Friday, July 12, 2019

Metal Working in Ancient America – Part V– Did South America Give Metallurgy to Mesoamerica?

Continued from the previous post, regarding the development and possession of metallurgy in early cultures, including the Jaredites and Nephites and their smelting of ore, rather than just cold hammering—and how Mesoamerica finally developed metallurgy long after the golden period of metallurgy in South America had come and gone.
The relative periods when Iron was being smelted in various areas of the Western Hemisphere

It should be noted that while Mesoamerica did use quite a bit of iron, as outlined in the previous post, it was used without smelting, since no evidence of smelting in Mesoamerica has ever been found prior to about 800 A.D. Even Mesoamericanist guru John L. Sorenson, in An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon is hard pressed to justify any type of metalwork in Mesoamerica during Nephite times, stating that “It would not be surprising if the Nephites included meteoric metal among the ‘all manner of…iron’ known to them (2 Nephi 5:15).”
    He goes on to say that “Rural people in its vicinity have made chunks of it into implements” (Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985 p286). In fact, Sorenson claims the Aztec told the Spanish their iron came from the sky, and in the near East, he claims the Akkadian, Hittite and Egyptian names for iron” meant something like metal from heaven.”
    However, this is not the iron the Jaredites obtained, for Moroni tells us that the Jaredites “did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper” (Ether 10:23).
    In addition, it should be noted that in quoting scripture to leave room for meteorite metal, Sorenson inserts his own opinion. As example, iron is mentioned two other times in the scriptural record relating to the ore the Nephites had. The statement Sorenson uses as reference, 2 Nephi 5:115, does not say “all manner of iron.” The statement Nephi makes is: “And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance (2 Nephi 5:15, emphasis added). This statement suggests that all manner of wood was used, then other items added he taught his people to work with, iron, copper, brass, and steel, gold, silver, precious ores.
    To support this Mormon adds: “And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper” (Mosiash 11:8), suggesting that “all manner of” related to the various items King Noah had his workmen use to adorn his palace.
    Further, in Ether we see that “And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work. (Ether 10:23
    Thus, we cannot draw the conclusion that the Nephites had meteorite iron to work with, nor should Sorenson make such an unsupported claim.
Left: Natural iron ore found in the ground, which has to be smelted (melted) to extract the iron metal from the rock; Right: Meteorite iron that falls to the ground and is nearly pure iron. Anciently, people broke pieces of this iron to work and did not require smelting

On the other hand, iron found in meteorites, which was easy to find and recognize, was one of the earliest sources of usable iron available before the development of smelting that signaled the beginning of the Iron Age. And since meteorite iron is found on the surface of the planet, not buried in deep holes that has to be dug out, leaving giant heaps of overturned earth, the iron used in Mesoamerica was not refined as the Jaredite iron was, since the Jaredites smelted the iron from the rock, digging the ore out of the ground, “leaving heaps of overturned earth” according to Moroni and the Book of Ether. That, of course, had to be smelted in order to release the iron metal from the rock ore, where meteorite iron was broken off in chunks and shaped by hammering.
    Now, before the advent of iron smelting, which the Olmec never achieved, meteoric iron was the only source of iron metal apart from minor amounts of telluric iron—that which originated on Earth and found in a metallic form rather than as an ore. Meteoric iron was already used before the beginning of the iron age to make cultural objects, tools and weapons (Waldbaum, J. C. and James D. Muhly; The first archaeological appearance of iron and the transition to the iron age chapter in The coming of the age of iron, ed. Theodore A. Wertme, Yale University Press, 1980).
    Now we need to keep in mind that the Jaredites, who came from Mesopotamia around 2100 B.C., would have been familiar with smelting iron. As early as 3000 B.C., it is claimed the Jaredite homeland of Mesopotamia was well familiar with smelting iron—something the Jaredites would have known and obviously practiced in their new land.
In fact, an iron blade on a dagger found in a Hattic tomb in Anatolia, dates from 2500 B.C., is early evidence of the widespread use of iron weapons that replaced bronze weapons rapidly disseminated throughout the Middle East soon afterward—in Tutankhamun’s 13th century B.C. tomb was found a dagger in the folds of the wrappings with an iron blade that was recently examined and found to be of meteorite origin (Ben Panko, Science, AAAS, Washington DC, June 2016). In fact, the New York Times carried an article on this, saying: “...the blade’s composition of iron, nickel and cobalt was an approximate match for a meteorite that landed in northern Egypt. The result “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin"... (Declan Walsh, “King Tut’s Dagger Made of ‘Iron From the Sky,’ Researchers say,” New York Times, 4 June 2016).
    Interestingly, however, no evidence of smelting iron has ever been found in Mesoamerica before about 600-800 A.D., and none in North America (Heartland, Great Lakes, and eastern U.S.) until A.D. times. Thus, neither region could be considered the Land of Promise, since both the Jaredites and the Nephites smelted and worked iron, as well as other metals.
    In comparing Mesoamerica with the Jaredites, we need to keep in mind that Mesoamericanists claim the Olmec Culture were the Jaredites. In fact, the Olmecs are known as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica, meaning that the Olmec civilization was the first culture that spread and influenced Mesoamerica. The early capital of Mesoamerica's first civilization, the archaeological site of San Lorenzo, flourished between 1400 and 1000 B.C., in the humid tropical coastal plains of southeastern Veracruz. Along with La Venta (State of Tabasco) and Tres Zapotes, these three made up the major cities of the Olmec, whose overall chronological history can be divided into the Early Formative (1800-900 B.C.), Middle Formative (900-400 B.C.) and Late Formative (400 B.C-200A.D.)
    These dates, by the way, begin 300 years after the Jaredites would have landed, and end as much as 800 years after the Jaredites would have been destroyed. While it could be said that sedentary agriculturalists had lived in the area for centuries before San Lorenzo developed into a regional center, the actual earliest evidence for Olmec culture is found at nearby El Manatí, a sacrificial bog with artifacts dating to 1600 B.C., 200 years after the claimed beginning of the Olmec period.
    Now, by the time Jared and his brother were near the end of their lives, Orihah, one of their sons, was chosen to be king (Ether 6:27), who dwelt in a land called Moron (Ether 7:5-6). According to Mesoamericanists, this would make the city and land of Moron the same area as San Lorenzo, which they claim is the Land of Moron, however, San Lorenzo was not a major center until at least 500 years after the Jaredites landed—making these dates inconsistent with the scriptural record.
The blade of Laban’s sword was made of “the most precious steel“

In addition, Nephi tells us that he had a “steel” sword, stating clearly that: “I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9).
    However, as some Mesoamericanists claim, “the steel of the Book of Mormon is probably not modern steel. Steel, as we understand today, had to be produced using a very cumbersome process and was extremely expensive until the development of puddling towards the end of the 18th century. Even in ancient times, however, experienced smiths could produce steel by heating and hammering pig-iron or, earlier still, the never-molten iron from a bloomery to loose the surplus of carbon to get something like elastic steel. Early smiths even knew that by quenching hot steel in water, oil, or a salt solution the surface could be hardened (Iron and Steel in the Book of Mormon, Fair Mormon, The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, Inc.)
    However, even if Mesoamerica “steel” was actually from the development of puddling, i.e., using molten iron in a reverberatory (rebounding or reflecting) furnace (air furnace) stirred with rods, which were consumed in the process,, yet the reverberatory furnace was not invented until 1678 by Sir Clement Clerke. They were soon replaced by the foundry cupola (blast furnace).
(See the next post, “Metal Working in Ancient America – Part VI– Did South America Give Metallurgy to Mesoamerica?)

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