Researchers find ancient similarities in Oman

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    By STEPHANIE HALFORD and MIKE SOUTHWORTH

    Researchers believe a region within the country of Oman to be the end of Lehi’s trail and the land Bountiful spoken of in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

    The country of Oman is of great interest to both scholars and the community of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Five BYU researchers recently went on a nine-day study tour of this little-known area of the world.

    Oman is on the southeastern side of the Arabian peninsula and sits at the end of the fabled Frankincense trade route.

    The unique weather patterns along a 2000 kilometer strech of land create a climate that produces fruits, nuts, roots and herbs year round, said Terry B. Ball, assistant professor of ancient scripture.

    “These plant foods, along with what people could obtain from hunting and fishing, would have supported a large number of people, including exetended families like that of Lehi,” Ball said.

    “This region is the only place along the south coast of Arabia that qualifies for that Bountiful,” said S. Kent Brown, director of ancient studies at BYU. Also, there was no way that a man like Joseph Smith could have known about this place while he translated the Book of Mormon because it is an anomaly, he said.

    This is not the first time researchers have studied Oman. Arnold H. Green, a history professor who went on the trip, said the study of Oman can be broken into three phases.

    Green said the first phase of research can be called the “armchair” phase. This research was conducted withouth actually going to the country, but gathered mostly through libraries and professional journals. The second phase was the “amateur” phase. In the 1970’s people wanted to visit the sites to provide a visual image. “These people are professionals, but curious amateurs,” said Green.

    “Our trip began a third phase. A professional and academic phase. Our purpose was not just to satisfy Mormon curiosity. If our findings are published in a professional way, we can generate the interest of a broader community,” Green said.

    On the trip, the BYU researchers found Magnetite and Hematite. “It is from these simple forms of iron ore that a person like Nephi could make tools,” Brown said.

    “While the deposits are small, they could also be of local interest. There are indicators of other minerals which could be exploited and turned into an important economic boon for the region,” said W. Revell Phillips, emeritus professor of geology at BYU.

    Through further study, excavation and exploration, the researchers hope to find out more about the history of the people that lived there during the period mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Brown said.

    “We could learn things about that region of the world which could be helpful even to say something about their rich, long heritage,” Brown said.

    “For this trip to Oman, we received important support from BYU’s Ancient Studies Program, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies and the Near Eastern Studies Program,” Brown said.

    “It is exciting for us to be among the first to propose serious studies of a region that is significant for Oman’s past and for its future, as well as holding interest for Latter-day Saints,” Brown said in a news release.

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