24 March 2012

Come on an adventure in Book of Mormon lands

We have some exciting news to announce. Daniel has been contacted by Cruise Lady, an LDS tour company, to headline their cruise and tour to Book of Mormon lands this fall. The cruise ship leaves from Port Canaveral in Florida on 13 October and returns on the 20th. The ship stops at ports in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, and Honduras. Maya sites visited will be Tulum, Lamanai, and Chacchobén. While at sea, Daniel will be giving presentations and firesides on these lands and their connection to Book of Mormon themes.

If you have ever thought about taking a cruise to these areas, this October is your chance! The presentations will be great opportunities to bring up and discuss all your questions and comments on these topics. Daniel will also be offering free, signed and personalized copies of An LDS Guide to Mesoamerica to the tour guests, one per household. He will also be discussing our new book, which will be out as an eBook by that time.

Daniel will accompany the group on all tours and activities on land to add insights to the sights we visit. This promises to be a great vacation and learning experience. The cruise price is based on double occupancy and the prices are quite reasonable. In order for this tour to happen, enough people need to sign up, so we are trying to get the word out. If you know someone who would like a trip like this, let them know as well. Click the image above for a larger view of the trip's details and prices.

Click here for a detailed page on this tour at Cruise Lady's site.

08 March 2012

Continuing research sheds new light

We have been working on updating and writing new content for the new book, as the deadline is quickly approaching. In looking into hard-to-find scientific publications about the digs and excavations at Loltún and other caves in the Yucatán, Daniel has found some fascinating information about the large animals that lived in the Americas anciently. It is now known (or should be) that animals like horses and early elephants (mammoths), lived in this hemisphere during the last Ice Age. The common belief is that they all died out around 10,000 BC as the result of climate change, but additional findings keep contradicting that date and it keeps getting later and later. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum sent out an excerpt taken from the chapter on the Loltún Cave that will be in An LDS Guide to the Yucatán. Here is the article as written by Daniel:

In 1895, Henry Mercer explored 29 caves in the Yucatán looking for evidence of prehistoric habitation. In the Loltún Cave and others he found the bones of many ancient animals, but no fossils. Between this dig and 1977, ancient horse bones have been found in the Huechil Grotto at Loltún. Exactly how they got there is unknown, but it is probable that they were brought there by ancient inhabitants, since it is believed that early man hunted native horses. Because these bones are not fossilized, there is a limit to how old they might be. A tantalizing (but rarely mentioned) sidenote is that the horse remains in some caves were found alongside potsherds and other man-made artifacts. 

It should be recognized that on the subject of horses, the Book of Mormon was actually ahead of its time. If it had been written according to the knowledge of the day, horses would not have appeared within its pages at all. From time to time, apparently ancient horse teeth or bones had been found in North America, but they were usually dismissed or ignored. The existence of ancient, indigenous horses on the American continent was only first accepted in 1848, when Richard Owen described a fossil horse from South America. The first scientific paper on ancient horses in the Americas was published that same year by Joseph Leidy. But now, horse fossils, bones, and teeth have been found in North, Central, and South America. Many varieties of ancient American horse are known, including the Western Horse (Equus occidentalis), the Mexican Horse (Equus conversidens), the Yukon Horse (Equus lambei), Scott’s Horse (Equus scotti), and the Complex-tooth Horse (Equus complicatus). Some of these varieties were quite large, growing to the size of modern species. The remains found in the Yucatán have been classified as E. occidentalis and E. conversidens. All of these horses are now extinct, but the question of when and why they became extinct remains. It is now believed that horses, elephants, and other large animals evolved in the Americas first before migrating over the Bering Land Bridge to Asia long ago. Why they flourished there and died out here is still a mystery, especially for horses, which have thrived in the wilds of North and South America since being re-introduced by Europeans.

The bones and artifacts found in 1977 in two lateral extensions of the Huechil Grotto in the Loltún Cave, known as El Túnel and El Toro, have been described by Dr. Peter Schmidt of INAH as ‘problematic’ and ‘complicated.’ Unfortunately, very few details about the findings have been published. Most of the data come from stratigraphic excavations in El Toro. Labeled I to XVI, the levels represent the caves’ chronology, with I being the most recent and XVI the most ancient. Bones and bony fragments of Pleistocene megafauna have been found in most of El Toro’s levels, but the only published radiocarbon dating comes from levels VII and VIII. Taken from various pieces of charcoal, the date is 1805 bc, with an error of +/- 150 years, well after the Ice Age. But this is not all. ‘Sadly,’ as Dr. Schmidt laments, 44 horse bone fragments have been recovered from levels VII to II, all supposedly from earlier time periods and also containing Maya Classic and Preclassic ceramics! His article exclaims that something has happened in Loltún that is still hard to explain: The survival of extinct animals like the Mexican Horse may need to be extended to the beginnings of the ceramic era, which would not please paleontologists.

This and other hard evidence of pre-Columbian horses means that we should not be too apologetic about their appearance in the Book of Mormon, nor do we have to go to extraordinary lengths to explain them. There are still some controversial elements in the scriptural record that we may never be able to explain, but the existence of horses in Ancient America is not one of them. 

The BMAF also linked back to an earlier article on their site Daniel had written for them about horses and the Book of Mormon. These articles are apparently getting a lot of positive attention. This and much more, including photos and graphics, will be in our upcoming e-book, due out this spring. Daniel is also working on a new exciting venture that we will let you know about soon. 2012 should be an exciting year!

Click here to read the article on horses at the BMAF website.