Sunday, April 14, 2013

Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part IV

In the previous three posts we have discussed the facts and scriptures surrounding the Nephite building materials. Every point has been covered, however, to more profitably illustrate the point, we will cover the comments against Nephite stonework one by one to discount them and see what is left.
Comment #1: In the later years of the Nephite Culture there were large cities and villages in all quarters of the land. The major cities were encircled by fortified moats or trenches built during the reign of the judges. The people lived in houses of wood and “cement,” and on a more temporary basis in tents.”
Response: Once the Nephites left the area of first landing, we have only one record of them living in tents and that is when they did not have wood to build houses and became “exceedingly expert” in the working of cement (Helaman 3:7). This was also the time they built cement houses. At no other time is cement or tents mentioned for Nephite use. The Lamanites lived in tents in the east and west wilderness before Moroni drove them back to their own lands (50:7,11) and, evidently, throughout most of their existence (Enos 1:20), except when they occupied previously Nephite constructed cities and homes (Mosiah 7:21).
Comment #2: “Nephi built a temple which was patterned after the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.  If Solomon's Temple was similar to later temples, it consisted of an inner building constructed of stone walls, with inner walls, floor and roof of wood.  This smaller building was surrounded by an inner and outer courtyard where the people assembled, these courtyards were surrounded by a stone wall.”
Response: Solomon’s Temple was much smaller than that of Herod, which we see today, and which was not started until 19 B.C. We do not know exactly what Solomon’s Temple looked like. Nephi patterned his temple after the one he had seen, called the First Temple, or Solomon’s Temple.
Comment #3: “This building [Herod’s Temple] in no way resembles any of the Mesoamerican pyramids.”
Response: No, it does not. And Solomon’s Temple likely didn’t, either. However, we do not know what Nephi’s Temple looked like. It was certainly not built in Mesoamerica.
Comment #4: “Nephi states that the workmanship of the his temple was “exceedingly fine”, but it did not contain as many precious things as that of Solomon’s. (2 Nephi 5:14-17).”
Response: Nephi says that in verse 16. The only precious things not used were “those not found in the land.” Which does not mean gold, silver, or whatever “precious ores,” were in the land (2 Nephi 5:15).
Comment #5: “Some of the cities were walled such as Lehi-Nephi, Shilom and Zarahemla (Mos.9:6-8).”
Response: The scriptural record was never intended to tell us what every city looked like, its size, how it was built or of what material it was made. The three cities we know about are mentioned specifically for other reasons; however, Mormon gives us a specific understanding of what Moroni built and where: “He erected small forts, walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and borders of heir lands, yea, all round about the land” (Alma 48:8).
Comment #6: “Their cities, dwellings and trade routes were connected by an extensive system of roads, trails and paths.”
Top Left: Ancient Roman road; Right: Ancient Greek road; Bottom Left: Ancient road European country road; Center: Ancient Turkey road; Right: Ancient road in Spain
Response: And what were these highways made of? You do not cast up dirt to make a road, but “cast up” some type of material. Note later, during the extensive earthquakes and destruction in the land, “the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled” (3 Nephi 8:13). It seems obviously that stone or paved roads were be “broken up,” and their smoothness “spoiled,” because they were made of stone.
Comment #7: ”In the land northward they built with “cement due to a lack of available timber.”
Response: Not all of the ancient stonework in Andean South America, or even in Central America, was cut and form fitted. We know of that work because of its rarity and unparalleled engineering fetes required. However, other stonework was cemented. Two thoughts come to mind about this scripture. Either there were not sufficient stones around to build in the manner they were used to, or the stonework they were used to required some type of forming before applying the cement. It might be of interest to note that most of the magnificent cement work now used in the vertical or unsupported construction (tall buildings, freeway suspension, etc.) has to have formwork built around the cement—and that formwork is almost always wood—which is then removed after the cement forms. Or stated differently, it is difficult to build most things without using wood in some manner, and other than forming iron or steel to replace it, timber is the most used support material available to the building industry—both anciently and today.
Comment #8: “Many of their cities were destroyed at the time of Christ’s crucifixion (33 A.D.) being flooded, covered with earth, burned, etc. The cities of Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, Kiskumen, and Zarahemla were burned with fire (which suggests wooden construction) (3 Ne. 9:3, 9-10.)  Many of these cities were later rebuilt."
Stone castles were set afire throughout the ages. While stone does not burn, the wood framing and supports do
Response: Contrary to popular belief, stone buildings caught fire and were destroyed by fire. The reason is simple, very little can be built without wood framing, timber poles for roofing, etc. Medieval castles were set afire and destroyed, as was Solomon’s First Temple, the City of Jerusalem, etc. On the other hand, it is hard to “sink” a wood structure—it generally comes apart and floats; however, stone cities sink. When a wood city is set fire, it burns to the ground and is not rebuilt, but cleared and built over. Stone buildings when set afire, can be rebuilt by reframing.
Comment #9: “From the record, it appears that the Nephite buildings (both residential and public) were constructed of wood whenever trees were available.”
Response: This sounds like wishful thinking. As has been stated here many times, seldom can you build anything without the framing and support of wood, although today, metal (aluminum) is often used in its place. In addition, wood has many other values than just framing. It is used for stairs, platforms, overhead exposed beams, small platforms, wall decoration, access ladders, etc., etc., etc. Where a door frame of wood can be made in minutes, it take hours to erect stone, or build with cement the same frame. Obviously, for the work usually reserved for wood, wood would be preferred. In addition, wood alone limits the size, height, and scope of any project—especially palaces, temples, and large public buildings.
(See the next post, “Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part V,” for more on the building of the Jaredites and the Nephites)

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