Walls of Zarahemla

Walls of Zarahemla

The berms suspected of being the walls of Zarahemla have been traced, on and off, for 9.42 miles using LiDAR images. With LiDAR all berms are evident for 5 miles and another 4.42 miles contain destroyed or eroded berms that must be examined with ground surveys to see if they still exist in some form. All of the berms detected with LiDAR are elevated above the crop fields and within the tree line. The image below shows a small section of the southern bluff that contains a distinct wall berm (B). LiDAR vs Satellite imagery of the same area is contrasted. Note that the berms detected in the field are of modern construction and used for field water retention. The areas south of the berm, on the foothills and on the top of the foothills may have once contained additional defensive structures but more examination is needed.

April 3 2022. Boots on the ground research work began for the wall foundations of Zarahemla.


  • Over 2 Years Ago: Wayne May discovered a large berm that extended about 500 feet along the southern foothills of the Zarahemla plain, west of Montrose. It was located within the tree line. It was suspected at the time that the berm could be the foundation remnant of an ancient fortification wall. The height of the berm was about 13 feet.
  • November 2021: Don Cummins of Air Data Solutions schedules a flight path of 34,000 acres for Hi-Resolution LiDAR for the Heartland Research Group. The target area starts just south of Fort Madison and extends south beyond Montrose and also includes Nauvoo on the east side of the Mississippi. LiDAR is a process of shooting billions of laser beams of various wavelengths to the ground which bounce back to the plane where the timed results are recorded. Later the raw data is processed to remove trees and vegetation in order to reveal precise ground elevation and contours.
  • January 2022: The processed LiDAR files (i.e. point cloud files which are used to create GeoTIFF files for ArcGIS and QGIS visualization programs) are made available to the Heartland Research Group.
  • January 23, 2022: Multiple berms, potentially part of the ancient walls of Zarahemla, are first identified along the entire foothill region south and west of Montrose and north along the foothills to the outskirts of Fort Madison, where the scanning stops. Out of 9.42 total miles of scanned foothills, 5.0 miles of distinct berms are identified from the LiDAR, far more that the original 500 ft originally found by Wayne.
  • Week of March 27, 2022: An HRG expedition team visited one of the berm sites with permission of owner Roger Chatfield, to gather information and establish if the berms are man-made, and to try and date them.

The following has been reported from the expedition team:

  • From Roger Chatfield: He first saw the berms in the early 1940’s. At that time they were forested. The berms are fruitful areas for hunters of ancient artifacts and much has been found over the years. The berms are not used for water retention or flood control. Farmland at the top (plateau) of the foothills was once used for cattle which destroyed vegetation and led to flooding and washed out some of the berms in modern times.
  • From Mike Stahlman: A large tree on the Chatfield berm was found and a core sample taken so the growth rings could be counted. The tree is estimated to be 144 years old.
  • From Larisa Golovko (LandVisor scanning) and Yuri Manstein: They have done some scanning on the berms. Results have not yet been processed.

Research is ongoing but so far I think there is a general consensus that these berms are man-made, not of modern construction, and have the potential to be part of the wall defenses of the ancient city of Zarahemla and that it is worth our continued study and exploration (especially when the weather is better). The berms are where we would expect the walls to be for the ancient city of Zarahemla.

A description of the construction of defensive walls is given in the Book of Mormon. The image below is just one possible view of interpretation but it gives an idea of what we are considering and finding on the ground.

This berm south of the Zarahemla plain was discovered by Wayne May in 2017. This is a large berm rising 13 feet.
Someone walking along the top shows the overall shape of the Wayne May berm in an area that has been cleared of brush.
Looking west. The bluff is left to the south. Notice that the berm slopes south which shows it is man made. It is cleared off here for convenient tractor access to the north fields. This berm rises at this point about 30′ feet above the field.
Here is seen the long length of a low lying berm, looking to the west.
One one short expedition in March of 2022 has been undertaken so far to visually inspect a very short section of a wall berm that may have once formed a foundation for the walls of Zarahemla.
This is Mike Stahlman taking a tree core sample so the rings can be counted. The tree growing on the berm was 144 years old.
The diameter of the cored tree was 9 feet 1/2 inch.
This berm discovered by Jay, Jeri, and Michael Mackley in November of 2020.
This wall berms begin to rise up the hill as one heads toward Bluff Park. The berm here is much smaller than the ones at the foot of the bluff.
Chatfield berm looking south. This is a smaller berm than most. It has been eroded by the stream that is just beyond the top of the berm where there is a 15 foot dropoff.
Along the top of the Chatfield berm, looking west.
Beginning of this berm is only about 6-8 feet above the field.

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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