About the "Lost Civilizations of North America" DVD

A few years ago, I was invited to attend a presentation about a proposed setting for the Book of Mormon in North America (more specific in the Great Lakes area). The speaker was Rod Meldrum. I never heard of him before, but the theory of the Great Lakes, particularly with reference to the narrow neck of land (see for example Ether 10:20 and Alma 22:32) in connection to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, was not entirely new to me.  The presentation was nearly four hours long and it was being videotaped. I have to admit that it was an interesting proposition and the speaker made reference to numerous historical and scientific citations to corroborate all his points. I took considerable notes with the purpose of checking those references myself later, then at the end of the presentation, I introduced myself to Rod Meldrum. It appears that he already knew about me and asked for a personal meeting, to which I agreed. In the following few months, I had the opportunity to visit with him at my office with the purpose of discussing the genetic component of the theory he was so passionately promoting. At that time, I was working on my PhD in human genetics with an emphasis on reconstructing the origins and migrations of America's indigenous inhabitants using mitochondrial DNA as a population expansion marker. I thought that the main reason Meldrum wanted some time with me was to explore in greater details the validity of a possible connection between Book of Mormon people and North America. I showed him all the flaws, shortcuts, limitations, and exaggerations involved with such assumption, assuming that he was honestly seeking for truth and understanding. Later however, I learned that he was trying to recruit me as a scientist that would endorse his work and, because I was not willing to embrace his plans, I eventually became the bad guy (see for example Rod Meldrum's 5-star endorsement to his OWN volume "Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and The United States of America" at Amazon.com, where he refers to me as a "puppet geneticist").
I have already addressed several of the problems with considering DNA as evidence against OR in favor of Book of Mormon historicity in an essay that was published last year in FARMS Review, a publication by the LDS Church's endorsed Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Two important reviews about Meldrum's DVD "DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography" and book "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA" are found HERE andHERE, respectively. 

Today, I learned about an official statement made by a number of anthropologists that have been contacted and interviewed with the purpose of sharing information about the history and culture of ancient North America inhabitants for the DVD production "The Lost Civilizations of North America." This material was later deceitfully edited to sound as if the individuals interviewed were confirming the evidence of a cultural and genetic contribution to New World civilizations in the Great Lakes area that originated from the Old World. Glenn Beck recently featured this documentary in his show and due to Beck's popular following, the DVD also became a hot item to support the theory of a North American setting for the Book of Mormon. Rod Meldrum is using this material to support his work and recruit more followers. The statement from those that were invited to contributed to the making of the DVD reveals the true nature of the work promoted by Meldrum and his associated. The original text is found at The Hidden Archaeology Blog and it is reported in its entirety here:

The following is a statement jointly authored by myself and the several other scholars indicated regarding our participation in the recent video production, “The Lost Civilizations of North America.” Given the notoriety this video has received (it was discussed by Glenn Beck on his television program), we felt it necessary to make the following statement a matter of record. I urge anyone who has any questions not answered by the statement to contact me.


As scholars committed to increasing public understanding of Native American history and archaeology, we want to make it clear that we do not support the theories presented in “The Lost Civilizations of North America” DVD. In our opinion, there is no compelling archaeological or genetic evidence for a migration from the Middle East to North America a few thousand years ago, nor is there any credible scientific evidence that Old World civilizations were involved in developing Native American cultures in pre-Columbian times. Many of the artifacts used to support the film’s claims, such as the Newark “Holy Stones,” have been proven fraudulent based on convincing scientific evidence and historical documentation. Like the great majority of professional archaeologists and anthropologists, we have seen overwhelming evidence thatNative Americans were independently responsible for designing and creating the Newark Earthworks, Cahokia Mounds, and the myriad other pre-Columbian sites across the United States.

Each of us was interviewed for this film. None of us was asked directly for our opinion on what turned out to be its underlying claim; that Old World civilizations played an active role in the development of Native American cultures, especially the mound builders. Instead, we were asked general questions about Native American societies, their remarkable technological achievements, genetic histories, and we were also asked to comment on the biases of many nineteenth-century historians and archaeologists concerning the abilities of the native people of North America. We fear that the context of our general remarks as they currently appear in the film might lead viewers to conclude that our words on these subjects provide support for the film’s claims. That would be a mistake. In fact, our remarks, if presented in an unedited form, show clearly that we reject the assertions made in the finished documentary concerning a non-native source for the complex cultures of Native America.

We informed the filmmakers of our objections in February 2010, five months before the DVD’s release. The producers did make some changes in response to our objections, including deleting Ken Feder’s interview entirely. As a group, we believe that the final product remains misleading and presents claims that neither we nor our data support. In our opinion, there is no compelling evidence for the presence of Old World cultures in North America prior to the incursions of the Norse in the early 11th century.

Sonya Atalay
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University*

Terry Barnhart
Professor of History, Eastern Illinois University*

Deborah Bolnick
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin*

Ken Feder 
Professor of Anthropology, Central Connecticut State University*

Alice Kehoe
Professor of Anthropology, emeritus, Marquette University*

Brad Lepper
Curator of Archaeology, Ohio Historical Society*

*We provide the names of our respective institutions here for identification purposes only. This is not meant to indicate that these institutions endorse our views.




Perego, Ugo