An Interview with Wayne May

Wayne May

It had really been a busy week.  I, Brian Nettles, volunteered to come to Iowa with the Heartland Research Group to help with the work that had been planned out in advance.  Yuri Manstein had come here from Russia.  Larissa Golovko, a Russian scientist living in Texas, joined him.  Yuri and Larissa represented Landvisor, a research team that was hired to do the electro resistivity tomography. We had completed all of the activities for the resistivity studies on the proposed Zarahemla temple lot and on other selected sites.  We had also taken new soil core samples finding charcoal going down 10 feet deep. And to top it off, Wayne purchased the lot that connected the Zarahemla temple lot with the highway.  All of this was done in the midst of a cold front putting the outdoor temperatures in the 30s (fahrenheit).  

Now on November 20, 2021, it was my last opportunity. He knew I wanted to have this interview; however, throughout the week, there was just too much going on.  But today he is heading home.  My last opportunity would be breakfast time.  So I finished my waffles and waited…  And then he showed up.  And with a plate full of food surrounded by friends, he looked completely satisfied with the events of the week. And he was more than happy to answer my questions.

QUESTION:  Wayne, could you tell me about your past research and how it has led up to today?

My career as a publisher of an archeological magazine Ancient American came out of my personal love in archaeology which was focused on a group called the Hopewell and Diffusion in settling the Western Hemisphere.

Everyone knows that when you mention Hopewell, your mind immediately goes to Ohio as it is the densest area for these people and their timeline.  As time went on with my understanding of the Book of Mormon and the Hopewell people in North America, I was quite certain that the Hopewell people and the Nephites were the same group.  However, I did not know the outside parameters of this Hopewell group.  Was it just Ohio?  Was it just Indiana? How far did they reach out? I did not really know.  I had some hints, but I had to find out for myself.

Looking to the east was the easiest.  This is because Hopewell Ohio was really the edge for the eastern Hopewell and into western New York.  It touches a little bit into Canada.  It also spreads south into the lower states. 

The big surprise was finding Hopewell in Florida.  Not only just finding it in Florida, but also realizing that a lot of the Hopewell Academics don’t even talk about the Florida Hopewell.  It is a real puzzle, and I don’t know why that is.  Yet it is well documented.  Their artifacts are the same.  These people knew each other.  The Deptford Phase culture found in a broad area and Swift in Georgia was the oldest Hopewell in all of North America.  So just from a point of origin, this was a big surprise.

When you look at Ohio, they start about 100 BC; but in Florida, we are talking 500-550 BC.  And there is Hopewell everywhere.  Just look up Deptford and look up Swift; you will be surprised.

So going that far, now I turn to the west.

Tennessee is a little bit weak, yet there are some key things in Tennessee.  There is Pinson Mounds and there is Old Stone Fort.  They are definitely Hopewell, and they have been dated as such.   While I say their findings are weak, I know why they are weak. It is because in the Book of Mormon timeline, the Hopewell left there about halfway through the storyline of the Book of Mormon.  And they migrated to a different location, in a north westerly direction.

Having done so, I searched first of all, straight south of Wisconsin.   By the way, the south-west of Wisconsin is also rich in Hopewell findings.  Go to La Crosse, and that is where you will find Wisconsin Hopewell.  But it was not enough.

As I went into Iowa, it became denser, and very quickly starting at Davenport, and all the way down south along the Mississippi River.  I got hold of a state map for parks, and lo and behold, there are probably a dozen or so parks all identified with mounds and dating.  And the dating is again another big surprise, it is older than Ohio Hopewell.

So then I jumped into the academics and asked, “What is going on?”  I found several academics talking about Western Hopewell.  The reality is that everybody assumed that Ohio was the beginning for the Hopewell.  But that is just not the case.

The Hopewell in reality have two points of origin.  For one, they begin in Florida.  Secondly, they begin in Iowa. And for that, there is no doubt about it.  And so now we have two groups.  And going back to the Book of Mormon, we have this second group who would eventually be called Nephites, but they were originally the Mulekite group fleeing from Israel.  And I believe when they came in, they settled straight into Iowa, it being their second place of landing.

When Mosiah was told to leave the land of Nephi (eastern Tennessee) and travel and seek out the second group called the Mulekites, 400 years had already passed between their arrival in this new land, and they had remained separate all this time.

Mosiah migrates to Zarahemla and the key word here from the Book of Mormon is in the “down” direction.  We are going to go “down” to Zarahemla, and that baffled me for quite a while.  But in all cases, if you wait long enough, something comes up.  I was in a Sunday School class and we were reading in the Book of Omni, and low and behold, this is when Mosiah brings his people into Mulekite country — he says that they went “down” to Zarahemla.  Then I realized that east Tennessee elevation is 1800 to 3000 feet, and Zarahemla in Iowa – if this is the right location, is only 300-600 ft in elevation.  These guys are moving by the hydrology of the land.  The word “down” has nothing to do with the cardinal directions, its elevation. Wow, another support for the Book of Mormon. It tells us that they could travel by boat or land.  Which means if by interior rivers, the water had to be deeper than what we currently see today.

As I looked north to my friends in the upper peninsula of Wisconsin who have studied the waterways of this country, they would tell me that the rivers and the lakes were all deeper and wider during the entire Hopewell period.  Many rivers were then flowing in different directions also. So could they travel around on boat much easier than on open land? The answer is YES, a river passage was possible.

So now I am satisfied.  I have Hopewell at 550 BC in Florida.  I have Hopewell from the top of Iowa (500 BC) all the way to the bottom of Iowa and I know it continues into Missouri. I have no doubt about it.  And then I take it one step further.  I find that going to the West, you have to chunk off about one third eastward into Kansas and you are still finding a presence for Hopewell, and it’s in a big way. Kansas seems to be the Western edge for Hopewell.

There are two massive forts in Missouri.  Mike Stahlman has pointed me to one of them.  And I have a second one that just popped up south of the one that Mike is going to take me to.  It is absolutely huge, it covers many many acres.  The owner of the site has walls, and he’s got an alter.  I have seen the photographs and it’s incredible.  How did the archaeologists miss this?  They call it a Spanish Fort.  The University of Missouri came in, they took some cores, and came back saying the place dated to 200 BC.  Well, it’s not a Spanish Fort.  But that’s it.  No more story.  So we have a 200 BC Spanish Fort and end of story.  So I have the guy’s name and address, and it’s on my bucket list.

Lately, I discovered another anomaly that I do not have an answer for.  In West Virginia, this would be the extreme most eastward location for Hopewell. We have a fort there that covers many acres.  What makes it unusual is that it is double walled, double bermed with a ditch.  There is nothing like that in Ohio, Indiana, or Wisconsin.  But we do have one like that in Missouri at the Van Meter State Park; double walled, double bermed and ditched.  So on the extreme east and to the extreme west, we have these two unusual forts that are double walled, and double bermed and ditched.  Maybe it just happened that way.  But it seems as though someone was trying to make a statement that this is our turf.  Our land is from present day West Virginia to Missouri. There is nothing else like these two places that I have found to date.

Now Van Meter is very cool and very lovely.  About 8 or 10 miles out of Van Meter is this guy that runs an organic fruit stand.  You go into his fruit stand, and this guy has two cases all full of Hopewell and Adena artifacts all from Van Meter area.  They are all on display, in a fruit stand (laughter).

QUESTION.  When was the first time you found what you now believe to be the Zarahemla Temple site?  Please tell me more about the research on the proposed temple lot.

That would be in December 2010.  I was with some friends of mine, Wilson and Jennie Curly, who live in the Nauvoo area and we did some exploring which brought us to this location.  In reality, I do a lot of my initial findings with the rods.  I am a Dowser.  It was the rods that brought me here.  I’m just being truthful of the discovery; because, I know many people are in disfavor of dowsing.  Once I had found the place, I told my friends that were with me that we would need to get permission to look any further.  A week later, Wilson had obtained permission to access the property and look further.  I came back to the area, and we marked out the place with flags by dowsing.

Then I went over with my friend Danny Larson who was living here at the time, and we took this dirt road that went right up to the bluff. Well, the road today is chained off saying “No Trespassing”, but anyways, there is the service road that goes right down to the bluff, so we stopped at the first tree line, walked in, and what have we found?  An Ohio earth berm circle – perfect.  Hardly anything growing in the middle because of compaction.  That is going to show up bigtime on the Lidar.  Then we found this massive berm that should not be there – it makes no sense where it is.  Out in the fields, I wouldn’t touch them – those are rock walls.  And there is this one coming right out of the hill, and it’s pointed.  There is no path on the top like a cow path and no four wheelers up on top.  It’s ten feet, and it’s like a football field long.  I was trying to understand why it is there because it is not in the high ground.  I don’t know what it is.  I couldn’t imagine a farmer using his bulldozer to shove off all of his topsoil to make this.

That night, we had our first inch of snowfall. Danny says he knows another place that fits the Hopewell construction berms.  As you come from Keokuk traveling north and then drop down into Montrose, on your left side, there is a bit of a climb to get to the top, and then there is a thick lot of trees, and in those trees is another large semi-circle berm patterned after Hopewell construction.  From that location, you can look down into a flat field.  Well, while we were there, a county cop comes by and sees the out of state license plate on Danny’s van, and he parked and waited for us to return to our vehicle.  We were surprised to see the Sheriff of Lee County parked next to Danny’s van. We explained to the sheriff what was going on and why we were there.  He then told us where we could find the landowner in Montrose at the cafe in town and we could ask him for permission to continue our search.  We went straight down to the cafe and met the landowner and told him what we were doing.  He had a big smile on his face.  He says, “That flat spot you were walking on, me and my grandsons walk that every spring.  We pick up lots of points.”  So I ask him if he minds if I go and have a look?  He says, “No, that is for me and my grandkids.” (laughter)

Well, sitting behind us at the time were these other good old guys.  Roger Chatfield is one of them.  I gave them each a copy of my magazine, and Roger immediately gave us access to his property.  I got to walk Rogers’ property on the edge of town.  Another guy took me to his place and there were a lot of mounds there.  There are a lot of other mounds just all over the place.  The Lidar is going to pick these up.  We are just going to have a field day when we come back with the proper equipment.

QUESTION.  Well, eventually you purchased the land.

Then I went out to Utah and came back with my friend Charlie Christensen to look at the site with his electronic resistivity equipment.  He was doing resistivity with a modified detector by his own making.  He was ahead of the game.  People did not want to accept his work.  I took a lot of flack for that.  He was putting metals rods into the ground,  he started way out on the 9 acres in front taking readings.  It took him 3 days.  It was impressive as he came closer and closer to the target.  He did not charge me a penny.  He just wanted to help.  

Finally, he marks one corner of the rectangle corner lot and fixes a flag about three inches from my wooden stake and he says, this is one corner.  He gets to the other corner and asks, “What are these wooden stakes here?”  I said, “Well, those are my stakes.”  He asks If I already had someone come here to mark it out.  I told him, “No”, and I held up my 1 dollar dousing rods.  And said, “Hear is my G.P.R. (Ground Penetrating Radar). He was taken aback.  We marked off all four corners.  The four corners were right on.  My markings matched Charlie’s within inches.  Then I took some flack because Charlie’s equipment was little more than a hopped up metal detector.  He invented his own device.

I was fortunate to raise the money to purchase the 15 acres the site was on.  Raising this money was greatly assisted by Ridge Hartley who introduced me to many of his associates in Salt Lake City to ask for funding. The purchase was made. I organized a dig immediately and hired an archaeologist to assist; volunteers were selected and away we went.  I was very satisfied with what we found but also surprised at the amount of sand within the rectangle of the proposed Temple site.  It was very confusing to see all the sand,  and then–out here to the side were soil layers.  We excavated the north line (wall) of the rectangle but continued to find clean light colored sand 23 feet down.  We did dig four holes all  the way across to the west berm which was all layered soil, not in the sand block.  I got excited and sought more help.  My helpers for the dig were somewhat disappointed as their expectations were running wild and too high.  Archaeology is a slow process.  The artifact, as it turns out, is the sand within the rectangle area of the proposed Temple block site.  I would not realize this for several months until the archaeologist finished his report on the excavation.

Shortly thereafter, I had Dr. Jim Sherz from UW Madison come down to the site.  He and I  surveyed the field.  Everything was shot from the block northeast corner.  That is station one.  So everything can be validated from the survey locations.  He takes what is called “sunshots”. He turns to me and says “See your Mormon church across the river” And he says, “that on the equinoxes, the sun is going to come up right over that church on the other side of the river spring and fall”.  He was referring to the Nauvoo Temple.  He said, “That doesn’t happen by accident”.  He asked, “What’s going on?”.  I just chuckled and said, “I can’t tell you anything. I have no information on any historical or archaeological site being built upon by the construction of the Nauvoo Temple.  Maybe information will surface someday from a pioneer diary or journal”.  That’s about all I could hope for. 

QUESTION:  Could you tell me about the formation of the Heartland Research Group? 

About three Novembers ago (2018), we had a bunch of people come together to look for the Hanukiah Mounds.  It was just a bunch like-minded people coming together who were all “1 Hill Guys”.  John Lefgren spearheaded it.  He went to the Smithsonian and got the actual survey created in the early 1800’s.  We looked on about 4 farms, and unfortunately, did not turn up a thing to support the sites existence.  It was a real mystery.  It is possible that Squire and Davis made a mistake on the location, we don’t doubt their work.  There seems to be a smaller version that was on another field, but we could not get permission to go there.

But anyways, it was not long thereafter that John was working the YouTube channel and other means to promote the work we were doing.  Then, out of the blue, one guy calls up John saying “I have been watching Wayne May for about 8 years now.” He donated a big chunk of money.  So we officially formed the organization.  We formed 2, 501 c-3s, that was how we were funded and started.