Ancient Writing Similar to “Reformed Egyptian” Discovered in Mesoamerica

The “Anthon” Transcript was a sheet of paper upon which Joseph Smith copied some characters from the Golden Plates onto. In 1828, Martin Harris showed these characters to Dr. Charles Anthon of Columbia College. Hence where the name “Anthon Transcript” comes from.

The header image in this article was believed to have been the actual “Anthon Transcript”, except now LDS scholars believe that it’s not. This is because it doesn’t match the description, nor the timing, of the original Anthon Transcript. The Joseph Smith Papers has a more detailed account about this document, now mostly known as the “Characters Document.” This article doesn’t go into these details, but you can find it here. Suffice it to say that scholars still believe this document could very well be a copy of the Book of Mormon characters, whether directly, or by a copy of a copy.

This article focuses on two aspects of this document, and it’s similarities to Mesoamerica.

Anthon’s Descriptions

First, it’s interesting to note some of Dr. Charles Anthon’s descriptions of the original document:

“rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Aztec calendar given by Humboldt” (1)

“a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac” (2)

While Anthon didn’t support that the document was authentic, it is interesting to see how he believed that he saw a “Mexican zodiac” or an “Aztec calendar” on it. Not many people know about this description, but it supports a Mesoamerican connection.

Mesoamerican Artifacts

I stumbled upon a book that mentions an archaeological find in Central America of ancient writings that happen to match the writing on this Characters Document. It was published by The Society For Early Historic Archaeology (SETA) at Brigham Young University in 1970 with the title “The ‘Anthon Transcript’ And Two Mesoamerican Seals”.

One Cambridge article mentions one of these seals as:

A cylinder seal, apparently from the Olmec occupation at Tlatilco, is inscribed with what may be the oldest writing known from Mesoamerica. The writing system is unlike any previously known and is typologically more advanced than other Mesoamerican systems. (3)

Here is a drawing of one the seals, which date from no later than 400 B.C.:


Here are the seal characters compared to the characters document. On the left is the comparison from the seal above. The right is the comparison from the other seal.


More research is needed to compare these findings. The purpose of this article is mostly to share these findings and the possible correlation between the “characters document” and ancient Mesoamerica.

While it could be said that these cylinders date to an earlier time period than the Nephites, or to a different location than the Nephites according to some geography models, these cylinders do show that it’s possible for a writing STYLE similar to the “reformed Egyptian” on the characters document to have existed in ancient Mesoamerica. So while these seals may not prove the existence of the Nephites, they DO solidly demonstrate a similar style to reformed Egyptian found in the New World.

We already have solid evidence from Nephi’s account in the Book of Mormon of Israelites writing in Egyptian in 600 BC. Check out the short two minute video below for more information on that. Now we have solid evidence that ancient Mesoamericans did write in a style similar to what might have been on the golden plates which Joseph Smith discovered. This is just another thing that Joseph Smith happened to get right.


(1) Anthons first letter: to Eber D. Howe on February 17, 1834
(from Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed pp. 270-272) . It can be found here,

(2) Anthons second letter: to Reverend Coit on April 3, 1841
(from John A. Clark’s Gleanings By The Way pp. 233-238). It can be found here,

(3) A Cylinder Seal from Tlatilco, David H. Kelley, Abstract,

(4) Images are from Carl H. Jones, “The ‘Anthon Transcript’ and Two Mesoamerican Cylinder Seals,” Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historical Archaeology, no. 122, September 1970, 1-8.


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