Several Mormon artifacts reclaimed

Sunday, November 28, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY -- After languishing for decades in an old shed, several artifacts from the Illinois town where Mormon church founder Joseph Smith settled have been reclaimed and catalogued.

Among them are pieces of the original Nauvoo, Ill. temple's baptismal font and floor and items that reflect the everyday life of early Latter-day Saints -- including silverware, ceramics, fruit and canning jars, medicine bottles and children's dolls.

Such recovered items could help flesh out details about the early Mormons.

"There are tremendous stories that these things tell. It's really a history written in stones and bones," said Shane Baker, a former Brigham Young University archaeologist who led the push to reclaim the artifacts.

Mormons originally settled in Nauvoo in the 1800s. Their growing power and different beliefs created friction with non-Mormon residents and the Mormons fled after Smith was killed by a mob in 1844.

The uncovered artifacts were first excavated during the 1960s at the site of the original Nauvoo Temple in central Illinois.

Baker said he became aware of the collection from his work with BYU archaeologist Dale Berge, who knew about it after working on the collection following excavations in the 1960s.

Baker then decided to seek funding to recover and organize the collection. With the help of the Foundation for Ancient Research in Mormon Studies and the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, a team cleaned, catalogued and repackaged the items this past summer.

Now, Baker said, the goal is to make some of the collection available for exhibition.

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