Sunday, April 26, 2015

Metallurgy in Andean Peru—Both of Gold and of Silver and of Copper – Part I

This scriptural reference given by Nephi has been entirely overlooked by all Theorists, at least as we read their writings about the Land of Promise. Mesoamericanists especially, and those who favor the eastern U.S. (Heartland, Great Lakes, Mound Building in Mississippi Basin, etc.), appear unresponsive of the idea that Nephi clearly stated when he combined three ores following the word “both,” which means “two.” 
On the other hand, the theorists mentioned above have difficulty with the entire concept of metallurgy in the scriptural record, since nothing of any significance has been found in the ground after several decades of archaeological work looking for such metal artifacts. In fact, while the earliest metallurgy found in Mesoamerica dates to around 900 A.D., though some (like John L. Sorenson) have claimed as early as 600 A.D. There has been none found in the eastern U.S. in B.C. times.
    However, it was in Andean South America, where metallurgy is considered to have first begun in the Americas, specifically in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador—with the earliest gold work dated to 2155 to 1936 B.C., and mostly in very intricate ornamentation.
According to archaeologists, there is no question that metallurgy in the Andean area of South America was far superior to anything found elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere and rivaled that of the Old World
    Indigenous South Americans had full metallurgy with smelting and various metals being purposely alloyed, while metallurgy in Mesoamerica developed from contacts with South America. In addition, extensive use of smelting kilns has been found in the area of Lake Titicaca (Puma Punku and Tiahuanacu) as early as 8000 B.C. through 500 A.D., in making metal I-beams used to connect huge stone blocks.
    Fully developed smelting in adobe brick furnaces has been found among the Moche of Peru (200 B.C.) along the coast where ores were extracted at shallow deposits in the Andean foothills, and brought to the specialized metallurgical workshops in the developed cities where it was shaped and formed into high numbers of objects. According to Heater Lechtman (“The Production of Copper-Arsenic Alloys in the Central Andes: Highland Ores and Coastal Smelters,” Journal of Field Archaeology, 1991, 18 pp 43-76), the placement of these workshops in the administrative sections of cities suggests the high importance the people placed upon metal and those who worked it. It is interesting to note that the type of copper-arsenic alloys, enargite is only found in the high sierra of the central Andes, while arsenopyrite is also available in some of the north coast valleys.
    Professor of Archaeology at M.I.T., Lechtman, trained in archaeology and anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology, and who has carried out field work in the Andean zone of South America for 30 years, has as her specialty the prehistoric Andean metallurgy. From her field and laboratory studies, Andean metallurgy emerges as a technology quintessentially Andean, distinct from the early metallurgies of western Asia, Europe, and Africa. She is considered an expert in ancient American metallurgy and especially of that found in ancient prehistoric Peru.
    As she states, “Although Andean metallurgy stressed the non-utilitarian quality of its products, it was among the most sophisticated of prehistoric metallurgical traditions in the Old World and the New, and it was through the very technologies involved in their manufacture that those same non-utilitarian metal objects provided the Peruvian with an important means of perpetuating their normative power” (Technologies of Power: The Andean Case, Heather Lechtman Cornell University Press, (p244)
According to Lechtman, metallurgy and cloth in the Andes assumed a very different social role than that of Europe and Asia, where both were used for very different purposes. In the Andes, both metallurgy and textiles reached great heights, even greater than in the Old World in technique and process, producing very high quality results that have seldom been seen elsewhere, yet has often been overlooked by historians because of this difference—beauty and perfection over utilitarian usage, i.e., weapons and tools, and were the source of power, while in the Andes, the art and beauty were the source of power.
    This is much like the Book of Mormon, where the Nephites, while involved in the pages of the scriptural record were often defending themselves against Lamanite attack, were more involved in their religion, and their society, than in standing armies and tools for accomplishment.
    It was also very Nephite for them to have had exceptional silk and fine-twined linen, costly apparel, and all manner of good homely cloth of every kind (Mosiah 10:5; Alma 1:29; Helaman 6:13), as well as Jaredite (Ether 8:36-37; 9:17; 10:24).
    Another issue that is something seldom discussed among archaeologists and materialists, and that is the actual movement from stone tools (hammers, knives, chisels, and querns, as well as arrowheads, axes, spear points, maces and slings) to those of bronze, was more from a society standpoint a matter of cost than utility. According to Karen Olsen Bruhns (Ancient South America, Cambridge University Press 1994), Bronze tools were often an expensive substitute for the equally efficient stone tools so easily made and functionally effective.
    The word “stone” in this sense often brings to mind “rock,” however, stone tools were often made of obsidian, flint, chert, rhyolites, felsites, quartites, jasper and others, which were both inexpensive and very effective.
    Which brings us back to the first comment above “both gold, and silver, and copper.” Obviously, the word “both” means “two,” as in “both a dog and a cat.” One would not say “both a dog and a cat and a monkey.” But Nephi and Joseph Smith were not using improper grammar as some suppose. To understand this statement, we merely need to recognize that two of those items can categorically be placed as one—that is, the precious metals of gold and silver, which is one item, the non-precious metal “copper,” which is a second item. This is also seen in “the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21). Again, men and women are adults (one category) and children are not (another category). So what about both gold, and silver, and copper?
Top Left: Ore rock containing 3.95 ppm gold, 5 ppm silver, and 1% copper; Top Right: High grade silver, containing gold and copper; Bottom Left: Both gold, silver, and copper in a single ore sample; Bottom Right: Both gold, silver, and copper bubbled in a single ore
    So why did Nephi make such a statement? Obviously, because the Nephites found “all manner of ore,” including that which contained gold, silver and copper in a single ore. We need only keep in mind that ore often contains more than one metal, especially the ore of copper, which can contain gold, and it can contain gold and silver. Thus, we see that Nephi is telling us that he found abundant deposits of gold, silver and copper ore—a single ore containing all three metals.
    Now, copper is not found in gold and silver ore deposits everywhere—none, as a matter of fact in the Great Lakes region, and while tumbaga (a manufactured alloy of gold and copper) was found in Central America, it was not found in the ground in that manner, because it is a man-made alloy. It is a fact, though, that gold, silver and copper are found in single ore in Chile and Peru in Andean South America.
(See the next post, “Metallurgy in Andean Peru—Both of Gold and of Silver and of Copper – Part II,” for more on the use of gold, silver and copper in Andean South America, and metallurgy there long before it was used in Mesoamerica)

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