Club Didon – Heartland Research Agreement (10/9/2023)


Today, we agree with our friends overseas to develop an understanding of how the Old World connected 2,600 years ago to the New World. Here is the text of our agreement.


WHEREAS the undersigned parties desire to develop and execute a historical research project entitled “The Punic Virtual Museum.”

WHEREAS Association Didon de Carthage in Tunisia is organized to preserve the cultural heritage of the ancient City of Carthage and the Punic people.

WHEREAS Heartland Research Inc. is a non-profit corporation registered in America. The corporation owns Captain Philip Beale’s Phoenicia and 9.3 acres of land. The ship replica represents the efforts of thousands of people over the last two decades. The ship sailed on the open oceans for more than 30,000 miles around Africa and across the Atlantic and is now coming together at a museum in Montrose, Iowa, on the west bank of the Upper Mississippi. There is no other artifact in America that so clearly and directly connects to the ancient world of the Punic people.

WHEREAS “The Punic Virtual Museum” will digitize stone engravings, allowing a more dynamic representation of Punic inscriptions. With laser scanning and other techniques, creating highly detailed virtual models of stone artifacts will be possible. These engraved images will be displayed in various ways, for example, using raking light to accentuate fine features. By uploading models to a website or embedding them in other digital resources, these models can also be manipulated by users, allowing ‘virtual’ interaction with the stones. The 3D digital images will help preserve the cultural heritage of the Punic people and make them available to millions of viewers from the comfort of their homes. This research will preserve the Carthaginian inscriptions for posterity, thus preserving the culture.

WHEREAS Ery’j B. Sassi Trimech is the President and Founder of the Association Didon de Carthage in Tunisia. This association will lead to legal and proper access to the 3D digitization of about 100 significant artifacts in 600 B.C. Carthage was a major power center in the Ancient World. For centuries, the city rivaled Rome. This rivalry culminated in the three Punic Wars, fought between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C., ending with the utter and horrific destruction of Carthage and its culture. We are particularly interested in artifacts with Punic scripts dating from the Sixth to the Fourth Centuries B.C.

WHEREAS John Lefgren and Michael LaFontaine from Heartland Research Inc. on Friday, March 3, 2023, met in Washington, D.C., at the Tunisian Embassy Her Excellency Mrs. Hanene Tajouri Bessassi, Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia to the United States. The Ambassador expressed her interest in supporting the efforts of Association Didon de Carthage and Heartland Research Inc.’s efforts to bring Tunisia’s rich history to the attention of the American people.

WHEREAS The Republic of Tunisia is one of the leading international tourist destinations in North Africa, which will benefit from “The Punic Virtual Museum,” as it can potentially attract tourists from America and other countries to Tunisia.

Agreed and Signed, Date: October 9, 2023

Ery’j B. Sassi Trimech
President and Founder of
Association Didon de Carthage

John Lefgren, PhD
Heartland Research Inc.

Carthage Room Bardo

In 600 B.C. Carthage was a major power center in the Ancient World. For centuries the city rivaled Rome. This rivalry culminated in the three Punic Wars, fought between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C., ending with the utter and horrific destruction of both Carthage and its culture. Carthage Room at the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia.


History’s Oldest Continuously Operating Jewish Synagogue. Founded at the time of Mulek soon after the burning of the Temple of Solomon in 587 B.C.

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World’s oldest ship replica that crossed the Atlantic from Carthage to Florida and is coming together on the west bank of the Mississippi in Montrose, Iowa.

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Ery’j meeting with Jewish leaders in Tunisia.

The ancient El Ghriba Synagogue (Arabic: كنيس الغريبة), also known as the Djerba Synagogue, is located on the Tunisian island of Djerba. It is situated in the Jewish village of Hara Seghira (currently known as er-Riadh), a few miles southwest of Houmt El Souk, the main town of Djerba.


The High Priests carried a door and a stone from the destroyed Temple of Solomon. Thus, the synagogue links the Jewish diaspora to the “sole sanctuary of Judaism.” In modern times, the local Jews are distinguished by their dress, which includes a black band around their pants, which signifies the destruction of the Temple.

We want to understand and appreciate the history of the Bible. We believe that one of the clearest links from the Old World to the New World was when the People of Mulek sailed across the Atlantic to Zarahemla after the horrific burning of the Temple of Solomon.

At the same time as Mulek’s escape, temple high priests also escaped from Jerusalem and founded a synagogue on the Island of Djerba in Tunisia. This synagogue is the oldest continuously operating Jewish center of worship in the history of the world. The synagogue was founded before the founding of Rome. It seems remarkable to think that for 2,600 years, 135,200 weeks, on the Sabbath, Jews have gathered to worship God. May God bless them in their faithfulness.


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HRG History — by Jay Mackley

The Heartland Research Group is a grassroots, boots-on-the-ground organization that believes that the historical narrative of the Book of Mormon took place in the Heartland of North America. The HRG is active in archaeological research and in the acquisition, restoration and display of ancient American artifacts. The HRG is currently preparing an ancient ship replica called the "Phoenicia" for display. The ships construction design is patterned after a shipwreck dating to 600 BC. The Phoenicia ship made modern voyages, first around Africa and then also from the Middle East to Florida in 2019 – proving that voyages around Africa or from Sidon to North America were feasible anciently.

Heartland Research Inc is a 501c3 private operating foundation for archaeological research and to complete preparations for the Phoenicia display. Current plans are for a museum large enough to house the Phoenicia ship and many other ancient artifacts and exhibits from North America. The location of the museum is planned to be in Zarahemla which is Lee County Iowa, near the Mississippi river and east of Nauvoo, Illinois.

Our activities are too many to list, but some recent major expeditions are listed below. Many of these expeditions are open-ended and we expect to continue research in these and other similar activities as time, resources, and volunteers become available. We have dozens of volunteers and hundreds of donors, large and small, but we need many more. Check out the websites listed below for details of Heartland Research Group projects. Our current project is is our biggest yet: to refurbish the Phoenicia ship for display.

Go to the Donation Page

We invite you to support our efforts so we can complete these worthy goals!
If you have skills or knowledge to contribute to our research and discovery projects, please contact us directly to volunteer.

  • What: Sonar scanning of Mississippi between Nauvoo and Keokuk. The purpose of the expedition was to discover a crossing route that ancient people could have taken.
  • Who: Heartland Research Inc volunteers.
  • Where: Between Keokuk and Nauvoo, Iowa.
  • How: Private donations of money, time and equipment.

  • What: Magnetic scanning of 221 acres of farmland near Montrose, Iowa. The purpose of the expedition was the discovery of fire-pits and other evidence of ancient occupation.
  • Who: Members of the Heartland Research Inc, local farmers, volunteers, plus technicians from German company SYNSYS. Signs of habitation were found with magnetometery scanning and then C14 dating.
  • Where: Near Montrose Iowa and between Montrose and Fort Madison Iowa.
  • How: Large and small donations of money, time and equipment.

  • What: A one week seminar in Fort Madison, Iowa with 25+ participants. Included visits to the Putnam museum in Davenport, Iowa. There were twelve presentations on the ancient history and written languages of the upper Mississippi.
  • Who: Members of Heartland Research Inc plus presenters and interested attendees.
  • Where: Fort Madison, Iowa.
  • How: Private donations for space, time and lodging.

  • What: Ground penetrating electrical resistivity scanning for building foundations using electrical resistivity equipment from LandVisor.
  • Who: Members of Heartland Research Inc and volunteers.
  • Where: Zarahemla in Lee County, Iowa.
  • How: Private donations and ground support.

  • What: Metal analysis for alloy content. Ancient arrow and spearhead found in Wisconsin stream of cast bronze.
  • Who: Heartland Research Group
  • Where: Sample found in Wisconsin stream by scuba diver.
  • How: Private donations for lab analysis.

  • What: High resolution LiDAR scanning by supporter Air Data Solutions of 34,000 acres in Lee County, Iowa and also part of Illinois. The focus was to create high quality digital maps showing the terrain of the land, especially in the foothill areas where large earthworks are found. Discovery of 5-10 miles of ancient earthworks from LiDAR using QGIS and ArcGIS visualization software.
  • Who: Members of Heartland Research Inc plus AirData Solutions Inc.
  • Where: Lee County, Iowa and also part of Illinois, covering the much of Nauvoo.
  • How: Private donations for services, data processing, and analysis.

  • What: Commence process of restoring the world's oldest ship replica from 600BC, which has circumnavigated Africa and crossed the Atlantic ocean from the Middle East to America.
  • Who: Members of Heartland Research Inc plus volunteers.
  • Where: Lee County, Iowa between Montrose and Fort Madison.
  • How: Private donations for materials, space, and equipment plus donations in labor.

Mission Statement

The Heartland Research Group researches archaeological evidence of the ancient civilizations of America.
Heartland Research Group activities include:

  • Field Research
    Uses archeological techniques and scanning technologies to reveal the remains of ancient civilizations.
  • Ancient Artifacts
    Encourages and facilitate study of ancient North American artifacts, including tablets, tools, weapons, metal works, and other items.
  • Geography
    Research and develop maps, using scanning technologies and other means, to identify the locations and activities of ancient civilizations.
  • Linguistics
    Analyze and translate ancient writings found in North America, especially those relating to other civilizations world wide.
  • Preservation and Display
    Collect, restore, preserve, catalog and exhibit ancient artifacts and replicas, and make them readily available to researchers and viewable to the public.
  • Archaeology, Geology, and History
    Study and research into all aspects archaeology, geology, and history that shed light on ancient North American peoples and cultures.
  • Promotion and Support
    Raise awareness of our activities. Work directly with and support individuals and groups in activities that share our same goals.
The Heartland Research Group welcomes researchers and interested parties of all backgrounds to share their analysis and findings of ancient American heartland civilizations.

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