Friday, April 14, 2017

Metallurgy Did Not Exist in Mesoamerica Prior to 600 A.D. – Part VII

Continuing from the previous post regarding the importance that the lack of metallurgy in Mesoamerica is when considering where the Land of Promise truly was located. Also continuing with the comments of John L. Sorenson, the so-called guru of Book of Mormon Land of Promise geography, that are meant to lessen and even question the meaning of the use of “metal” terminology in the scriptural record. It is important to understand that simple comments, like Nephi making swords like that of Laban, often required effort, learning, and achievement. In reading the scriptural record, we often glaze over these extreme events and accomplishments of both Nephi, and these early Nephites in all they accomplished without really considering what was involved.
As an example, it should also be kept in mind that sword making is a fine art. In some cultures, the sword maker’s work was as highly sought after as was Antonio Stradivari in 17th and 18th century Italy for his violins, violas, cello, and string-making abilities. What Nephi knew about swords is neither mentioned nor implied, however, since weapons are the mainstay of the young in any culture, it can probably be assumed Nephi would have known something about the properties of swords in his youth and early metallurgical days.
    As an example, before steel was known, swords were made primarily out of bronze, a combination of copper and tin, with the higher amount of tin (about 20%) made the sword much stronger, though brittle and subject to breaking, while the lesser amount of tin (about 10%) made the sword less likely to break, but softer and more likely to bend in battle--thus early swords were often wide to keep them from bending
    Swordsmiths in China favored the higher amount of tin with their copper, and the swordsmiths in Europe and Asia preferred lesser amounts of tin in their mixture—thus, in the early eras, Chinese swords were narrower, while the European and Asian swords were wider, even to using the Roman-style “leafblade” sword to keep them from bending. Bronze also meant the swords could be longer than copper swords, allowing a length of 20 to 35-inches, instead of the “short sword” known in the copper era. By the time of Lehi, swords had achieved lengths of two to four feet in length during the so-called Iron Age.
Using iron in the making of sword blades required a high melting point, which meant the smelting process limited primitive swordsmiths to the production of a porous mass of iron called a bloom, which was subsequently hammered out over the course of numerous heating and cooling cycles to produce the desired blade. In fact, though iron blades were not much better initially than bronze ones, iron ore was readily accessible in just about every region of the ancient world, and while the copper required in the production of bronze was also abundant, the simplicity in producing workable iron and the relative rarity of tin meant that iron swords could be produced on a much larger scale, and could therefore equip more impressive armies.
    Now we don’t know if Nephi ever made an iron blade, or worked with iron, bronze, or even copper, though living on a farm all his life and requiring knowledge of fixing and making farm equipment, very possibly involved both Lehi and his sons in the process. Yet, we see that Nephi was an adept student at both learning and making things with his hands. And the process of creating steel was developed quite by accident in the beginning anyway, for it was entirely unknown what gave steel its valuable properties, and for centuries the techniques for making high quality steel were closely held, almost alchemical, secrets.
Clearly, iron was its major component, but a myriad of other minor additions were found empirically, such as adding nickel, vanadium, chromium and manganese, with even more mysterious treatments evolved for cooling the red hot object to room temperature.
    Much in the way that tin mixed with copper produces a superior alloy in the form of bronze, adding carbon to iron in the proper quantities and with the correct technique gives rise to the vastly superior alloy of steel, though limiting dissolved gasses such as nitrogen and oxygen, was an issue to be solved.
One of the difficulties of adding carbon to iron through the techniques of quenching and carbonizing, which first is a process of hot iron is plunged into cold water, and the second is in taking heated iron and hammering it and folding it so carbon molecules from the charcoal was beaten into the iron, which is a decidedly difficult process to control. This led early swordsmiths working with iron to produce swords of vastly different qualities from one day to the next, and would have been a perfect classroom for Nephi, who may well have experimented in metallurgy on his father’s farm while making tools, repairing cinches, buckles, nails, clench bolts, etc.
    This, of course, is speculation, but the point is that metal work on ancient farms was both important and indispensable, and most farmers and farm hands learned rudimentary metal working. And like any youth, Nephi probably experimented with making himself a knife or two.
    This all leads to Nephi’s record in which he indicated his being impressed with Laban’s sword—he not only identified it as having pure gold, but fine, precious steel. How would he have known this had he not had some considerable experience working with metals?
As we pointed out earlier, Nephi would likely have known something about metallurgy working on his father’s farm and the likelihood of any young man from a farm around ancient Jerusalem in Nephi’s time knowing of such things. Yet, despite this, William J. Hamblin, Professor of History at BYU, in his article suggests quite the opposite. One can only wonder why.
    He begins by trying to lessen the accuracy of the words used and our understanding of them. As an example, he tries to make the point that there are linguistic layers involved in the Book of Mormon and that has an effect on the meaning of the word “steel” used. According to Hamblin, an historical Book of Mormon would have at least seven different linguistic layers:
1. Early nineteenth century American English;
2. Jacobean English of the KJV Bible;
3. Fourth century A.D. language of Moroni (Mormon 9.33-34);
4. Mesoamerican language(s);
5. Hebrew of the sixth century B.C.;
6. Egyptian of the sixth century B.C.;
7. Jaredite language.
    First of all, Hamblin meant Mormon 9:32-33) and Moroni’s comments are simply this: “And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record” (Mormon 9:32-33), which briefly means that the writers of the Book of Mormon spoke and wrote Hebrew, but used Reformed Egyptian to write on the Plates (which Joseph Smith translated). Since they were using a second language to write on the record, he cautioned that there might be some linguistic mistakes. However, though linguists love to point this out, they never add the following statement of Moroni when he qualifies any mistakes the writer has made with: “But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34 ).
That “means” of which Moroni spoke was Joseph Smith as translator, and the Holy Spirit as the guide to make sure the translation was correct. Therefore, much of the linguists’ beliefs in errors and complicated or complex meanings was handled or clarified by the Spirit in the process of the translation. To understand this “means,” Martin Harris provided a description of the manner of translating while he was transcribing the Prophet’s translation:By aid of the Seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say ‘written;’ and if correctly written, the sentence would disappear and another appear in its place; but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used’.” (A Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 129, emphasis added).
    To one and all, this should show that there would have been no linguistic errors, problems, or complexities to the translation of the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon other than the form of English then known and used by the Prophet and the amanuensis (with an understanding that Joseph’s English in this translation was that of the King James Bible English); however, every theorist who has to justify his beliefs and models when they do not agree with what is clearly written in the scriptural record must provide some explanation to support their difference from Mormon’s descriptions.
(See the next post, “Metallurgy Did Not Exist in Mesoamerica Prior to 600 A.D. – Part VIII,“ to see how far theorists go to try and bend the facts presented in the scriptural record to maintain their erroneous beliefs, paradigms and models)


  1. Del,

    Still haven't heard back on those sources/maps of the Quechua "Land of Many Waters." Really interested in seeing the old maps or sources of that claim.


  2. WonderBoy. Just got back from a ten-day hiatus, will answer shortly.