywhere?
They have. Archaeologists have found many ancient horse bones dated before Columbus in North America. Here are just a few:
Were There Horses in the Americas before Columbus? (Dr. Steven E. Jones2)
“This letter is in response to a request from Wayne May for information regarding my research on early horses (Equus) in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. This interim material is shared in order to encourage a wider community to join in the task of gathering further evidence regarding pre-Columbian horses in the Americas, including a request for photos of pictographs, petroglyphs, and engravings which may represent pre-Columbian horses… The samples in this study can be divided into two categories according to their origins, Mexico and the United States.
- Forty-five Equus samples were obtained in Mexico.
- Based on AMS dating, there was one sample from the Ice Age period and six from the post-Columbus period. Other samples had insufficient collagen in the bone to permit dating; collagen protein locks in carbon- 14, permitting accurate C-14 dating. Thus, the laboratories require a certain minimum amount of collagen in order to proceed with the dating.
- There were no Equus samples found in this study in Mesoamerica for the time interval 14,700 BC to 1650 AD.
- By contrast, in North America, there are found Equus samples which do indeed appear in the time frame between the last ice age and the arrival of Columbus. The first of these was found in Pratt Cave near El Paso, Texas, by Prof. Ernest Lundelius of Texas A&M University . . .
In conclusion, using state-of-the-art dating methods, we along with other researchers have found radiometrically-dated evidence for the existence of horses in North America long after the last ice age and before the arrival of Columbus. These data challenge the existing paradigm. Further DNA analyses will provide additional data and insights.”
Kentucky State Parks – Big Bone Lick History
“The first paleontological site in North America was probably at Big Bone Lick, which is now Big Bone Lick State Park near the Ohio River in Union, Kentucky. A French commander organized a dig there in 1739. Bones retrieved by him were sent to the Natural History Museum in Paris, France. In the 1960’s, the University of Nebraska conducted another dig and several mammal fossils were recovered including: possible wolf and black bear, modern bison, ancient bison, two types of musk ox, American moose, wapiti elk, common Virginia deer, extinct stag moose, caribou, flatheaded peccary, extinct North American horse, possible tapir, American mastodon, woolly mammoth, and two types of giant ground sloth. The most common fossil found at the Big Bone Lick dig was the modern bison.” 3
According to Charles Lyell,
The greater portion, both of the entire skeletons or extinct animals, and the separate bones, have been taken up from black mud [in Big Bone Lick, Kentucky], about twelve feet below the level of the creek. It is supposed that the bones of mastodons found here could not have belonged to less than one hundred distinct individuals, those of the fossil elephant (E. primigenius), to twenty, besides which, a few bones of a stag, horse, megalonyx, and bison, are stated to have been obtained….In regard to the horse, it may probably have differed from our Equus caballus as much as the zebra or wild ass, in the same manner as that found at Newberne in North Carolina appears to have done.4
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service
Big Bone Lick Archaeological District Union, KY Boone County
12,000 B.C. to A.D. 1950
Cultural Affiliation: Fort Ancient, Woodland, and Archaic
Property Owner: Kentucky Department of Parks
Download article here.
Big Bone Lick State Park (boundary expansion) covers approximately 512 acres along Big Bone Creek, a tributary to the Ohio River, in Boone County, Kentucky. The district contains twenty-four archaeological sites and lies along a major prehistoric and historic travel route following buffalo trails to the mineral springs at Big Bone Lick State Park, between the Bluegrass region and the Ohio River.
Twenty-one of the 24 sites discussed below are contributing (see Table 1). Three archaeological sites located within the district (Sites 15Be441, 15Be443 and 15Be446) are noncontributing. In addition, 4 of the 21 contributing sites fall within the previously listed NRHP Big Bone Lick State Park. Table 1 lists the documented archaeological sites within the Big Bone Lick State Park (boundary expansion) with information regarding site type, time/cultural period,\ integrity, and significance status. The sites within the Big Bone Lick State Park (boundary expansion) are Miller (15Bel), 15Bel8, 15Be265, 15Be266, 15Be267, 15Be268, 15Be269, 15Be270, 15Be271, Glacken (15Be272), 15Be273, Buffalo Rise (15Be440), 15Be441, Upson Downs (15Be442), 15Be443, 15Be444, Baker Cemetery (15Be445), Metcalf Flats (15Be446), Matchless Day (15Be447), Hot Letter (15Be448), 15Be449, 15Be450, 15Be451, and 15Be452. The archaeological district also contains one of the richest deposits of Pleistocene megafauna remains in the world. An area of 80 acres within the archaeological district is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area includes sites 15Bel8, 15Be268, 15Be269, and 15Be270. The sites within the Big Bone Lick State Park (boundary expansion) contain components from the Early Archaic, Late Archaic, Early Woodland, Middle Woodland, Late Woodland, Late Prehistoric, and historic periods. In addition, Tankersley (1982) reports the presence of Paleoindian materials in the form of surface finds and states that there is a good probability that stratified Paleoindian deposits might be in the vicinity of Big Bone Lick State Park. With cultural material ranging from the Paleoindian to the historic period, the Big Bone Lick State Park (boundary expansion) contains evidence of human use of the saline springs at the site over the past 12,000 years…
Thomas Jefferson had taken an interest in Big Bone Lick after hearing of the large collections of huge bones taken from the site, and began corresponding with General George Rogers Clark, then stationed in Kentucky, concerning the lick (Jillson 1936). These correspondences appear to have caused confusion about who went to Big Bone Lick to collect specimens for Jefferson. Although George Rogers Clark knew the area and had been to Big Bone Lick, it was his younger brother, William Clark, recently returned from his exploration of the northwest, who visited Big Bone Lick to collect fossils for the President in 1807 (Jillson 1936, 1936; Stokes and Lowthert 1998).
Located at the junction of Big Bone Creek and Gum Branch, Site 15Be270 was identified by Ken Tankersley (1981). The remains of an elephant of the genus Mammut were identified at the site in 1981. The site is listed as containing Paleoindian and historic components and is part of the original Big Bone Lick State Park National Register District. From 1962 to 1966, teams from the University of Nebraska excavated an 24.2 x 97 m (80 by 130 ft) area designed KEN-1 in the southern end of what was later designated Site 15Be270. Faunal materials were documented in three zones (A, B, and C) between 2.1 and 4.5 m (7 and 15 ft) below the ground surface in KEN- 1 (Lowthert 1998; Schultz et al. 1967). Zone A (2.1 to 2.6 m – 7 to 8.5 ft) contained the remains of domesticated animals (dog, pig, cow, and horse), modern bison, and white-tail deer, along with “fragments of crockery and china, bricks, worked building stones, hand-hewn wood, logs and branches of trees, seeds, and occasional reworked bones of extinct animals” (Schultz et al. 1967). Zone A was interpreted as dating to the nineteenth century. Zone B extended from 2.6 to 3.3 m (8.5 to 11 ft) and included the remains of American Elk and modern bison and deer. Prehistoric artifacts dating to the Middle Woodland were recovered from Zone B and are curated at the Behringer-Crawford Museum in Covington, Kentucky (Lowthert 1998). Schultz et al. (1967) observed that “the bones of the modern bison are very abundant at this level and are associated with wood, roots, nuts, leaves, broken shells of large mullosks, and pieces of flint.” The deepest stratigraphic layer documented in KEN-3 (Zone C), extended from 3.3 to 4.8 m (11 to over 16 ft) (Schultz et al. 1967). The remains of the following animals were recovered from Zone C: giant ground sloth, mastodon, large bison, musk ox, giant moose-like deer, caribou, and horse. Lowthert (1998) notes that artifacts recovered from the interface between Zones B and C in unit KEN-3 date to the Late Archaic while artifacts diagnostic of the Early Archaic were recovered from Zone C.
Section 7 page 3
Pleistocene mammal species recovered at Big Bone Lick State Park include Megolonyx jeffersoni, Mylodon harlani (giant ground sloth), Equus complicatus (horse), Tapirus haysii, Odocoileus virginianus, Cervus canadensis, Cervales scotti(giant moose-like deer), Alces americanus, Rangifer caribou, Bootherium bombiferons (musk ox), Symbon cavifrons, Bison antiquus (large bison), Bison bison (modern bison), Mammut americanus (mastadon), Elaphas primigenius, andElaphas columbi (Jillson 1968). Only Odocoileus virginianus, the whitetail deer, occurs naturally in this area today, and only Odocoileus virginianus, Cervus canadensis (the wapiti or American Elk), Rangifer caribou (the woodland caribou), and Bison bison (modern bison) survive anywhere.
Section 7 page 9
From 1962 to 1966, teams from the University of Nebraska excavated an 24.2 x 97 m (80 by 130 ft) area designed KEN-1 in the southern end of what was later designated Site 15Be270. Faunal materials were documented in three zones (A, B, and C) between 2.1 and 4.5 m (7 and 15 ft) below the ground surface in KEN-1 (Lowthert 1998; Schultz et al. 1967). Zone A (2.1 to 2.6 m – 7 to 8.5 ft) contained the remains of domesticated animals (dog, pig, cow, and horse), modern bison, and white-tail deer, along with “fragments of crockery and china, bricks, worked building stones, hand-hewn wood, logs and branches of trees, seeds, and occasional reworked bones of extinct animals” (Schultz et al. 1967). Zone A was interpreted as dating to the nineteenth century. Zone B extended from 2.6 to 3.3 m (8.5 to 11 ft) and included the remains of American Elk and modern bison and deer. Prehistoric artifacts dating to the Middle Woodland were recovered from Zone B and are curated at the Behringer Crawford Museum in Covington, Kentucky (Lowthert 1998). Schultz et al. (1967) observed that “the bones of the modern bison are very abundant at this level and are associated with wood, roots, nuts, leaves, broken shells of large mullosks, and pieces of flint.” The deepest stratigraphic layer documented in KEN-3 (Zone C), extended from 3.3 to 4.8 m (11 to over 16 ft) (Schultz et al. 1967). The remains of the following animals were recovered from Zone C: giant ground sloth, mastodon, large bison, musk ox, giant moose-like deer, caribou, and horse. Lowthert (1998) notes that artifacts recovered from the interface between Zones B and C in unit KEN-3 date to the Late Archaic while artifacts diagnostic of the Early Archaic were recovered from Zone C.
Section 8 page 2
Big Bone Lick State Park (boundary expansion) falls within the Northern Bluegrass Section of the Bluegrass Management Area, and contains more than half of the Paleoindian sites reported for that management area (Pollack 1990). The possibility of in situ Paleoindian deposits at Big Bone Lick, particularly in association with Pleistocene megafaunal remains, provides a unique opportunity to address research questions essential to our understanding of Paleo-Indian culture. The Paleoindian period archaeological deposits at Big Bone Lick State Park have the potential to answer questions regarding which Late Pleistocene megafaunal species were contemporary with Paleoindian cultures in Kentucky. This may aid in determining the time of extirpation or extinction for Late Pleistocene large herbivores, especially mammoth, mastodon, bison, and horse.
Mustang Skull Excavated in Wisconsin
From Yuri Kuchinsky, email@example.com (1997/09/23) Read more.
“In the Milwaukee Public Museum there is the skull of a mustang excavated in 1936 by W.C. McKern from a mound on Spencer Lake in NW Wisconsin (47BT2), and vouched for by McKern in the Wisconsin Archaeologist, Vol. 45, #2 (June 1964), pp. 118-120. Says McKern,
“there remains no reasonable question as to the legitimacy of the horse skull that we found as a burial association placed in the mound by its builders.”
C-14 dates on stuff* from the mound are all pre-Columbian:
AD 890 +/- 65
AD 760 +/- 60
AD 750 +/- 60
AD 900 +/- 505
AD 580 +/- 110
AD 530 +/- 150
AD 490 +/- 120
AD 1100 +/- 1006
So the record, such as it is, is that the skull was associated with the burial mound, and the mound was pre-Columbian. At present one can only conclude that the horse was pre-Columbian.”
*Stuff is a technical term including charcoal, charred wood, and charred bone.
Indian Horses BEFORE Columbus (MarcoPoloinSeattle.com)
“According to most leading scholars in history, anthropology and geography, none of the Native Tribes had horses until after Columbus. “On the contrary,” say elders of the Plains Indian Tribes, “our ancestors always had horses.”
Indeed, the oldest surviving travel account of an overseas explorer in the American Southwest comes from the Afghani Buddhist Monk, Hui Shen. He sailed to the West Coast of Fu Sang during the 5th century AD. According to the monk, the Native People of Fu Sang (or ancient Mexico) had both horses and wagons. If we jump over to the East Coast, we find a similar account dating to the 13th century. According to Bjorn of Iceland, he fell overboard while landing his dory in the Atlantic surf. He was rescued by a party of Celtic Natives, or Welsh Colonists, “riding on horseback.”
Everywhere that explorers traveled along the Eastern Seaboard of North America during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, they reported seeing Indians (or Welsh settlers) riding horses. When John Cabot landed along the East Coast in 1497, he reported seeing “the dung of draft animals” (such as horses and cattle). The Natives presumably kept their livestock “out of sight” due to quite reasonable fears that alien visitors who landed along their shores might take cattle for a festive evening meal. When Jacques Cartier explored the region of Quebec in 1535, his Native host informed him that there was a tribe in the Far West where the Indians rode on horses.
On the other hand, none of the Coastal Tribes in the Northeast that were known to French, English, and Dutch explorers in the 16th century raised horses or cattle. However, when Colonial Pioneers crossed the Appalachian Mountains on their way into Kentucky and Tennessee in the 17th century, they encountered Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw Tribes that had an exceptional breed of horses. Their smooth walking gait made them attractive for trade and theft. These smooth-gaited horses were called “Chickasaws.” Similar smooth-gaited horses in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida were called “Seminole ponies” or “prairie ponies.” One Colonial trader noted that the Eastern Forest Horse was “different” from European breeds. They were so common along the Frontier that settlers said they were “pests,” because they wandered into farmyards and munched on garden vegetables…
Horses of the Eastern Woodlands
American Indian Tribes that were situated along the Eastern Seaboard consisted mostly of Nordic, Germanic, Iberian, Mediterranean, and African refugees. Carthaginians fled mostly to South America when they left behind their cities in 146 BC in order to escape the Roman Legions. The withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain in the 5th century left the Welsh cities and farmlands at the mercy of invading Angles and Saxons. During this onslaught, King Arthur turned to the Western Land of Refuge as a sanctuary for his beleaguered kin. An account of the Arthurian Colony was known to Mercator who wrote a testimonial to John Dee in 1577 (Taylor, 1956, 56-68).
According to Mercator, the expedition consisted of 1,800 men and 400 women. They were sent overseas in the Year 530. Of the twelve ships that comprised the colonial fleet, five were lost in a storm; but the rest of the vessels, their occupants, and many farm animals made it safely to port along the shores of Delaware. A Colony of New Albion (or “New England”) was established. During the Medieval Warm Period, the Colony prospered; and the population of Welsh immigrants grew to many thousands of individuals and many thousands of horses, cattle, and assorted pigs, goats, chickens, and sheep. This introduction of Celtic farm animals probably included the band of horseback riding Irish who rescued “Bjorn of Iceland” from the surf along the shores of Nova Scotia in about 1250 AD. The tale was recorded a century later by some Icelandic monks; but historians don’t like any stories about sailors who beat Columbus; so it is rarely mentioned.”
- An anachronism is “something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, especially a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time:” or “an error in chronology in which a person, object, event, etc., is assigned a date or period other than the correct one.” (“Anachronism.” Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/anachronism.)
- Professor Steven Jones was a full Professor of Physics at Brigham Young University, where he served for over 21 years before his early retirement in 2007. He conducted doctoral research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and received his Ph.D. in Physics from Vanderbilt University in 1978. He received his B.S. degree in Physics from Brigham Young University in 1973, where he held a David O. McKay Presidential Scholarship. His research interests include studies in archaeometry, fusion, and solar energy. He has published papers in Nature, Scientific American, and Physical Review Letters. He taught an advanced class on Archaeometry (Physics 513R) and published “Archaeometry Applied to Olmec Iron-ore Beads,” BYU Studies 37, no. 4 (Oct. 1998), pp.128-142.
- “Big Bone Lick History.” Top State Parks – Find a State Park – Kentucky State Parks, parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/big-bone-lick/history.aspx.
- Lyell, Charles. Lyell’s Travels in North America in the Years 1841-2. New York, C.E. Merrill Co, 1909, pp. 142.)
- U. Wis. in RadioCarbon vol. 9 (1967), pp. 530, 538-9.
- U. Mich. in RadioCarbon Vol. 10 (1968), pp. 61, 72-73.