Barley Found in the New World by Raymond C. Treat

Barley Found in the New World 

by Raymond C. Treat


Note: Book of Mormon references are from the RLDS version

Some very exciting and faith-rewarding news for Book of Mormon believers, the first discovery of barley in the New World, has been reported in the December issue of Science 83, pp. 28-37, under the title "Lost Ditch Archeology", by Daniel B. Adams, a graduate student in paleontology at the University of California, Berkely.

This discovery constitutes one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs ever in support of the Book of Mormon. If this identification of barley is valid, and it appears to be, it will cause a major shift in the thinking of New World archaeologists, a shift which will be a giant step toward the ever growing physical validation of Book of Mormon history. The following analogy will help us to appreciate the importance of this discovery: Consider the Book of Mormon as a great reservoir of truth. Then envision a gigantic dam erected by tradition and unbelief to hold back this truth. As we shall see, the foundations of this dam have been weakening for some time. Taken in this context, the discovery of barley in the New World is the equivalent of an actual crack at the base of the dam sufficiently wide to allow water to start trickling through. Now that the trickle has started, it is only a matter of time before the complete collapse of the dam, which will allow the truth of the Book of Mormon to cover the earth as a flood.

The barley was discovered in Hohokam deposits in Phoenix, Arizona as a result of excavations carried out by Arizona State University. The Hohokam Indians were present in the Phoenix area from about 300 B.C. to about A.D. 1450. They may have come from Mesoamerica since a number of Mesoamerican traits were present in their culture such as similar figurine styles, the use of cotton, their textile techniques, ball courts, platform mounds and copper bells. The Hohokam culture is famous in the Southwest for a number of things including the construction of a massive system of irrigation canals. Over 1000 miles of canals as large as 30 feet wide and seven feet deep were built by these industrious ancient people.

Adams states in Science 83:

Perhaps the most startling evidence of Hohokam agricultural sophistication came last year when salvage archeologists found preserved grains of what looks like domesticated le , the first ever found in the New World. Wild barleys have a fibrous husk over each grain. Domestic barley lacks this. So does the Hohokam barley. "It's debatable whether this is genetic or some extreme skill in processing," says Vorsila Bohrer, an ethnobotanist at Eastern New Mexico University. Nearly half the samples from one site yielded barley. (page 32)


The Book of Mormon tells us that barley was cultivated in the New World from the time of the Jaredites. This quote from the Nephite period is about 120 B.C.:

And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks, and our herds. Mosiah 5:35


On the other hand, New World archaeology has always maintained that barley was not available in the New World. Probably the main reason for this belief is that it was not found in the New World at the time of European contact. Archaeologists thought that if it had been in the New World previously it certainly would not have disappeared before European contact. Since New World archaeologists "knew" that barley did not exist they did not look for it. This would help account for why it has not been discovered until now. We can expect more discoveries of barley to follow this initial discovery. The discovery of barley is important in itself but there is more to the story.

Barley is not only an Old World cereal grain but is part of a larger Old World food production system which includes wheat sheep, goats, cattle, horses etc. The Book of Mormon tells us that all of these items were also in the New World:

And in the space of sixty and two years, they had become exceeding strong, insomuch that they become exceeding rich, having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kind of animals which were useful for the food of man: and they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants, and cureloms, and cummoms: all of which were useful unto man ... Ether 4:19-21


This quote from Ether tells us that Old World grains and animals were brought to the New World by the Jaredites.  When the Nephites arrived, they tell about finding Old World animals in the wilderness. These would have been descendents of animals brought over by the Jaredites. The Nephites, too, brought grain.

And it come to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds, yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance. And it come to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow, and the ox, and the ass, and the horse, and the goat, and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. I Nephi 5:214-216

And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; an we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.     Mosiah 6:12


To summarize then, the Book of Mormon has been telling us since 1830 that the Old World food production system (e.g. barley, wheat, sheep, goats, cattle, horses etc.) was available in the New World for at least 2300-2400 years while archaeology has said it was never in the New World prior to European contact.

Because one part of this system, barley, has now been found, we assume it is only a matter of time before the rest of the system is discovered. When this happens it will invalidate one of the main tenets of archaeology, namely, that New World civilization developed on its own, independent from the Old World. This would cause a major restructuring of archaeological thinking which would lead archaeology even closer to the discovery that the Book of Mormon is valid history The Book of Mormon tells us that New World civilization did come from the Old World by way of the Jaredites. Nephites and Mulekites. The discovery of barley, therefore, is only the beginning of this latest process which certainly must be part of the Lord's timing in these last days.

It seems clear that the absence of the New World food system at the time of European contact was part of a divine plan to provide a greater witness in our day. The mystery remains as to how all these foods and animals died out. The answer may be found in either environmental or cultural factors or a combination of both.

As mentioned, barley has been found in Hohokam deposits from the Phoenix area. Arizona, along with the rest of the United States, is not part of Book of Mormon geography. However, most, if not all, Indian tribes in the United States are descendants of Book of Mormon peoples. The Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica (southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador). Archaeologists recognize that several areas of the United States, including the U.S. Southwest, were influenced by Mesoamerica. It is therefore likely that Hohokam barley originated in Mesoamerica. Although barley has not been found in Mesoamerica yet, mainly because archaeologists have not been looking for it, it appears to be only a matter of time before it is found. The stage has already been set by recent developments in Maya archaeology (see Zarahemla Record #1 Classic Maya Population: An Example of Convergence) and by the fact that phytoliths can be used for identifying wheat and barley (see Zarahemla Record #2 Wheat and Barley: Problem or Opportunity).

The discovery of barley in the New World is not an isolated event. It is part of a series of Book of Mormon related events which we can only conclude are part of a definite plan which God is carrying out in preparation for the establishment of Zion in our day. Eleven events have been identified so far in the last five years as being part of this plan: I in 1979, 3 in 1980, 2 in 1981, 2 in 1982 and 3 in 1983. Each is unique and each appears most certainly to be the beginning of an ongoing process.

The book, The Discovery of Genesis by Kong and Nelson was published in 1979. From this book, we learn that part of the history of the Jaredites has been preserved in the characters of the Chinese language. We learn that whoever first formulated the Chinese language had the story of Genesis. This is strong circumstantial evidence that it was the Jaredites who were responsible for the origin of the Chinese language since we believe they carried the original story of Genesis with them in the form of the Book of Remembrance. Other evidence from the Book of Mormon and from archaeology tells us that the Jaredites migrated from the Sumerian area of Mesopotamia across Asia and through China on their way to the New World. Through the work on the Chinese characters the Lord is beginning the process that will bring the knowledge of the Jaredites to the world. At one time they were the greatest civilization in the world. Such a people can not be hidden forever. Their history has been locked into the Chinese characters for about 4300 years. This information could have come forth long ago. We should assume, therefore, that its appearance in 1979 is due to divine timing. 

The discovery of the original Anthon transcript in 1980 must also be due to divine timing since this piece of paper, which has been preserved all these years, could have been discovered at any time in the lost 100 years or more. We now have, for the first time, an accurate copy of some of the characters from the Book of Mormon. This will facilitate comparison with known languages. More importantly, it is logical to assume that the appearance of the Book of Mormon characters is a prelude to the appearance of further Book of Mormon related records. 

According to Jewish custom, a Year of Jubilee occurs every fifty years. All debts are cancelled and a new beginning is made. Such a year was 1980 as was 1830; certainly a time of new beginning. In 1980 a portion of the Book of Mormon in Hebrew was taken to Israel. Significantly, this portion included the part of the Book of Mormon from the Small Plates of Nephi. One purpose of the small plates is to provide a special witness to the Jews

The fourth event, and the third one in 1980, was the publication of Ancient Mesoamerica, a map of Book of Mormon geography by Ralph Lesh. Again it is easy to see the theme of timing in the coming forth of this map because all of the information on the map comes from the Book of Mormon. This means that the map could have been produced any time since 1830. The map is part of the process that will eventually end in a complete Book of Mormon geography equal to if not better than that currently available for the Bible. The developments in Book of Mormon geography are certainly part of the Lord's plan for our day and are a signal that a day of great spiritual power is soon to break upon us. Yes, 1980 was surely a time of new beginning for the Book of Mormon.

The next year 1981 witnessed two events, the Joseph Smith III blessing, one of five important Restoration documents that are a part of the eleven event series, and the publication of the book Chiasmus in Antiquity. The blessing is part of the process that will eventually demonstrate to the world that Joseph Smith Jr. was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is divine.

The significance of the book Chiasmus in Antiquity, aside from revealing the chiastic nature of the Book of Mormon, is that it is one of the first, if not the first, books written mostly by secular non Book of Mormon related scholars in which there is a chapter dealing with the Book of Mormon as a valid book. The book is not for the general public. It was written by and for specialists in ancient languages. For a scholar to have his name associated with a book that has a pro Book of Mormon chapter in it is no light matter since his reputation may be at stake.

The discovery that the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, has a great deal of chiastic writing in it is very significant. Chiastic writing is found in a number of ancient languages, most prominently in ancient Hebrew. Not only does the identification of the chiasms in the Book of Mormon help us in our study and appreciation of the book but their presence demonstrates that neither Joseph Smith Jr. nor any other nineteenth-century author had the capability to write the Book of Mormon.

In 1982 letters by Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses, and Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith Jr., were first made public. The Harris letter reaffirms his testimony about seeing the plates. Harris states: "... and lo there came a voice from heaven saying 'I am the Lord,' and that the plates were translated by God and not by men, and also that we should bear record of it to all the world, and thus the vision was taken from us." While the testimony of Martin Harris is not new, the discovery of this version of it in 1982, especially taken together with the other ten items, is a reminder to us that the Book of Mormon is indeed of divine origin since this letter could have been discovered earlier.

The Lucy Mack Smith letter is very significant. It is the earliest dated Restoration document and was written during the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. As such, it helps to verify Joseph Smith's account of the origin of the Book of Mormon. Critics have said that Joseph made up the account since he did not write it until several years later. They fail to point out that delayed reporting of important history is normal. Lucy's letter also gives us for the first time some information from the 116 lost pages. At the time that Lucy wrote the letter, January 23, 1829, this was the only portion of the Book of Mormon that had been translated. The information is that Ishmael was Sariah's brother. This helps explain why Ishmael and his family were willing to go with Lehi into the desert. Ishmael is also an Arabic name, which means that Ishmael and Sariah were at least partly Arabic. Therefore, the Arabian people have a connection to the Book of Mormon. Lehi's first two sons, Laman and Lemuel have Arabic names. This is a clue that Lehi's early married life had a strong Arabic influence. Incidently, the next two sons, Sam and Nephi, had Egyptian names, showing that Lehi's interest had shifted. The Last two sons, Jacob and Joseph, have House of Israel names reflecting Lehi's awareness of his lineage after reading the Plates of Brass and also his calling as a prophet of God. This letter also could have been discovered earlier, therefore, its appearance in 1982 suggests that its message too is part of a divine plan.

Another event concerning Book of Mormon geography occurred early in 1983. This was the discovery that a Maya hieroglyph provided information suggesting the exact location of a Book of Mormon city.  Since Book of Mormon geography has been subjected to a wide range of opinion for so many years, it is significant that the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place. Serious students of this subject no longer argue about the general area where the Book of Mormon took place, which is Mesoamerica, but have advanced to discussions as to whereabouts in Mesoamerica various sites are located.

In August, 1983, an announcement was made about the discovery of additional fragments from one of the original manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, the one that had been placed in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. Again, the focus here is not on any new information, although there is some to be gained, but on timing. The message here seems to be that we are approaching the time when some additional Book of Mormon records will be brought forth.

Then, as described above, comes the announcement of the discovery of barley in December, 1983. Eleven events have occurred in five years. if any of these events had occurred alone or with one or two other events we might not have considered them to be part of a deliberate divine plan. However, the occurrence of all eleven in the last five years, especially since they are of a nature or quality we have not seen since the Book of Mormon come forth, leads us to conclude that here indeed, is a divine message. Our concern should then be that we will be able to correctly interpret and respond to this message.

This article taken from Recent Book of Mormon Developments, vol. 1, p 15-18.

Raymond C. Treat


Treat, Raymond C.