Continuing with the so-called anachronisms critics’ claim are in the book of Mormon (see last several posts), and specifically that of iron and steel swords, one critic wrote:
“Even though ancient Andean people smelted some metals, such as copper, they never smelted iron like they did in the Old World...Metals were used for a variety of tools in the Old World, such as weapons, while in the Americas, metals were used as prestige goods for the wealthy elite."
Such dribble is that of archaeologists and anthropologists who make claims about ancient man that cannot be countered or contested, since no records of any sort exist in the sectarian world to suggest otherwise. The only understanding they have of antiquity is what they find in the ground and, more importantly, how they interpret what they find.
Most archaeology, other than actual ruins such as found in South and Central America, is based upon two basic things: 1) a stubborn and unalterable belief in diffusion, and 2) pottery shards found in the ground.
It is critically important for anyone trying to understand pre-history that the concept of diffusion is clearly understood. Archaeologists use the word "diffusion" to mean the movement of ideas over space and time. Clearly this is not the easiest thing to track archaeologically. Most of the really brilliant human innovations such as agriculture, writing, and government-style were transmitted long distances.
The word also refers to minor cultural characteristics such as pottery styles, and may represent the results of trade networks or population movement, called diaspora—the movement or migration of a group of people, such as those sharing a national or ethnic identity, away from an established or ancestral homeland.
In a nutshell, diffusion is the belief that ALL cultures, people, and groups follow the exact same pattern of development, from hunter-gathers, to agriculture, to city dwellers, etc., and that ideas, accomplishments, and events follow a known and well-understood pattern. Thus, iron could not have been smelted by a hunter-gathered type people, nor even by an agricultural-level people. Naturally, this leads to the understanding that since they do not smelt iron and make steel at that level, any metalwork had to have come much later than a hunter-gatherer or agricultural society.
While this might have been true when applied to Europe and the so-called “Old World,” it is categorically inaccurate and disingenuous to apply it to the Western Hemisphere, which developed entirely different than the Old World. As an example, when the Jaredites first arrived in the Western Hemisphere as its first occupants after the Flood, they brought with them a technology far beyond hunters and gatherers. They left Mesopotamia at a time when their counterparts were building a great Tower, hanging gardens, and a life-style that would spread across the world. They knew how to smelt ore, make iron and steel, build buildings (the constructions of ancient Mesopotamia stands as proof of their abilities), and accomplish far beyond a “new” and “diffused” culture. When the Nephites arrived, they brought with them a much-improved technology of accomplishments that had built a Temple in Jerusalem that was so magnificent its fame spread throughout the known world, a fleet of ships that rivaled any in the world, and smelting achievements as great as known anywhere.
In addition, because artifacts are found in tombs and burial sites more frequently than just laying around in the ground, these are considered what was available in any given era. Thus, the comment that “metals were used as prestige goods for the wealthy elite” is what would be expected in an ancient burial chamber. Only warriors and warrior societies took weapons to their graves—and those, made of iron would have disappeared over the millennia while other artifacts are generally made of material that survives time.
The Nephites, different than the Jaredites and Lamanites, were not a warrior society, but a peaceful, religious and God-fearing culture that, though had its righteous ups and downs, survived as a favored people by the Lord until “the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually” (Mormon 2:15) around 345 A.D. Before that time, burials would undoubtedly not contained warrior weapons, and after that time, it is doubtful that much burial took place, for the wars were fierce and moved swiftly across the land (Mormon 5:5).
So because archaeologists have not found iron and steel swords in Central or South America before the coming of the Spaniards, does not mean much at all. It was 3500 years after the Jaredites arrived, and 1800 years after their demise; it was 1800 years after Lehi arrived, and 1000 years after the Nephite demise. Iron simply does not last that long left out in the open or buried loosely in the ground (covered over by nature).
(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part III,” for the rusting of metals and the evidence of smelting iron into steel in B.C. times in the Western Hemisphere)