Monday, April 24, 2017

What about Ancient Technology? – Part II

Continuing from the last post with more on the ancient technologies of the Nephite era, despite many people believing these early cultures were incapable of achieving modern-level accomplishments in many fields, especially in building and developing their communities with modern-style convenience, such as the Heartland, Great Lakes and Eastern U.S. theorists who claim the Nephites settled in stick huts with thatched roofs. 
Left: Adena; Right: Hopewell houses built during the Nephite era that North American thorists claim were Nephites. Consider the comparison between this building technique and that of the Hebrews at Jerusalem from which Lehi came

    The point is, as discussed in the first article in this series, the Nephites had asdvanced capability from such primitive cultures as those that settled in North America during B.C. times. In fact, Nephi wrote about steel swords, and building a temple like Solomon’s magnificent edifice. In addition, as pointed out, the Nephites built “there were many highways cast up, and many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place“ (3 Nephi 6:8).
    Obviously, the technology of the ancients was far more advanced than some historians and theorists want to allow. Yet, the scriptural record is replete with their accomplishments. In fact, many sections of the ancient Peruvian road network discussed in the previous post survive today and are still used by pedestrians, especially near such sites as Machu Picchu, where large stone stairways and bridges give access to the site for modern tourists. In addition, some of the original routes have had modern roads built directly over them, illustrating the skills and vision for crossing terrain and distances possessed by the early engineers and road builders.
    In addition the Romans were well known as expert road builders. About 1.7 million square miles of territory was covered by the Roman roads, which were made with gravel, dirt, and bricks made from granite and hard lava. Many of their ancient roads are still used today in much of Europe.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans built aqueducts that ran for many miles 

Another remarkable skill some ancient cultures achieved was that of stone cutting, shaping and dressing. In fact, around the world, we can find numerous examples of ancient stone-cutting so precise that they rival creations of the modern day produced with advanced machinery. One prime example can be found at Puma Punku, along the Peru-Bolivia border at Lake Titicaca, where 4,500-year-old archaeological site that contains such incredible stonework that it looks as if the stones were cut using a diamond tool.
Precise cuts and angles of stone cut as though electrical power equipment was used, but done with chisels and hammers

    Enormous blocks weighing up to 800 tons, consist of perfectly straight edges that lock perfectly into each other and contain no chisel marks. Also intricate patterns of very large stones cut at odd angles that match to form earthquake-proof walls and structures that fit so precisely together, without mortar, that not even a knife blade or sheet of paper can be inserted in the joints. All attempts to-date to replicate the precision of the stonework have failed.
    In fact, all of Andean Peru, Ecuador and western Bolivia are well-known for their advanced masonry work, much of which can still be seen today in Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo in Peru, or Tiahuanaco in Bolivia. Their large dry stone walls display huge blocks that had been carefully cut to fit together tightly without mortar and with levels of precision unmatched anywhere else in the Americas.
    The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward (to prevent damage in the event of an earthquake) have puzzled scientists for decades. The method used to match precisely the shape of a stone with the adjacent stones is still unknown and attempts to recreate the technique have all failed.
Still another ancient achievement was the making of concrete. Mormon tells us that the people who went into the north country “became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell” (Helaman 3:7). While we do not know exactly what type of cement these Nephites produced, the Romans about the same time made concrete by mixing lime, volcanic rock, and seawater for an extraordinarily durable, high-performance composite constructed from lime and pyroclastic rocks. It is now claimed that this provides a unique temporal window to address shortcomings in modern concrete longevity and environmental sustainability.
    Today, scientists studying the composition of Roman concrete, which has been submerged under the Mediterranean Sea for the last 2,000 years, discovered that it was superior to modern-day concrete in terms of durability and being less environmentally damaging.
    This was uncovered by an international team of researchers led by Paulo Monteiro of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
An early Roman concrete method-- Opus incertum is composed for various rock chunks mixed with cement. Notice that there is no real brick facing. Opus incertum was one of the earlier concrete construction methods, like this wall found at Pompeii

    The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock, but underwater, the combination of lime and volcanic ash with seawater instantly triggered a chemical reaction in which the lime incorporated molecules into its structure and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.
    The ancient seawater concrete contains the ideal crystalline structure of Tobermorite, which has a greater strength and durability than the modern equivalent. Analysis of the concrete found that it produces a significantly different compound to modern day cement, which is an incredibly stable binder. Microscopic studies from nanoscale tomography, X-ray microdiffraction, and high-pressure X-ray diffraction synchrotron radiation applications have identified other minerals in the ancient concrete which show potential application for high-performance concretes, including the encapsulation of hazardous wastes.
    As an example, conventional modern cement requires heating a mix of limestone and clay to 1,450 degrees Celsius which releases significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. In contrast, Roman cement used much less lime and made it from baking limestone at 900 degrees Celsius, requiring much less fuel. “It’s not that modern concrete isn’t good,” Monteiro said of this discovery, “it’s so good we use 19 billion tons of it a year, but the problem is that manufacturing Portland cement accounts for seven percent of the carbon dioxide that industry puts into the air.” He also added, “In the middle 20th century, concrete structures were designed to last 50 years, yet Roman harbor installations have survived 2,000 years of chemical attack and wave action underwater.”
    The point is once again that early civilizations had technologies that, in some cases, have yet to be duplicated by modern man, yet so many historians and theorists want to place early cultures, like the Nephites, in a primitive world of non-achievement despite all sorts of testimony to the opposite. As a result, we should be very cautious of any theory that wants to show us that the Nephites and even the Jaredites, were incapable of building far beyond what they want us to believe. Because of this, we should also be very cautious of believing that a Land of Promise without solid, stone-based artifacts of construction like those found in the ancient middle east and Mesopotamia, could possibly be the Land of Promise.
(See the next post, “What about Ancient Technology? – Part III,” for more on the ancient technologies of the Nephite era and where they are found in the Americas)


  1. The ancient people have never been given much credit for the things they accomplished. Sure, they fid not have medicines we have today, but the ancient people accomplished many things that are no longer done.

    Technology is great, but in some ways it has caused mankind to lose other types of knowledge and ways of doing some things.

    For example, in medicine doctors today totally depend on tests for diagnosis, and too many dismiss what the patient is saying and miss symptoms that tests can not pick up or identify. Or if the right test is not ordered the problem is missed.

    I and my spouse have personal experience with the medical scenario, unfortunately.

  2. Exactly. Another factor about medicine. Today,we rely on synthetics but the ancients had pure herbal medicines (like quinine for malaria) sometimes thousands of years before modern man developed it. Peruvians were doing trepanning successfully two thousand years ago. Of course they did not have computers, iPads and cell phones.