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A Short Introduction to
Society for Early Historic Archaeology (SEHA)

Malin Jacobs

The University Archaeological Society (U.A.S.) was formed on April 18, 1949, as an official adjunct to the Brigham Young University (BYU) Department of Archaeology.  In 1967 the society was renamed the Society for Early Historical Archaeology (S.E.H.A.).  The mission of the society under both names was:

To help the Department of Archaeology [later the Department of Anthropology] by doing some things which a regular academic department might have difficulty dealing with directly: promoting research on scriptural archaeology and giving publicity on a non-technical level to discoveries in this field.1

This mission was accomplished through several means:

1. The holding of an Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, later called the Annual Symposium on the Archeology of the Scriptures and Allied Fields (Annual Symposium), where scholarly papers were presented.

2. The periodic publication of a Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H,A., formerly the Newsletter and Proceedings of the U.A.S. (Newsletter).2  The Newsletter often published papers that had been presented at the annual symposium.

3. The making available of other publications of interest to society members (e.g. The American Schools of Oriental Research publication The Biblical Archaeologist).  In 1989 a new series, Special Papers of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology was launched.  However, only two numbers were published.3

4. The occasional publication of longer works deemed important to the archaeology of the Scriptures. One example of the latter is John A. Tvedtnes and Ross T. Christensen, Ur of the Chaldeans: Increasing Evidence on the Birthplace of Abraham and the Original Homeland of the Hebrews (1985).

In 1979 a new department chair for the BYU Department of Archaeology was hired, the Department of Archaeology was renamed the Department of Anthropology and the archaeology of the scriptures was de-emphasized.  On September 1, 1979, S.E.H.A. became independent of BYU.  Dr. Ross T. Christensen and Dr. Bruce Warren retired from their teaching duties at BYU and Dr. Christensen subsequently devoted his time to S.E.H.A.  Dr. Warren also continued his association with S.E.H.A., and later became an editor of the Newsletter.

Unfortunately, several complicated circumstances combined to ensure the slow but steady decline of S.E.H.A. as a viable organization.  Despite this decline, S.E.H.A. managed to continue for another 11 or so years, and produced an additional 20 newsletters (for a total of 164), with the last being dated June, 1988.  The Annual Symposium was continued through at least the thirty-ninth (1990).4  While there was talk of merging the S.E.H.A with the Ancient America Foundation (AAF), and at least one AAF board meeting was held with some S.E.H.A. board members, the S.E.H.A. board never voted for the proposed merger.5

Over its lifetime, the S.E.H.A. made available a great deal of information of interest to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including evidence consistent with the Book of Mormon actually being historical and not merely a fable concocted by Joseph Smith.  Much of this information has been greatly expanded on by research conducted and published by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). Indeed, some of those formerly associated with the S.E.H.A. have become associated with FARMS.  For instance, John A. Tvedtnes, a former S.E.H.A. board member and contributor to the Newsletter, is the former Senior Resident Scholar (now retired) at FARMS.

We here provide what Newsletters and other publications of the S.E.H.A. we have available.

1. Ross T. Christensen, ed., Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A., Number 144, April, 1980: 4.

2. The Newsletter had a number of editors over the years, including Alfred L. Bush, Ross T. Christensen, Dee F. Green, M. Wells Jakeman, Ray T. Matheny, V. Garth Norman, and Bruce Warren.  In addition, an occasional issue of the Newsletter would be edited by a guest editor.  After the separation of S.E.H.A. from BYU in 1979, Dr. Christensen edited most of the issues.

3. Number 1 (September, 1989), Stephen St. Clair, Angels, Trumpets, and the End of Time and Number 2 (September, 1989), John A. Tvedtnes, Baptism for the Dead: The Coptic Rationality.

4. John A. Tvedtnes, email to Stan Barker dated March 27, 2002.  Mr. Tvedtnes presented a paper at the 39th symposium.

5. Personal conversation with former S.E.H.A. board member, John A. Tvedtnes, March 29, 2002.