Dating of ancient tents compared to the Book of Mormon claims
The Book of Mormon claims that tents were used by the people as early as the Tower of Babel.
Evidence of tent use during the same time frame that is claimed by the Book of Mormon has been radiocarbon dated in the Americas. Depending on when the journey of the Jaredites took place, it is possible that tents were already in use in the Americas at the time that they arrived. This article addresses the following points:
Ancient tents in the Near East at the early estimated time of the tower of Babel
Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon claim that tents were used anciently in the Near East. Current archeological evidence indicates that tent use in the Near East began in the mid-2nd millennium BC, about 1000 years after the early estimated times in the Book of Mormon and much older than the claims in the Bible.
Ancient tents in the Americas at the early estimated time of the tower of Babel
Tent rings in Northern America have been dated between 8000 to 2000 BC.
The use of tents in the Book of Mormon
Both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon use the word tent throughout their pages. The Old Testament claims that people were travelling with tents more than 100 times, starting in Genesis 4. The Book of Mormon also claims that people travelled with tents more than 50 times, first appearing with 1st Nephi chapter 2.
This timeframe is estimated around 600 BC in the Near East; however, this is not the first chronological usage within the book. The book of Ether in the Book of Mormon claims that the people also used tents prior to their departure across the ocean. This group originates from Asia at the time of the Tower of Babel, and are known in the Book of Mormon as the Jaredites. According to the Book of Mormon, the descendants of the group that left Jerusalem at 600 BC discover the remainder of the Jaredites in the lands to the north on the American continent.
This allows us to separate tent use in the Book of Mormon into two major geographic regions. The first covers the area of the Near East at about 2500 BC, and the second covers the American Continent shortly thereafter. All of the other occurrences in the Book of Mormon fall after this time but within these same general areas.
Dating the Tower of Babel
Most scholars believe that the tower of Babel was located near modern day Iraq. This area is geographically referred to as the Near East and is part of South-West Asia. Determining when this group from the book of Ether left Asia can be estimated on the archeological record based on what is known about the tower of Babel. According to the Bible the tower was built using baked bricks, which the archaeological record indicates came into limited use in Mesopotamia after 3500 BC. Ziggurats began showing up in the area of Babylon using baked brick during the reign of Ur-Nammu, who lived around 2100 BC. The Ziggurat of Ur, which was built with baked bricks, is dated to this time. While scholars have also identified later sites that could also match the description of the tower, using the mid to early third millennium (2500-2000 BC) allows us to cover all of those possibilities.
Identifying tent use in archeology
Locating a tent in the archeological record has proven to be almost impossible. Most nomads or travelers would travel with a shelter that was lightweight and portable, built from the natural resources around them. For example, ancient tents in the near east were made of goat hides. Some Indians in Southern America made tents from leaves of a Vijao plant. Both of these materials were readily available, however, they were also made of material that decayed fairly quickly when left to the elements. Thus finding an actual tent-like structure in an archeological setting has proven difficult.
However, tents do leave behind a distinct scar on the land that can be used to identify where they once were. Ancient tents were usually set up in an area that was cleared of debris after which, the bottom skirt of the tents were pinned to the ground using heavy stones. The stones prevented the wind from picking up the side of the tent, and kept most of the weather out of the structure. Because of their weight, the rocks were left behind when camp was broken and new ones would be used at the next site. These stones would then lay for thousands of years mostly untouched and unmoved. These rings of stones can still be seen and are known as "tent rings". Identifying man made artifacts or dating charcoal within these rings allows us to date when the site was being used.
Use of tents anciently in the Near East
Current archeological findings appear to indicate that tent use in the Near East began in the late 2nd millennium BC. This is about 1000 years after the estimated time claimed in the Book of Mormon, and much older than the time claimed by the Bible.
Use of tents anciently in the Americas
There is more evidence in the Americas for ancient tent use then in the Near East or Asia. Dated tent sites have been found in several places in the Americas, but the sites in Alaska are the best preserved. Charcoal at these sites has been radiocarbon dated to a period between 3690 and 2940 BC.
Artifacts found in tent rings in Colorado indicate that they were inhabited through most of the North American Archaic period and part of the Ceramic period that followed. The Archaic period of North America ranges from 8000 to 2000 BC. The majority of artifacts found are distinctive to the Late Archaic era, between 2500 and 2000 BC.
Both of these sites indicate that ancient tents were found on the American continent during the times indicated by the Book of Mormon, and perhaps even earlier depending on when the journey of the Jaredites actually took place.
|2 -||Ziggurats, British Museum's Mesopotamia Web Site Staff Room, accessed 08/14/2013|
|References according to the 1st edition Book of Mormon||Show|