Nahom-Archeaological Evidence of Book of Mormon

After Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, they traveled in the Arabian Peninsula on their way to the “promised land.”  In 1994, an archeaological discovery in Yemen has the same name as mentioned in 1 Ne. 16: 34, “And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.

Critics of the LDS church have often chortled at the fact that there is no archaeological evidence in support of the Book of Mormon.  Well, that is now changing, and I would like to discuss what we know about an archeaological site called “Nahom.”

When Lehi left Jerusalem, Book of Mormon scholars surmise that Lehi and his family probable followed the Frankincense Trail on the eastern side of the Red Sea.  The trail is not well marked, and is in a desert.  There are water stops along the way, spaced quite distantly.  Over the centuries, many people died along the trail because of lack of water.  The land is desolate, and it seems unlikely that Lehi’s family would have been trailblazers in such a forbidding place, especially when one considers that the Frankincense Trail pre-dates Lehi.

During the journey, Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem twice.  The first time they return to obtain the Brass Plates (scriptures), and the second time they return to obtain wives.  They return with the family of Ishmael, who has as many daughters as Lehi does sons.

I just purchased Journey of Faith, which discusses the probably route of Lehi, and goes into great detail of the recent discovery of NHM, or Nahom.  I’d like to quote some of the experts in the video regarding the Nahom discovery.

Kent Brown, professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU. “I believe that it took them about a year to go from their first base camp down to Nahom. The reason is because that’s when Nephi mentions the birth of the first children. As I read the text of the book of Mormon, I suspect that Ishmael was already ill, or had been experiencing ill health, and that was one of the reasons why the family stopped from time to time to rest, to gather themselves, gather strength and then move on.”

Yusuf Abdullah, Former Director of General Organization of Antiquities, Republic of Yemen, “During the frankincense trade journey, I suppose that quite a number of people will die, because it was a hard journey definitely. It wasn’t an easy journey. And when they die, they will carry it [the body] to the nearest place possible.

Abdullah, “In Yemen, like in many ancient civilizations, they used to respect the dead very much.  The areas to bury were known along the Frankincense Route.”

Abdu Othman Ghaleb, Professor of Archeaology, Sana’a University, Republic of Yemen, “I am sitting in Nahom burial ground that was discovered in 1994. The people who pass through this area and die, they will bring to the burial and buried here. Whether they were Yemenis or foreigners from the north, from Mediterranean or from someplace else.”

Abdullah, “They [the graves] are like small hives or small graves, mounds.”

Ghaleb, “And this area, what is the burial ground, is belong to the tribe of Nahom.”

Brown, “They’d have buried Ishmael here, to great mourning. One of the reasons the people felt to mourn is because he was an Israelite, and to be buried away from his home was something of a loss.”

Brown, “It’s certain that this place had a name before they arrived, because Nephi very carefully writes the passive, the place which was called Nahom.”

Ghaleb, “This is the area of Nahom, this is the land of Nahom, and also the area of the tribe of Nahom.”

Brown, “The spelling in 1st Nephi 16 is [pronounced] ‘Nay-home’, or ‘Nah-home’, which has something to do with comfort. In ancient South Arabian, the letters N-H-M have to do with stonecutting and may possibly refer to the kind of work that the people of this tribe did.”

Abdullah, “The name is supposed to be coming from the root Nahama. And Nahama is ancient South Arabian language means to cut stone.”

Brown, “We have to imagine what happened when Lehi and Sariah and their party heard this name after the death of Ishmael, that it meant something to them and they preserved it in the text.”

David J Johnson, Archaeology, BYU, “The Yemenis have excavated a number of cemeteries in that region, including some that contained mummified remains.”

Ghaleb, “The mummies that we found here in Yemen were buried differently from the ones in Egypt. The knees are not straight like the Egyptian. And also they covered all the body inside [with] very nice leather.”

Now, why would this discovery be important?

Daniel C. Peterson, Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic, BYU, “The finding of Nahom strikes me as just a tremendously significant discovery.”

Noel B Reynolds, director of FARMS, BYU, “The gazetteers of Joseph Smith’s day listed no such place.”

Peterson, “What it really is, is a kind of prediction by the Book of Mormon, or something that we ought to find.”

William J Hamblin, Professor of Middle Eastern History, BYU, “Now the chances of finding that exact name from the exact time, in that exact place, by random chance, are just astronomical.”

Peterson, “And to find it in the right location, at the right time, is a really striking bulls eye for the book and there are those who say the book has no archeological substantiation. That’s a spectacular substantiation right there, it seems to me. Something that would have been unexpected. It’s so unlikely that Joseph Smith could have woven into his story on his own.”

Hamblin, “The Book of Mormon has text, has made a complex prediction and modern archeology actually confirms that prediction.”

Peterson, “It’s a direct bulls-eye, as precise as you could wish it to be.”

In the past, some of the skeptics have claimed that Nahom does not date to the time of Lehi, but archeologists have dated the site, as well as pre-Islamic temples in the area to the time of Lehi.

Johnson, “There are inscriptions from the Temple Baran at Marib that date to the 6th century BC, that talk about individuals from Nahom. So that region was known at the time of Lehi, and was called that at that period of time.”

Brown, “The temples that were uncovered there are actually from Lehi’s own time frame.”

Peterson, “But then to find the altars, with references to Nahom on them dating from 600 BC was just spectacular.”

Brown, “Certain ruins, or remnants, of that temple were uncovered, including three altars, all of which carried this inscription, Nahom.”

Peterson, “You couldn’t have asked for a neater proof that the name was there in the right place at the right time, when it was supposed to be there for Lehi’s group passing through.”

Other skeptics have tried to claim that Joseph must have consulted maps, or had prior knowledge of the area.

John Welch, Law and Classical Antiquity, BYU, “The witnesses [to the translation of the Book of Mormon, specifically Emma Smith] tell us that Joseph didn’t even know that the city of Jerusalem had walls around it. Well if he didn’t know that there was a wall around Jerusalem, he certainly didn’t know that there was a city or a site out in Yemen called Nahom.”

Peterson, “The idea that Joseph Smith, for example, was really well versed in pre-Islamic Arabian geography, or customs in the desert seems to me so ludicrous as to simply be beyond belief.”

Ann Madsen, Senior Lecturer of Ancient Scripture, BYU, “One has to ask the question, how could Joseph Smith possibly have known Nahom?”

In the interest of dissenting points of view, you may want to check out Wikipedia, which is not as glowing of a review.  However, I find most of the dissenting views to be weak.  Comments?


37 comments on “Nahom-Archeaological Evidence of Book of Mormon

  1. MH: This very interesting and exciting. I think I remember Teryl Givens talking about Nahom in his book, “By The Hand of Mormon.” It looks like this might be even more recent and more detailed than what he talked about.

  2. I didn’t know Givens talked about Nahom in his book. I’ll definitely have to check that out.

  3. There are only two possibilities for me:

    1)1 Nephi was actually written by a guy living in the 7th century BC and he actually traveled that route.

    2) Joseph Smith saw a map of Arabia with Nehem in it, picked that one name despite all others, memorized both it and it’s location(knowing that the spice trail turns east near Nehem and that the Dhofar region had fruits, enough wood and iron to build a ship and an ancient ship building tradition).
    Went back home, dictated it. And then neglected to ever mention that he knew where such a place existed in the real world, all the while being lucky that his picking of Nehem wasn’t anachronistic.

    1 Nephi describes real places in the Arabian peninsula. Believers and non-believers can agree to disagree as to why it does. But no one should deny that it does.

    By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion
    By Terryl L. Givens
    Published by Oxford University Press US, 2003
    ISBN 0195168887, 9780195168884
    Chapter 5

    The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times
    By Raphael Patai
    Published by Princeton University Press, 1999

    an article featured in Oman Today

  4. Pedro,

    I’m not a real fan of “either/or” arguments, because it often causes people to fail to recognize other rational possibilities. Very few of the choices we make in life are either/or. Usually, there is a range of choices, and often choices are inter-related.

    Thanks for the links–I’ll check them out.

  5. Understood. Ill put it another way. Either:
    1)the Arabian trail described in 1 Nephi came to Joseph through ancient sources.


    2)the Arabian trail described in 1 Nephi came to Joseph through modern sources.

  6. Thanks for the archeological update taking place in the middle east. Has there been any archeological findings here in the Americas supporting LDS?

  7. Ralph,

    There is nothing in the Americas as promising as the Nahom site. I will note that I traveled to an ancient city in Belize called Lamanai, which has an obviously Book of Mormon sounding name, but I’m not aware of anything solid.

    Rod Meldrum claims to have found some DNA evidence linking North American Indians to the Mediterranean, but I need to take a genetics course to really understand if this is a significant find, or wishful thinking. I don’t believe other scientists are giving his theory much credence, but he is pretty actively promoting his findings.

    The Middle Eastern sites seem to hold more promise. I plan a future post on Nephi’s harbor–there are 2 or 3 really excellent possibilities.

  8. The problem with the Americas is that we don’t know, and we may never know the original pre-columbian names for BoM era cities that we know existed. San Lorenzo, El Mirador, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, Santa Rosa, Chiapa de Corzo, El Manati etc.
    With names like these how can Zarahemla, or Nephi be confirmed or ruled out?

  9. Pedro,

    While you have a point, Nahom is a pre-columbian name. Theoretically, if the archeology dates from the right time period, we should be able to find a similar name, written in some form of hebrew or reformed egyptian.

  10. I don’t know guys, I’m still pretty skeptical. Joseph Smith knew the Bible very well, and he used a lot of Biblical names in the Book of Mormon & Pearl of Great Price, often with slight variations in spelling.

    The root word for Naham, NHM, appears in the Bible 25 times referring to the death of a family member or the death/survival of a nation. It’s meaning is “to mourn” or “to come to terms with death” according to that Wiki entry. To me it’s a no-brainer that Joseph Smith would use that word in reference to Ishmael’s death.

    So I can’t say I’m surprised to hear that as common a Semitic word as “NHM” would appear on a trade route in Yemen, a Semitic country. I mean, there is a settlement in Israel with the same name. If it was discovered somewhere in the New World, then I’d raise an eyebrow. But not on the Arabian peninsula.

  11. Barter Town,

    Please show me a single reference to “NHM” in the King James Bible. I just looked at http://blueletterbible.org and came up completely empty.

    You must be referring to the footnote, “Referring to the root for Naham, Damrosch states ” It appears twenty-five times in the narrative books of the Bible, and in every case it is associated with death. In family settings, it is applied in instances involving the death of an immediate family member (parent, sibling, or child); in national settings, it has to do with the survival or impending extermination of an entire people. At heart, naham means “to mourn,” to come to terms with a death.”

    What are the “narrative books” that Damrosch refers to? It is certainly not the King Jame Bible.

    As for the variant “Naham”, here’s the only reference I could find in the KJV bible. 1Ch 4:19, And the sons of [his] wife Hodiah the sister of Naham, the father of Keilah the Garmite, and Eshtemoa the Maachathite.

    This seems pretty far removed from Damrosch’s claims of word usage.

    I like Wikipedia, and it is a good place to start research, but I think you’ve made an error here–NHM does not appear in the Bible 25 times, and I don’t think Damrosch is stating that. Let me quote one other thing from the wikipedia article that you failed to mention.

    It has been suggested that Joseph Smith simply created the name Nahom as a variant of the Biblical names Naham (1 Chron. 4:19), Nehum (Ne. 7:7) and Nahum (Na. 1:1), although this fails to account for the plausible placement of the actual location of NHM relative to the description of character Lehi’s purported journey in the Book of Mormon story.

    Did Joseph just get lucky that NHM happened to be in the right location in Arabia, dated to the right time period, and has the right meaning? For a 21 year old, who was known to never read anything but the bible, how did he read of all these “narrative books”, while working on a farm? How many farmers do you know who read extra books?

  12. Using the term pre-columbian to describe sites in the Old World some how doesn’t site right with me.

    “Theoretically, if the archeology dates from the right time period, we should be able to find a similar name, written in some form of hebrew or reformed egyptian.”

    Why makes you think we’d find Hebrew inscriptions or “reformed Egyptian”? On what grounds do we assume these languages were used ofr anything but liturgical purposes.

  13. Barter Town,
    The thing that is so amazing isnt that the same triconstantal root was found. But that it was found in the same place and time the BoM said it would be found.

  14. Pedro,

    It seems like we’re mixing New and Old World places and names when we use the term “pre-columbian”.

    As for Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian, Mormon tells us in the BoM that he wrote in Reformed Egyptian.

    Morm. 9: 32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.

    Now Nephi/Mormon would have probably spoken some sort of Hebrew or Aramaic, but perhaps he wrote in reformed Egyptian. Another scenario is that perhaps Joseph Smith “mistranslated” the verse. I have heard speculation that the BoM was written in Aramaic. When Charles Anthon tried to figure out the strange characters, I believe Anthon stated it appeared to be some sort of reformed Egyptian. This expert opinion possibly could have influenced Joseph Smith when he translated.

    I attended a fireside with Wilfred Griggs, a world-renown Egyptologist, and presented this speculation to him. Griggs responded that certainly Anthon had no idea what language the characters were. Griggs didn’t really lean one way or the other on this proposition, but he did not dismiss it either.

    BiV did a really interesting 8-part series on Charles Anthon. I urge you to check it out at http://kolobiv.blogspot.com/search?q=charles+anthon

  15. Recently Professors Emeritus John L. Sorenson (BYU) and Carl L. Johannessen (UO) published a monumental work detailing the plant, animal, and microorganism evidence for sustained Pre-Columbian Tranoceanic Contact between the Old World and The Americas. The Book, entitled World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492 (iUniverse 2009), goes a long ways in putting to rest the notion that there was no significant contact between the tropical cultures of both hemispheres prior of Columbus. They detail over 100 species that are found abundantly in the hemisphere not of their origin, starting around 8000 years ago.

    The book, available at amazon.com, barnesnadnoble.com, and iuniverse.com to name a few sits, is the culmination of over 30 years of research by these two distinguished professors. In this book they have given the world the opportunity to redefine the importance of early trade and contact between the tropical cultures in both hemispheres to the development of culture, agriculture, religious practices, and art across the world. With this book we will be able to begin teaching a larger, more inclusive version of world history and the importance of world trade.

  16. Thanks Jerrid. It sounds interesting. Does the book make the claim that trade happened in both directions?

  17. If Lehi and company are traveling in the wilderness and had to pitch tents in the place where Ishmael was buried, how does this correspond with a place that had so many inhabitants that several alters where built with parts donated from people not of that area? Something not quite right there.

  18. Bishop Rick, I’m not following you. Nahom seems to have been a place containing tombs of many of the dead. Travelers through the desert often met at watering stations, such as Nahom. Since Nahom was so remote, naturally people died along the frankincense route and these foreigners would have needed a place to bury their dead. Apparently Nahom was such a place. Is that what you’re getting at?

  19. No, I think I need to find out more about NHM before further commenting.
    It appears my current understanding is incorrect.

  20. I just googled NHM. It seems you are all wrong. NHM stands for the Natural History Museum and has nothing to do Yemen.

  21. Wow, how could I have gotten so confused? 🙂

  22. […] best Book of mormon archaeological site seems to be Nahom.  I’ve previously blogged about Nahom, and Daniel C. Peterson called it a “bulls eye”.  In the video called Journey of Faith […]

  23. @Pedro A. Olavarria Thanks for the references Pedro. I didn’t know about Patai’s book.

  24. Although some apologists have described the odds of this Nahom/Nihm/”NHM” correlation as “astronomical,” it hardly even rises to the level of notable coincidence.

    The Book of Mormon derives its names from a book that has Semitic sources, i.e., the King James Bible. Many of the names in the Book of Mormon are just plucked directly from the Bible, e.g., “Lehi” (Judges 25:9), Laban (Gen. 24-30), Lemuel (Prov. 31:1-9). Other names, however, use the Bible as their inspiration with alterations, e.g., “Jarom” (“Joram” 2 Sam. 8:10), “Omni” (“Omri” 1 Kings 16:16), “Nehor” (“Nahor” Gen. 11:22). “Nahom” easily fits into the latter category: “Nahum” is actually a book of Old Testament.

    It should come as no shock to us that Nahum, a Hebrew prophet in the Bible, has a Semitic name. It should therefore also come as no shock that there are places in Semitic-speaking countries that share that name, or at least its consonants (NHM). When I first wrote about NHM on a bboard, I did a quick test. I said to myself “they speak Arabic in Iraq, let’s see if there’s a NHM in Iraq.” A quick Google search picks up a place called Nahum in Maysan province, immediately south of Al Amarah. In other words, if the Book of Mormon had said the Lehi and his party traveled past Babylon, there was another potential Nahom “bulls-eye” waiting in Mesopotamia! Another Google search shows that historically there was a town called “Nahem” in Lebanon, half-way between Tyre and Acre. If Joseph Smith had sent Lehi to America via Phoenicia that would have been another bulls-eye!

    Again, NHM is not a bulls-eyes; it’s not even noteworthy. Given one has the entire volume of a large, Semitic country in which to find a common Semitic root (again, note that the Nihm in Arabia does not precisely match the Book of Mormon’s “Nahom”), we would be surprised not to find a place-name that is somehow similar to NHM.

  25. John, was there a NHM in Iraq in 600 BC? Was there a NHM in Lebanon in 600 BC?

  26. I’ve got a new path for Lehi. Check out the comments I left yesterday on the Selections on the Book of Laman post, beginning with this comment written on November 21, 2011 9:30 pm.

  27. Barter Town wrote:

    So I can’t say I’m surprised to hear that as common a Semitic word as “NHM” would appear on a trade route in Yemen, a Semitic country. I mean, there is a settlement in Israel with the same name.

    Where exactly is this NHM settlement in Israel? ‘Cause that’s possibly the very Nahom referred to by the Book of Mormon!

  28. Okay, so I finally got around to writing a post on Lehi’s Trek to China and North America. It contains everything that the original comments I wrote about it contain, plus a whole lot more. I tried to make the post as comprehensive as possible.

    Now, regarding my comment above about Barter Town, that settlement in Israel, called Naham, is of recent, not ancient date. Nevertheless, it is still quite interesting. I’ve marked it on the map that is on the Lehi’s Trek to China and North America post. (Yes, there is a map showing the path of the trek.)

  29. @John Hamer

    Genius John. You are right, JS google mapped the middleast, then he went street level and found the altar that said NHM. It was so easy.

    I love how half of JS critics claim he was a fraud and was illiterate, and the other half think he spent his entire life researching ground breaking science, geography, and language disciplines in the early 1800’s while moving around from farm to farm working.

  30. Grasshopper, let me just say that while I happen to disagree with John Hamer on this particular issue, I wouldn’t call him a “JS critic.” Hamer is one of the most knowledgeable, respected historians and knows quite a bit more about JS than you do. Please don’t resort to ad hominem attacks. You’re welcome to disagree, but please be respectful.

  31. Grasshopper, you might be interested to learn more of Hamer’s expertise in these two interviews. Here is part 1: http://www.mormonheretic.org/2012/05/24/john-hamer-interview-part-1/ and part 2: http://www.mormonheretic.org/2012/05/26/john-hamer-part-2/

  32. I know I am late adding to this board, but I feel that I need to defend John H. here. Before I begin my critique of the NHM “evidence,” note that I am an active member of the LDS church, though I tend to be less orthodox:

    First, the root NHM is relatively common whether in Semitic countries or America itself. In fact, one of the Spalding witnesses (though I do not subscribe to that theory) was named Nahum. As far as we can tell, and as John Hamer has pointed out, the names in the BOM were derived from known sources like the Bible.
    Second, the altars were written in South Arabian script where the root NHM refers to stone cutting, not comfort.The Hebrew word for comfort is “nacham” with a hard “h” unlike “nahom.” In fact, “nahom” is not a Hebrew word and is not known to be a real place. The fact that “nahom” is spelled like it is in the BOM leads me to believe that it was adapted from the Bible, and perhaps a scribe just misspelled it.
    Third, the fact that a cemetery was nearby proves nothing. I think most tribal regions (a large region, not a place per se) had cemeteries.
    Fourth, the fact that it was located on a major trade route near a key junction proves nothing. Doesn’t it seem logical that any tribe would do something like that? Additionally, as John H. pointed out above, there are other NHM places located on key trade routes. By the way, both of the other NHM-like places he stated are several thousand years old.
    Fifth, in the typical vague nature of the early books of the BOM, there is little reference to directional indicators, allowing the geography to be placed just about anywhere. Also, the region of NIHM (which is not the same as NAHOM) was populated by nature worshiping people. Why aren’t they mentioned? Did Lehi’s family just waltz right in and bury their dead in a populous place? That’s ludicrous.
    Sixth, apologists want us to accept that a group of Christian-like Jews who had spent their entire life in Jerusalem decided to leave and spend up to seven years in the Empty Quarter of Arabia. Really?
    Seventh, even with the NHM find, the geography is still far from perfect. While early models (like Nibley’s) had the problem of traveling nearly eastward across the Empty Quarter, the Kent Brown version stretches the limits of going nearly eastward. That is because even with the NHM find, the vagueness of the geography prevents apologists from reaching a consensus as to where the events took place.
    Eighth, it is very easy to cherry pick evidence for anything. UFOlogists (like Warren Aston, the BYU-researcher who pioneered the NHM geography), conspiracy theorists, etc find seemingly legitimate evidence all over the place. The fact that a common Semitic root was found in a Semitic country does not impress me at all. It seems far more likely that Joseph pulled Nahom from the Bible. When conclusive evidence shows up in the Americas (and that does not mean Sorenson’s ideologically driven, diffusion theories), then I will be impressed. Until then, I feel obligated to remain in line with dispassionate anthropologists (several of whom I have contacted), and view the Book of Mormon from a pseudepigraphical point of view, which I am content doing.

  33. For the benefit of those out there who seem to miss the point – the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is not and probably never will be or can be determined solely on the basis of archeological evidences. It is as I have attested by my own personal experience to be found in the sincere and prayerful desire to know if this book is true and to seek as I have and obtained a divine witness and manifestation of its truthfulness. Whether the world declares the archeological evidences to be overwhelming or non-existent does not therefore change a single fact that the Holy Ghost may confirm convincingly to the individual so desiring.

  34. […] Although some apologists have described the odds of this Nahom/Nihm/”NHM” correlation as “astronomical,” it hardly even rises to the level of notable coincidence. The Book of Mormon derives its names from a book that has Semitic sources, i.e., the King James Bible. Many of the names in the Book of Mormon are just plucked directly from the Bible, e.g., “Lehi” (Judges 25:9), Laban (Gen. 24-30), Lemuel (Prov. 31:1-9). Other names, however, use the Bible as their inspiration with alterations, e.g., “Jarom” (“Joram” 2 Sam. 8:10), “Omni” (“Omri” 1 Kings 16:16), “Nehor” (“Nahor” Gen. 11:22). “Nahom” easily fits into the latter category: “Nahum” is actually a book of Old Testament…source […]

  35. […] of giving all perspectives–of course not everybody believes Nahom is a bull’s eye. John Hamer left a comment and said, “It should come as no surprise or no shock to us that Nahum, which is spelled with […]

  36. […] of giving all perspectives–of course not everybody believes Nahom is a bull’s eye. John Hamer left a comment and said, “It should come as no surprise or no shock to us that Nahum, which is spelled with […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: