Daniel Johnson's Blog

May 29, 2022

Delving deeper into the Blythe Intaglios

Sharing the previous post generated a lot of pushback, surprisingly from a Facebook group on the Book of Mormon and archaeology. The suggestion that this particular figure of the geoglyphs in the southern California desert known today as the Blythe Intaglios could possibly be a horse was met primarily with criticism. The common answer was that it was a mountain lion and could not be a horse. Why would an animal design like this be identified with a predator like a puma or cougar?

The prevailing interpretation is that the humanoid figure is Mastamho, the creator of life. He had a companion and helper known as Hatakulya, a mountain lion. Some legends say that Hatakulya could also transform into a man. Other legends state that there were two mountain lions: Hatakulya and Numeta. One has a tail that hangs down an the other has one that goes up. These creation stories come from the Mohave and Quechan tribes that live in the region today.

This is the most common interpretation of these giant images, but if you look at websites that describe the site, they all appear to have copied text from the same source, as they all say the same thing. The human and animal figures are grouped together as a pair. Each set is traditionally identified as Mastamho and Hatakulya, but since Hatakulya is a mountain lion that can transform into a man, perhaps each set represents the two aspects of each being. A third humanoid is nearby, but without an accompanying animal. 

LegendsofAmerica.com has a page on the Intaglios and repeats the same story as all the rest do, but also suggests that the figures may represent powerful individuals in a clan interacting with their surroundings. It also includes the observation that: 'Part of the dating problem is that the animal figures appear to be horses. If so, they must have been carved either before American horses went extinct some 10,000 years ago or more recently after the Spaniards arrived in California in 1540.

Another theory holds that some modern horses did exist in North America before the Spaniards, but were regarded as food sources rather than bests of burden.'

Our point is that it really is not clear what these figures were originally created to represent. Since neither the Mohave nor the Quechan made them, it is reasonable to look at alternative interpretations. We have suggested several possibilities. The problem is, as LegendsofAmerica states, the animal figures (particularly one of them) appear to be horses.

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Published on May 29, 2022 00:05

May 20, 2022

Ancient horse in the southern California desert?

We always find items like this interesting. Many may not know about what are now called the Blythe Intaglios, discovered in 1932 by a pilot flying from Nevada to California. They are geoglyphs, large works of art created in the earth that are mainly discernible from the air, quite similar to the Nazca Lines in Peru, even in their construction. Their current name comes from their location near Blythe, CA in the Colorado Desert.

Blythe Intaglio Quadruped

In addition to some spiral and geometric designs, the five main figures are humanoid and animal; two of them are officially known as 'quadrupeds,' the most interesting of which is shown here. Two questions should immediately come to mind: what animal is being represented and what is the age of this and the other large figures? Thinking of large American fauna, this image could easily be seen as a horse to the untrained eye. How likely is that? 

Daniel has long researched the topic of ancient American horses, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. This is obviously a controversial topic that goes against the current line of thinking, both common and scientific, but that is slowly changing. There is actually a good bit of information about these geoglyphs, but none of it suggests that this could be a pre-Columbian depiction of an ancient horse; that would be going too far. Attempts have been made to connect this and the other nearby figures to Yuman oral history and cosmology, however, it is not known who created them, although later native nations knew about and attached significance to them.
Is there any danger in seeing a horse in this figure? The claim can be made that imagery from other cultures must be interpreted using the understanding of that culture. This is definitely true and quite often pseudoscientific claims are made by taking artifacts out of context and interpreting them with a modern understanding. We should be careful to guard against this, but it must be pointed out that from prehistoric cave paintings to zoomorphic representations from ancient cultures all over the world, animals can usually be readily identified. Ancient people knew what animals familiar to them looked like and were quite skilled at representing them through painting, sculpture, and other means. While we may not know much about the culture that created the aforementioned Nazca Lines, we can easily recognize the spider, monkey, hummingbird, and other representational art they made, even if we do not understand their meaning.
Blue Mesa, AZOddly enough, this figure is most often identified as a mountain lion, companion to the Creator in an ancient creation myth. Other safe and more visually likely candidates would be a deer, elk, or another common North American ungulate. Our first reaction to the mountain lion label is that it could only be true if the creators of this figure had never seen such an animal, but are there culturally similar examples known to represent cougars or pumas for comparison? While it is not known exactly who created the Blythe Intaglios or even when, there is a plethora of ancient and even prehistoric rock art examples from this region of the United States. Shown here is a well-known petroglyph, which is easily recognizable as a feline. Notice salient features such as the ears and claws. Interestingly enough, a common feature of indigenous images in the Southwest of mountain lions is the long tail going over the back.
Coso Mountains, CAOther examples of non-controversial animals are quite common. As can be seen in these petroglyphs from the Mohave Desert, animal forms are surprisingly recognizable, even cross culturally. It is not hard at all to make out horned sheep/goats, a lizard, and some sort of canine, perhaps a coyote or dog. More specific identification may not be possible, but the overall general type of animal is easy to see.
Bluff, UTIn this prehistoric example, large horned animals are depicted. What are obviously antlers are shown on what is likely a deer. Also identifiable are a bird and the human hunting with a bow and arrow. Countless such petroglyphs and pictographs are known all across the United States, but these are all chosen from the American Southwest in an attempt to be as culturally relevant as possible to the Blythe Intaglios. However, it should be noted that even in ancient rock art worldwide, the modern viewer can almost always tell at least the general type of animal depicted. Humans have a way of successfully representing animals, even across wide ranges of time and distance.
Indian Creek State Park, UTAs a contrast, there is North American rock art that obviously shows horses, even being ridden. Newspaper Rock in Utah is a well-known example. We are not suggesting that this is a pre-conquest depiction of an Ancient American horse. It was likely created long after horses had been re-introduced to the Americas and plains tribes had adopted them into their culture. When non-native scientists see horses depicted, they assume a historical date without further investigation. It should be noted that some First Nations people have oral histories and traditions that they have always had horses, long before the white man arrived. 
Rock art can be dated using a variety of techniques, including the growth of lichens and weathering or varnish on the rocks, but as we have often seen if the image is undeniably a horse, no effort is taken to determine a date because its age can automatically be assumed. This is safe enough and scientifically sound, but notice the circular reasoning involved: If it is a horse, then it must be post-conquest and only if it is post conquest, then can it reasonably be a horse. This approach is used by Michael J. Harner in his study of the Blythe Intaglios. In "GRAVEL PICTOGRAPHS OF THE LOWER COLORADO RIVER REGION," he states '...if one considers the quadrupeds to be horses, then all five figures can be considered to be historic...' He also suggests they may be a coyote, wolf, or dog. A safe and non-controversial assumption, but again, it begs the question (since we know there were no horses in the Americas before they were introduced by Europeans, any ancient horse-like depiction must be something else) instead of researching it out fully with an open mind. However, even in this study, we see that interpreting the quadruped as a horse is not unreasonable.
This brings us to the real question, can these geoglyphs be dated? They have been, with some interesting results. Jay von Werlhof and Harry Casey authored a study on these and other rock art in the region. On the Blythe Intaglios quadruped in particular, the AMS C-14 age is 1145 +/_ 65 with a Total Error of 203. The Calibrated Age (1 sigma) is AD 668 (892) 1152. This may be a bit hard to decipher, but later in the study, they conclude that the minimum ages of these geoglyphs, referred to as the 'Blythe Giants,' are in the time range of AD 550-1150 and according to the table in the study, the quadruped has a highest probabilistic date of AD 892. This is important, as Harner states that, 'The uniformity of style of the anthropomorphic and quadruped representations suggests that they were constructed contemporaneously.'
Based on the results of these studies, the Blythe Intaglios quadruped was created at least 400-500 years before the traditional timeline of the re-introduction of horses to the region, and probably much earlier. Comparing it to other rock art examples in the American Southwest, it does not easily resemble a mountain lion, deer, bighorn sheep, elk, or other animals commonly known to Native Americans, although it could represent a mythical animal. As stated in scientific studies, it has at times been interpreted as a horse. The only point of contention is its age if indeed it actually is a horse. We realize that we are swimming against the current here, but all things considered, suggesting that this Blythe Intaglios quadruped might be a pre-conquest horse is not all that outrageous.

Click hear to read Michael J. Harner's studyClick here to read Jay von Werlhof and Harry Casey's studyClick here to read about the attempts to connect the geoglyphs to the Yuman cultureClick here for an article on pseudoarchaeological claims of horses in the Americas that mentions this geoglyph
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Published on May 20, 2022 10:08

December 24, 2021

The Peacemaker and the Tree of Peace

We have some new interesting information to share for your consideration and this is a nice time of year to do it. This is an Iroquois legend about the Peacemaker and the Tree of Peace. His origin is an interesting one:
"The Peacemaker was born a Huron, to a young virgin woman who had not yet gone through here puberty rites. The young woman had not yet reached her time for the ceremony when she became pregnant. Her mother was worried of what the people of the village might say, so she hid her away during her pregnancy until she gave birth. She convinced her daughter that she had to get rid of the baby. The grandmother tried three times to kill the baby and failed each time. She then realized that he must be someone special and with special powers and knew that they should raise him carefully."

The Peacemaker brought together five warring nations. Even after this success, he noticed that they still carried their weapons. So he saw a tall evergreen tree and uprooted it, creating a cavity. He then instructed the men to cast their weapons of war into it and he replaced the tree, burying them, saying, "Into the depths of the earth, down into the deep under earth currents of water flowing into unknown regions, we cast all weapons of strife. We bury them from sight forever and plant again the tree. Thus shall all great peace be established and hostilities shall no longer be known between the Five Nations but only peace to a united people."

Christlike similarities are immediately obvious. It is interesting how many gods and heroes in mythologies around the world come from a virgin birth with an unknown father. But the Book of Mormon also tells a story of Lamanites that once converted to belief in God, buried their weapons of war as a symbol of their newfound faith. "...all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth." (Alma 24:17)
The Book of Mormon does not teach about the origins of the Iroquois necessarily, but we find these similarities to be quite intriguing and worthy of further study. If it records true events that took place anciently, it's possible that these stories survived in some form and were adopted by later cultures, who appropriated them and made them their own.

Click here to read more about the Peacemaker and the Tree of Peace.

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Published on December 24, 2021 11:33

November 15, 2020

More thoughts on the origin and significance of Quetzalcoatl

Latter-Day Saints have long been interested in establishing a connection between ancient American legends of Quetzalcoatl (and similar deities from a variety of cultures) and Jesus Christ's visit as told in the Book of Mormon. It should be noted that this idea is not new; Spanish chroniclers wrote down these beliefs and noted their similarity. So, this idea is not something that was created in support of the veracity of the Book of Mormon account, but perhaps latched onto because it was appealing. 
Obviously, the scientific world does not think much of this view, pointing out the need to be skeptical of the Spanish, who may have had other interests in mind. The native populations they met may have also altered their stated beliefs for reasons of their own as they related them to their conquerors. This may explain the examples of seemingly Biblical stories and practices found among the Maya, Aztecs, and other later cultures, or it may not. Even some LDS scholars and commentators, such as Brandt Gardner, not only discourage making these connections, but even affirm there is no support for a Christlike Quetzalcoatl (or Gukumatz, or Kukulcan, or Viracocha) older than Spanish records, asserting that this similarity was basically a Spanish invention.
Leaving aside why the idea of a deity similar to Christ would appeal to the Catholic conquerors (after all, they weren't Mormons), we can look at the widely-held indigenous belief in a feathered serpent deity, which is found among many ancient cultures and combines unexpected animal aspects. An admittedly non-scientific article on Ancient Origins deals this this topic. It discusses the idea that these (bearded?) gods of the Americas may have been the resurrected Jesus, even mentioning LDS beliefs and the account of his visit in the Book of Mormon. This assertion is no longer as widely ridiculed as it has been in the past. But it delves into what is perhaps a more important question of why the serpent, a creature from the ground, was combined with a bird, a creature from the sky, to form a singular god.
The symbol of the eagle and the snake is also important to Aztec origin legends and is found on the flag of Mexico. As stated in the article, this legend was misinterpreted by the Spanish as the eagle representing good and the serpent evil, which fits in nicely with European heraldry and Christian theology. But a more accurate representation of these attributes may be much more complex. The suggestion in this article is that the earthly and heavenly creatures may represent different states of consciousness together in one being. Another idea we suggest is that the idea of a feathered serpent god is to suggest a deity combining heavenly and earthly attributes, or we might say, divine and mortal. Looking at it in this way, it's not too hard to think of Jesus Christ the Son of God, who embodied both the divine and the mortal in his person, as necessary in carrying out his atoning sacrifice. 
In conclusion, perhaps Quetzalcoatl doesn't need to be a bearded white man after all. Perhaps the symbolism of the earthly and the divine combined in one individual is enough. Just something to think about.
Click here to read the article on ancient-origins.net
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Published on November 15, 2020 12:43

March 12, 2020

More support for Ancient American horses

Out of all the criticisms of the Book of Mormon, its mention of horses keeps coming up. Such has been the case for 190 years. Daniel has written papers and given presentations on strong support for the presence of horses in the Americas far before previously held beliefs. There may not be a definite answer yet, but more support from non-LDS sources keeps appearing. Of particular interest is research into Native American traditions and histories

Yvette Running Horse, an indigenous scholar, has a good bit of current research supporting native traditions that they have always had the horse. Many of her findings are very similar to the paper that Daniel had published in BYU Studies.  She doesn't seem to have any interest in supporting the Book of Mormon narrative, so we recommend her work for consideration. As more time goes by, our stance on the reality of horses in Ancient America far before the Spanish conquest becomes more commonplace.

Click here to read about Yvette Running Horse's dissertation.
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Published on March 12, 2020 15:58

July 8, 2019

A steel sword from 7th century BC Israel

Steel in the Book of Mormon is a common target for critics. The first mention is the sword of Laban, with its blade of 'precious' steel. The common thinking for quite a while is that this is an anachronism, several centuries out of date. We have found ancient examples of Middle Eastern steel: an 11th century BC dagger from Cyprus and a 12th or 13th century BC pick from Mt. Adir in northern Galilee (click here to read about them). However, an actual steel sword dating to Lehi's time has been found.

Now residing in the Israel Museum, a sword from the Vered Jericho fortress was found in the 1980s. It's over three feet long and is described as being made of mild steel. Some listings may describe it as iron, but because steel is so close to iron (up to 99%), academic descriptions often don't distinguish between the two materials. But articles delving into the details will mention the difference. According to Popular Mechanics and the Biblical Archaeology Review, it is indeed iron hardened into a mild steel (click here to read the article). According to the museum's 1992 journal, "Metallurgical analysis of a sample taken from the blade proves that it was made of mild steel, and that the iron was deliberately hardened into steel, attesting to the technical knowledge of the blacksmith."

Shad Brooks, an Australian swords and ancient weaponry expert, explains the significance of this find on his YouTube channel, Shadiversity. He defends its description as steel and explains just how close iron and steel are, especially in ancient metallurgy. Using the Vered Jericho sword as a base, he has even reconstructed a probable design of the sword of Laban, based on Nephi's description.

The sword of Laban can now safely be removed from any list of Book of Mormon controversies. No longer do we need to try and explain it away, as it fits fully into the historical record of the time, without any hit of anachronism.

Click here to watch Shad's recreation of the sword of Laban.
Click here to watch Shad's defense of the Vered Jericho sword as steel.
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Published on July 08, 2019 20:48

June 11, 2019

Pope confirms phrase from the JST

In an unexpected bit of news, Pope Francis recently approved a change to a phrase in the Lord's Prayer, found in Matthew 6:14. In this familiar scripture, Jesus teachers the pattern for praying to our Heavenly Father. The King James Bible contains the phrase, "And lead us not into temptation." Reasoning that God does not tempt mankind, but rather the devil, the pope has changed the phrase to “do not let us fall into temptation.”

This is interesting because the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, long criticized by many Christians, contains practically the same phrase, for likely the same reason. His rendering of this line reads "And suffer us not to be led into temptation." The beyond close similarity of the two phrases is interesting, since Joseph made this inspired change over 150 years ago. We wonder how and why the current pope came to this same conclusion, but we do agree with his decision.

Read here about Pope Francis' change to this and the Gloria.
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Published on June 11, 2019 11:39

December 25, 2018

An interesting story to share

Merry Christmas, everyone! At this wonderful season, we thought we would share an odd story about something that happened to Daniel earlier this year. As you know, the point of this blog is to share our studies and also to contact others who are interested in this information.

Some months ago, Daniel was contacted by someone in Panama; we'll call him José. He said he had found a post on our blog about a new discovery of gold items buried in a stone box in Mexico City. According to this individual, there was a museum in Panama called the Fort David Museum. It was somehow associated with an ancient nearby site called Barriles. After a bit of research, we found some information on this site and it appears to be legitimate. But it is on property owned by people that are looking to get publicity for it by making some outrageous claims.

José wanted Daniel to come to Panama to see the artifacts and get his opinion on them. He was even willing to pay his way to fly and stay there. What made this interesting was that he claimed that ancient steel swords and gold plates had been found in a tomb in Panama. While things like this are always intriguing, caution is paramount. LDS hopefuls have been misled in the past by bad archaeology. The story being presented to Daniel was that this site contained the tomb of a chief or powerful leader named El Quibián Malchía. This Malchía supposedly left the Old World around 600 b.c. and sailed with Phoenicians to Panama. The purpose of this journey was to save the Ark of the Covenant from Babylonian capture. Once in the New World, he set himself up as a king. His tomb containing these artifacts was accidentally discovered a few years ago. This image is from one of the museum's videos and purports to be the actual Ark of the Covenant from his tomb. If only Indiana Jones had known!

Many details about this story are unlikely, not the least of which is the poor quality of this 'artifact.' But when José finally sent photos of their gold plates, we knew there was a real problem. The first surprising detail to notice here is that the hieroglyphics engraved on them are exact copies of the 'Charactors' facsimile, even down to their sequence. José even tried to convince Daniel that these were the actual plates guarded by Moroni and used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon. When Daniel sent him an image of the 'Charactors' and asked him to explain how it was exactly the same, José demanded to know where he had obtained this image, as they had been careful at the museum not to let let out any information on their plates. Daniel then had to explain to him that this image had been around since the early 1800s and was widely available. In fact, all the information needed to make this low quality replica of the plates could be found in posts on our blog.

From there, the communication just got even stranger, with José making some bizarre accusations and personal admissions. We don't know if he was complicit in this fraud or if he was fooled by it. We don't see much purpose in this whole affair, except maybe to scam LDS tourists into visiting this site and spending money there, and using Daniel to spread the word. While a free trip to Panama did sound tempting, Daniel did eventually decide against it and cut off all contact with José, after trying to convince him to give up on this hopeless fraud. Not wanting to be part of an obvious hoax, Daniel was also somewhat concerned for his own safety. Who was involved in this scheme and what did they really hope to achieve? Why did they want him to come, of all people? That is still a mystery to us. But if anyone is going through that area of Panama, it might be worthwhile to stop by the Fort David Museum and see what they have. We haven't seen anything there except very modern, crudely made fakes without any hint of authenticity or antiquity. They are about the quality that you would find as trinkets being sold to foreign tourists.

Click here to watch a video on some of the Fort David Museum's claims.
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Published on December 25, 2018 21:34

December 20, 2018

Evidences from the Book of Mormon

This one is a bit off our usual set of topics, but it is an interesting way of looking at the Book of Mormon. Obviously, those who believe in it do so as a principle of faith. Much of what we discuss is admittedly theoretical. But those who reject our traditional explanation for its origins must offer some other story. After all, it is a real book with a coherent storyline and doctrinal teachings. From our point of view, no one has ever submitted a serious alternate theory. This may be that the critics don't take the Book of Mormon seriously enough to study it and find out what it really contains. While there remains much that is still up for debate, there are a lot of internal complexities that should warrant some consideration. Here is an interesting video that goes over quite a few of these internal details that are usually ignored by critics. That's not too much of a surprise, since many members probably aren't aware of many of them.

Click here to watch this video on internal evidences.
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Published on December 20, 2018 23:51

August 26, 2018

Ancient horse bones found in Utah

Last year, a family in Utah came across some unexpected bones while digging in their back yard. After some inspection and having experts take a look, it was determined to be the unfossilized bones of an ancient breed of horse, dating to the Ice Age. It appears to have died about 16,000 years ago. The size is about that of a Shetland Pony. Paleontologists came in to excavate it professionally, and will do further work on the skeleton to find out more about it.

We find this to be an interesting find. Because of its age, it cannot have any direct connection to Book of Mormon events. We doubt that the events related in it extended as far as the western United States, but these finds should be a constant reminder that there is so much ancient history in this part of the world yet to be discovered. The existence of early horses in American prehistory is now commonly known, but it should be remembered that this was not always the case. When the Book of Mormon was first published in 1830, the common knowledge then was that there were no horses or similar large fauna at all until after European contact. Daniel has spoken and written extensively regarding the evolution of belief about ancient American horses and the evidence for pre-Columbian horses in this hemisphere. Click the links below to read more details about this find.

Read about this discovery on Live Science.
Read about this discovery at the NY Times.

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Published on August 26, 2018 20:33