Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

Continuing this last article from the previous posts 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. 
    As mentioned in the previous article, adding more carbon improves the wearability of the sword as well as durability, and an effective sword blade has to be hard enough to hold an edge along a length which can range from 18” to more than 36”. At the same time it must be strong enough and flexible enough that it can absorb massive shocks at just about any point along its length and not crack or break. Finally, it should be balanced along its length so that it can be wielded effectively.
    Today, and over the past few centuries, swordsmiths discovered that iron sand (with little or no sulfur and phosphorus) heated together with coal (carbon) made the steel that is called in Japan “tamahagane,” which allows the sword to have strength and the ability to hold a sharp edge, as well as to cause the sword to tend toward bending without breaking rather than flex, which deforms or misaligns the  blade when under stress. Japanese sword smiths also learned what is called shita-kitae, which is the folding eight to sixteen times, either transversely or longitudinally, during the heating and shaping process to improve the grain pattern.
Depending on the amount of carbon introduced, this process forms either the very hard steel for the edge, called hagane, or the slightly less hardenable spring steel, called kawagane, which is often used for the sides and the back.
    These modern techniques, of course, would not have been known to the Nephites, unless the Lord specifically showed Nephi how to do so, but they still understood the mixing of carbon and iron to create steel—a superior blade that was stronger and tougher than anything else made at the time. It is also possible that in the Nephites time, once the blade had been heat treated, a sword would be ground with progressively finer abrasives, typically different types of rock, and polished and sharpened until the sword’s desired finish was achieved.
    It is important to understand when trying to write about or understand matters of the past, how things were done—of course they were different, and of course their techniques were less advanced (in most, but not all cases), but the point is they achieved effective results in what they did. That is, their swords were effective and valued weapons—not as good as those that can be made today, but certainly highly usuable for the purpose to which they were designed and made.
    Stated differently, the Nephites and the Jaredites before them had “steel.” Perhaps not like our steel today, but steel nonetheless, i.e., iron alloyed with carbon, which produced a harder and tougher sword blade than anything known before it. For Sorenson, Hamblin, or any other so-called “theorist” to try and lessen that fact, which is so clearly written in the scriptural record, is of no valued service in our better understanding what was written for our benefit.
    Sorenson concludes his thought with (p282): “In short, we remain largely ignorant about the technical procedures employed by the Book of Mormon craftsmen, but there is no reason from the text to think they were very sophisticated technologically.” Why would Sorenson take this tact, because he has an agenda in mind, as he then states: “It sounds as if they were within the modest range of skill common in later Mesoamerica.”
    The problem, once again, is when theorists try to lessen the importance or accuracy of statements in the scriptural record so they more closely are aligned with their own values, thinking and models. As an example, the Book of Mormon describes the use of ores, steel and precious metals from earliest Jaredite times down through the entire Nephite period, a total of about 2500 years. One would think, therefore that any location determined to be the Land of Promise would today show considerable evidence of metallurgy being used in that area from earliest times.
However, since Mesoamerican does not have any evidence of metallurgy before 600 A.D, the Mesoamerican theorist must do something to offset that obvious blight on their model and the easiest way to do that is simply to alter the meaning of the scriptural record. Thus, like-minded people with letters after their name team up to build a case for the Mesoamerican model by combining their attacks on the scriptural record—albeit not critical attacks, but attacks nonetheless that attempt to change the very meaning and fiber of the scriptural record so it is more aligned with their own views and theories.
    Some examples are Sorenson changing a clearly-stated north-south land orientation to  one that runs east and west so he can use his model of Mesoamerica as his Land of Promise. McKane claiming there were Nephites and Lamanites living to the west of the West Sea when Jacob makes it clear they sailed across the ocean or sea and landed on an island in that sea, which Mormon clearly states is along the west sea coast. Or Joseph Allen claiming there was a narrow neck of land and a different location for a narrow passage into the Land Northward when Mormon clearly states that except for the narrow neck of land, the entire Land Southward was surrounded by water.
    The point is, when the scriptural record claims metallurgy was practiced extensively in the Land of Promise and no metallurgy has been found or verified in Mesoamerica during Nephite or Jaredite times, then people of conscience should look elsewhere for the Land of Promise; however, they simply refuse to do that, even though to the south of Mesoamerica, where scientists repeatedly tell us metallurgy began as early as 2000 B.C. (early Jaredite times), and numerous metal artifacts have been found in an environment that supports the completely supports Book of Mormon claims, they refuse to even acknowledge its existence.
    Instead, they challenge the meaning and intent of the scriptural record. As Hamblin adds in his article: “Furthermore, Near Eastern peoples used hematite, magnetite and meteoritic iron, along with other types of iron ore. Did they have different words for what we in modern scientific English would consider different types of iron? As far as I am aware, they did not.” He then goes on to give an essay on where the word “iron” came from, quoting early Egyptian usage of comparable words, then concludes: “Thus, anti-Mormons insist that the Book of Mormon must be evaluated on the basis of modern metallurgical terminology and science, which has categories and distinctions completely foreign to ancient peoples such as the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, who had a single term covering what now is divided into many different categories.”
    Without going into this in detail, the question begs itself, “So what?” What difference does it make that Hebrew has one word meaning “iron,” “barzel” בַּרְזֶל, which in all 76 occurrences in the King James Version, is translated simply as “iron.”
After all, no one is saying that Laban’s sword was equivalent to the best modern steel swords made today, or by other world swordsmiths, such as the famed Japanese makers of the Katana Samurai blades from Longquan in the remote green mountains of Qinxi near the Ou River, where magnificent swords have been made for 2600 years.
    Rather than cloud the issue, let’s stay on target. The Book of Mormon scriptural record mentions that both the Jaredites and Nephites had steel. What kind of steel is not mentioned nor implied, and is immaterial, since steel is simply iron alloyed with carbon. And since the steel was in connection with swords, we know that the steel was tougher and stronger than mere iron. Nothing more than that is stated nor necessary. But the point is, steel and metallurgy has been found in Andean Peru and Ecuador in South America during the Nephite period—not in Mesoamerica. Not in the Great Lakes. Not in the Heartland. Not in the Eastern U.S. Not in the Malay Peninsula. Not in Baja California. Only in Peru and Ecuador in South America. Which should be a significant fact to the serious and intellectually honest researcher.

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