What was the population of Ancient America?

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

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Question

Gramps,

How many people do you think lived in America at the end of the Book of Mormon before the Nephites were killed off? 300 plus years and our country has over 300 million. 600 BC to 400 AD is much longer than 300 years. Mormon said when he went to Zarahemla at a young age there seemed to be more people than the sands of the sea. Do you think this country was more populated back then than now?

Dan

 

Answer

Hello Dan,

The population of America when Christopher Columbus arrived, depending on sources, may have been between 50 to 100 million civilians. In other sources, the civilian population pre-Columbian is estimated around 2 to 18 million civilians. However, the exact number of people that inhabited North and South America is not known.

When the metaphor, “more people than the sands of the sea,” is presented in scripture the idea may represent multiple meanings. When this concept was used with Abraham, we can easily recognize that this meant billions upon billions of children. This is easily understood because we know how many people have existed thus far since Abraham.

However, in the Book of Mormon this language may represent, at least according to the numbers we currently have regarding the number of inhabitants within the Americas, a number they were unwilling to count and it was much easier to say “as the sands of the sea” than to give a correct accounting.

Due to infant mortality rates and a lack of medical advancements it would be surprising to me if the American continent had more people than we do now. I personally would say “no” this country was not more populated back then versus now, and our current understanding of the population from records back then, would agree with this notion.

Sincerely,

Gramps

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What was the population of Ancient America? - Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine
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How many people do you think lived in America at the end of the Book of Mormon before the Nephites were killed off? 300 plus years and our country has over 300 million. 600 BC to 400 AD is much longer than 300 years.

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