But there isn’t any evidence of wheat and barley in Pre-Colombian America.
Until recently the critics were sure that barley and wheat were unknown in the ancient New World. An article in Science 83, however, revealed that pre-Columbian domesticated barley had been discovered by archaeologists at an ancient Hohokam Indian site in Arizona. The non-LDS author of this article suggested that the barley might have been imported from Mexico at a very early date. It is interesting that Alma 63:6–10 describes various Nephite migrations to the North. It is possible that such migrations (and other similar ancient Mesoamerican migrations) might have influenced North American cultures and crops. To the surprise of many, the find at the Hohokam site in Arizona was a first only because it yielded cultivated or domesticated barley. Biologist Howard Stutz explains, “three types of wild barley have long been known to be native to the Americas.” Furthermore, scholars now report that other examples of what may be domesticated barley have been found in eastern Oklahoma and southern Illinois, dating from 1 to 900 A.D.
It is also possible that real wheat was present during Book of Mormon times but has since disappeared. When the Spanish arrived in the New World in the sixteenth century, for example, Bishop Landa wrote that they helped the Indians to raise European millet, which grew remarkably well in the area. Four centuries later, however, botanists were unable to find even a trace of the millet about which Landa had written. Perhaps Book of Mormon wheat referred to something similar but different than what we know as wheat. In America, for instance, “corn” refers to maize, but in England it once meant wheat, and in Scotland oats. A recent study of amaranth, an Old World grain which was used like wheat in pre-Columbian America, has led some scholars to conclude that the grain was brought to the New World by ship in ancient times. Amaranth, which is not unlike wheat, could have been the “wheat” mentioned in the Book of Mormon.