Evidence #227 | August 16, 2021

Plates and Genealogies

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Scripture Central


Evidence for genealogies on ancient metal plates are consistent with Book of Mormon references to genealogies on plates mentioned by the Nephites.

Genealogies on Plates in the Book of Mormon

Nephite writers in the Book of Mormon indicate that one subject of importance which were inscribed on metal plates in their scribal tradition was that of genealogies. The plates of brass, which were acquired by Lehi’s sons from Laban contained a genealogy of Lehi’s fathers (1 Nephi 3:3, 12; Alma 37:3). Nephi recorded that after his father searched them, “he found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers, wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was sold into Egypt … And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records” (1 Nephi 5:14, 16). Nephi included this genealogy on his larger plates along with the record of his father (1 Nephi 6:1–2; 19:1–2).

Lehi and his family study the brass plates. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

Mormon indicates that other genealogies were recorded on plates as well, including the genealogy of Zarahemla going back to Mulek the son of Zedekiah (Omni 1:18; Mosiah 25:2). Amulek provided a genealogy of his own fathers going back to Lehi and Joseph the son of Jacob (Alma 10:1-3). Records such as these enabled Mormon and his son to know that they were also descendants of Lehi and Nephi (3 Nephi 5:20; Mormon 1:5; 8:13).

Finally, Moroni included thirty generations of Ether’s linear genealogy in his abridgement of the record of the Jaredites (Ether 1: 6-33). All of this suggests that among Book of Mormon peoples, ancestral genealogy was considered a matter important enough to be recorded on unperishable materials. Similar examples of genealogies can be found on a number of other ancient metal documents.

A Hittite Treaty

The Hittite Treaty of Tudhaliya IV with Kurunta of Tarhuntassa was inscribed on both sides of a bronze plate.1 The text opens with a genealogy of the King, stating the name of his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and descent from his royal ancestral namesake Tudhaliya, all of whom the document describes as great heroes and kings.2 This linear genealogy can be compared to several in the Book of Mormon where Amulek, for example, states his father’s name, his grandfather’s name, and his descent from Aminadi and Nephi (Alma 10:1–3; see also the chart in the Appendix). The Hittite treaty can also be compared with the genealogy of Nephi, son of Nephi, in the preface to 3 Nephi where similar language is used.  

Hattusa bronze tablet containing the treaty between Tudhaliya IV and Kurunta of Tarhuntassa. Image via Wikimedia Commons. 

A Greek Work Entitled Genealogies

The Greek historian Acusilaus, who lived around 500 BC, reportedly wrote a three-volume work entitled Genealogies, of which only fragments are known today. According to Jordi Pamias, “Acusilaus had transcribed divine and heroic genealogies from some bronze tablets that his father had unearthed from somewhere in his home.”3 Pamias cites a passage from the Byzantine lexicon Suda which reads,

Acusilaus was the son of Kabas. He was Argive from the city of Kerkas, which is near Aulis. He was the most ancient of historians. He wrote Genealogies based on bronze writing-tablets which, according to one account, his father discovered after he had dug up some place in his house.4

The attribution of source material for a work providing divine and historic genealogies to bronze plates written before 500 BC recalls the plates of brass which contained a genealogy of Lehi’s ancestors

Indian Copper Plate Grants and Genealogies

Royal genealogies were included in copper plate grants in medieval India. These grants were bestowed by the king upon local Brahmins giving them rights and privileges to specified lands, resources, and local administration. These grants also detailed the ancestry of the king who authorized the grant. Plate inscriptions issued during the Pallava dynasty included four generations going back to the king’s great-grandfather, but in subsequent centuries and dynasties these became much longer.5

Many Indian copper plate grants included a praśastis, a eulogistic introductory section written in Sanskrit tracing the donor king’s linear ancestry from the ancient gods of mythical times down to the current ruling king.6 Notable accomplishments of each ruler in the king’s ancestry were briefly mentioned along with their name.7 “Powerful dynasties used to appoint skillful poets to compose the panegyrics of their families.”8 Some of these could be quite lengthy. The Tiruvalangadu Copper–Plates of Rajendra Chola I, for example, lists more than fifty kings in the ancestral line traced back to the sun.9

Tiruvalangadu Copper Plates. Image via ramanisblog.in.

Some elements of these genealogies were likely fictitious, designed to enhance the authority of the reigning king by linking him to important or famous heroes and rulers of other dynasties.10 Other elements likely reflect true historical details of royal lines, and some historians believe that these texts are a valuable source of historical data that has often been unappreciated.11

According to Hermann Kulke,

In a way, each copper-plate formed a new and updated edition of the dynastic history as they usually included the newest information about the ruling king and his court. These copper-plate inscriptions with their praśastis therefore formed one of the most important means (and certainly the most important written form) of legitimizing early medieval Indian kingship through genealogical claims.12


Historical and archaeological examples of ancient metal plates contain various types of genealogical content, just as found in some portions of the Book of Mormon. Although the copper-plate grants from India date later than the Book of Mormon, and are not directly related to the people of Lehi, they demonstrate that substantial content about ancestry has indeed been recorded on metal records.  Significantly, these archaeological examples of plates with genealogies were all discovered after the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon Central, “Is the Book of Mormon Like Other Ancient Metal Documents? (Jacob 4:2),” KnoWhy 512 (April 25, 2019).

Book of Mormon Central, “Are There Other Ancient Records Like the Book of Mormon? (Mormon 8:16),” KnoWhy 407 (February 13, 2018).

William J. Hamblin, “Sacred Writing on Metal Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean,” FARMS Review 19, no. 1 (2007): 37–54.

H. Curtis Wright, “Ancient Burials of Metal Documents in Stone Boxes,” in “By Study and Also By Faith”: Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley, 2 vols., ed. John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1990), 273–334.

H. Curtis Wright, “Metallic Documents in Antiquity,” BYU Studies Quarterly, 10, no. 4 (1970): 457–477.

1 Nephi 3:31 Nephi 3:121 Nephi 5:141 Nephi 5:161 Nephi 6:1–21 Nephi 19:1–2Omni 1:18Mosiah 25:2Alma 10:1–3Alma 37:33 Nephi 5:20Mormon 1:5Mormon 8:13Ether 1:6–33Moses 6:22

1 Nephi 3:3

1 Nephi 3:12

1 Nephi 5:14

1 Nephi 5:16

1 Nephi 6:1–2

1 Nephi 19:1–2

Omni 1:18

Mosiah 25:2

Alma 10:1–3

Alma 37:3

3 Nephi 5:20

Mormon 1:5

Mormon 8:13

Ether 1:6–33

Moses 6:22

Comparison of Genealogical Statements

Treaty of Tudhaliyah (1260–1240 BCE)


The words of Tabarna, Tudhaliya, Great King, King of the Land of Hatti, Hero, Son of Hattusuli (III), Great King, King of the Land of Hattti, Hero, grandson of Mursili (II), Great King, King of the Land of Hatti, Hero, great-grandson of Suppiluliuma (I), Great King of the Land of Hatti, Hero, descendant (and namesake) of Tudhaliya, Great King, King of the Land of Hatti, Hero.

Genealogy of Amulek


The words which Amulek preached unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah, saying: I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi .… And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi; who was the son of Lehi who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren (Alma 10:1–3).


Genealogy of Nephi III


The Book of Nephi; the son of Nephi, who was the son of Helaman, who was the son of Helaman, who was the son of Alma, who was the son of Alma, being a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi (3 Nephi Introduction).

  • 1 Harry A. Hoffner, Jr., “The Treaty of Tudhaliya IV with Kurunta of Tarhuntassa on the Bronze Tablet Found in Hattusa,” in The Context of Scripture. Volume II. Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, ed. William W. Hallo, K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 100–106.
  • 2 Hoffner, Jr., “The Treaty of Tudhaliya IV,” 100.
  • 3 Jordi Pamias, “Acusilaus of Argos and the Bronze Tablets,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 108 (2015): 2.
  • 4 Pamias, “Acusilaus and the Bronze Tablets,” 3.
  • 5 Emmanuel Francis, “The Genealogy of the Pallavas: From Brahmins to Kings,” Religions of South Asia 5, nos.1–2 (2011): 339–363.
  • 6 “The kings were written into purānic time through genealogies in which their ancestry was traced to the heroes of the Indian epics and the deities of the purānas.” Caleb Simmons, “Family, God, and Kingdom: Vamśāvali as Local Royalist Literature,” in Clio and Her Descendants: Essays for Kesavan Veluthat, ed. Manu V. Devadevan (Dehli: Primus Books, 2018), 616. See also Suchandra Ghosh and Sayantani Pal, “Praśastis or Panegyrics in Early India: Case Studies from Bengal,” in Copper, Parchment, and Stone: Studies in the Sources for Landholding and Lordship in Early Medieval Bengal and Medieval Scotland, ed. John Reuben Davies and Swapna Bhattcharya (Glasgow: Center for Scottish and Celtic Studies, 2019), 202. An interesting correspondence to the practice of genealogically linking kings to gods can be found in the genealogy of the sons of Adam in the Book of Moses. “And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God himself, conversed” (Moses 6:22).
  • 7 Andrea Schlosser and Pankaj Tandon, “The Channapatna Plates: A New Set of Copperplates of the Western Gangas,” Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik 26 (2009): 230–233; Krishna Sastri, “Velvikudi Grant of Nedunjadaiyan: The Third Year of Reign,” Epigraphia Indica 17 (1923–1924): 304–308; K. V. Subrahmanya Aiyer, “The Larger Leiden Plates (of Rajendra I),” Epigraphia Indica 22 (1933–1934): 216–222, 254–258; K. G. Krishnan, “Karendai Tamil Sangam Plates of Rajendrachola I,” Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India, 79 (New Dehli: Director-General, Archaeological Survey of India, 1984), 8–17, 194–201; Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri, “The Tiruvalangadu Copper–Plates of the Sixth Year of Rajendra–Chola I,” South Indian Inscriptions. Miscellaneous Inscriptions from Tamil Country. Volume III. Part 3, ed. and trans. Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri (Madras: Superintendent, Government Press, 1920), 383–426; S. Sankaranarayanan, Tiruvindalur Copper Plate (Chenai: Tamilnadu State Department of Archaeology, 2011), 16–39.
  • 8 Suchandra Ghosh and Sayantani Pal, “Praśastis or Panegyrics in Early India: Case Studies from Bengal,” 202.
  • 9 Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri, “The Tiruvalangadu Copper–Plates of the Sixth Year of Rajendra–Chola I,” 413–426.
  • 10 Emmanuel Francis, “The Genealogy of the Pallavas: From Brahmins to Kings,” 353–357. Ghosh and Pai note “the early Medieval period (c. 600–1300 CE) in India saw a burgeoning of local and regional powers, many of which experienced royalty for the first time. It was necessary for these powers to construct a genealogy which would give them legitimacy to rule. They were invariably linked to famous dynasties of yore or to legendary figures.” Ghosh and Pal, “Praśastis or Panegyrics in Early India,” 195.
  • 11 Daud Ali, “Royal Eulogy as World History: Rethinking Copper-plate Inscriptions in Cola India,” in Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia, ed. Ronald Inden, Jonathan Walters, David Ali (New York: NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), 165–229; Caleb Simmons, “Family, God, and Kingdom: Vamśāvali as Local Royalist Literature,” 598–622.
  • 12 Hermann Kulke, “Some Observations on the Political Functions of Copper-Plate Grants in Early Medieval India,” in Recht, Staat und Verwaltung im klassischen Indien/The State, the Law, and Administration in Classical India, ed. Bernhard Kolver (Berlin, Boston, MA: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1997), 239–240.
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