During the month of February a team of archaeologists, scholars and divers, headed by Dr. F. Richard Hauck, will be at Nephi’s Bountiful on a dig to find answers to some critical questions about conditions there in 600 BC. The Khor Kharfot Foundation, headed by Clyde and Karen Parker, Mark and Lori Hamilton and Scot and Maurine Proctor, sent teams of archaeologists, botanists and scholars twice in 2013 and again last year to do reconnaissance and analyze the site. Now the work expands.
It seemed impossible that the government that rules the devoted Muslim country of Oman on the southeastern cap of the Arabian Penninsula would grant permission for an archaeological team, headed by a Latter-day Saint, to dig at the isolated beach called Khor Kharfot which is not just the most, but probably the only viable candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful.
Not only have the Omani’s granted permission, they are willing to be our partners, facilitate the work, allow samples to be taken out of the country to be analyzed and more. These are Muslims graciously supporting a very Mormon project—to know everything we can about Nephi’s Bountiful.
How that came to be is the remarkable story we will tell here, but to understand why this is breathtakingly significant requires some context.
In describing Bountiful where he built the ship, Nephi gives us specific details, including that it is a place on the seashore accessible from the high desert, directly east of Nahom, a place of much fruit and honey and a place with significant timber. It must have a supply of fresh water, iron ore to make tools, flint to make fire, a mountain close enough that he can go there to pray often, and cliffs by the seashore since his brothers threaten to throw him in. (See more detailed description here.)
The location of Nahom has been discovered in Yemen, a place called by that name long before Lehi trudged that way in 600 B.C. So what directly east of there could possibly fit these many criteria specified or suggested in Nephi’s story?
Frankly, Nephi’s Bountiful just doesn’t fit the dry, barren, treeless expanse of Arabia. His Bountiful would be as distinctive as a diamond in the sand in that landscape. What is tree-covered and verdant in Arabia? Only a few possible candidates—and all of them miss in several ways. Only one place meets every criterion—an isolated beach near the border of Yemen called Khor Kharfot.
Warren Aston discovered this place more than 25 years ago and a small string of Latter-day Saints have found their way to this beach ever since. What was clear is that though it is totally unoccupied now, at least two waves of people have lived in this small area in the past and have left their archaeology behind as mute witnesses that they were here.