The Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican travels “Northward”

The Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican travels “Northward”

By Tyler Livingston

January, 2011

During Joseph Smith’s lifetime he made several statements which seem to place Nephites in North America. While the Church has no official position on Book of Mormon geography some still put a lot of credence into these statements while ignoring later statements by Joseph Smith placing the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica to inaccurately show that he only supported their North American theory. Can these statements which imply a North American setting for The Book of Mormon made by Joseph Smith be reconciled to a Mesoamerican setting for The Book of Mormon? If so, can we find archaeological and other evidence of ancient Mesoamericanist’s having contact with and migrating up to North America?[1] This article is written in hopes to answer these questions and show that the main stage of The Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica while allowing migrations of Nephites “northward” into North America to accommodate statements by Joseph Smith placing them there.

The Book of Mormon speaks about several migrations to the North. Alma 63:4-9 recounts the migration of “five-thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children” from Zarahemla to the land which was “northward”. That same year, Hagoth built a “large ship” and sailed “into the land northward”. That ship returned and was filled again, as well as many “other” ships that were built and again sailed “northward”. In the thirty-ninth year, another ship sailed northward carrying provisions to those who had previously left, and it did not return. Perhaps rumor came back to the Nephites from these traders about a land with good soil, and milder summers to cause these mass migrations northward. Or perhaps many people wanted to find a new land to live in after years of bloodshed from war with the Lamanites and to escape the continuous warring and move to a new land to find peace. Whatever the reason may have been, thousands of Nephites departed out of the land of Zarahemla, and moved northward. But is there any evidence of these migrations?

One scholar “wondered if Mississippian culture spread up the Mississippi floodplain carried on the backs of “southern traders” who moved along a riverine “highway” that might even have seen some travelers from Mesoamerica. Certainly there are many known instances in other parts of the world of dramatic political events and the founding of dynasties associated with the arrival of foreign lords or “stranger-kings” who immigrated to new lands and super-imposed their wills and sense of order over those already there.”[2] While the Mississippian culture post-dates Book of Mormon times, the knowledge of these routes may have been well known in Book of Mormon times, and is even hinted in The Book of Mormon. This long distance trade can also be seen in Helaman 3:14 “But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites…and their shipping and their building of ships…”[3]Trade had been happening between Mesoamerica and North America for centuries before the Lehites even entered the Americas. There is evidence of similar migrations of traders from Mexico who settled in North-Eastern Louisiana at a place called “Poverty Point” (1650-700 B.C.), pre-dating The Book of Mormon by at least one-hundred years. So the trail had been blazed to that area and it is possible that it was known among the Maya of these Northerly countries. Just as the Lehites travelled along the already existing Frankincense trail to the land Bountiful, perhaps the Mayan also travelled previously known paths to North America.

This Mayan contact in North America is nothing new to LDS scholars. For decades, correlations have been made to show possible Nephite migration to the lands northward, but it is not one that comes easy. Scholars have noted that “Archaeologists in the southeastern United States and Mexico seldom communicate with each other. Basic comparisons of site data, settlement, subsistence, or other cultural systems from one region to the other are rarely attempted, even around the Gulf, where it should be easy.”[4] If there is a disconnect between archaeologists who focus in the area that is only separated by the Gulf of Mexico, how much more disconnect there is from archaeologists whose focus is in cultures thousands of miles inland?

Perhaps there are many more correlations that are missed due to the lack of communication between the experts of the two areas. Despite that problem, well-known Latter-day Saints have begun to make a case for trade and contact of Central and North American cultures. John Sorenson wrote “Apparently, from these and many other studies, peoples and cultural elements have spread by migration and trade from Mexico into North America periodically since well before the time of Christ. Although we cannot identify these movements with the Book of Mormon account specifically, we can see that the kind of migrations northward mentioned in the Book of Mormon are substantiated in general.”[5]


Linguistics are a hit when considering Mayan migrations Northward into existing cultures in North America. If the Nephites lived in Mesoamerica and later some of them migrated northward, then they would have taken their language with them and even possibly influenced other languages in that area. While it is a little more difficult to place the exact time when this Mayan influence began, it does place significant Mayan influence in North America. Archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology at the Univeristy of Illinois Timothy R. Pauketat noted that “…there are similarities between certain religious beliefs, legends, origin of stories, and symbols of the eastern Woodlands and Mesoamerica. Some of these similarities stem from shared historical-linguistic origins.” [6]

LDS linguist Brian Stubbs is a leading expert in the Uto-Aztecan language family that anciently covered from Mexico to Utah. The interesting thing about this language family is that Brian Stubbs has discovered that it has been strongly influenced by both Hebrew and Egyptian, the only two Old World languages mentioned in The Book of Mormon. He also discovered that this language family seems to have originated in Mexico and then was transmitted to North America. He writes “Four prominent Uto-Aztecanists, myself included, now think the Uto-Aztecan homeland was more likely in Mexico, much of Uto-Aztecan later spreading north.” [7]

Anthropologist John Sorenson agrees when he wrote “Today, archaeologists, linguists, and historians who have studied the matter are agreed that a long sequence of cultural transmissions and migrations moved northward from southern Mexico…”[8]

We are even able to see evidence of languages in North America influenced by Mesoamerican languages such as Nahuatl. Non-LDS scholar Robert L. Hall in his article “Some Commonalities Linking North America and Mesoamerica” provides numerous examples of evidences of Mesoamerican influence in North America (which evidence is not discussed in this paper), particularly among the Hopewell, including rituals, sports, clothing, weapons, iconography, etc… In regards to language he writes “This contrasts with eastern North America, where some religious ideas and practices appear to have been shared with tropical America by 1000 BC, or not long afterward, and to have been reinforced through centuries by periodic contacts from the same direction. Such contacts might have involved linguistic exchanges, producing the seemingly cognate relationship of the Cherokee words selu and Selu for corn and Corn Moter with the Nahuatl root xilo- (phonetically silo-).”[9]

It has been discovered that DNA links the Hopewell of the Great Lakes area to the people of Mesoamerica. In a 2003 “fifty Native American populations from North and Central America were chosen to explore the phylogenetic and affiliate relationships of the Ohio Hopewell.” In this study, they found within Hopewell DNA a “transition within haplotype A is a C to T at nucleotide position 16259 which is found within Central America in Puerto Rico and Brazil… Finally, a transition of a T to C at nucleotide position 16311 is found in…South America in Bolivia and Guatemala.”[10]

DNA is a strong indicator that these were migrations of people as opposed to minimal contact due to trading. It is possible that Mesoamerican traders procreated with the Hopewell, but there would have to be a significant amount of this going on to leave Mesoamerican DNA without being swallowed up by the founder effect. When combined with other evidence of Mesoamericans in that area, a migration seems to be more plausible. This makes Joseph Smith’s statements of Nephites being in the Great Lakes area much more acceptable when we realize that there were real world Mayans that moved to that area. Perhaps they could have been the Lehites that Joseph Smith mentioned when he spoke about Zelph and other descendants of Lehi in that area.

Trade Routes—


As mentioned before, it has been theorized that “southern traders” used rivers like the Mississippi as a highway of sorts.  In fact, if one looks at a map of North America you will see that it is possible to sail  “along the coast of Mexico, up the Mississippi River, and then up the Ohio River to within less than one hundred miles of the New York hill where the plates were buried.” This is interesting to LDS because it is possible that “the plates could have been transported by canoe to New York, along well-used waterways of the Hopewell Indians (who flourished c. 200 B.C. to A.D. 400).”[11]

Many non-LDS scholars have also made similar observations as well. “A canoe could go from Yucatan all the way up the Mississippi River and over to Spiro, Oklahoma. Well-informed, well-traveled Southeastern natives knew the landscape over enormous distances, being aware of the Great Lakes, the Great Plains, and probably Southwest and Caribbean areas”[12]
The Mayan were a seafaring people who frequented the ocean. When Columbus was on his second voyage to the Americas, he spotted a dugout that was nearly 200 feet long, and 7 feet wide. Other explorers of that era discovered Indians from the mainland visiting the Bahamas.

The river systems of North America were the perfect way to travel and transport goods. Early Indians of that area knew of the luxury of the riverine highways and established their largest villages along them. It was a great source of food, water and transportation.  “there is scant evidence for any early middle Woodland occupation anywhere in the entire Hudson valley…To sum up our present knowledge of the middle Woodland period in Vermont, and allowing gaps in the data, sites of various types appear to have been located along the Connecticut River and the major rivers of western Vermont that flow into Lake Champlain. Some of them—Winooski, the Missisquoi Refuge, Rivers, and possibly Higley Rock sites—appear to have been large base camps, or ‘villages,’ located not far from the mouths of major watercourses.”[13]

Due to the kinds of artifacts that were found in these sites, it has been determined that “there was extensive trade along these river systems in the fifth century A.D.[14] In fact in the 18th century, there was a map drawn up by a Chickasaw Indian who “demonstrated geographical knowledge as far west as Texas and Kansas and as far east as New York and Florida.”[15]

If Central American sailors found these riverine highways, they could easily make their way all the way up to the Great Lakes area. But would they be able to make the first leg of the journey in a decent amount of time, if at all? While it is quite a distance away, a look at the map can answer this question. If one was to follow the shoreline the Yucatan Peninsula to the tip of Florida is over 17,000 miles away. Yet if you travel across the ocean, that same trip is reduced to around 3,500 miles long. There is an ocean current that the Nephites may have taken that leads up to what is now Louisiana. There is a documented case of “Palm-log canoes from Mexico or beyond” washing ashore on the Louisiana as well as a kayaker in 1998 who paddled from the eastern Yucatan coast to New Orleans in 20 days“[16]
If a major culture began to migrate to or trade with other cultures, we should be able to see biological evidence for that contact. Food items such as corn, beans[17], squash[18] and other food products[19] were domesticated in and a main staple of Mesoamerica. It would seem likely that groups who decide to leave Mesoamerica would take this major food source with them. Archaeology has now confirmed that these Mesoamerican staples were brought up to North America during the time period of The Book of Mormon.[20] Yet this exchange did not start, nor end Book of Mormon peoples. Exchange had been taking place for nearly a thousand years prior to the introduction of corn[21] which strengthens the theory that these northward migrations in The Book of Mormon might have been influenced by Mayan merchants who had been travelling to that area for some time and who probably told stories of this faraway land. 

The Mesoamerican staple Maize first reached Eastern North America during the time period of The Book of Mormon at approximately 200 B.C.[22]and is the type of Maize that is specific to Mesoamerica.

One study finds that in the Southeast “there is greater genetic variability in the different strains of maize, possibly indicating more direct connections with Mexican varieties. No matter how it arrived, maize had to be brought to the Southeast in human hands (Kehoe 2002:25, 2005:263)”[23]
There were different varieties of Maize in North America, and we can trace the origin of these specific cultigens. Some have named Corn that originated in Mesoamerica “Tropical Flint”, which “is generally of the smalleared, ten to fourteen, and occasionally, sixteen rowed variety commonly referred to as “Tropical Flint” and “appears more frequently in Early and Middle Woodland [which includes the Hopewell culture] contexts than any other tropical cultigen.” This same Mesoamerican type of Maize “is seen in Early Woodland Hopewell contexts in the Midwest ca. 200 B.C. plus or minus 100 years.”[24]

This agrees with what LDS scholar John Sorensen published in his 1992 article Mesoamerica in Pre-Columbian North America when he wrote that the “corn grown by the Hopewell people in the centuries just before Christ was a Guatemalan type”[25]


One scholar takes it so far to wonder if “the early appearance of Mesoamerican cultigens in eastern North America raises the question of whether the emergence of ranked societies, first in the Ohio valley (Adena and Hopewell), then in the Mississippi Valley, would have occurred if there had not been significant influences from the south.”[26]  At Present, the paucity of maize finds in Ohio and Illinois Hopewell sites suggests that cultivation of Mesoamerican crops was a minor part of Hopewellian subsistence base.

We also have archaeological evidence of Mesoamerican influence in North America. In the Spiro Mounds located in Eastern Oklahoma, archaeologists found an obsidian scraper. Previously, all obsidian was thought to have come from Mexico, but as we were able to discover the origin of obsidian through the technology of energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence, most of the obsidian was found to have come from North America. However, this specific scraper found in Oklahoma was found to have originated in Hidalgo, Mexico. Whether this ended up in North America through trade or migration, we may never know. But it is certain that there was some kind of contact between the two cultures.[27]

There have been several Conch shells found in land locked Hopewell burial mounds[28] which are only found in the ocean. These had to be brought over by a person, or a group of people, who had access to the ocean. While we cannot tell exactly where they came from, it is interesting that the Conch shell had special meaning among the Maya who buried them with their dead as well.

“the preferred species among the ancient Maya, who used the shell as a trumpet by cutting off the tip of the spiral and drilling airholes into the shell wall…Both the Maya and ancient west Mexicans buried actual shells, or ceramic replicas, with the dead…conch shells were very early symbols of Mesoamerican rulers—the shell served as a headdress element, apparently symbolizing power.”[29]

Mesoamerican merchants were also known to have traded ritualistic objects, including conch shells, with other cultures.[30] It is entirely possible that the shells found among the Hopewell were brought by Mesoamerican traders, thus, adding to the evidence of Mesoamerican influence in North America.

A recent article put together several examples of Mesoamerican influence from lands northward. It says in part:

“There is a long history of documenting similarities in artifact design motifs, iconography, symbols, and styles between Mesoamerica and the Southeast (Krieger 1945 remains one of the best). Some comparisons list general traits; others note specific artifacts or designs, for example, Chacmool-style pots in the Mississippi Valley or iconography at Etowah mounds in Georgia. Carved in shell, ceramics, or other media, motifs and combined elements include scrolls, spirals, snakes, feathered serpents, crosses or swastikas inside circles, beaded forelocks and hair knots, trophy skulls, winged dancers, longnosed gods, birds, other animals, and many additional designs. Common artifacts and features have included copper ear ornaments, pipes, carinated vessels, negative painting, similar burial customs involving skull caches, fronto-lambdoidal cranial deformation, shell gorgets, effigy vessels, columella pendants and other shell jewelry, greenstone celts, and, of course, truncated pyramids and plazas. Since the work of Ekholm (1944a, 1944b) and MacNeish (1947, 1949, 1956), researchers have looked specifically at material similarities between the Huasteca area of northeastern Mexico and the Caddo region of the Southeast (northeast Texas, northwest Louisiana, southwest Arkansas, southeast Oklahoma) to hypothesize direct cultural connections… We do not offer here an extensive review of all such past comparisons (but see Cobb et al. 1999) or interpretations of what the imagery or designs mean or how closely they may all be associated. One frequent comparison is of the winged beings or bird dancers from Spiro and Veracruz, both engraved on shell.”[31]

Scholars have found an impressive amount of similarities between the Huastec in Mexico, mentioned above, and Mississippian cultures. One archaeologist noted that “During the Mississippian period, the Huastecan peoples of northeastern Mexico were building modest pyramid-and-plaza centers 400 km south of Brownsville, Texas, while the Mississippians occupied the mid-continental United States and Shared certain material-cultural similarities with the Caddoan groups, namely engraved shell.”[32]   

While many of these similarities post-date The Book of Mormon, it does show that Mesoamericanists knew of and influenced cultures a great distance away. Perhaps they knew of trade routes from previous years, as evidenced by other early Mesoamerican crops and artifacts found in North America.

“Many other birds or plumed human forms in the Mississippian Southeast can be compared with similar but not identical Mesoamerican counterparts. Huastecan artifacts and designs in northeast Mexico make a better specific case for resembling Southeastern element combinations. Besides feathered human costumes there are many other motifs; for example, the so-called sun circle with a cross inside. One we noticed only recently is the rectangular ladder-shaped design painted on plaster floors in the Huasteca area and carved into bone pendants in the Brownsville complex of south Texas. Common design combined with an artifact form itself is even stronger evidence: Huastecan shell discs have long been known to resemble Mississippian shell disc gorgets, though Krieger said that the Huastecan examples may not have been gorgets but items glued onto ear ornaments. Interaction between the Caddo region and the Potosino Plateau of the Huastec area is now seen to include many more artifact types than was originally thought, with influences moving from the Southeast into Mexico instead of vice versa. There are even Mexican polished stone biconcave discoidal artifacts that look like Mississippian chunky stones, though it is uncertain whether they were contemporaneous or used for the same purpose (Mexican archaeologists have called them grinding implements… Mississippian and Huastecan cultures are contemporaneous; other comparisons have temporal problems. For example, platform pipes, both in simple monitor shapes and with animal effigy bowls, from the San Luis Potosi region of northeast Mexico are probably late prehistoric, perhaps 1,000 years later than examples from Hopewell-related sites. Even harder to justify are the many comparisons of Olmec and Mississippian motifs or practices, such as the widespread symbolic use of greenstone; the 2,000+ years of time separation is possibly greater distance than the 2,000+ mi of space, unless, as Webb has quipped, "it was a slow trip north".  

These areas of investigation are ripe for new research. Many Southeastern artifacts look as if they walked right out of Mexico, yet they are made of local materials. More detailed study of common stylistic elements might profit from the techniques of art history and structural analysis, to see associations that are clear after the local interpretive and idiosyncratic factors are taken into account. For example, winged serpents or trophy heads can be compared but also the design elements composing them, the contexts in which they appear, and how they are transformed as they move through space and time. Individual elements, even seen in context, can still be ambiguous, of course. For example, could the long tongues or balloons issuing from the mouths of some Southeastern Ceremonial Complex figures, suggested to represent regurgitation of the black drink, be related to Mesoamerican speech scrolls?... Despite all the common imagery, there was until recently no artifact of clear Mexican origin known in the Southeast. An obsidian scraper from the famous late prehistoric mound center at Spiro has been traced to Pachuca, Hidalgo, in central Mexico. The specimen, taken from the Craig Mound in 1935, had been donated to the Smithsonian Institute. Paleo-Indian and Late Prehistoric obsidian from Mexico and other sources occurs in southeast Texas. On the west Texas plains, central plateau, and inland margins of the Gulf coastal plain adjacent to the Edwards Plateau, there is obsidian from Malad, Idaho, as well as from Obsidian Cliff, Yellowstone, Wyoming, suggesting a north--south Plains exchange network from the Archaic onward. In west and central Texas there is also obsidian from Jemez, New Mexico, during the Late Prehistoric. However, on the southern Texas Gulf Coast and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley there is obsidian from Mexican sources in Queretaro and Hidalgo, mostly at Late Prehistoric Brownsville complex sites. A late Paleo-Indian dart point fragment from Kincaid Rockshelter in south-central Texas, on the southern margin of the Edwards Plateau, has been sourced to Queretaro. Hester also reports a Clovis point from the central Texas coast of obsidian that could not be traced to a known source. He suggests that Paleo-Indian obsidian sources were perhaps more numerous and diverse than in later prehistoric times. An Archaic-style contracting-stem dart point of obsidian from McFaddin Beach, on the upper Texas coast, was sourced to Zacualtipan, Hidalgo, more than 1,000 km to the south. Obsidian pieces from central Mexico, Idaho, and New Mexico have all been found at sites in Texas hundreds of kilometers upriver along the Rio Grande, suggesting interaction of Brownsville complex peoples with groups far inland.

Also notable along these lines is Griffin's discussion of Mesoamerican-Southeastern connections through the "seepage of ideas." He compared items such as pots, bottles, and ceremonial knives and specifically noted some filed human teeth around Cahokia whose mutilation looked so Mesoamerican that he thought these individuals must have had their dental work done in Mexico. Griffin also criticized other researchers who used untraceable devices such as boats for postulating migration, but Wicke notes that "the prowess of the American Indian as a navigator has been grossly underestimated”[33]

In addition to that, there seems to be similarities of gods, ritual and sacrifice between the two cultures. “Robert Hall and Melvin Fowler see the four executed men in Cahokia’s Mound 72 and various female sacrifices as reminiscent of the central Mexican practice of sacrifices having to do with the corn goddess Xilonen (see Hall 2000; Young and Fowler 2000:269). In addition, Hall (1991:31) has compared the Mexican diety “Xolotl” and the Mayan here “Hunhau” to the Long-Nosed God represented in early Mississippian ear ornaments.”[34] 


All one has to do is take a look at some of the structures North American Indians built to realize the similarities between them and Mesoamerican complexes. Cahokia’s terraced pyramid mounds mimic Mesoamerican pyramids. They had “a planned symmetrical center, large four-sided pyramids built in stages, and pole-and-thatch houses” which are eerily similar to structures found in Mesoamerica.[35] In what is now modern Illinois, it is thought that these ancients were influenced by the Toltecs who were known to have taken to the sea and contacted other cultures. “The Toltec case may be reasonable in some people’s minds given the supposed expansionistic qualities of Toltecan culture-as seen not only in central Mexico but also at sites such as Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula-and given that the Mexicans and Maya were known on occasion to take to the ocean in boats. Why not sail up the Mississippi? What would have been the impact of some Toltec wayfarers contacting some North American terminal Late Woodland people?”[36]

These similarities go back to Book of Mormon times among the Hopewell. James B. Griffin wrote

“Counterparts to the great ritual complexes of Central America once dotted the entire eastern United States, the most notable being the Hopewell culture centering in Ohio and spreading out for hundreds of miles along the entire length of the Mississippi River. These are now believed to be definitely related to corresponding centers in Mesoamerica.”[37]

Even among the Hohokam, which cultivated domesticated barley, Mesoamerican societies had strong influence. “As evidenced by an abundance of ball courts and platform mounds, cultures reigning far to the south clearly influenced the Hohokam. Thus it comes as no surprise to learn that middle America was the source for their principal crops: several varieties of corn, two kinds of squash, bottle gourds, and cotton…”[38] 

There has to be significant influence in order for a civilization to change the way they construct their structures. But in order to introduce a new idea like this, communication would have to be established, they would have to be able to speak the language. Can you imagine trying to instruct, possibly even oversee the construction of a massive complex without being able to communicate with the workers? Being able to speak the language would be necessary to pull off a major task like that. Also, this kind of influence wouldn’t be one you would get from short stay with another civilization due to trade, but would have to be from a long term stay, possibly even a migration of Mesoamericanists to that area and probably not from a small group. To change a civilization’s construction habits, there has to be major influence.

“Muller emphasized looking beyond similarity of form to see use, arrangement, and context. A good example of this approach is Wicke's study of Mesoamerican influences on Southeastern temple mounds. He compared architectural plans, arrangements, shapes, and eastward orientations of mounds and their relationships with plazas, building stages, ramps or functionally analogous steps, and temples on platforms”[39]


While only a peripheral subject, documenting contact and migrations northward achieve several functions. It provides evidence of Joseph Smith’s calling as a Prophet and evidence for The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon speaks about northward migrations, yet how would Joseph Smith know that there is evidence of these migrations from Mesoamerica to North America? Unless he was divinely inspired, he could not have known about this recent data.

It also provides an explanation why Joseph Smith placed The Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, while also placing BOM peoples in the Great Lakes area. Fletcher Hammond correctly noted "it is possible and quite probable, that sometime during the Book of Mormon history, some adventurous Nephites and Lamanites settled in what is now the western plains of the United States, the Mississippi Valley, and as far north as the Great Lakes region. But, no account of what they did was important enough for Mormon to include it in the abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi.”[40] Assuming The Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, Joseph Smith would have been absolutely correct about Lehites occupying the Great Lakes area since there were Mesoamerican’s who had migrated to that area.


[1]. While technically speaking, Mesoamerica is part of North America but for this article I will be using the term North America to define the land above Central America.

[2]Timothy R. Pauketat, Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians, Cambridge University press, 2004, pg 73.

[3]Helaman 3:14, emphasis mine

[4]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277


[5]. John L. Sorenson, “Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian North America” in John W. Welch, Reexploring the Book ofMormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah: Deseret Book Company and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992), 218-220.

He continuesThe pyramid concept arrived in the southern Mississippi River Valley by around the time of Christ. Even earlier, burial mounds had appeared, also likely originating in Mesoamerica, which agrees with the fact that the corn grown by the Hopewell people in the centuries just before Christ was a Guatemalan type… Apparently, from these and many other studies, peoples and cultural elements have spread by migration and trade from Mexico into North America periodically since well before the time of Christ. Although we cannot identify these movements with the Book of Mormon account specifically, we can see that the kind of migrations northward mentioned in the Book of Mormon are substantiated in general. Through avenues such as these, we again can also see how some of the Jaredites, Nephites, Lamanites, or Mulekites, or their descendants, or aspects of their culture, could easily have spread out, here a little and there a little, over the North American continent.”  Other scholars echo similar conclusions as well.

Hugh Nibley said “that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica with echoes and remnants filtering up into the native cultures of the continental United States.” Hugh Nibley and Book of Mormon Geography, Kirk Magleby, accessed Jan 24th 2012

“Some studies link the people and culture of Central America with those in North America. These studies have been conducted by people who are not LDS and, consequently, do not share the same beliefs about the Book of Mormon and its origins. Nevertheless, they have made a connection between Meso-America and the Mississippi Valley, a connection which is potentially useful for Latter-day Saints.” Zelph Revisited, Donald Q. Cannon, Church History Regional Studies, BYU Department of Church History and Doctrine, Regional Studies, Illinois,-Zelph Revisited, 97-109


[6]Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians, Timothy R. Pauketat, Cambridge University press, (2004)  pg 72

[7]Personal email to the author January 9th 2012

[8]. John L. Sorenson, “Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian North America” in John W. Welch, Reexploring the Book ofMormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah: Deseret Book Company and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992), 218-220.

[9]The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, Oxford University Press, USA (2012), chapter 5, pg 61

[10]Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the Ohio Hopewell of the Hopewell Mound Group. PhD Dissertation by Lisa A. Mills, Department of Anthropology, Ohio State University, 2003. Pg 90-91 emphasis mine.


[11]William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies2, no. 1 (1993)


[12]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277


[13]. The Original Vermonters: Native Inhabitants, Past and Present, pg 132, William A. Haviland, Marjory W. Power.

[14]. Brian M. Fagan, Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991), 366-67, 370-76, 392-94.

[15]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277

[16]. Ibid.

[17]. Beans (Phaseolus sp) were also domesticated in Central America and have been found in archaeological digs among the Hopewell in the Great Lakes area. “Of the tropical cultigens introduced prehistorically into the Midwest-Riverine area, beans (Phaseolus sp.) appear latest. The only Early or Middle Woodland report of beans in this area is from the Hopewell Renner site in northwestern Missouri, where Wedel (1943:26) describes “several small beans resembling modern pintos in size and shape” occurring in the same pit from which the aforementioned maize kernels were recovered.”

“indigenous societies of the tropical forest ‘domesticated a larger assemblage of root and tuber crops than anyone else on earth.” Pg 167 Rethinking Agriculture: Archaeological and Ethnoarchaeological Perspectives  By José Iriarte, Luc Vrydaghs
18  “By 1000 cal B.C., a possible Mesoamerican variety [ squash, Cucurbita pepo] was present in sufficient quantity to be removed on two occasions from contexts adjacent to a Late Archaic occupation.” Archaic societies: diversity and complexity across the midcontinent Edited by Thomas E. Emerson, The Origins, Dispersal, and Role of Domestic Plants in the Michigan Archaic, State University of New York Press 2009, pg 743

[19]. “Chacoan sites show evidence of a widespread procurement and exchange system. Copper bells and tropical birds from Mesoamerica, shells from the Gulf and Pacific coasts, and cotton from the Hohokam region all appear in sites in Chaco Canyon.” Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: an encyclopedia, Guy E. Gibbon Routledge (August 1, 1998) pg 139

 “Theobromine, chemical evidence of chocolate, has been found in the 1,000-year-old residues scraped from a cylindrical pot from Pueblo Bonito, in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The chocolate was probably imported from cacao growers in Central America. “This illustrates the importance of collections in archaeology, we can return to material with new techniques and find out new things,” said Patricia L. Crown of the University of New Mexico. “Evidence of cacao use in the Prehispanic American Southwest” PNAS February 17, 2009 vol. 106 no. 7 2110-2113


[20]“But the later crops themselves, the staples of maize, beans, and Cucurbita argyrosperma squash, were all domesticated in Mexico and had to arrive somehow in the Southeast…they think the major crops might all have been imported into the eastern United States from a Mexican Gulf heart of domestication.” White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277


“As evidenced by an abundance of ball courts and platform mounds, cultures reigning far to the south clearly influenced the Hohokam. Thus it comes as no surprise to learn that middle America was the source for their principal crops: several varieties of corn, two kinds of squash, bottle gourds, and cotton…All these cultigens originally had worked their way north over time from places like the Valley of Mexico to the peoples of the Sonoran Desert, as had two kinds of grain amaranths and probably cultivated tobacco…they [the Hohokam] may have been the only culture to have cultivated little barley…Hohokam, like virtually all prehistoric dwellers of northern Mexico…”  William W. Dunmire, Gardens of New Spain: how Mediterranean plants and foods changed America, , (University of Texas Press, 2004 )pg. 62-63


[21]. “In a classic paper published in 1967, James B. Griffin synthesized knowledge of eastern North America gained since the turn of the century. Reflecting the perspective of most archaeologists at the time, he identified the most important outside influence as that of the introduction of agriculture from Mesoamerica beginning about 1000 BC.” North American Archaeology, Timothy R. Pauketat, Diana DiPaolog Loren, Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (2005) page 109


[22]“Maize (Zea mays), the first Mesoamerican domesticate to reach ENA (Eastern North America), did not arrive for another 1,500 years, at ≈200 B.C.” (Bruce D. Smith et. Al., Initial formation of an indigenous crop complex in eastern North America at 3800 B.PPNAS 2009106:6561-6566

“Maize appeared in the eastern United States over 2,000 years ago (Riley et al. 1994). It was already in the Southwest between 4,000 and 3,500 years ago, though about 2,000 more years were needed for it to change from a casual or supplemental resource to a staple there. Genetic studies suggest that southwestern maize was carried eastward across the Plains to become ancestral to the eastern forms.” White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277

Extending the Phytolith Evidence for Early Maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) and Squash (Cucurbita sp.) in Central New York John P. Hart, Hetty Jo Brumbach and Robert Lusteck, American Antiquity
Vol. 72, No. 3 (Jul., 2007), pp. 563


[23]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277

[24]. Choctaw Genesis, 1500-1700 By Patricia Kay Galloway  University of Nebraska Press (February 1, 1998) pg 33

[25].   John L. Sorenson, “Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian North America” in John W. Welch, Reexploring the Book ofMormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah: Deseret Book Company and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992), 218-220.


[26]Stuart J. Fiedel, Prehistory of the Americas, (Cambridge University Press, 1992) pg. 353. He continues “Few other traits of Hopewell culture appear to be specifically Mexican; copper ear spools and panpipes might be markers of southern influence.”

[27]. Alex W. Barker et. al. American Antiquity, 67 (1), 2002, pg 103
[28]Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, Shona Grimbly, Routledge (August 1, 2000) pg 167

[29]The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art, by Hope B. Werness, Joanne H. Benedict, Scott Thomas, Tiffany Ramsay-Lozano, pg 101 continuum press

[30]. “For a thousand years, Mesoamerican merchants traded ritual objects like macaw feathers and copper bells for precious turquoise mined by the Anasazi and Hohokam of the American Southwest...Social and religious ideas from Mesoamerica eventually reached Native American cultures east of the Mississippi River.” "Unmasking the Maya: The Story of Sna Jtz'ibajom," Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology. On-line at (last accessed 30 May 2008). “The people of Cahokia enjoyed far-reaching trade relations made possible by river transportation. The extent of their trade is shown by the thousands of conch shell beads from the Gulf of Mexico… History of Geophysics 1:21, American Geophysical Union (1984)

[31]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277


[32]Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians, Timothy R. Pauketat, Cambridge University press (2004) pg 72-72)

[33]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277


[34]Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians, Timothy R. Pauketat, Cambridge University press (2004) pg 72)

[36]. Ibid

[37].”James B. Griffin, "Mesoamerica and the Eastern United States in Prehistoric Times," in Handbook of Middle American Indians , ed. Robert Wauchope (Austin: University of Texas, 1966), 4:111—31; D. S. Brose and N. Greber, Hopewell Archaeology (Kent: Kent State University, 1979).


[38]William W. Dunmire, Gardens of New Spain: how Mediterranean plants and foods changed America, , (University of Texas Press, 2004 )pg. 62-63


[39]. White, N.M., and R.A. Weinstein. 2008, The Mexican connection and the far west of the U.S. Southeast.  American Antiquity 73 (2):227-277


[40]. Fletcher B. Hammond, Geography of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959), 151—52

Livingston, Tyler