Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Metal Working in Ancient America – Part II– Did the Jaredites and Nephites Smelt Metals?

Continued from the previous post, regarding the development and possession of metallurgy in early cultures, including the Jaredites and Nephites.
The cities of Jiskairumoko, Tiwanaku, Puno, and others around the southwestern shores of Lake Titicaca where important ruins have been found. It appears that Jiskairumoko was the oldest of these early settlements southwest of Lake Titicaca in the Rio Ilave Valley along the southwestern Lake Titicaca tributary

The site of Jiskairumoko plays a significant role in understanding the pre-Columbian history of Andean Peru due to the early prestige objects, architectural transitions, variation in structure internal organization, ritual preparation embedded in domestic use areas, and the formation of regular trade routes.
    The area lies in the mountains at an elevation of 13,500 feet, in the Aymara community of Jachacachi, adjacent to the Ilave River drainage, of the Lake Tititcaca Basin, in Peru. Occupation of Jisk'a Iru Muqu spans from the Late Archaic to the Formative—a period of time determined by Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips in the widely accepted 1958 book Method and Theory in American Archaeology.
    Mark Aldenderfer, from the anthropology department at the University of Arizona in Tucson, has just published a paper with several other authors which made the journal cover of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The cover features the gold and turquoise necklace discovered in excavations of burials in the site near Lake Titicaca in Peru. The significance of this find is that it is the oldest known gold object made in the Americas and shows us that status symbols like jewelry began before the appearance of more complex societies in the Andes.
Jiskairumoko is located thirty-four miles southeast of Puno, Peru, in the Peruvian mountains just to the west of Lake Titicaca along the Peruvian-Bolivian border. The domestic architecture exposed during excavation is the earliest evidence of reduced residential mobility in the region.

(Image C – Pithouse, about half below the surface, the other half above with a roof on top, with entry through the roof
Three pithouses (dugouts), a semi-subterranean structure, and two above ground structures were exposed during excavation. Twenty-five radiocarbon dates show that pithouses occurred early (possibly 3200 B.C.), with the semi-subterranean structure being intermediate, and the above ground prepared floor structures occurring around 1400 B.C., suggesting a change in residential structures from pithouses to above ground structures as observed in many parts of the world.
    It should also be noted that the founding of New World populations by Asian peoples is the focus of considerable archaeological and genetic research, and there persist important questions on when and how these events occurred. According to Jody Hey, of the Department of Genetics, Rutgers University New Jersey, (now Temple University, Philadelphia), a new method for the study of diverging populations was applied to questions on the founding and history of Amerind-speaking Native American populations.
    The model permits estimation of founding population sizes, changes in population size, time of population formation, and gene flow. This genetic data offers great potential for the study of human population history, but there are significant challenges in discerning distinct demographic processes.
    An analyses of data from nine loci (configuration points leading to a single condition; in genetics it is the position of a gene or mutation on a chromosome) are consistent with the general portrait that has emerged from archaeological and other kinds of evidence. The estimated effective size of the founding population for the New World, as an example, is fewer than 80 individuals, which is approximately 1% of the effective size of the estimated ancestral Asian population.
    If course, the dating of the necklace and its metalwork, as well as the society or culture that produced it coincides with the dates of the Jaredites (2100 to 600 B.C.) It should be noted that the Jaredites upon arrival in the Land of Promise, would have numbered somewhere around 80 to 100 people. When we contrast that number with the findings of modern science of the original population of the region, it becomes even more important. Consequently, by adding a splitting parameter to population divergence models it becomes possible to develop detailed portraits of human demographic history. Analyses of Asian and New World data support a model of a recent founding of the New World by a population of quite small effective size.
    In fact, a molecular genetics study suggests that surviving Amerindian ("'Indians of the Americas") populations derived from a theoretical single founding population, possibly from only 50 to 70 genetic contributors to as many as 80 to 100.
 Jody Hey, a Guggenheim fellowship recipient, and the Director of the Center for Computational Genetics and Genomics at Temple, has developed a novel method for the study of the origins of New World populations—along with DNA analysis and computer simulations, he reveals how the sizes of the first New World populations have changed since they were founded. His results fall in line with archeological, genetic, and linguistic evidence, pointing to a relatively recent colonization of the Americas (J. Hey, “On the Number of New World Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas,” PLOS Biology, U.S. National Institute of Health, Vol 3 No 6, 2005, p193).
At the same time we know that the Nephites and the Jaredites before them, possessed advanced metallurgy knowledge and techniques. They worked gold, silver, copper, brass, iron, and steel (Jarom 1:8; Ether 10:23). In South America, metallurgy dates to a very early period.
    Very early, the natives of North America used a cold hammering technique to work copper; however, there is no archaeological evidence that they ever smelted metals. This would eliminate them having the alloys mentioned in the Book of Mormon: brass, iron, or steel.
    According to Mark Aldenderfer, South American metal working seems to have developed in the Andean region of modern Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina with gold and copper being hammered and shaped into intricate objects. Recent finds date the earliest gold work to 2155–1936 B.C., and the earliest copper work to 1432–1132 B.C. (Eric A. Powell, “Andean Copper Age,” Archaeology, Vol.70, No5,  2017). In fact, ice core studies in Bolivia suggest copper smelting may have begun as early as 2000 B.C. (A. Eichler et. al., “Ice-core evidence of earliest extensive copper metallurgy in the Andes 2700 years ago,” Nature, 2017).
    In fact, Andean cultures developed one of the great metallurgical traditions of the ancient world, but they have been far less investigated and understood than the ones in the Middle East and Europe, or Asia. For Andean metallurgy copper in particular was an important resource and still plays a central economic role in many South American countries today with metal often referred to as the “backbone of Andean metallurgy–the mother of all Andean metals” (H. Lechtman, The Inka, and Andean metallurgical tradition. In Variations in the Expression of Inka Power” [eds Burger, Craig and Mendieta], Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C., 2007, pp313–355).
    Daniel Johnson of the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum in an article “Plates of Gold,” states that “South America has a history of metalworking that extends back to the second millennium B.C. The general consensus is that metal goods and eventually the skills to make them originated in the region which now comprises modern-day Peru and Bolivia, then gradually spread northward through trade and other cultural contact.” 
(See the next post, “Metal Working in Ancient America – Part III,” regarding the development and possession of metallurgy in early cultures, including the Jaredites and Nephites and their smelting of ore)

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