From John W. Welch, et al., eds. Knowing Why: 137 Evidences That the Book of Mormon Is True (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2017):
“Little barley,” as scientists call it, has since been found throughout the Mississippi River valley,2 where it was a major staple during the Middle (ca. 200 BC–AD 500) and Late Woodland (ca. AD 500–1000) periods,3 though “likely cultivated specimens” have also been found dating to as early as 800 BC in Iowa.4 According to two non-LDS scholars, “extensive archaeological evidence also points to the cultivation of little barley in the Southwest and parts of Mexico.”5
Over time, more and more evidence for domestication of little barley in the Americas has emerged over an increasingly wider span of both time and geography. Little barley may have diffused to other regions of the Americas which were known to trade with the southwest and eastern United States, including the exchange of crops.6 In any case, evidence demonstrates that in at least some parts of the Americas, a type of barley was a highly important crop during Book of Mormon times.This has important implications for the Book of Mormon. In the second and first centuries BC, barley played a significant role in Nephite society, not only as food, but as a measurement of exchange (Alma 11:1–19), just as it did in ancient Near Eastern economic systems.7 Evidence from what is often called archaeobotany (the study of plants remains at archaeological sites) now confirms that a species of barley was highly important to some cultures in the Americas at this time.
This is another example that illustrates the benefits that come with patience in archaeology.8John L. Sorenson commented, “That such an important crop could have gone undetected for so long by archaeologists justifies the thought that wheat might also be found in ancient [American] sites.”9 Questions remain about Nephite crops, animals, and material culture, but discoveries like little barley illustrate the wisdom in keeping an open mind and avoiding hasty judgments while considering and exploring what the Book of Mormon says about Nephite life.
Tyler Livingston, “Barley and the Book of Mormon: New Evidence,” Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (2010).
John L. Sorenson and Robert F. Smith, “Barley in Ancient America,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 130–132.
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