New World Archaeological Foundation

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The New World Archaeological Foundation (NWAF) is an archaeological organization run by Brigham Young University.


The NWAF was organized in 1952 for the purpose of supporting archaeological research into pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. It was founded by Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Alfred V. Kidder and Harvard University professor Gordon Willey. It was initially incorporated in California as a private organization with Ferguson in charge of fund-raising. The first project by the NWAF was headed by Pedro Armillas with archaeological studies along the Grijalva River.[1]

As early as 1953, the NWAF received funding from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after Ferguson approached church leaders. LDS apostle John Widtsoe served on the board of directors.[2] Ferguson had a passion[3] for looking for archaeological evidences for the Book of Mormon and he reminded the church leadership that discovering Book of Mormon artifacts would assist in the church's missionary program.[4]

NWAF has always remained an archaeological foundation that includes many people not members of the LDS church. Initially the only Latter-day Saint on the Foundation's advisory committee of five was M. Wells Jakeman. It also included Kidder, Willey, Armillas and Gordon F. Eckholm.[5]

The NWAF became part of BYU in 1961 and Ferguson was removed from the director position and Howard W. Hunter was put in his place. Hunter was affiliated with NWAF for the next 24 years.[6]

The foundation has since been heavily involved with archaeological studies at such locations as Izapa, San Isidro, El Mirador, Paso de la Amada, and most recently again at Chiapa de Corzo.[citation needed]

As of 2009 the NWAF was directed by Donald W. Forsyth, Professor of Anthropology at Brigham Young University. He succeeded John E. Clark who was the director for many years.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peterson (2004), p.225
  2. ^ Larson, Stan. Quest for the Gold Plates: Thomas Stuart Ferguson's Archaeological Search for the Book of Mormon. Free Thinker Press.
  3. ^ Wade, Lizzie (2018-01-18). "How a Mormon lawyer transformed archaeology in Mexico—and ended up losing his faith". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aat0244. ISSN 0036-8075. Retrieved 2018-01-20. I am of the personal opinion that the Lord inspired [radiocarbon dating] that it might be used effectively in connection with the Book of Mormon.
  4. ^ Larson, Stan. "The Odyssey of Thomas Stuart Ferguson" (PDF). Dialogue Journal. 20. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  5. ^ Peterson (2004), pp.231–232
  6. ^ "President Howard W. Hunter: - ensign". Retrieved 31 March 2016.


Adams, Richard E.W. (2000). "Introduction to a Survey of the Native Prehistoric Cultures of Mesoamerica". In Richard E.W. Adams; Murdo J. Macleod (eds.). The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Vol. II: Mesoamerica, part 1. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–44. ISBN 978-0-521-57392-4. OCLC 185315758.
Peterson, Daniel C. (2004). "On the New World Archaeological Foundation" (PDF online reproduction). The FARMS Review. 16 (1): 221–233. ISSN 1550-3194. OCLC 55125778.

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