North America’s Ancient Cities

North America’s Ancient Cities

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10 Oldest Cities in North America (Updated 2021)

One of the two continents named after famed traveler Amerigo Vespucci, North America is one of the world’s seven continents, consisting of Greenland, Canada, Mexico, the United States of America, and 19 other countries.

Before North America became the “New World”, the region was mainly inhabited by the indigenous tribes from as early as 11,000 BCE. Over the centuries, these cities have undergone extensive transformations, but at their core retain many of their earliest cultural influences. All of the cities on this list are still inhabited today and many of them are the capital cities of their countries.

10. San Juan

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 1508 (moved to present site in 1519)
Country: Puerto Rico
Founder(s): Juan Ponce de León
Current Population: 355,468 (as of 2019)
Total Area: 77 sq mi (199 km²)

photo source: Flickr via Ricardo’s Photography

Puerto Rico dates back to 1493 when Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain and called it San Juan Bautista. In 1508, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León founded the first European settlement on the island, Caparra. Not long after, the settlement was moved to the east at the present site of Old San Juan and the island’s name was changed to Puerto Rico because of the gold in the river.

San Juan soon rose in importance because of its riches and its location. Since 1519, San Juan has served as the capital of Puerto Rico. Within a few decades after its founding, San Juan had grown to include a university, a hospital, and a library. Eventually San Juan declined in importance to the Spanish empire and after the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States.

Did You Know?

Old San Juan Historic District still has many buildings and houses from the early Spanish colonial days, which makes them some of the oldest post-contact buildings and structures in the United States.

9. St. John’s

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 1497
Country: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Founder(s): John Cabot
Current Population: 493,242 (as of 2016 Census) (including provincial capital city, urban, and metro areas)
Total Area: 547 sq mi (1,416.69 km²) (including provincial capital city, urban, and metro areas)

photo source: Flickr via Mike Norton

St. John’s is the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The city traces its history to 1497 when Italian explorer John Cabot first landed on the shores of what is now Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John’s is the oldest European settlements in Canada and one of the oldest overall in North America.

St. John’s quickly became a large commercial trading post for the Basques, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English engaged in the fishery along the western side of the North Atlantic. Due to its importance in the fishery trade of the region, St. John’s was often targeted by various European countries. The city’s earliest recorded battle dates back to 1555. Today, St. John’s remains as the main financial and commercial center for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Did You Know?

Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal in St. John’s in December 1901.

8. Santo Domingo

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 1496 (officially in 1498)
Country: Dominican Republic
Founder(s): Bartholomew Columbus
Current Population: 2,908,607 (as of 2010 Census) (including metro area)
Total Area: 1,041.20 sq mi (2,696.69 km²) (including metro area)

photo source: Good Free Photos

Although the native Taíno people were already living on what is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Santo Domingo was not formally founded until 1498. Bartholomew Columbus, younger brother of Christopher Columbus, had moved his settlement to present-day Santo Domingo in 1496 and initially named it La Nueva Isabela after Christopher Columbus’ second settlement called Isabella.

Not long after moving, La Nueva Isabela was renamed Santo Domingo in honor of Saint Dominic, and the city has served as the capital of the Dominican Republic ever since. While Santo Domingo has been around for a long time, it has had a very tumultuous history. Throughout its history, Santo Domingo has been plagued by piracy, war, revolutions, and civil war. Despite its past, Santo Domingo has recovered quite a bit and has been enjoying a tourism boom in recent years.

Did You Know?

From 1936 to 1961, Santo Domingo was called Ciudad Trujillo after the Dominican Repbulic’s dictator at the the time, Rafael Trujillo. The city reverted back to its original name after Trujillo’s assassination.

7. Mexico City (Tenochtitlan)

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 1325
Country: Mexico
Founder(s): Mexica civilization (Aztecs)
Current Population: 9,209,944 (as of 2020)
Total Area: 573 sq mi (1,485 km²)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Alejandro Islas Photograph AC

Mexico City traces its history all the way back to 1325 when it was founded by the Mexica civilization (the Nahua Aztecs) as Tenochtitlan. Over the next few centuries, Tenochtitlan grew into a large city-state and served as the center of the Aztec empire. Tenochtitlan was a major center for trade, military operations, culture, and political power.

In 1519, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived at Tenochtitlan and after a long siege, captured the city. The city was rebuilt as the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain in 1524. Even under Spanish rule, Mexico city remained the center of Mexico and the Spanish the administration of Guatemala, Yucatan, Cuba, Florida, and the Philippines was carried out from the city. Over the next few centuries, Mexico City experienced many ups and downs and today it is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of over 9 million people.

Did You Know?

Since Mexico City was built on top of what was known as Lake Texcoco, the city does not have the most stable foundation and it is estimated that the city is sinking a rate of four inches (10 cm) annually.

6. Acoma Pueblo (Sky City)

Year Founded or First Inhabited: c.1150 CE
Country: New Mexico, USA
Founder(s): Acoma Pueblo tribe
Current Population: only about 30 or so people live permanently on the settlement but there are about 4,989 tribal members in the area
Total Area: 431,664 acres (174,688 ha)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Scott Catron

Like the Hopi village of Oraibi, the Acoma Pueblo is not exactly a city, but it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the United States. The Pueblo people have been living in Acoma since at least 1150 CE. However, only a few dozen people reside permanently at the settlement today, with younger generations moving to nearby towns and cities.

The Acoma Pueblo are an federally recognized tribal entity. Historically, Acoma Pueblo was much larger, totaling about 5,000,000 acres (2,000,000 ha). Today, the Acoma Pueblo tribe only retains about 10% of this land. The Acoma Pueblo people have retained their culture while embracing modern life and welcome visitors to learn more about their rich history.

Did You Know?

Acoma Pueblo is the only Native American site to be designated as a National Historic Site by the National Trust for Historic Perservation.

5. Oraibi

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 900 – 1000 CE (other sources say 1100 CE)
Country: Arizona, USA
Founder(s): The Hopi tribe
Current Population: Unspecified
Total Area: Unspecified

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Oraibi, called Orayvi by its inhabitants, may not be a city in the traditional sense, but it is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States. This ancient Hopi village was settled around 900 – 1000 CE (a few sources say 1100 CE) and to this day, the Hopi residing in Oraibi have been mostly isolated.

However, in the mid-1800s there was split in the Hopi tribe at Oraibi with some members of the tribe choosing to embrace modernity. These more modern Hopi ended up establishing a new village nearby called Kykotsmovi Village, which is commonly called New Oraibi. The traditionalists remain in Old Oraibi and have maintained there way of live for over 1,000 years.

Did You Know?

Although Oraibi is open to visitors, the Hopi do not necessarily welcome visitors wholeheartedly and photography is prohibited within the village.

4. Antiguo Cuscatlán

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 1054 CE
Country: El Salvador
Founder(s): Topiltzin Atzil
Current Population: 48,027 (as of 2010 Census)
Total Area: 7.49 sq mi (19.41 km²)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Sammiethedeadrat

According to Antiguo Cuscatlán’s official website, it is a young city with an ancient origin. While Antiguo Cuscatlán considers its official founding date to be the 16 th century during Spanish conquest, the city’s history stretches back much further. In fact, Antiguo Cuscatlán served as the capital city of the Pipil or Cuzcatecs, an indigenous civilization.

According to Pipil texts, Antiguo Cuscatlán was actually founded as Cuzcatlan in 1054 by Topiltzin Atzil, the last king of Tula of Anahuac. For many centuries tens of thousands Pipil lived in Antiguo Cuscatlán, but by the time the the Spanish arrived, there were only a few thousand Pipil remaining in the city. The Pipil tried to fight back against the Spanish conquistadors, but ultimately failed and Antiguo Cuscatlán was incorporated into Spain’s municipality.

Did You Know?

Antiguo Cuscatlán means Old Jeweled City, from antiguo, which means ancient or old in Spanish, and Cuscatlán means jeweled city in Nahuat (the language of the Pipil civilization).

3. Motul

Year Founded or First Inhabited: 1050 CE
Country: Mexico
Founder(s): Zac Mutul
Current Population: over 21,508 (as of 2005 Census)
Total Area: 114.92 sq mi (297.63 km²)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via AlejandroLinaresGarcia

Motul was officially founded around 1050 by a priest named Zac Mutul. However, Motul was also the site of a pre-Columbian Maya civilization. For many decades, Motul was ruled by the Pech family. The Pech family established a regional kingdom Cehpech and Motul served as the capital city.

After the Spanish conquered Yucatán, Conquistador Francisco de Montejo made Motul a Spanish colonial town. There is still a Franciscan monastery in Motul from this time period. In 1872, Motul was granted city status and in 1924, the city changed its formal name to Motul de Carrillo Puerto in honor of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a former Governor of Yucatán who was assassinated in 1924.

Did You Know?

Motul is the birthplace of the popular dish huevos motuleños, which features eggs on tortillas with black beans and cheese. Huevos huevos motuleños is even popular outside of Mexico and commonly served in Cuba and Costa Rica.

2. Cholula

Year Founded or First Inhabited: c.800 – 200 BCE
Country: Mexico
Founder(s): Unknown for sure – possibly descendants of the Aztecs
Current Population: over 151,167 (2019 numbers)
Total Area: 42.87 sq mi (111.03 km²)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Diego Delso

Cholula was established between 800 – 200 BCE and is considered the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in all of the Americas. This ancient city was most important settlement in what is now the state of Puebla. Within a few centuries, the Olmec turned Cholula into a buzzing metropolis and gave rise to great works, including the Great Pyramid of Cholula.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula (also called Tlachihualtepetl) is one of the largest pyramids in the world, standing 181 feet (55 meters) tall with a base that measures over 1,300 feet (396 meters) on each side. The Great Pyramid is Cholula’s most popular tourist attraction and receives about 220,000 visitors each year. Unfortunately, when the Spanish arrived, they built the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies Church) on top of the Great Pyramid, which they did not realize was an ancient holy site. However, because of the church, the Great Pyramid has remained an important pilgrimage site since the 16 th century.

Did You Know?

The Great Pyramid of Cholula was dedicated to the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who was the feathered serpent deity of god of wind, air, and learning.

1. Tepoztlán

Year Founded or First Inhabited: c.1500 BCE
Country: Mexico
Founder(s): Unknown who first inhabited area
Current Population: 44,517 (2019 numbers)
Total Area: Unspecified

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Gunnar Wolf

Today, Tepoztlán is one of the most popular tourist destinations not far from Mexico City. This ancient city has been inhabited since at least 1500 BCE, making it the oldest city in North America. Tepoztlán is most famous for the remains of El Tepozteco temple, which is now situated in a protected National Park.

While Tepoztlán is a few thousand years old, El Tepozteco temple only dates back to the Post-Classic Period (900-1521 CE) and has inscriptions dating from 1452 and 1502. El Tepozteco is dedicated to Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of the alcoholic beverage pulque.

Did You Know?

Tepoztlán is a “Pueblo Magico,” which is a title granted by the Ministry of Tourism of Mexico to cities that work to protect and preserve the culture of an area.

Searching for Signs at Cahokia

The research team determined the age of charred corn kernels found in homes, shrines, and other archaeological contexts in and around Cahokia. The researchers also looked at carbon isotopes in the teeth and bones of 108 humans and 15 dogs buried in the vicinity .

Stairs leading up Native American structure known as monks mound at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois. ( Philip /Adobe Stock)

Carbon-isotope ratios differ among food sources, with isotope ratios of corn being significantly higher than those of almost all other native plant species in the region. By analyzing the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 13 in teeth and bones, the team determined the relative proportion of different types of foods the people of Cahokia ate in different time periods.

The corn remnants and isotope analyses revealed that corn consumption began in Cahokia between 900 and 1000. This was just before the city grew into a major metropolis.

Corn cultivation began in the vicinity of the city of Cahokia between 900 and 1000 AD, researchers report in a new study. Its arrival may have contributed to the abrupt rise of this ancient metropolis in and around present-day St. Louis. (Graphic by Diana Yates )

"There's been an idea that corn came to the central Mississippi River valley at about the time of Christ, and the evolution of maize in this part of the world was really, really slow," said retired state archaeologist Thomas Emerson, who led the study. "But this Cahokia data is saying that no, actually, corn arrived here very late. And in fact, corn may be the foundation of the city."

The research team included Illinois State Archaeological Survey archaeobotanist Mary Simon bioarchaeologist Kristin Hedman radiocarbon dating analyst Matthew Fort and former graduate student Kelsey Witt, now a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University.

Beginning in about 1050, Cahokia grew from "a little village of a few hundred people to part of a city with 5,000 to 10,000 people in an archaeological instant," Emerson said. The population eventually expanded to at least 40,000. This early experiment in urban living was short-lived, however. By 1350, after a period of drought and civil strife, most of the city's population had dispersed .


Mesoamericanist’s say, “These new LiDAR images have revealed 60,000 previously unknown structures, leading experts to new population estimates as high as 15–20 million for the lowland Maya during the Classic period. This means Maya civilization was much more dense, complex and advanced than previously thought. This is consistent with the situation described by Mormon: “The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea” (Mormon 1:7). Early Book of Mormon authors made similar descriptions” (Mosiah 27:6 Jarom 1:8).” 4 Ways the New Maya Discoveries May Relate to the Book of Mormon This post is based on an article by Kirk Magleby of Book of Mormon Central who believes in the Mesoamerican Theory of the Book of Mormon. View the original article at the Book of Mormon Resources blog

“Now that we are learning from LiDAR that the Mayan civilization was even larger, more densely populated, and more sophisticated than we previously realized, the Book of Mormon seems even less plausible in that setting. IOW, the grander the Mayan civilization, the less likely it is that Lehi landed anywhere near that civilization.” Jonathan Neville

“…When…first commanded to testify of these things they [The Three Witness] demurred and told the Lord the people would not believe them for the book concerning which they were to bear record told of a people who were educated and refined, dwelling in large cities whereas all that was then known of the early inhabitants of this country was the filthy, lazy, degraded and ignorant savages that were roaming over the land. The Lord told us, in reply that he would make it known to the people that the early inhabitants of this land had been just such a people as they were described in the book, and he would lead them to discover the ruins of great cities, and they should have abundant evidence of the truth of that which is written in the book…” – David Whitmer, Interview with James H. Hart (Richmond, Mo., 21 August 1883), as printed in Deseret Evening News, Salt Lake City, Utah as published in Annotated Book of Mormon by David Hocking and Rod Meldrum page 560.

In his book, Hidden Cities, he writes: “Eighteenth century pioneers passing over the Appalachians into the Ohio Valley wrote often of [the] feeling of being freed of encumbrances, of fresh beginnings. Judging from what they said, and from what has been said of them subsequently, most of them shared the misconception that they were entering an ample emptiness intended to be theirs alone. “In fact… [t]he western vastness was not empty. Several hundred thousand people were already there, and determined to resist invasion….Even along the headwaters of the Ohio, on the banks of mountain brooks, there were signs of ancient habitation…As the streams grew larger, so did the buildings. “In the Ohio and Mississippi
valleys, tens of thousands of structures were built between six and sixty-six centuries ago. Some, as large
as twenty-five miles in extant, required over three million person hours of labor” – Roger G. Kennedy, Hidden Cities, page 560 Annotated Book of Mormon

Few realize that some of the oldest, largest, and most complex structures of ancient archaeology were built of earth, clay, and stone right here in America, in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. From 6,000 years ago until quite recently, North America was home to some of the most highly advanced and well organized civilizations in the world – complete with cities, roads, and commerce. From the lost city of Balbantsha, near New Orleans, to the Great Hopewell Road, a causeway for religious pilgrims along the Ohio River in the thirteenth century, these cultures built hundreds of thousands of structures, of which a small but tantalizing portion still remain. Like the Druids of Salisbury Plain, they patterned extraordinarily precise geometry according to the rising and setting of the moon. Like the ancient Egyptians, they organized millions of hours of human labor to construct pyramids, platforms, and plazas. In Hidden Cities, Roger G. Kennedy sets out on a bold quest of recovery – a recovery of the rich heritage of the North American peoples, and a reimagination of the true relations of their modern-day successors and neighbors. From the Spanish and French explorers to the present, very few Euro-Americans have paid attention to the evidence and meaning of this heritage. Building on recent work of many archaeologists and historians, Roger Kennedy presents a fascinating picture of these American antiquities as well as their reception among leading citizens of the young United States. On missions of exploration, politics, and even piracy, men such as George Rogers Clark, George Washington, Albert Gallatin, and Thomas Jefferson frequently chanced upon the architecture of the past. As Kennedy shows us the magnificence of the mound-building cultures through the sometimes-prejudiced eyes of the Founding generation, he reveals not only the astounding history of our continent, but also the reasons why we have refused to credit Native American predecessors with the greatness. Roger G. Kennedy, Director Emeritus, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, author, “Hidden Cities, The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization,” The Free Press, New York, [1995]

“Etzanoa has remained a mystery for 400 years. Archaeologists could not find it. Historians thought reports of a permanent settlement with 20,000 Native Americans in it were exaggerated. But here in Arkansas City, at the confluence of the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers, Blakeslee, an anthropologist and archaeologist at Wichita State University, has found evidence of a massive town stretching across thousands of acres of bluffs and rich bottomland along two rivers. What clinched it was the discovery, by a high school kid, of a half-inch iron cannon ball. He even found a still-functional water shrine, depicting communication with the spirit world, carved into a limestone boulder in Tami and Greg Norwood’s backyard.

It’s a good story, all true, Blakeslee said: A lost city, a forgotten mythology — and the story of the once-great Wichita Nation, decimated by European diseases, then pushed aside by American settlers and the United States Army. With the discovery, Arkansas City leaders are hoping to turn their town into a tourist destination.

“We always knew we once had a whole bunch of Indians living around here, because we had found way too many artifacts to think otherwise,” said Jay Warren, an Arkansas City council member. “But we had no idea until Dr. Blakeslee came along about how big it was.” Etzanoa might have been comparable in size to Cahokia, Blakeslee said. That alone should bring world attention…

“The Spaniards were amazed by the size of Etzanoa,” Blakeslee said. “They counted 2,000 houses that could hold 10 people each. They said it would take two or three days to walk through it all.” But for four centuries, the story of a big Native American town in Kansas made no sense to historians…. Onate sent armed patrols into the empty town.

What his soldiers saw unnerved them. They told Onate they’d counted 2,000 big beehive-shaped homes — clusters of these homes surrounded by cornfields. Nervous about the size of the place, they turned around. Indians told them later that the settlement extended for miles past where the Spaniards stopped, meaning the true population might have been higher than the 20,000 Spanish estimate.” Source: Its location a mystery for centuries, huge Indian city may have been found in Kansas By Roy Wenzl Kansas city Star Full Article Here: Etzanoa

“…the bodies of many thousands are moldering in heaps upon the face of the earth…” (Alma 28:11). See Annotated Book of Mormon page 260

“The most common question that is asked about mounds is, “How many exist?” In the 1800’s the Smithsonian sponsored many expeditions to identify mound sites across America. A map (shown left) was produced by Cyrus Thomas in 1894 in a Bureau of Ethnology book. They found approximately 100,000 mound sites, many with complexes containing 2 to 100 mounds. The figure of 100,000 mounds once existing— based on Cyrus Thomas map revealing 100,000 sites—is often cited by others, but that estimate is far, far too low. After visiting several thousand mounds and reviewing the literature, I am fairly certain that over 1,000,000 mounds once existed and that perhaps 100,000 still exist. Oddly, some new mound sites are discovered each year by archaeological surveys in remote areas. But in truth, a large majority of America’s mounds have been completely destroyed by farming, construction, looting, and deliberate total excavations” – Gregory L. Little, Ed.D., The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Native American Mounds & Earthworks, Eagle Wing Books, Inc., Memphis, TN [2009].

New Discoveries about Mayans and bias confirmation Jonathan Neville Blog below

“We have an outstanding new example of how confirmation bias works in the arena of Book of Mormon geography and historicity.

Last week, researchers announced a major discovery about Mayan civilization based on LiDAR scanning of jungles in Central America. This discovery will probably confirm your bias no matter what you believe i.e., it will support your position whether:

1. You accept the New York Cumorah as taught in President Cowdery’s Letter VII and reaffirmed by the prophets and apostles, which I refer to as Moroni’s America (MA)

2. You accept the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs (M2C) theory taught by BYU/CES intellectuals, which repudiates Letter VII and the prophets and apostles.

Another way to say this:

M2C seeks to repudiate Letter VII and the prophets and apostles. MA seeks to support Letter VII and the prophets and apostles .

You decide which bias you share and then interpret the scriptures accordingly.

I’ll have lots more to say about bias confirmation in upcoming posts because it fascinates me that two groups can derive such dramatically different expectations from the same text.

Because this news about the Mayans is so fresh, let’s start by looking at the discovery. Then we’ll look at how the scriptures are interpreted to confirm the respective biases.

Here’s one report, along with an image from the article:

A comparison of LiDAR data showing the ancient Maya site of El Zotz covered in trees (left), and with the trees digitally removed. Credit: Ithaca College

The image on the left shows what the area looks like with tree coverage. On the right, the trees are removed, showing a complex of buildings and roads that are not visible naturally.

The new data revealed a much more extensive, sophisticated, and densely-populated civilization than was previously known or estimated.

One of the researchers, Thomas Garrison, will appear in a documentary on the National Geographic channel tomorrow (Feb 6). The article notes this: “Especially telling to Garrison are newly revealed agricultural features that would be necessary to support the lowland Maya population during their centuries of civilization—population estimates have now expanded from a few million to 10-20 million—and defensive structures that suggest warfare was far more prevalent than previously known.”

Next, let’s look at the respective biases.

As an MA supporter, my bias is this:
I accept the New York Cumorah as taught by Letter VII and the prophets and apostles. I interpret the text and relevant scientific and historical evidence in a manner that corroborates and confirms my bias.

M2C supporters (those affiliated with BYU Studies, BookofMormonCentral, FairMormon, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, BMAF, etc.) have a bias expressed candidly by BMAF:
“ to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex. ” They interpret the text and relevant scientific and historical evidence in a manner that corroborates and confirms their bias.

After I started writing this post, Meridian Magazine posted an article about this finding titled “How an Incredible New Archaeological Discovery Corroborates the Book of Mormon.” Now I don’t have to infer what M2C intellectuals would think about this discovery: I can use their actual words. You can see why I’ve referred to this source as Meridian Mesoamerican Magazine. They will never, ever tell their readers about President Cowdery’s Letter VII because their owners don’t want their readers to know what the prophets and apostles have taught. I consider this deceitful, of course, and you can decide for yourself whether you agree, but I don’t blame them for seeking to confirm their biases because everyone does it–even when, in this case, they are trying to persuade members of the Church to disbelieve the prophets and apostles.

You can see the bias confirmation in the very title of this article!

There is nothing inherently right or wrong about bias. Everyone has biases. It’s a question of whether we honestly recognize our own and those of others, and then recognize that we interpret the world (and the scriptures) to confirm our biases.

Once we recognize the biases of the various players, the rest is easy.

Here’s an example. My first job out of law school was as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Mexico. After oral argument on a case, the Justices would vote on the outcome they wanted. Whichever outcome the majority voted for became the Court’s position, and the Justices assigned us, as the law clerks, to write the opinions accordingly.

Any of us law clerks could have written the opinion to reach whichever conclusion the Justices wanted. In close cases, it’s not a question of what the law is, but rather what the Justices want it to be. Then we write the opinion to make it look like the desired outcome was obvious all along. You always want the Court’s opinion frame the issue as a pursuit of the “correct law,” but everyone knows these opinions are anything but that. They are always a reflection of the personal philosophies of the judges. That’s why it makes such a big difference whether a conservative or a liberal is appointed to a court.

The reason lawyers charge clients so much money is not because they know what the law is, but because they know how to use the law to get what the clients want.

BYU map designed to teach students that the
apostles and prophets are wrong about the New York Cumorah

It’s really no different in scholarly work. The idea that one side or the other is pursuing “the truth” is a ruse. Everyone is seeking purely to confirm his/her biases. When you look at the fantasy map currently being taught at BYU, for example, it has nothing to do with seeking the truth, and everything to do with teaching the students that the prophets and apostles are wrong about the New York Cumorah. Otherwise, the BYU map would show Cumorah in New York.

The same thing is going on in the Church History department, btw, which I’ll be demonstrating in upcoming posts. The scholars there are colluding with the M2C proponents to portray Joseph Smith as a confused speculator who was wrong about the New York Cumorah.

This is why the semantic arguments about interpreting the Book of Mormon are pointless. LDS literature on this topic is full of subjective interpretations about such topics as what constitutes a “narrow neck,” and whether that is different from a “narrow neck of land.” You will agree or disagree with a particular interpretation depending on whether you agree or disagree with the bias of the person proposing that interpretation.

Actually, this is why the M2C proponents oppose Letter VII so vehemently. You can’t mistake President Cowdery’s meaning when he states it is a fact that the final battles of the Jaredites and Nephites took place in the mile-wide valley west of Cumorah. There’s no wiggle room there.

MA proponents seek interpretations of the text and relevant science, history, etc. that corroborateLetter VII and the prophets and apostles because they want to demonstrate their teachings are correct.

M2C proponents seek interpretations of the text and relevant science, history, etc. that refuteLetter VII and the prophets and apostles because they want to demonstrate their teachings are false.

Everything you read about this topic reflects these respective biases.

Meridian Magazine has an agenda of teaching members of the Church that the prophets and apostles are wrong about Cumorah, so they published this article to reinforce that agenda.

My agenda is to teach members of the Church that the prophets and apostles are correct about Cumorah, so I publish this blog to reinforce that agenda.

This is all very basic, but it is usually overlooked.

Now, let’s look at how the new data about the Mayans confirms these respective biases.

Key Information

MA position. If you believe in the New York Cumorah, you will likely view this LiDAR discovery as additional evidence that the Nephites could not possibly have lived among the Mayans.

I think the text shows Lehi’s colony landing in the promised land, planting their own seeds, finding animals and ore in the wilderness, all while completely unimpeded by any existing civilization. (1 Ne. 18:23-5). i.e., that there were no “other nations” in the promised land where they landed, “for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8). I do think there were some indigenous people who went with Nephi when he fled (2 Nephi 5:6), but I infer they were unorganized hunter/gatherers that did not qualify as any sort of “nation” and were impressed by the Jewish immigrants’ technology, language, etc.

In my view, it is difficult enough to believe that Lehi’s family, a relative handful of immigrants from a distant culture speaking a different language, could have arrived and started planting crops on unclaimed land in Mesoamerica, encountering no resistance, but it is even more difficult to believe Lehi’s descendants could have managed to rule as kings and chief judges over even a part of a Mayan civilization, and that in the midst of this Mayan civilization, King Mosiah could have escaped with the Nephites into the wilderness and found a much larger group of illiterate people (the people of Zarahemla) who possessed exactly one engraven stone.

Now that we are learning from LiDAR that the Mayan civilization was even larger, more densely populated, and more sophisticated than we previously realized, the Book of Mormon seems even less plausible in that setting. IOW, the grander the Mayan civilization, the less likely it is that Lehi landed anywhere near that civilization.

This view is based on the text and has nothing directly to do with the New York Cumorah, but it does confirm my bias in favor of the New York Cumorah.

M2C position. If you believe the M2C position that Cumorah is not in New York and that the entire Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, you will likely view this LiDAR discovery as additional evidence that the Nephites must have lived among the Mayans.

The basic M2C concept is described in the Meridian Magazine article. It is the idea that the Nephites were absorbed into Mayan culture. That’s why there is no Israelite DNA in Central America, no traces of Nephite languages or the law of Moses or Christian beliefs and practices, etc. M2C proponents believe there were bottlenecks (both DNA-related and cultural) that screened out Nephite cultural influence.

Let’s look at some of the verses cited in the Meridian Magazine article to demonstrate how the respective interpretation confirm the respective biases.

M2C proponents generally believe the Nephites lived among a much larger culture (i.e., Mayan culture in Mesoamerica). The Meridian article cites Mormon 1:7 as evidence of a huge Nephite population, possibly in the millions, with intensive agriculture, etc.

6 And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla.

7 The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.

If you look at the published LiDAR images, and you want to confirm your M2C bias of a large, dense civilization, you will eagerly conclude that (i) Mayan buildings literally “covered” the land, and (ii) Mormon somehow knew this without the benefit of satellite images.

But if you’re not seeking to confirm your M2C bias, you look at the selected LiDAR images and notice they do not show the land to be “covered with buildings.” There are more structures than archaeologists realized, for sure, but most of the terrain remains uninhabited, just like in the much more heavily populated modern world.

The National Geographic article points out that “The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.”

No ancient civilizations in Greece, China, Mesoamerica, or anywhere else, covered the land with buildings. The LiDAR articles themselves don’t make any such claim. Instead, they note that “Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.”

LiDAR shows us that the “face of the land” was mainly covered with agricultural activities and wilderness, with some areas containing a concentration of buildings, just as the land today is throughout the world, even in densely populated countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, Lebanon, and Israel.

Only a bias-confirming M2C proponent would delude himself/herself into thinking that these LiDAR images show “the whole face of the land covered with buildings.”

Am I saying Mormon was wrong?

Let’s look at the scripture. He says he was 11 years old when his father took him on this trip. Why would he say the face of the land was “covered with buildings,” when such a description, if taken literally, is impossible as we just saw.

1. First, we have to consider this from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy.
2. Second, we have to consider what someone on the ground would see, without the benefit of satellite images.
3. Third, we have to consider what the term “building” means.

I’ve addressed all of this before in my book, Moroni’s America, but I’ll quickly summarize it here.

1. The perception of an 11-year-old differs from the perception of an adult. Think of Mormon as a Cub Scout. He wasn’t even old enough to be a Deacon. How would a Cub Scout perceive the world? To children, everything looks bigger. Who hasn’t revisited a childhood home and been surprised at how small it was compared with what you remembered?

Tikal viewed from the air

2. Without the benefit of satellite or aerial imagery, how would ancient people know what “the face of the land” was like? If you’ve climbed to the top of the Mayan ruins in Yucatan as I have, you know you can look over the relatively flat terrain and see the peaks of other ruins, many of them still covered with jungle. Let’s assume that in Mormon’s day the jungle was cut back so you could see the structures clearly.

What would Mormon see from the top of one of these temples?

He would see mostly agricultural land, just as the LiDAR images show.

The Meridian Magazine article, paradoxically, recognizes the inconsistency of its own argument. Look at these two applications of Mormon 1:7:

“Maya lowland population at apogee could have reached 15 million Mormon 1:7” (we can all see that Mormon 1:7 gives no population numbers).

“land use was intensive – nearing 100% utilization is some areas Mormon 1:7” (we can all read that Mormon 1:7 describes buildings covering the whole face of the earth, not “intensive land use”).

Besides reading into the text the M2C bias, these two claims are inconsistent. Which is it? “The whole face of the earth is covered with buildings” (Mormon’s description)” or “intensive land use in some areas” for agriculture (Meridian Magazine’s M2C description)? Do you see how bias confirmation can lead to absurd interpretations of the text?

So what could Mormon have meant in these verses?

He could only have reported what he saw (or was told). I think this means that on his way to Zarahemla, he traveled in heavily populated areas.

I think everyone can agree that he did not have an aerial view.

So let’s think. How would an 11-year-old boy taking what was essentially a long field trip travel through a heavily populated area that was “covered with buildings” with so many people that it seemed to him like “the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea?”

One thing is for sure Mormon either did not describe his experience accurately, or he could not have been traveling through the areas captured in these LiDAR images, because most of the land he would have traveled through was agricultural or wilderness.

National Geographic is going to show the most spectacular LiDAR images of stone structures, including temples and roads. They will show indicia of irrigation, including canals, dykes and reservoirs (none of which are mentioned in the text, btw). But by far, most of the land even in this “densely populated” ancient Mayan world captured by LiDAR is not covered by buildings.

Again, I’m not saying Mormon reported his observations inaccurately. I’m saying just the opposite.

Distribution of mounds and earthworks in the eastern United States.
Red dots indicate relative occurrence and comparative distribution
rather than individual major remains.

I think Mormon was traveling along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers on his way to the land of Zarahemla (Illinois and Iowa). In ancient North America, people lived along these rivers.

This map shows how the ancient moundbuilders in North America located mostly along rivers. This makes sense rivers provided water, fish, and other wildlife. They were transportation corridors. They also served as boundaries between competing groups.

If, as I have proposed, Mormon was traveling along these rivers, he would have seen little more than buildings and people. (One non-LDS experts reports there were over a million mounds in ancient North America.)

Had Mormon instead been walking through Mesoamerica, he would have seen mostly agricultural and wilderness areas, occasionally interspersed with the Mayan structures.

From my perspective, confirming my bias in favor of Letter VII and the New York Cumorah, young Mormon was describing a long-distance journey through a heavily populated area where the “face of the land” (as opposed to the rivers he was on) appeared to be “covered with buildings” along with lots and lots of people.

From my perspective, a person traveling through the lands depicted in the Mayan LiDAR photos would never have described the land as “covered with buildings” because most of it was agricultural and wilderness.

3. What does the term “building” mean in the first place?

First, we have to recognize that not a verse in the Book of Mormon says any “buildings” were made of stone. We are told they were made of wood and, for one brief period in one location, of wood and cement (Helaman 3). But the only stone buildings in the text are in the imagination of the reader.

If you want to confirm an M2C bias, then you can read “stone” into the text wherever you want. People who share your bias will undoubtedly agree with you.

But because I don’t share the M2C bias, I don’t see any stone buildings.

However, I do see “their shipping and building of ships,” which Mormon didn’t take the time to describe in detail but was just as much a part of Nephite society as “their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries” (Helaman 3:14). I take this to mean they lived along rivers.

So what could Mormon have meant by “buildings” in verse 7?

In my presentation at the 2017 Mormon History Association in St. Louis (you can read it here), I pointed out that Dr. Roger Kennedy, the former director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, addressed a misperception about earth mounds, noting that earth mounds are actually buildings. “Build and building are also very old words, often used in this text [his book] as they were when the English language was being invented, to denote earthen structures. About 1150, when the word build was first employed in English, it referred to the construction of an earthen grave. 350 years later, an early use of the term to build up was the description of the process by which King Priam of Troy constructed a “big down to bare earth.” So when we refer to the earthworks of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys as buildings no one should be surprised.”

Even today when you drive along the Ohio River you see lots of ancient mounds that have been preserved. I’ve taken photos of many of these. By far, most have been destroyed and replaced by modern roads and structures. But as the map above shows, in ancient times if you traveled along these rivers, there were mound cities and defensive positions along the banks.

Most of the modern depictions of the moundbuilder sites illustrate Mississippian or later culture because these were built over earlier settlements that dated to Book of Mormon times, but they give a rough idea of what Mormon would have seen during his field trip.

This painting shows young Mormon on his way to Zarahemla. [They are traveling south west on the Ohio River at Moundsville, WV, and you can see Grave Creek Mound].

A Cub Scout seeing this would definitely conclude that the “whole face of the land” was “covered with buildings.”

Nevertheless, if your bias is that Letter VII and the prophets and apostles are wrong, then you cannot accept my interpretation of the text because it would contradict your bias. It would generate cognitive dissonance you seek to avoid.

Instead, you must persuade yourself that traveling through agricultural and wilderness land, by foot, occasionally passing through areas of dense human habitation, would lead you to write that the “whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.”

You can also pretend that you don’t have a bias i.e., you don’t have an opinion on whether or not Letter VII and the prophets and apostles are correct. You just want to look at the “facts” and decide.

If so, I’m interested in an explanation of how these Mayan LiDAR images show anything like the “whole face of the land covered with buildings.”

There’s one more aspect of this passage we should examine.

The M2C proponents claim the Book of Mormon describes a Nephite civilization numbering in the millions (or at least in the midst of millions of Mayans). The LiDAR discoveries have increased population estimates to as high as 15 million, which confirms the M2C bias.

The MA bias sees it differently. I read the text as describing a Nephite civilization of tens of thousands, not millions, of people. (I’m not discussing the Jaredites here.) Because of my bias, when I read LiDAR discoveries that there were many millions more Mayan than previously believed, that takes the Mayan civilization even further away from the descriptions in the text.

I keep reading in Mormon 1. During the same year as Mormon’s field trip, he says there began to be a war (verse 8).

8 And it came to pass in this year there began to be a war between the Nephites, who consisted of the Nephites and the Jacobites and the Josephites and the Zoramites and this war was between the Nephites, and the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites.
9 Now the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites were called Lamanites, and the two parties were Nephites and Lamanites.
10 And it came to pass that the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla, by the waters of Sidon.

Sounds like a lot of people involved, doesn’t it? Seven separate groups, allied into two camps: the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In fact, Mormon says “the Nephites had gathered together a great number of men” for this war. They had a number of battles during which the Nephite “did slay many of” the Lamanites.

Now, how many men did Mormon consider to be a “great number?”

Well, “even to exceed the number of thirty thousand.”

Look at how that is phrased. Mormon seeks to impress the reader with the size of this Nephite army by calling it “a great number of men, even to exceed the number of thirty thousand.”

As if the reader can hardly imagine a number as great as 30,000.

In the context of a civilization of 15 million people, how would this be at all impressive?

Do you see why, in my interpretation of the text, a Nephite civilization in the midst of 15 million people makes no sense?

Later, Mormon tells us that after he gathered in his people “together in one body” he was able to recruit an army of 42,000. (Mormon 2:7-9). That’s even more impressive than the 30,000, but still insignificant in the midst of 15 million people.

For these and similar reasons, the larger the Mayan civilization turns out to be, the less likely it has anything to do with the Book of Mormon.

So far, I’ve only addressed Mormon 1:7 to show how confirmation bias drives one’s interpretation of the text. I could do the same with the rest of the Meridian Magazine article.

I freely admit my bias: I seek to corroborate and support President Cowdery’s Letter VII and the prophets and apostles who have consistently affirmed it.

M2C proponents also freely admit their bias: they seek “to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex,” which requires them to refute and reject President Cowdery’s Letter VII and the prophets and apostles who have consistently affirmed it.

In my view, the intellectuals who push M2C don’t really care what the text actually says, so long as they can construe it–or make stuff up–up to confirm their biases.

They are so obsessed with proving the prophets and apostles wrong that they resort to strained interpretations of the text and seeing terms and concepts that don’t appear in the text anywhere. That’s how they come up with the 3 Js (Jaguars, Jungles and Jade) and the three Ms (Mayans, Mountains and Massive stone temples) that are characteristic of Mesoamerica but not the Book of Mormon. (Not to mention volcanoes…).

Every time you read Meridian Magazine (or BYU Studies, or anything produced by any other members of the citation cartel), you need to recognize that the authors are confirming their biases.

If you share their biases, then you will probably accept what they write, no problem.

If you don’t share their biases, you will see right through their rhetoric.


1992 marked the 500th Anniversary of Columbus' voyage of discovery from Spain to what was then known as the New World in 1492. No doubt there were those who who exploited the celebration of this event to emphasize the Hispanic as opposed to the Anglo-Saxon element in American Culture and society. However it is becoming an increasingly well known and documented fact, that not only were there North Europeans on the American continent long before the voyage of Columbus, but also that Phoenicians/ Israelites sailed from the Middle East through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to these shores centuries before the birth of Christ.

I became aware of these exciting facts of suppressed history during my first visit to the United States in 1984. While attending the AMERICA'S PROMISE MINISTRIES camp in New Mexico that year, I was able to visit the site at Los Lunas, near Albuquerque, and see the rock with the Ten Commandments carved in the ancient script.

My curiosity being aroused, I went on to study the books Saga America and America B.C. by Professor Barry Fell of Harvard University, also Cyrus Gordon's Before Columbus and They All Discovered America by Charles Boreland from these books and various other research items the following facts emerge:


The term Phoenician is a general one, which covers not only the seafaring peoples based in the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon (on the coast of modern Lebanon) but also the sea-roving Israelite tribes of Dan, Asher and Zebulon, whose tribal territories in Canaan were adjacent to these city states on the East Mediterranean coastline. These peoples planted trading posts and mercantile colonies along the shores of north Africa and Spain, and they engaged in a flourishing tin trade in the southwest corner of the British Isles, their ships passing through the Straits of Gibralter, then known as the 'Pillars of Hercules'.

As long ago as 1913, author T. C. Johnston in his book Did The Phoenicians Discover America? claimed that the American continent was discovered and settled by Phoenicians and Hebrews who kept in contact with the Middle East for some three hundred years. He clairned that North America was the Biblical Ophir, visited by the fleets of King Solomon, and he outlined some twenty-six points of comparison between the civilization of the Eastern Mediterranean homelands of the Phoenicians and Hebrews and the Mayan, Inca and Aztec civilizations in the New World.

More research by Professor Barry Fells points to Punic or Phoenician inscriptions found in New England, Ohio and West Virginia, and also the discovery of coinage and trade goods in the United States which had come from the Phoenician city of Carthage in North Africa.


The name Celts was the designation given to those peoples who emerged from the same geographical location where the so called 'Lost Tribes of Israel' had disappeared from at an earlier stage of world history. These people migrated across Europe to settle in the British Isles and the coasts of France and Spain. They were a well organized sea power at the time when Julius Caesar and his Roman legions invaded Britain in 55 B.C. and he, in fact, makes reference to their ocean-going vessels. Professor Fell has now identified the megalithic structures at Mystery Hill, New Hampshire as a type of temple observatory dedicated to the ancient Celtic sun-god Bel (it was for worshipping this same Baal that their Israelite ancestors had been cast out of Palestine). He claims that other sites dedicated to this same deity and to other Celtic gods and goddesses have been located in Vermont, together with Celtic burial urns and other artifacts.


It has been rightly said that when the Norsemen/Scandinavians arrived in North America in the Tenth Century, they found that the Irish had got there before them. Although sceptics have ridiculed the legends of the Irish monk Brendan and his journey to America in a hide-covered boat known as a coracle, yet a reconstruction of the voyage in recent times has demonstrated that the route described in the legends from Ireland to Newfoundland, and on to Florida by way of the Bahamas is indeed accurate. It also seems likely that Culdees from the ancient Celtic Church in Ireland, fleeing the sea raids of the still pagan Vikings, followed Brendan's route, seeking refuge first in Iceland, then Greenland, Newfoundland and finally, deep into North America, where they disappear, perhaps giving rise to the traditions common to the Aztecs, lncas and Mayas, of visits by bearded white men.

Legends and traditions also persist that a Welsh Prince named Madog and his followers, fleeing from violence and bloodshed in Wales, escaped by ship and, using ancient Celtic maps and charts, crossed the Atlantic and landed on American soil at Mobile Bay in 1170 A.D.. Moving inland, they built fortified settlements in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, giving rise to later claims of discovery of 'Welsh Indians' between the mid 1500's and early 1800's. George Catlin believed that he had traced the descendants of these Welsh settlers among the Mandan Indians, many of whom were blue-eyed and whose language contained elements of Welsh.


Less open to question or dispute than any of the other groups I have mentioned, is the coming of the Norse or Scandinavian explorers and settlers whose activities in North America lasted from before 1000 A.D. to the late 1300's. The names which immediately spring to mind are those of Bjarni Herjulfon, Eric the Red and his son Leif Ericsson. These Viking settlers travelled from Greenland to New England, which Leif called Vinland because of the abundance of wild grapes found there at least one building, the Newport Church Tower, still stands as evidence of these pre-Columbian Norse settlements.

In light of these few brief facts which I have outlined, it is now obvious that the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did indeed 'spread abroad to the West' (Genesis 28:14) as Almighty God had promised. They had in fact discovered, traded with, and even for a time made settlements in North America, long before Columbus reached the West Indies in 1492.

By all means let us pay tribute to the achievements Columbus made, but let us as Christian Israelites do our best to bring before our people the increasing evidence of the pre-Columbian history of America, which clearly shows God's Covenant people staking claim to their New Promised Land from the very earliest times.

Found: One of the Oldest North American Settlements

The oral history of the Heiltsuk Nation, an Aboriginal group based on the Central Coast of British Columbia, tells of a coastal strip of land that did not freeze during the ice age, making it a place of refuge for early inhabitants of the territory. As Roshini Nair reports for the CBC, a recent archaeological discovery attests to an ancient human presence in the area associated with the tradition. While digging on British Columbia’s Triquet Island, archaeologists unearthed a settlement that dates to the period of the last ice age.

The archaeological team, supported by the Hakai Institute, sifted through meters of soil and peat before hitting upon the charred remains of an ancient hearth. Researchers painstakingly peeled away charcoal flakes, which were then carbon dated. In November, tests revealed that the hearth was some 14,000 years old, indicating that the area in which it was found is one of the oldest human settlements ever discovered in North America. Or as Randy Shore of the Vancouver Sun contextualizes, the village is “three times as old as the Great Pyramid at Giza.”

Alisha Gauvreau, a PhD student at the University of Victoria and a researcher with the Hakai Institute, presented the team’s findings at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archeology this week. She tells Shore that archaeologists also found a number of artifacts in the area: fish hooks, a hand drill for igniting fires, a wooden device for launching projectiles and a cache of stone tools near the hearth.

“It appears we had people sitting in one area making stone tools beside evidence of a fire pit,” Gauvreau says. “The material that we have recovered … has really helped us weave a narrative for the occupation of this site.”

These findings may have significant implications for our understanding of ancient human migration patterns. As Jason Daley reports for, the traditional story of human arrival to the Americas posits that some 13,000 years ago, stone-age people moved across a land bridge that connected modern-day Siberia to Alaska. But recent studies suggest that route did not contain enough resources for the earliest migrants to successfully make the crossing. Instead, some researchers say, humans entered North America along the coast.

In a radio interview with the CBC, Gauvreau says that the ancient settlement on Triquet Island “really adds additional evidence” to this theory. “[A]rchaeologists had long thought that … the coast would been completely uninhabitable and impassible when that is very clearly not the case,” she explains.

The discovery is also important to the Heiltsuk Nation, lending credence to oral traditions that place their ancestors in the region during the days of the ice age. "[I]t reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years," William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation, tells Nair. He added that the validation by “Western science and archeology” can help the Heiltsuk people as they negotiate with the Canadian government over title rights to their traditional territory.

North America’s Ancient Cities - HISTORY

Pueblos– southwestern US (often multi-story) towns of adobe, stone, and other local materials – some of which are still occupied (and private)

Geoglyphs – large designs made on a ground surface with items like stones or live trees formed on top of the ground (positive geoglyphs), or dug into a subsurface soil layer, such as with intaglios or hill figures

Modern – stone henges, medicine wheels, and the like that have been created since European colonization, most made in the last century

Mounds– mounds, pyramids, walls, enclosures, terraces, earthworks, and effigy mounds (mounds in symbols, animals, human or other designs) made of raised piles of earth, ashes, shells, and other materials

Meso-American– cities and pyramids of the Central American cultures of circa 700 BCE to 1500 CE

Rock Art– includes petroglyphs (which are carved into the rock surface), and pictographs (which are painted onto the surface)

Stones– upright stones, rings, chambers, carins, ball courts, etc.

Misc – henges made of wood posts, viking ruins, and misc.

Arrival of Paleo-Indians

Evidence suggests that the Paleo-Indians‘ first spread into the Americas in great numbers near the end of the last glacial period around 16,500–13,000 years ago.

During this time Canada was nearly completely covered by ice, as well as the northern part of the United States. Alaska remained mostly ice free due to arid climate conditions. Local glaciations existed in the Rocky Mountains and as ice fields and ice caps in the Sierra Nevada in northern California.

The end of the last glacial period was about 10,500 BCE. The glaciers receded at different rates across the continent, affecting routes for the Paleo-Indians.


View of Linear Mounds Nat. Hist. Site of Canada, by PCA/ PD Poverty Point /PD Newark Earthworks, by Jubileejourney/ ASA 3.0 UP Two prehistoric Nat. Amer. burial mounds in Indian Mounds Reg. Park, St Paul, MN, USA, by McGhiever/ ASA 3.0 UP
A View of Monk’s Mound, by QuartierLatin1968/ ASA 3 Unported LSU Campus Indian Mounds, by Spatms/ ASA 3.0 UP Miamisburg jqj.jpg, Copyright by J. Q. Jacobs,, ASA 2.5 Generic

Crystal River Arch. Park, by Ebyabe/ ASA 2.5 Generic View of rock outline in form of a bison, 1992 by Government of Saskatchewan/ PD Drawing of Alligator Effigy Mound in Licking County, Ohio, by Rev. Stephen D. Peet, editor/ PD Ward Effigy Archaeological Site, near Cluny by Alberta Culture & Tourism/ PD
Rock Eagle, by PurpleChez, PD Effigy Mounds National Monument, Aerial View of Great Bear Mound Group by NPS/PD One of the Blythe Intaglios, by Ron’s Log/GNU Free Doc. License Fisherman Intaglio, by BLM/PD
Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel, near Bassano, by Royal Alberta Museum/ PD Bighorn Medicine Wheel, US Forest Service Photo, PD General view of British Block Cairn, by Parks Canada Agency/ PD General view of the Xa:ytem Hatzic Rock Nat. Historic Site of Canada showing the transformer rock in its material form and location, 1997, by Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada, Smyth/ PD
Ruins at America’s Stonehenge, NH, by Galibraryguy/ASA 3.0 Unported A view of the park, by Jbermudez/ Attrib. 2.5 Gen. Petroglyphs from Coso Rock Art National Historic Landmark, by US Navy Employee/ PD A National Historic Site near the needles area of Canyonlands NP in SE Utah, by Jim / CC Attrib. 2.0 Gen.
Chumash art on the walls of Painted Cave in the mountains above Santa Barbara, by Doc Searls/ ASA 2.0 Generic petroglifo de mina, by Janelle

commonswiki / GNU Free Doc.Lic, Ver. 1.2 Petroglyphs at V-Bar-V Ranch, Arizona, by Chanel Wheeler/ ASA 2.0 Generic Photograph of the Dighton Rock taken by Davis in 1893, PD
Great Gallery Pictographs, by Michael Grindstaff/ ASA 3.0 Unported Hemet Maze Stone, by Paul Kiler/ CC0 1.0 Univ. PD Dedic. Prehistoric petroglyphs and modern inscriptions, by Shereth/ ASA 3.0 Unported Winnemucca Lake, NV, USA, by Larry V. Benson, USGS/ PD
Native american petroglyphs in Petroglyph Nat. Mon., NM, USA by NPS-Photo/ PD Petroglyphs of a man & a turtle at Jeffers Petroglyphs near Jeffers, MN/ PD Judaculla Rock petroglyph located in Jackson County, NC, by Spjctim/ PD Panorama atop Caracol, by Pgbk87 / ASA 3.0 UP
Xunantunich, Belize, by Thomas Shahan / Attrib. 2.0 Generic View of Monte Albán from the south platform looking west, by João Sousa/ ASA 3.0 Unported Teuchitlán (Guachimontones), by Esteban Tucci/ ASA 3.0 Unported Top (western side) of the Tazumal main pyramid, by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)/ ASA 3.0 Unported
Petroglyph on Ometepe island in Lake Nicaragua, by Moody751/ ASA 3.0 UP View on the Grand Plaza of Tikal from the Temple II, by Ondřej Žváček, ASA 3.0 Unported Kukulkan at its finest during the March Equinox, by ATSZ56, PD Ruins in Tulúm, by Sensenmann, PD
Xochicalco, by Javiericardo, ASA 3.0 Unported El Tajín, a Totonac ruin in the municipality of Papantla, Veracruz, Mexico, © 2004 by Jacob Rus, ASA 2.0 Generic Teotihuacan, by BrCG2007, PD Taken in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, July 2006, Copyright 2006 (WT-en) Julian Quattlebaum, CC-by-SA.
Stone spheres of Costa Rica. Terraba river view, by Rodtico21/ ASA 3.0 UP Copan Structure/Temple 22 (entrance area), by Talk2winik, PD Stonehenge II TX, by Cqui / ASA 2.5 Generic Columcile 2015
Stonehenge at University of Texas at the Permian Basin, by Billy Hathorn/ GNU Free Doc. License Stonehenge at Maryhill, WA, by MagicalT/ PD Missouri S&T Stonehenge, at the UofM, by Ghubing/ PD Cutthroat Unit, Hovenweep NM, NPS photo by Andrew Kuhn / PD

Aztec West. Overview of Chacoan structure, NPS/PD Betatakin Cliff Dwellings, by Jon Sullivan /PD
NPS Photo/Sharlot Hart, PD NPS Photo Aerial photo: Overview of Pueblo Bonito, by John Wiley / CCA 3 South Pueblo, Taos Indian Pueblo, PD
Wukoki Ruins Complex, Wupatki , by SeanMD80 /CCSA 2.5 The central column of Cahokia’s ‘Woodhenge’ aligned as it would be for the equinoxes, by QuartierLatin1968/ ASA 3.0 Unported L’Anse Aux Meadows: Model of the Viking settlement in the museum, by Torbenbrinker/ASA 3.0 Unported

White Settlers Buried the Truth About the Midwest’s Mysterious Mound Cities

Around 1100 or 1200 A.D., the largest city north of Mexico was Cahokia, sitting in what is now southern Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Built around 1050 A.D. and occupied through 1400 A.D., Cahokia had a peak population of between 25,000 and 50,000 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cahokia was composed of three boroughs (Cahokia, East St. Louis, and St. Louis) connected to each other via waterways and walking trails that extended across the Mississippi River floodplain for some 20 square km. Its population consisted of agriculturalists who grew large amounts of maize, and craft specialists who made beautiful pots, shell jewelry, arrow-points, and flint clay figurines.

The city of Cahokia is one of many large earthen mound complexes that dot the landscapes of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and across the Southeast. Despite the preponderance of archaeological evidence that these mound complexes were the work of sophisticated Native American civilizations, this rich history was obscured by the Myth of the Mound Builders, a narrative that arose ostensibly to explain the existence of the mounds. Examining both the history of Cahokia and the historic myths that were created to explain it reveals the troubling role that early archaeologists played in diminishing, or even eradicating, the achievements of pre-Columbian civilizations on the North American continent, just as the U.S. government was expanding westward by taking control of Native American lands.

Today it’s difficult to grasp the size and complexity of Cahokia, composed of about 190 mounds in platform, ridge-top, and circular shapes aligned to a planned city grid oriented five degrees east of north. This alignment, according to Tim Pauketat, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, is tied to the summer solstice sunrise and the southern maximum moonrise, orientating Cahokia to the movement of both the sun and the moon. Neighborhood houses, causeways, plazas, and mounds were intentionally aligned to this city grid. Imagine yourself walking out from Cahokia’s downtown on your journey you would encounter neighborhoods of rectangular, semi-subterranean houses, central hearth fires, storage pits, and smaller community plazas interspersed with ritual and public buildings. We know Cahokia’s population was diverse, with people moving to this city from across the midcontinent, likely speaking different dialects and bringing with them some of their old ways of life.

View of Cahokia from Rattlesnake Mound ca 1175 A.D., drawn by Glen Baker (Image courtesy of Sarah E. Baires)

The largest mound at Cahokia was Monks Mound, a four-terraced platform mound about 100 feet high that served as the city’s central point. Atop its summit sat one of the largest rectangular buildings ever constructed at Cahokia it likely served as a ritual space.

In front of Monks Mound was a large, open plaza that held a chunk yard to play the popular sport of chunkey. This game, watched by thousands of spectators, was played by two large groups who would run across the plaza lobbing spears at a rolling stone disk. The goal of the game was to land their spear at the point where the disk would stop rolling. In addition to the chunk yard, upright marker posts and additional platform mounds were situated along the plaza edges. Ridge-top burial mounds were placed along Cahokia’s central organizing grid, marked by the Rattlesnake Causeway, and along the city limits.

Cahokia was built rapidly, with thousands of people coming together to participate in its construction. As far as archaeologists know, there was no forced labor used to build these mounds instead, people came together for big feasts and gatherings that celebrated the construction of the mounds.

The splendor of the mounds was visible to the first white people who described them. But they thought that the American Indian known to early white settlers could not have built any of the great earthworks that dotted the midcontinent. So the question then became: Who built the mounds?

Early archaeologists working to answer the question of who built the mounds attributed them to the Toltecs, Vikings, Welshmen, Hindus, and many others. It seemed that any group—other than the American Indian—could serve as the likely architects of the great earthworks. The impact of this narrative led to some of early America’s most rigorous archaeology, as the quest to determine where these mounds came from became salacious conversation pieces for America’s middle and upper classes. The Ohio earthworks, such as Newark Earthworks, a National Historic Landmark located just outside Newark, OH, for example, were thought by John Fitch (builder of America’s first steam-powered boat in 1785) to be military-style fortifications. This contributed to the notion that, prior to the Native American, highly skilled warriors of unknown origin had populated the North American continent.

This was particularly salient in the Midwest and Southeast, where earthen mounds from the Archaic, Hopewell, and Mississippian time periods crisscross the midcontinent. These landscapes and the mounds built upon them quickly became places of fantasy, where speculation as to their origins rose from the grassy prairies and vast floodplains, just like the mounds themselves. According to Gordon Sayre (The Mound Builders and the Imagination of American Antiquity in Jefferson, Bartram, and Chateaubriand), the tales of the origins of the mounds were often based in a “fascination with antiquity and architecture,” as “ruins of a distant past,” or as “natural” manifestations of the landscape.

When William Bartram and others recorded local Native American narratives of the mounds, they seemingly corroborated these mythical origins of the mounds. According to Bartram’s early journals (Travels, originally published in 1791) the Creek and the Cherokee who lived around mounds attributed their construction to “the ancients, many ages prior to their arrival and possessing of this country.” Bartram’s account of Creek and Cherokee histories led to the view that these Native Americans were colonizers, just like Euro-Americans. This served as one more way to justify the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands: If Native Americans were early colonizers, too, the logic went, then white Americans had just as much right to the land as indigenous peoples.

Location of Cahokia, East St Louis, and St Louis sites in the American Bottom (Map courtesy of Sarah E. Baires)

The creation of the Myth of the Mounds parallels early American expansionist practices like the state-sanctioned removal of Native peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for the movement of “new” Americans into the Western “frontier.” Part of this forced removal included the erasure of Native American ties to their cultural landscapes.

In the 19th century, evolutionary theory began to take hold of the interpretations of the past, as archaeological research moved away from the armchair and into the realm of scientific inquiry. Within this frame of reference, antiquarians and early archaeologists, as described by Bruce Trigger, attempted to demonstrate that the New World, like the Old World, “could boast indigenous cultural achievements rivaling those of Europe.” Discoveries of ancient stone cities in Central America and Mexico served as the catalyst for this quest, recognizing New World societies as comparable culturally and technologically to those of Europe.

But this perspective collided with Lewis Henry Morgan’s 1881 text Houses and House-life of the American Aborigines. Morgan, an anthropologist and social theorist, argued that Mesoamerican societies (such as the Maya and Aztec) exemplified the evolutionary category of “Middle Barbarism”—the highest stage of cultural and technological evolution to be achieved by any indigenous group in the Americas. By contrast, Morgan said that Native Americans located in the growing territories of the new United States were quintessential examples of “Stone Age” cultures—unprogressive and static communities incapable of technological or cultural advancement. These ideologies framed the archaeological research of the time.

In juxtaposition to this evolutionary model there was unease about the “Vanishing Indian,” a myth-history of the 18th and 19th centuries that depicted Native Americans as a vanishing race incapable of adapting to the new American civilization. The sentimentalized ideal of the Vanishing Indian—who were seen as noble but ultimately doomed to be vanquished by a superior white civilization—held that these “vanishing” people, their customs, beliefs, and practices, must be documented for posterity. Thomas Jefferson was one of the first to excavate into a Native American burial mound, citing the disappearance of the “noble” Indians—caused by violence and the corruption of the encroaching white civilization—as the need for these excavations. Enlightenment-inspired scholars and some of America’s Founders viewed Indians as the first Americans, to be used as models by the new republic in the creation of its own legacy and national identity.

During the last 100 years, extensive archaeological research has changed our understanding of the mounds. They are no longer viewed as isolated monuments created by a mysterious race. Instead, the mounds of North America have been proven to be constructions by Native American peoples for a variety of purposes. Today, some tribes, like the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, view these mounds as central places tying their communities to their ancestral lands. Similar to other ancient cities throughout the world, Native North Americans venerate their ties to history through the places they built.

Editor's Note: The original story stated that William Bartram's Travels was published in 1928, but these early journals were actually published in 1791.

An Ancient Race of ‘White Giants’ existed according to Ancient Native American tribes

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According to numerous writings and oral legends of Native American tribes, a race of ‘White Giants’ existed in the distant past. Interestingly, similar accounts of Giants existing on Earth in the distant past can be found all around the world.

There are numerous legends among various Native American tribes, from the Comanches in the north to other tribes in the south, which speak of a mysterious race of white-skinned giants who inhabited North America thousands of years ago, before mysteriously vanishing from the face of the planet.

In his book “History of the Choctaw Indians, Chickasaw and Natchez” (1899), Horatio Bardwell Cushman writes: “The tradition of the Choctaws . . Told of a race of giants that once inhabited the now State of Tennessee, and with whom their ancestors fought when they arrived in Mississippi in their migration from the west. … Their tradition states the Nahullo ( a race of giants) was of wonderful stature.”

Cushman stated that, over time, the term “Nahullo” became common to refer to all white people, but originally, the term was used to designate a race of white giants with which the Choctaws fought after crossing the Mississippi River.

There is plenty of evidence today which suggests that Giant beings did, in fact, walk on Earth.

Interestingly, according to an account in 1857, Chief Rolling Thunder of the Comanche said: “Innumerable moons ago, a race of white men, 10 feet high, and far more rich and powerful than any white people now living, here inhabited a large range of country, extending from the rising to the setting sun. Their fortifications crowned the summits of the mountains, protecting their populous cities situated in the intervening valleys. “They excelled every other nation which was flourished, either before or since, in all manner of cunning handicraft—were brave and warlike—ruling over the land they had wrested from its ancient owners with a high and haughty hand. Compared with them the palefaces of the present day were pygmies, in both art and arms. …” (source)

According to the Comanche chief, a Great Spirit wiped out the White Giants when they forgot all about justice and mercy, becoming too proud.

The Navajo are another ancient tribe that offers evidence of Giants walking the Earth. The Navajo speak of a rave of ‘white giants’ called the Starnake people, describing them as a “regal race of white giants endowed with mining technology who dominated the West, enslaved lesser tribes, and had strongholds all through the Americas. They were either extinguished or ‘went back to the heavens.'”

The mysterious Starnake were either extinguished or “went back to the heavens.” The name may be a corruption of the Biblical race known as Anakim (Num. 13:33, Deut. 1:28). The name Og (Hebrew “chief”) appears to be characteristic (see Zimmerman, pp. 188-91). The ogham alphabet is attributed to this cultural founder. (Source)

However, more stories of White Giants can be found in numerous other accounts of ancient North-American tribes. The Choctaw also happen to mention the mystery giants. According to the Choctaw tribe, in that, is now known as Tennesee, a race of giants dominated the land in the distant past. It is said that their ancestors fought against them when they arrived in Mississippi during their westward migration.

Interestingly the Paiutes have oral legends that speak of red-haired giants, white cannibals that stood above 10 feet in height inhabiting the Lovelock Cave, in Nevada. Interestingly, in the past, archaeologists have discovered remains of people with red hair in the region.

In what is now modern-day Mexico, Ancient Aztec legends also happen to mention the existence of a race of giants.

In Aztec mythology, these giants are referred to as the Quinametzin. The ruler of the Giants was, according to some versions of the myth, the god Tlaloc. Interestingly, the Quinametzin were believed to be the builders of the city of Teotihuacan and Tlachihualtepetl. The ‘Tlaxcaltecas’ recounted that, near the time of the Spanish Conquest, they themselves had fought the last Quinametzin on Earth.

If we travel to South America, we will find that the ancient Manta people of Peru, speak of a race of giants that in the distant past, coexisted with them. Their legend says that: “There arrived on the coast, in boats made of reeds, as big as large ships, a party of men of such size that, from the knee downwards, their height was as great as the entire height of an ordinary man, though he might be of good stature. Their limbs were all in proportion to the deformed size of their bodies, and it was a monstrous thing to see their heads, with hair reaching to the shoulders. Their eyes were as large as small plates.” (Source)

They fit right into American history

Modern life is not far away: Cahokia is framed by a middle-American sprawl of interstate highways and suburbia. But it wasn't modern development that ended Cahokia's thrilling story.

Eventually, Cahokians simply chose to leave their city behind, seemingly impelled by a mix of environmental and human factors such a changing climate that crippled agriculture, roiling violence or disastrous flooding. By 1400, the plazas and mounds lay quiet.

When Europeans first encountered the remarkable mounds at Cahokia, they saw a lost civilisation, explains Newitz in Four Lost Cities. They wondered if some faraway people had built Cahokia, then disappeared, taking with them the brilliant culture and sophistication that had once thrived in the soil of the Mississippi bottomland, where the earth is enriched by riverine floods.

In 1050 AD, the Native American cosmopolis of Cahokia was bigger than Paris (Credit: MattGush/Getty Images)

But the people of Cahokia, of course, didn't disappear. They simply left, and with them Cahokia's influence wove outward to far-flung places, where some of their most beloved pastimes are cherished to this day.

The yaupon they loved to drink is making a mainstream comeback as a sustainable, local tea that can be harvested from the forest. Chunkey – Cahokia's favourited game – never went away either. In some Native communities it has attracted a new generation of young athletes and is on the roster with stick ball and blow guns at Cherokee community games.

But it's more than that. Cahokians loved to kick back over good barbecue and sporting events, a combination that, Newitz noted, is conspicuously familiar to nearly all modern-day Americans. "We party that way all across the United States," they said. "They fit right into American history.

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