Category:Book of Mormon/Animals/Horses

Horses in the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Animals

Sorenson: Horses bones in Yucatan "considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization"

John L. Sorenson: [1]

Excavations at the Post-Classic site of Mayapan in Yucatan in 1957 yielded remains of horses in four lots. Two of these specimens are from the surface and might have been remains of Spanish animals. Two other lots, however, were obtained from excavation in Cenote [water hole] Ch'en Mul "from the bottom stratum in a sequence of unconsolidated earth almost 2 meters in thickness." They were "considered to be pre-Columbian on the basis of depth of burial and degree of mineralization. Such mineralization was observed in no other bone or tooth in the collection although thousands were examined, some of which were found in close proximity to the horse teeth." Clayton E. Ray somewhat lamely suggests that the fossil teeth were of Pleistocene age and "could have been transported . . . as curios by the Mayans." [2]


Martin: "no theoretical reason why a herd of mastodons, horses, or ground sloths could not have survived in some small refuge until 8000 or even 4000 years ago"

Paul S. Martin:

Admittedly, there is no theoretical reason why a herd of mastodons, horses, or ground sloths could not have survived in some small refuge until 8000 or even 4000 years ago. But in the past two decades, concordant stratiagraphic, palynological, archeological, and radiocarbon evidence to demonstrate beyond doubt the post-glacial survival of an extinct large mammal has been confined to extinct species of Bison…No evidence of similar quality has been mustered to show that mammoths, mastodons, or any of the other 29 genera of extinct large mammals of North America were alive 10,000 years ago. The coincidence in time between massive extinction and the first arrival of big game hunters cannot be ignored.[3]


Grayson: "extinct North American mammals...losses began in Mexico and Alaska during the Pleistocene and ended in Florida perhaps as recently as 2000 years ago"

Grayson:

In the first thorough review of radiocarbon dates associated with the extinct North American mammals, Martin (1958) concluded that the losses began in Mexico and Alaska during the Pleistocene and ended in Florida perhaps as recently as 2000 years ago (1958:405). Soon after, however, Hester (1960:58) concluded that the great majority of herd animals seemed to have been lost swiftly and together around 8,000 years ago even if some, like the mastodon, may have lingered on beyond then. Hester was thus the first to suggest, based on radiocarbon evidence, that a significant number, if not all, of the North American extinctions were synchronous. [4]


Bernardino de Sahagun: "Fodder was provided the deer—horses—which the Spaniards rode"

Bernardino de Sahagun:

Fodder was provided the deer—horses—which the Spaniards rode....The horses—they looked like deer—neighed and whinnied. They were all sweating; water fell from their bodies....[5]


Vogt: "The Earth Owner rides on deer"

Evon Zartman Vogt:

The Earth Owner rides on deer, utilizing iguanas as blinders for his mounts and a snake for his whip.[6]


Peterson: Horses, chariots, highways, roads, ships and pearls in the Book of Mormon

Daniel C. Peterson:

Book of Mormon mention of horses in pre-Columbian America has drawn much criticism, and no definitive answer to this question is at present available. Linguistic data suggest that Book of Mormon "horse" need not refer to equus, but could indicate some other quadruped suitable for human riding, as Mesoamerican art suggests (Sorenson, 1985, p. 295). Moreover, some little-noticed archaeological evidence indicates that in certain areas the American Pleistocene horse could have survived into Book of Mormon times (Update, June 1984).

Most transportation was evidently on human backs; in the two contexts that the Book of Mormon mentions "chariots," it appears that their use was quite limited (Alma 18:9—12; 20:6; 3 Ne. 3:22). Chariots are never mentioned in military settings. Wheels are nowhere mentioned in the Book of Mormon (except in a quote from Isaiah). Thus, it is unknown what Nephite "chariots" may have been. "Highways" and "roads" are mentioned as used by the Nephites (3 Ne. 6:8). Some Latter-day Saints consider these to be reflected in the extensively documented road systems of ancient Mexico. "Ships" of unknown form were used during the middle of the first century B.C. for travel on the "west sea" coast (Alma 63:5—6) and for shipping timber to the north (Hel. 3:10), and at times maritime travel was evidently extensive (Hel. 3:14). Fine pearls are also mentioned as costly items (4 Ne. 1:24). [7]


"Pottery and other cultural materials were found in levels VII and above. But in some of those artifact-bearing strata there were horse bones, even in level II."

The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: [8]

Publications from the late 1950s reported results from excavations by scientists working on the Yucatan Peninsula. Excavations at the site of Mayapan, which dates to a few centuries before the Spaniards arrived, yielded horse bones in four spots. (Two of the lots were from the surface, however, and might represent Spanish horses.) From another site, the Cenote (water hole) Ch'en Mul, came other traces, this time from a firm archaeological context. In the bottom stratum in a sequence of levels of unconsolidated earth almost two meters in thickness, two horse teeth were found. They were partially mineralized, indicating that they were definitely ancient and could not have come from any Spanish animal. The interesting thing is that Maya pottery was also found in the stratified soil where the teeth were located. [9]

Subsequent digging has expanded the evidence for an association of humans with horses. But the full story actually goes back to 1895, when American paleontologist Henry C. Mercer went to Yucatan hoping to find remains of Ice Age man. He visited 29 caves in the hill area—the Puuc—of the peninsula and tried stratigraphic excavation in 10 of them. But the results were confused, and he came away disillusioned. He did find horse bones in three caves (Actun Sayab, Actun Lara, and Chektalen). In terms of their visible characteristics, those bones should have been classified as from the Pleistocene American horse species, then called Equus occidentalis L. However, Mercer decided that since the remains were near the surface, they must actually be from the modern horse, Equus equus, that the Spaniards had brought with them to the New World, and so he reported them as such.[10] In 1947 Robert T. Hatt repeated Mercer's activities. He found within Actun Lara and one other cave more remains of the American horse (in his day it was called Equus conversidens), along with bones of other extinct animals. Hatt recommended that any future work concentrate on Loltun Cave, where abundant animal and cultural remains could be seen.[11]

It took until 1977 before that recommendation bore fruit. Two Mexican archaeologists carried out a project that included a complete survey of the complex system of subterranean cavities (made by underground water that had dissolved the subsurface limestone). They also did stratigraphic excavation in areas in the Loltun complex not previously visited. The pits they excavated revealed a sequence of 16 layers, which they numbered from the surface downward. Bones of extinct animals (including mammoth) appear in the lowest layers.

Pottery and other cultural materials were found in levels VII and above. But in some of those artifact-bearing strata there were horse bones, even in level II. A radiocarbon date for the beginning of VII turned out to be around 1800 BC. The pottery fragments above that would place some portions in the range of at least 900–400 BC and possibly later. The report on this work concludes with the observation that "something went on here that is still difficult to explain." Some archaeologists have suggested that the horse bones were stirred upward from lower to higher levels by the action of tunneling rodents, but they admit that this explanation is not easy to accept. The statement has also been made that paleontologists will not be pleased at the idea that horses survived to such a late date as to be involved with civilized or near-civilized people whose remains are seen in the ceramic-using levels.[12] Surprisingly, the Mexican researchers show no awareness of the horse teeth discovered in 1957 by Carnegie Institution scientists Pollock and Ray. (Some uncomfortable scientific facts seem to need rediscovering time and time again.)


Video: Horses in the Book of Mormon

Notes

  1. John L. Sorenson, "Once More: The Horse," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 10.
  2. Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan," Journal of Mammalology 38 (1957): 278; Harry E. D. Pollock and Clayton E. Ray, "Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan," Current Reports 41 (August 1957): 638 (Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C., Dept. of Archaeology).
  3. Paul S. Martin, "The Discovery of America," Science 179 (1973): 974 n. 3.
  4. Donald K. Grayson (Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195), "Deciphering North American Pleistocene Extinctions," Journal of Anthropological Research, in press (2007 JAR Distinguished Lecture)
  5. Bernardino de Sahagun, The War of Conquest: How It Was Waged Here in Mexico: the Aztecs' own story (University of Utah Press, 1978).
  6. Evon Zartman Vogt, The Zinacantecos of Mexico: A Modern Maya Way of Life.
  7. Daniel C. Peterson, "Economy and Technology" in To All the World (2000)
  8. Anonymous, "Out of the Dust: Were Ancient Americans Familiar with Real Horses?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): N/A–N/A. wiki
  9. See Harry E. D. Pollock and Clayton E. Ray, "Notes on Vertebrate Animal Remains from Mayapan," Current Reports 41 (August 1957): 638; this publication is from the Department of Archaeology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. See also Clayton E. Ray, "Pre-Columbian Horses from Yucatan," Journal of Mammalogy 38 (1957): 278.
  10. Henry C. Mercer, The Hill-Caves of Yucatan: A Search for Evidence of Man's Antiquity in the Caverns of Central America (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1896), 172.
  11. Robert T. Hatt, "Faunal and Archaeological Researches in Yucatan Caves," Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin 33, 1953. See Peter J. Schmidt, "La entrada del hombre a la peninsula de Yucatan," in Origines del Hombre Americano, comp. Alba Gonzalez Jacome (Mexico: Secretaria de Educacion Publica, 1988), 250.
  12. Schmidt, "La entrada," 254.