Saturday, April 11, 2015

No Pre-Columbian Writing (Howlers # 27)

According to Mormon, these native Americans could read, and write . . . but when that country first became known to Europeans, the inhabitants knew no more about letters than a four-legged animal knows the rules of logic; and not a scrap of writing was to be found.

H. Stevenson, Lecture on Mormonism . . . (1839), 12.

It is a well-known fact that the Indians had no books, and among the twenty millions, who were found scattered about through the three Americas when Columbus made his discovery four hundred years ago, none of them could read, and consequently they had no literature to transmit.

W. B. Godbey, Mormonism (1920), 1.

The evidence for Pre-Columbian writing and even books in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican is plentiful and dates back to Pre-Classic times which would be contemporary with the Book of Mormon. John Sorenson provides a very detailed summary of the evidence for this in his essay, "The Book of Mormon as a Mesoamerican Record" in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited (1997) 391-521. See also chapter 11, "Records and Writing Systems" in his recent work, Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book (2013), 184-232.

In their work, The Art of the Maya Scribe, Michael Coe and Justin Kerry suggest that such books may date back to Olmec times.

An intriguing piece of evidence  suggests such a possibility: incised on the sides of a white ware ceramic bowl in the collection of the Snite Museum at Notre Dame University are the representations of two objects which appear to be side views of codices, each bound with a ribbon or cord. Although this vessel has no archaeological context, it is identical in style to Olmec pottery made at the site of Tlapacoya, in the Valley of Mexico, during the early Pre-Classic, and is thus contemporary with the apogee of San Lorenzo. If so, then the screenfold codex made from amate barks coated with gesso may already have been present in Mesoamerican culture as early as 1200 BC. ( Coe and Kerr, The Art of the Maya Scribe, 63).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"To be learned is good if we hearken unto the counsel of God"

Some wise Apostolic counsel for Latter-day Saint scholars from Elders Boyd K Packer, Neal A. Maxwell and  Dallin H. Oaks, courtesy of my friend and colleague John Gee.