Book of Mormon Central posted an excellent KnoWhy yesterday on barley. The Book of Mormon says the people tilled the ground with seeds of corn, wheat, barley, neas, sheum, and all manner of fruits. (Mosiah 9:9). Archaeologists have, in fact, found pre-Columbian barley in North America. Footnote 2 to the KnoWhy is an nice article by Tyler Livingston titled "Barley and The Book of Mormon: New Evidence."
Here's an excerpt:
"[Little barley] was first discovered in the “Midwest during the Middle Archaic period, at two locationally-close sites. The earliest record came from the Koster North site in central west Illinois, dating to 7,300 B.P. Hordeum pusillumalso occurred at the Napoleon Hollow site, beginning at 6,800 B.P.”Archaeologists are now finding barley in several sites all over North America. Barley has now been discovered in archaeological sites in the following places: Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Mexico."
This should be an easy connection with the Book of Mormon narrative, assuming the land of Zarahemla was in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Limhi traveled from there to the land of Nephi, which is in Tennessee. Chattanooga is about 50 miles from North Carolina.
[Note: According to the reference cited as note 12, the location in Mexico is in Paquime or Casas Grandes, which about 67 miles south of the Arizona border--closer to Missouri than to Chiapas. The reference describes little barley as "an indigenous domesticate found in Eastern North America and the Hohokam region of Arizona."]
Archaeology supports the Book of Mormon--when we look in the right place.
But look at what happens when this is viewed through the Mesoamerican lens. Continuing the quotation from the same article:
"Since most scholars place Book of Mormon events in Central America, many of these sites and cultures would show that barley was native to the Americas, but outside of Book of Mormon parameters. However, since it is now being found in Mexico and the Southwest, it is becoming more likely that Book of Mormon cultures were in contact with cultures from the North, and may have possessed barley... While the connection between Mesoamerica and Barley is not made, it would seem odd that trade of “principal crops” would take place without the trade of barley. Whether the tradecame from Mesoamerica to Arizona, or the other way around, it would make sense that barley was part of the crop trade between the culture."
Summary: even when archaeology hands us a clear and direct tie to the text, the Mesoamerican theory rejects it in favor of another "it would seem odd" argument.
It is this kind of pretzel twisting that characterizes so much of the Mesoamerican theory (think tapirs, jade, directions, headwaters, etc.). Why do they do it? Because of the anonymous articles in the 1842 Times and Seasons and their distrust of Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith regarding the New York Hill Cumorah.
Think of how much readers would benefit if BOMC would simply add a fair and neutral comment about the North American setting, at least as an alternative to the Mesoamerican setting. Readers everywhere would appreciate a fair and neutral presentation of concurrent geographies.