A recent article in the journal, Nature[1] may shed additional light on the genetic ancestry of Native Americans and has big implications for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon, written by LDS founder Joseph Smith, presents a history of the Native Americans which dates back to the time right before the Babylonian exile or captivity of Judea. The Babylonian Captivity as it is recorded in the Old Testament, as well as events leading up to it, have been well attested in the historical and archaeological records [2].

According to the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi, a Jewish man named Lehi and his family fled Jerusalem before it was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar II and the Babylonian army in 586/7 B.C.. The family made their way to the Arabian peninsula (in Yemen) where Lehi’s son, Nephi was instructed by the Lord to construct a ship and sail to the New Promised Land in the Americas. His extended family with their wives, children and animals boarded the ship and headed for the “new promised Land” in the “New World” (1 Nephi 18). 

According to the Book of Mormon account of history, the native North and South Americans are the direct descendants of the lost Jewish “Lamanite” tribes. However, as we have pointed out in our previous article, genetic studies conducted in 2003, and 2004 have strongly challenged this claim. 

The latest article in Nature (June 2019) provides additional counter-evidence that Native American populations were semitic (Jewish) in their ancestry. The genetic and archaeological evidence strongly points to their origins in somewhere in Siberia. 

The research was conducted by Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copehagen and his colleagues. Willerslev and the other scientists believe that they have found the closest thing to what they consider is the “missing link” between the ancestors of Siberia and the ancestors of the ancient Native Americans [3]. He writes: 

“In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link. It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close” [4].

The primary data from the study came from a site in Siberia located on the banks of the Yana River. The DNA came from the teeth of two male children and is now considered to be the oldest DNA yet retrieved from Siberia. According to the study the teeth are 31,600 years old. Willerslev and his colleagues also extracted DNA from a skull, where they discovered the genetic ancestry was from a population of a known Northern Siberian population, also present, however, was DNA from a previously unknown group that Willerslev and the other geneticists labeled “Paleo Siberians.” The DNA of the previously unknown, “Paleo-Siberian” population and the DNA of Native Americans, are nearly identical, claims Willerslev. 

For several decades now, researchers have been finding more and more genetic and archaeological evidence for the theory of how North America was peopled — pointing to a land-bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska towards the end of the Last Ice Age.

The Bering Strait connecting Asia & North America (National Park Service, Alaska)

All of the evidence thus far points to peoples living in eastern Siberia crossing the Bering Strait land-bridge from Siberia (Russia) into North America through Alaska and Canada. The ancient ancestors of the Native Americans were very likely following large game herds [of mega-fauna] as they foraged their way across ancient frozen continents during the last Ice Age. This newest study shows that this is very likely what happened. 


Pleistocene mega-fauna that Eastern Siberian people groups followed across Beringia into North America during the Ice Age


This study is very intriguing on its own merits and provides insights into the fascinating science of bio-geography and the migrations of ancient peoples. With more and more archaeological and genetic evidence mounting against the historicity of the Book of Mormon, one wonders why members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would continue to base their faith on such scant or non-existent evidence? 


[1] “The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene,” by Martin Sikora, Vladimir P. Pitulko & Eske Willerslev in Nature (2019), Published 5 Jun 2019

[2] Since the 19th Century our understanding of the history and culture of the Neo-Babylonian empire has grown exponentially through archaeology. Early explorers and archaeologists such as Henry Rawlinson, father of Assyriology, Austin Henry Layard, and James Henry Breasted (U. of Chicago) have opened up a window on the era of ancient Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar. Other early researchers such as Cladius Rich, Julius Oppert, and the German, Robert Koldewey built on the work of their predecessors and have brought the ruins of the ancient city Babylon to light. Their work as well as others have affirmed the historical context and reliability of several OT books, (i.e. Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, etc…). One of the most remarkable discoveries was the grand entrance into the ancient city of Babylon, called the Ishtar Gate (named after a Babylonian deity). When Nebuchadnezzar rose to power he ordered the gate (which was in disrepair) to be rebuilt and enhanced to its former glory.

[3] For a great summary of this discovery by a secular source, see Carl Zimmer’s article “Who Were the Ancestors of the Native Americans? A Lost People in Siberia, Scientists Say” in the New York Times, June 5, 2019

[4] Sikora, Pitulko & Willerslev