Horses in the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon claims that horses were found on the American continent after the arrival of at least two groups of people.
Horse remains have been found in California which radiocarbon date before the Spanish arrival to the area. This article addresses the following points:
Horses in the Western Hemisphere before Columbus
Horse bones have been unearthed in California that have a radiocarbon date between 1625 and 1705. At 1705 the closest Spanish mission was over 550 miles away. The remains also lack tell-tale signs of Spanish ownership. Additional remains have also been discovered in Wyoming that date between 1400 AD and 1633 AD.
Earliest related discovery date: 1991
Horses according to the Book of Mormon
The word 'horse' or 'horses' appears 14 times in the Book of Mormon. Three of these are prophetic in nature and not claims of their existence. That leaves 11 times that the Book of Mormon claims that horses existed in the New World. These dates range all the way from the journey of the Jaredites (pre-Abraham), up until the time just prior to the appearance of Christ in the Americas (33 AD). Horses are claimed most often as livestock and work horses, but never mentioned as riding animals.
Horses are first claimed by the Jaredites chronologically in Ether 9:19. The Jaredites are in the same time frame as the tower of Babel.
"And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms."
The next time that they are mentioned chronologically is by Nephi in 1 Nephi 18:25 at about 600 BC. This is the one time that they are mentioned as wild animals:
"And it came 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. ..."
Enos claims that they have started to domesticate the horse in Enos 1:21:
"And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses."
The book of Alma mentions them several times, twice in one verse.
"And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land.
"Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them."
"And it came to pass that when Ammon had made ready the horses and the chariots for the king and his servants, he went in unto the king, and he saw that the countenance of the king was changed; therefore he was about to return out of his presence."
"Now when Lamoni had heard this he caused that his servants should make ready his horses and his chariots."
3 Nephi 3:22:
"And it came to pass in the seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies."
3 Nephi 4:4:
"Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open battle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land; and thus the eighteenth year did pass away."
And finally in 3 Nephi 6:1:
"And now it came to pass that the people of the Nephites did all return to their own lands in the twenty and sixth year, every man, with his family, his flocks and his herds, his horses and his cattle, and all things whatsoever did belong unto them."
3 Nephi 8 is where the face of the land changes at the crucifixion of Christ in Jerusalem. 3 Nephi 11 begins the account of Christ in the American continent after his resurrection.
The three prophetic verses that contain horses are found in 2 Nephi 12:7, 2 Nephi 15:28, and 3 Nephi 21:14.
Horses in American history
Horses are commonly thought to have originated and flourished in the Americas until the Pleistocene era.
Horses are then thought to have arrived on the mainland of the American continent again with Cortez in 1518. The records maintained by Cortez's party indicated that his initial landing group had about a dozen horses. Additional horses have been thought to have been introduced with other Spanish landing parties that resupplied Cortez, and other Spanish expeditions.
By 1521 Cortez had established Mexico City which was originally controlled by the Aztec empire. With Mexico City established Cortez was then able to begin exploration of Central America. From there he headed south to Honduras from where he then went back home to Spain. He returned to Mexico City in 1530 where he stayed for a time. He then explored Northern Mexico up to where he discovered the 'island' of California in 1536. It took three more years until they discovered that it was actually a peninsula. Credit goes to the sailing expedition captained by Francisco de Ulloa which was sent north in 1539. This area became the Baja California Peninsula.
The Spanish continued to explore both by boat and by land. The first mission to be established on the Baja California Peninsula was in 1683. Other areas were still being pursued and it wasn't until 1697 that the Spanish finally took full control of the Yucatan Peninsula from the Aztec.
Horse remains in California prior to Spanish settlements in the area
In Carlsbad, California remains of both horses and donkeys have been unearthed that radiocarbon date before the entrance of the Spanish into the area.
Radiocarbon dating of the remains places them between 1625 and 1705. The Mission San Diego de Alcalá (which later became San Diego) was not established until 1769. By 1705 the closest Spanish mission was Mission Santa Rosalía de Mulegé, more than 550 miles away. If you take the highways as they are at present, it's a 669 mile trip between the two locations.
Some scholars have wondered if the animals may have been from an early unrecorded Spanish expedition, however the animals lack any signs of Spanish ownership. Spanish horses were always shod but these animals do not show any signs of ever having horseshoes. Shodding a horse will leave holes in the hoof of the horse where the horseshoes are nailed into place.
Another possibility is that the animals may have escaped captivity from the Spanish and travelled the distance on their own. This seems highly unlikely however because horses are non-migratory animals. While horses in the wild may travel fair distances looking for food and water, they tend stay close to these sources once they have found them. The greatest extent that they have been known to travel away from these sources on their own is only about 14.4 miles.
Horse remains in Wyoming that date even earlier
However these horse remains were not the first historical anachronism to be discovered. In 1991 a young horse skeleton was unearthed in Wyoming by a construction crew. This skeleton, buried with three coyote skulls, radiocarbon dated between 1400 AD and 1633 AD. (If you really want to be impressed, the sigma 1 date range was between 1426 and 1481 but usually sigma 2 is used for most dating purposes). The author favors a date closer to the mid 1600s based on the prevailing understanding of historical data.
|3 -||David Eckles, Jeffrey Lockwood, Rabinder Kumar, Dale Wedel, and Danny N. Walker, An Early Historic Period Horse Skeleton From Southwestern Wyoming, The Wyoming Archaeologist, Volume 38, pg. 55-68, Fall, 1994, accessed 04/08/2014|
|References according to the 1st edition Book of Mormon||Show|