Question: Are the Michigan Artifacts evidence for the Book of Mormon?

Table of Contents

Question: Are the Michigan Artifacts evidence for the Book of Mormon?

The "Michigan Artifacts" or "Michigan relics" are a group of "artifacts" produced by hoaxers in the late 19th century: They do not provide any evidence for the Book of Mormon

The "Michigan Artifacts" or "Michigan relics" are a group of "artifacts" produced by hoaxers in the late 19th century and around the turn of the 20th Century from Michigan. They wanted to produce "proof" of the existence of the ancient civilization known in 19th century lore as the Mound Builders. Many contain scenes from biblical stories. Some LDS members have been misled into believing that the artifacts are genuine. Not surprisingly, advocates of the Michigan artifacts also push the Burrows Cave collection.

Both LDS and non-LDS scholars have repeatedly demonstrated the fraudulent nature of the Michigan artifacts

Both LDS and non-LDS scholars have repeatedly demonstrated the fraudulent nature of the Michigan artifacts. [1] Among the first to do so was James E. Talmage, a trained scientist who met some of the forgers, demonstrated evidence of the forgeries, and preserved accounts of these things in his journal. [2] Talmage recorded that the stepdaughter of the man who discovered the relics:

...solemnly declared to me that she positively knows her step-father, James Scotford, has made, buried, and dug up many of the articles reported to be genuine archaeological relics. She gave circumstantial details, and agreed to sign a written statement with the proviso that such statement shall not be made public without her consent during the lifetime of her mother, Mrs. Jas. Scotford. [3]

Also, in August of 1911, Elder Talmage published a document containing his evidence called "The 'Michigan Relics': A Story of Forgery and Deception."

A more recent assessment of the Michigan artifacts was performed by LDS scientist Richard Stamps, and reported in BYU Studies. [4]

A separate line of evidence likewise demonstrates the the Michigan artifacts are of recent date. As one archaeologist explained:

...Thom Bell, a documentary filmmaker with access to some of these artifacts, submitted one of the clay tablets to the Luminescence Dating Laboratory at California State University, Long Beach.

Luminescence dating is a relatively new technique that can be applied to materials including sediment and ceramics. The method is based on the principle that charged particles, created by cosmic ray bombardment or the radioactive decay of certain elements in rocks and the soil, might become trapped within flaws in crystals.

The longer a crystal is exposed to these various sources of radiation, the more particles accumulate. When the crystals are exposed to direct sunlight, they are "bleached," meaning the reservoir of particles is emptied and the "hourglass" is reset.

When a clay tablet is manufactured, for example, crystals in the grit temper are exposed to light and bleached. But when the clay hardens, those crystals sealed inside the clay begin to accumulate charged particles once again.

Technicians can carefully remove those crystals and measure their luminescence to determine how long ago the clay tablet was made.

The results obtained by the CSU team are illuminating if not surprising. Assuming the tablet was buried for some part of its history, it was made at around AD 1905.

This is precisely the period when these bizarre objects were being planted in mounds and then "discovered" - sometimes by innocent dupes such as William C. Mills, former curator of archaeology for the Ohio Historical Society.

Although this result applies to one of the hundreds of "Michigan relics," it kills the idea that these things have any relevance to American prehistory. Instead, they are windows onto a period of American history when archaeology was in its infancy and numerous frauds were being used to promote various religious, political and personal agendas. [5]

The Michigan artifacts should not be used as evidence of the Book of Mormon's account or of other aspects of ancient history.


Further reading

FairMormon Answers articles

FairMormon web site

  • FAIR, "Reviews of DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography" FairMormon link

External links

Printed material

  • Francis W. Kelsey, "Some Archaeological Forgeries from Michigan," American Anthropologist 10/8 (May 1908): 48–59
  • Francis W. Kels[e]y, "A Persistent Forgery," The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 33/1 (1911): 26–31
  • Stephen D. Peet, "A 'Stamp' Table and Coin Found in a Michigan Mount," The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 15 (September 1894): 313.
  • Frederick Starr, J.O. Kinnaman, and James E. Talmage, "The Michigan Archaeological Question Settled," The American Antiquairian and Oriental Journal 33, no. 3 (1911): 160–164.

Notes

  1. Francis W. Kelsey, "Some Archaeological Forgeries from Michigan," American Anthropologist 10/8 (May 1908): 48–59; Francis W. Kelsy, "A Persistent Forgery," The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 33/1 (1911): 26–31; Stephen D. Peet, "A 'Stamp' Table and Coin Found in a Michigan Mount," The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 15 (September 1894): 313.
  2. Frederick Starr, J.O. Kinnaman, and James E. Talmage, "The Michigan Archaeological Question Settled," The American Antiquairian and Oriental Journal 33, no. 3 (1911): 160–164.
  3. James E. Talmage, journal, June 1921; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "Mormonism's Encounter with the Michigan Relics," Brigham Young University Studies 40 no. 3 (2001), 187.  (needs URL / links)
  4. Richard B. Stamps, "Tools Leave Marks: Material Analysis of the Scotford-Soper-Savage Michigan Relics," Brigham Young University Studies 40 no. 3 (2001), 210–238.  (needs URL / links)
  5. Bradley T. Lepper, "New light shone on 'old relics'," The Columbus Dispatch (13 July 2009).