Thursday, January 10, 2019

Metallurgy in the Americas – Part IV

Continued from the previous post regarding the presence of metallurgy in South America, where archaeologists claim metallurgy began, and from there traveled northward into Central, Meso-, and North America. It was also discussed that Andean metallurgists used alloys almost exclusively to mold their images.
    In the previous post we discussed the smelting of iron and the process of steel that was anciently known in Cypres, Mesopotamia and the Middle East. First of all, in Egypt, copper mines began in the Predynastic Period, 4th millennia BC, with copper beads found in an untouched grave of a child in one of the 7,000 tombs found at El Badari, along the eastern bank of the Nile, in the Asyhut Governorate, Upper Egypt (Elise J. Baumgartel, The Cultures of Prehistoric Egypt, vol.II, London, 1960).
Fragment of Turin papyrus, an ancient Egyptian mining map for Ramesses IV’s quarrying expedition 12th century BC to the Wadi Hammamat in the Eastern Desert where an ancient iron mine existed

The ancient Egyptians knew, and used, gold, copper, silver, iron, lead and tin, and the alloys, bronze, brass, electron and solder. It should also be noted that it is claimed that steel was known in Egypt and Mesopotamia 4000 years ago (2000 BC). There were iron mines in Dib, Hammamat and near Aswan, as well as the Sinai, with the earliest iron smelting places at Defenna and Naukratis (nAiw-krD), the latter near Sais and a trading post for the Greeks in Egypt, which was founded in 664 BC (Ernest Arthur Gardner, Excavation Report, 1888; Gardner, et al.,  Naukratis, Trübner, London, 1886). The process, after all, of turning iron into steel is accomplished by heating iron in contact with charcoal,
    To get to the bits of iron in the ore, it has to be smelted out. Smelting involves heating the ore until the metal becomes spongy and the chemical compounds in the ore begin to break down. Most important, it releases oxygen from the iron ore, which makes up a high percentage of common iron ores. Evidently, it occurred to ancient Egyptian metallurgists that by continuing to heat iron while case-hardening it would have been an analogous process transferred the metal into a much harder modification capable of taking a keen edge.
    According to Professor Gowland, the iron plate from the Great Pyramid, on analysis, was found to contain combined carbon, which shows that it was of a steel nature; a small cube placed in the foundation of some old building, proved without doubt that it was mild steel through the micrograph of a section. IN addition, steel tools dating to the early 7th century BC have been found to be steel (Herbert Garland, “The Iron Age in Egypt,” Ancient Egyptian Metallurgy, Charles Griffin & Co., England, 1921).
    The Egyptians learned how to work metals from an early period, and all agree that 5,000 years ago, the Ancient Egyptians had already developed the techniques of mining, refining, and metalworking—melting, forging, soldering, and the chasing of metal—were not only much practiced, but also most highly developed. The frequent references of metalworking in Ancient Egyptian gives us a truer conception of the importance of this industry in Ancient Egypt, and because it was largest and richest population in the ancient world, Egypt imported huge quantities of raw materials; and in return exported large quantities of finished goods. The Ancient Egyptians’ finished metallic products are found in tombs throughout the Mediterranean Basin, European, Asiatic and African countries.
The Pyramid necropolis at Saqqara, with (left) the Pyramid of Unas , (center) the stepped Pyramid of Djoser, and the (right) Pyramid of Userkaf

It should also be noted that although the pyramids were built before the “bronze and iron ages,” meteoric iron was known to the Egyptians of the Pyramid Age. The Ancient Egyptian name for iron was bja, which is mentioned repeatedly in the Unas Funerary (Pyramid) Texts that are found in the Saqqara Complex about 4,500 years ago (Moustafa Gadallal, Ancient Egyptian Culture Revealed, Tehuti Research Foundation, Greensboro, North Carolina, 2007).
    These dates, especially the earlier ones, coincide with the dating of the Jaredites, who came from Mesopotamia to the Land of Promise, whose record states that Prince Shule, a man “mighty in judgment,” at the hill Ephraim “did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him” (Ether 7:8, emphasis added). The latter dates coincide with the time of Lehi and Nephi before they left Jerusalem. In addition, we also know from the scriptural record that Laban, the leading military commander of ancient Jerusalem in 600 BC, possessed a gold-handled (hilt) sword made “of the most precious steel,” of “fine workmanship” (1 Nephi 4:9).
    Since the 1828 dictionary states of “steel” that it was “Iron combined with a small portion of carbon; iron refined and hardened, used in making instruments, and particularly useful as the material of edged tools…weapons; particularly, offensive weapons, swords, spears and the like.” This should also tell us that the Jaredites as well as the Nephites had steel weapons, specifically swords. In addition, other metals were alloyed anciently, like copper and gold (a binary alloy, such as bronze or brass, and sometimes referred to as tumbaga), as well as copper, silver and gold (a ternary alloy), as was copper, zinc, and lead.
    Because of the extensive looting which has taken place in Peru, both recently and during colonial times, few precious metals remain and our understanding of them remains comparatively sparse. This has led to the current focus on the appearance and distribution of copper alloys as they represent the backbone of Andean metallurgy, where arsenic bronze was the earliest alloy to be utilized in both northern Chile and southern Peru. Here, arsenic bronze was in continual use until the Spanish conquest.
    According to Gray Graffam, this bronze alloy was used both for tools (axes, chisels, and wedges) and finer domestic items (awls, needles, bracelets, and tweezers), and went as far back as 1000 BC (Graffam, et al., Ancient Metallurgy in the Atacama; Evidence for Copper Smelting During Chile’s Early Ceramic Period,” Latin American Antiquity, vol.7, Iss.2, 1996, pp101-113).
Mina Perdida copper and gold artifacts dated to the last millennia BC, show ancient artisans hammered native metals into thin foils, in some cases with intermediate anneals, or toughening. Note it is about 4½ miles from Pachacamac (Zarahemla), and 5 miles from the sea 

In Andean South America, it is believed that the use of copper started in Mina Perdida (meaning “Lost Mine”) at least by 2000 BC—one of the largest and oldest monuments of the Lurin Valley, and the oldest civilization in this part of Peru. This complex was formed by three pyramids arranged in the form of letter “U,” two of them being long and narrow platforms that flank the third pyramid, and named "Right Arm" and "Left Arm" for the lateral buildings, and the central mound (third pyramid) as the Main Pyramid and the space they frame called it Plaza. These ruins are the oldest well-dated archaeological site containing metal artifacts in coastal Peru, where "hammered foils and gilded copper are preserved in contexts dating to 1400 to 1100 B.C." Copper pieces by the Wankarani culture of the highlands are dated from 1200 BC to 1000 BC (Jeeun Song, “The History of Metallurgy and Mining in the Andean Region, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, December 2009).
    It should also be noted that “In the year 1800 BC, the first civilizations that have metallurgy in all America were founded, leaving as vestiges seven temples with as “U” shape, that is no designated as Manchay Culture (including Mina Perdida, Cardal, Azúcar, Pueblo Viejo, etc.) and nearly adjacent to the archeological remains of Pachacamac. These sites are in the Lurin Valley, along the Lurin River (formerly called the Pachacamac River, as it still appears on old maps of the area).
    Around 800 BC, the Chavin culture rose, opening the Early Horizon. As the first massive spread of influence of a single major culture over a very large area, the Early Horizon was accompanied by urbanization and the extensive use of gold, whose nuggets were hammered into thin sheets to be cut in to small rectangles sewn to clothing or ornaments. Embossing and annealing (heating the metal to a dull heat to relieve it from strains) were techniques used in early Andean metallurgy (Heather N. Lechtman, "Ethnocategories and Andean Metallurgy" ed. Ana Maria Lorandi et al., Los Andes: Cincuenta Anos Después, Fondo Editorial Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, 2003).  Additionally, recent research have led to theories that extensive mining and trade of cinnabar (mercury oxide), which was used as an important pigment, may have spurred the rise of early cultures in the Andes (Colin A. Cooke et al., “Over Three Millennia of Mercury Pollution in the Andes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2009). 
Ruins of Pikillacta in the Lucre Valley 18-miles southeast of Cuzco 

According to Lechtman, in southern Peru the earliest evidence for arsenic bronze—an alloy where arsenic, as opposed to or in addition to tin, or other constituent metals, is added to copper to make bronze—metallurgy occur at the site of Pikillacta in the Lucre Valley, just southeast of Cuzco between the Urubamba River and Lake Huacarpay (Heather Nan Lechtman, “A metallurgical site survey in the Peruvian Andes,” Journal of Field Archeology, vol.3, Boston, 1976, pp1-42). 
    This metallurgical work occurred during the influence of the pre-Inca Empire known as the Wari, which controlled the area in the first millennia AD, approximately 600 to 1000 AD, whose arsenic bronze artifacts are normally represented by domestic items or tools. Naturally occurring alloys of copper and arsenic are readily available in the high Andes of central/southern Peru and would have been accessible to native South Americans. Therefore, arsenic bronze metallurgy characterized the period following the BC era in southern Peru and northern Chile.
(See the next post, “Metallurgy in the Americas – Part V,” for more on this subject and how Andean South America is the only area in the Americas that shows metallurgy, in addition to just copper, being practiced at a time of both the Jaredites and the Nephites)

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