The 69-year-old archaeologist is regarded by his peers as a leading authority on the Izapa Stela 5 "Tree of Life" sculpture in Mesoamerica. He's written two texts and devoted 40 years to examining the sculpture's origins and story.
He has discovered what he believes is a link between the old and new worlds — measuring devices, geometry and calendars that prove there was communication between the worlds — a theory that he says meshes with stories in the LDS Book of Mormon that talk of tribal migrations.
Norman is director of Archaeological Research Consultants, president of the Ancient America Foundation and lectures at international symposiums.
He has just completed a major archaeological investigation of the Parowan Gap in southern Utah that he said suggests the site was a temple ritual center. He discovered an observatory linked to Fremont Indian petroglyphs and a calendar linked to Mesoamerica.
Norman's research as it relates to Lehi's dream of the tree of life in the Book of Mormon is included in Deseret Book Co.'s "Book of Mormon Reference Companion."
Norman said the key to his theory is in the standard measures — like the modern-day ruler and compass — that are tools both cultures relied upon in their art and their construction. Generally, the cubit length is 49.5 centimeters — the standard cubit for ancient Babylon. In others, it was 52.5, the standard for the Egyptians.
In more than 250 measures on stone monuments in Mesoamerica and in the Middle East, Norman found the same cubit measurement used in the forearms and feet of human figures.
"I first discovered the measures while checking Izapa stelae. I discovered the same dimensions — the same height, the same length, were repeated on different carvings," he said. "For me, it's a discovery that's going to force change in the dominance of isolation theory in the origin of Mesoamerican civilization.
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"I found this being used in figures in Mexico and all over Mesoamerica," he said. "How did they get to be all mathematically related? I liken it to sending a spaceship off to Mars and finding a civilization using the same 12-inch measure and the same meter as we do. Wouldn't we be forced to conclude a common origin?"
Norman said he likes to rely on hard science for empirical data, so he's careful about his methodology and research conclusions. He also believes modern man needs to set aside his ego and accept the notion that ancient peoples had sophisticated knowledge.