So I’m reading Mike Ash’s 2007 piece on the FAIR web site about horses in the Book of Mormon. He makes the claim that no horse bones have been found among Hun archaeological remains, though as others have shown, this claim is erroneous.
He also makes this statement, which made me curious:
Even in areas of the world where animals lived in abundance, we sometimes have problems finding archaeological remains. The textual evidence for lions in Israel, for example, suggests that lions were present in Israel from ancient times until at least the sixteenth century AD, yet no lion remains from ancient Israel have ever been found.
I should mention that here he’s suggesting that the lack of archaeological evidence for something attested to in ancient writings and art may not be conclusive negative evidence. We know that ancient Israel depicted lions as native to Palestine, but according to Ash, no lion bones have been discovered. Thus, if horse bones haven’t been found in the New World, that doesn’t mean the ancient Mesoamericans did not have horses.
Ash’s citation for this claim is:
John Tvedtnes, “The Nature of Prophets and Prophecy” (unpublished, 1994), 29-30 (copy in author’s possession); Benjamin Urrutia, “Lack of Animal Remains at Bible and Book-of-Mormon Sites,” Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, 150 (August 1982), 3-4.
So, here we have two LDS sources suggesting that “no lions remains from ancient Israel have ever been found.” That should be pretty easy to confirm, right?
The fauna of the country [Palestine] is almost unchanged from the earliest historic times. The lion and the wild ox have become extinct; the former is noticed by an Egyptian traveller in Lebanon in the 14th cent. B.C., and is even said to have survived to the 12th cent. A.D.; its bones are found in caves and in the Jordan gravels. (Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings, 1900).
More recent archaeological excavation confirms this:
The largest faunal collections and most intensive archaeo-zoological research for [the Chalcolithic] period have been carried out in the northern Negev. This biological data provides us with a detailed picture of human/animal relations during this formative period. … If Shiqmim is taken as a representative sample for the valley, sheep … and goat … make up over 90 percent of the faunal assemblage with the remaining 10 percent consisting of cattle, … dog, equid and ca. 3.8 percent of wild animals (gazelle, hartebeest, hippopotamus, lion, small cat, fox, hare, ostrich, bird and fish). (The Archeology of Society in the Holy Land, ed. Thomas Levy, New York, Continuum, 1998, pp. 231-32)
Heck, even another Maxwell Institute article from 2000 contradicts Ash:
The biblical narrative mentions lions, yet it was not until very recently that the only other evidence for lions in Palestine was pictographic or literary. Before the announcement in a 1988 publication [L. Martin. "The Faunal Remains from Tell es Saidiyeh," Levant 20 (1988): 83—84] of two bone samples, there was no archaeological evidence to confirm the existence of lions in that region. (Robert R. Bennett, “Horses in the Book of Mormon,” Maxwell Institute, 2000)