Monday, April 27, 2015

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

Continuing from the last post on the use of gold, silver and copper in Andean South America, where metallurgy flourished long before it was used in Mesoamerica. Also, as stated in the last post, Nephi’s statement “we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” in the Land of Promise, leads us to look for ore that contains all three of these metals in a single parent rock—in fact, the weight of gold, silver, and copper are similar enough that often you can find some combination of all of the "three metals" mixed together. 
While gold is often found mixed with iron, finding raw ore where gold, silver and copper are mixed is not as common; Top Left: A sample of all three metals in one rock; Top Right: All three metals bubbled up in a single rock; Bottom: A solid vein of gold, silver and copper, estimated at 14,000 tons of ore containing about 385 tons of copper, 2,350 oz. of gold, 14,700 oz. of silver in an area that is known as a gold, silver and copper producer in Peru
    As has been stated in these pages over the past five years, this gold, silver and copper in a single ore is found throughout Chile and Peru, but not at all in Mesoamerica (except one location in Honduras), nor in the eastern United States (though it is found in the West, particularly in Arizona).
It should also be noted that in Andean South America is also found the naturally occurring electrum (left)—a natural ore of gold and silver with trace amount of copper. The ancient Greeks called it “gold” or “white gold” as opposed to “refined gold.” Its color ranges from pale to bright yellow, depending on the proportions of gold and silver.
    Epithermal ore deposits (economic concentrations of gold, silver and base metals, including copper) form at shallow depth and are often associated with comparatively young volcanic rocks. Electrum has been found in these epithermal gold-silver deposits of both high- and low-sulfidation styles, and in silver-gold epithermal vein systems associated with silver and other sulfides in many bonanza type silver mining districts. It is found in Nevada, such as at the Comstock lode, Tonopah and at Round Mountain (where it is still actively mined). It is found with the rich silver ores of Mexico, and in Andean South America in Chile, Peru and Bolivia. They are usually found in high-grade, small deposits.
    Electrum meets all the standard tests for metallic, native gold, but contains a much higher than normal silver content; however, it contains only trace amounts of copper. According to Burger and Morris (Variations in the Expression of Inka: a Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 2007 p 318), the role of copper as the "instrument of transformation" was so important that all Andean alloys except for the naturally occurring electrum were alloys of other metals with copper.
When it comes to copper, Chile is the world’s largest producer, providing 40% of global copper production. Peru, at a distant third, out-produces each of the next 18 copper producing countries, including the United States, Canada, Russia and Mexico (U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey)
    Combined, Chile and Peru produce over 6.7 million tonnes annually, compared to 1.2 million in the U.S., 500,000 in Mexico, and only about 50 pounds Guatemala. Copper production in the U.S. is centered in the west, with no mines listed in the top 50 east of the Mississippi and nothing over 4000 tons, other than the Copper Country of upper peninsula Michigan and Copper Basin Mining District in Tennessee (see map).
Around the Mississippi and eastward, copper production of any size is centered in three areas: Sullivan/Shannon Counties Missouri; Upper Peninsula Michigan; and Copper Basin Tennessee and Northern Georgia
    As an example, at the Chanape mine in Peru, which is taking its rightful place on a list of remarkable mineral occurrences in this remarkable mineral country, a CU (copper), AU (gold) and AG (silver) mine, covering at least a mile long by 2/3 mile wide deposit with at least 70 breccia bodies, with widespread gold, silver and copper high-grade mineralization.
Peru is home to numerous porphyry deposits of gold, silver and copper, among others, which occur This enrichment occurs in the porphyry itself, or in other related igneous rocks or surrounding country rocks, especially carbonate rock (in a process similar to skarns). Collectively, these type of deposits are known as "porphyry copper deposits." Today, Peru is the location of many “flagship” projects, and a country described as one of the premier mining and exploration destinations in the world and hosts many world-class mines and developing mineral deposits, and attracts one fifth of the world’s exploration expenditure.
    For those historians and scholars who continually theorize about Mesoamerica and other American locations for the Nephite nation, it should be kept in mind that metal coins have not only been found in the Andean area, but 1) they were made of Electrum, a metal described by Nephi, and 2) Lehi and Nephi would have been familiar with such coins in Jerusalem, since electrum was used to mint coins earlier than 600 B.C. In fact Greek coins mintged in the 7th century B.C. used 55.5% electrum, not gold or silver. In fact, the Pactolus River (Sart Çayı) beside the slopes of Mount Tmolus (Boz Dağ) in the kingdom of Lydia (west of Mesopotamia) was one of the most important sources of electrum in the ancient world, and just as the rulers of the Middle East today have become wealthy from oil, so the ancient Lydian kings became rich by accumulating and minting coins from electrum. The capital city of ancient Lydia was Sardis (Sart), and it was a major commercial center linking the Asian kingdoms of the east with the coastal Greek cities of Ionia, including Miletus. It is not an accident that the first coins appeared in the important commercial centers of Lydia and adjacent Ionia, nor that the first system of bimetallic currency—the first system of interrelated gold and silver issues—was also developed there.
Left: Third-stater coin—1/3rd  Lion’s head coins 600 B.C. (double incuse punches on the reverse—this coin was a larger denomination than 1/12th with one incuse punch); Right: Twelfth-stater coin (more rare today)—1/12th Lion’s head coins 610-560 B.C. Chevrons on neck are different
    The electrum lion coins of ancient Lydia should probably be considered the world’s first true coins, in the sense of a state-issued quantity of metal impressed with a consistent type. The earliest issues, thought to date from the reign of Alyattes (about 610–560 BC) of the Mermnad dynasty—feature the Lydian kings’ emblem of a roaring lion, almost always with a curious knob, often called a “nose wart,” on its forehead. Reid Goldsborough has written a very thorough review of what is known about the history of these electrum lion coins of Lydia, and his essay includes citations to the relevant technical literature on the subject.
The coin in the middle was an electrum (gold and silver ore) coin struck in Ionia about the time Lehi left Jerusalem. The two coins on the right of very similar simplicity and without the typical Greek or Roman type heads or writing, were found in pre-Columbian Peru, and date to ancient metallurgic times
    The point is that while gold and silver coins were introduced by Mormon in the scriptural record (Alma 11:3-19), and that gold, silver and copper were abundant in the Andean area, and that ancient coins were found there, it is just another example of matching the Land of Promise location to all points mentioned in the scriptural record. It is also apparent that for all the gold, silver and copper mentioned in the scriptural record, that these ores are by far more plentiful in the Andean area than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, date to Nephite times (while Mesoamerican and eastern U.S. do not), and archaeological findings show that Andean Peru had the most excellently made metallurgy and textiles of anywhere found in the Western Hemisphere.

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