Thursday, July 11, 2019

Metal Working in Ancient America – Part IV– The Moche Culture and Meltallurgy

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 Moche, (also known as the Early Chimú or Mochica), occupied a large area along 250 miles of northwestern coast and several valleys of Peru as far as fifty miles inland. Recognized for advanced technology, art and metallurgy, they flourished more than 1,000 years before the Inca, overlapping the latter Nephite period.
Moche Pyramid situated in the Moche River Valley. Made of adobe construction, it has suffered badly and almost destroyed over the 2000 years since it was first built
The Moche cultural sphere centered around several valleys along the north coast of Peru, and occupied 250 miles of desert coastline that extended up to 50 miles inland. Moche society was agriculturally based, but because of the arid climate, they invested heavily in the construction of a network of irrigation canals. These ornate canals diverted river water to crops across the region. The Moche are also noted for their expansive ceremonial architecture (huacas), elaborately painted ceramics, and woven textiles
    As Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube, in the Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000, pp203-205) comments that “while internal clues in the Book of Mormon may support a geographical area like Mesoamerica, the Andean region of South America has a history of metalworking that more closely parallels the time period of the scriptural record.”
    In fact, it is quite significant that not a single bit of evidence leads to metallurgy in Mesoamerica or Central America existing until long after the demise of the Nephite Nation. For millennia prior to the Nephite demise, metallurgy flourished in Andean South America at such a sophisticated level that it has astounded archaeologists.
    Though South America is much farther away in distance geographically, far closer chronologically in metal working are the sophisticated Moche (a Pre- or Proto-Chimù Culture), a people primarily known for their hunting, fishing, fighting, sacrifice, elaborate ceremonies and construction of a large network of irrigation canals, as well as their monumental constructions (Beck et al., World History; Patterns of Interaction, McDougal Littell, Evanston IL, 1999).
    Moche art is redundant with the imagery of combat, with vases and other work showing war scenes, especially using war clubs, small shields for defense, spears and slings, throwing stones with astonishing force.
Two metal war clubs were buried with a Moche woman dated to around 400 A.D., an interesting comparison to the Book of Mormon last battles that involved men, women and children

In May 2006, a mummy was found in an unlooted Moche tomb, dating to about 400 A.D. This female was buried with two large metal war clubs and was covered with many thin sheets made of a copper-gold alloy, wrapped up in the cotton burial cloth, suggesting that even women of the Moche were warriors—a fact that is very consistent with this period of the Nephites (Mormon 6:7).
    According to Mark Cartwright in “Moche Civilization” (Ancient History Encyclopedia, 20 august 2014): “The Moche also expressed themselves in art with such a high degree of aesthetics that their naturalistic and vibrant murals, ceramics, and metalwork are amongst the most highly regarded in the Americas.” The Moche, who raised spectacular adobe platforms and pyramids, and created exquisite ceramics and jewelry, were well known for their metalwork
The Moche Culture occupied the northern region of the Andean west coastal area with a highly advanced civilization that was celebrated for its sophisticated and innovative metalwork

The Moche followed a culture referred to by anthropologists as the Salinar who occupied the area between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D., and the very similar Cupinisque culture before that.
    According to Garth Lawry Bawden, of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, at the time of this transition from the Cupinisque to the Salinar cultures (200 B.C.), the period is marked with “great change and transitions, including social disruption and political unrest, however, there is no indication that there was any population replacement at this time and the material culture of the two societal groups share many features drawn from the coastal tradition.” The people of these regions created long traditions of urban society with complex systems of subsistence technology, settlement, political structure, artistic expression, and religious ideology (Garth Bawden, The Moche, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford UK, 1996).
    It is important to keep in mind that at about this time (200 B.C.) in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah left the City and Land of Nephi and traveled northward to eventually discover the people of Zarahemla, followed by the immediate mingling of these two groups. And according to anthropologists, the people of these regions created long traditions of urban society with complex systems of subsistence technology, settlement, political structure, artistic expression, and religious ideology. 
Aypate archaeological site, Ayabaca province, Department of Piura, in what is now the northwestern corner of Peru, near the border of Ecuador. It has a central plaza, meeting hall, ceremonial platforms, houses, irrigation channels, fortified lookouts and numerous passageways to aid in this areas control over the surrounding area 

From this Moche area metalwork spread northward toward Colombia and eventually via shipping to Central and Mesoamerica (Metalsmith magazine, Society of North American Goldsmiths, Eugene, Oregon, 1993).
    “Evidence indicates that the technology for working metals began in the southern Andean region of Peru and spread north into Colombia. By 400 BC, elegant goldwork was being produced in the northern centers of culture of the Lambayeque Valley of north coastal Peru in South America.”
    This practice of metalworking over the next 800 years continued to spread northward, reaching the Central American Isthmus by way of the Caribbean route from Colombia around 400 AD. Major centers of gold production were established in the Central American Isthmus where objects of a distinct style were crafted for the next four hundred years. Metallurgy did not reach ancient Mexican cultures until the end of the first millennium AD.”
    It should be noted, however, that the high level of Andean metallurgy was not known in Mesoamerica until the late 15th century from Monte Alban in Oaxaca, indicating Mexican smiths had finally mastered the same techniques employed by their southern Andean neighbors, yet with a marked regional style. Each region and culture emphasized and excelled in different techniques throughout the ancient Americas but there was a general similarity of workmanship.
    It should also be noted, that the early Andean metalsmiths combined individually cut pieces of hammered metal alloy, and small percentages of copper and silver with a majority content of gold from the very beginning. In fact, these ancient American metal objects are most often made of alloys, showing metalsmiths understood the advantages inherent in the use of alloys, for mixing metals and stretching the use of the more precious gold and silver and also creating an easier material to work.
    These Andean metalworkers were quite aware of the fact that mixed metal content significantly lowered the melting point of the alloy. In Moche metalworking, gold, silver, and copper were reserved to make ritual and luxury goods for the wealthy and powerful. While Moche metalsmiths continued the more than a thousand-year-old technique using hammered sheet metals, they also employed sophisticated metallurgy that was introduced into the smith’s repertoire during Moche times.
    However, this was not the case in Mesoamerica. According to Luis Alva-Valdivia, et. al., “Mineralogical and magnetic characterization of Olmec ilmenite multi-perforated artifacts and inferences on source provenance,” (European Journal of Mineralogy, Vol.20 No.5, 2017, pp851-860), the Olmec culture arose and flourished on Mexico's southern Gulf Coast between 1800 and 400 BC, and developed extensive trade relationships for procurement of exotic materials from distant regions.
    Richard A. Diehl claims that several tons of Olmec-era iron artifacts are known (The Olmecs: America's First Civilization, Thames & Hudson, London, 2004, pp93–94). John B. Carlson adds that the Olmec were a sophisticated people who possessed advanced knowledge and skill in working iron ore minerals (Lodestone Compass: Chinese or Olmec Primacy? Multidisciplinary Analysis of an Olmec Hematite Artifact from San Lorenzo, Veracruz, Mexico, Science Magazine, Vol.189 No.4205, 1975, pp753-760).
Reverberatory furnace, in copper, tin, and nickel production, a furnace used for smelting or refining in which the fuel is not in direct contact with the ore but heats it by a flame blown over it from another chamber

So where did the Mesoamerican iron come from? Did they dig it out of the ground like the Jaredites? Did they smelt it out of the rock?
(See the next post, “Metal Working in Ancient America – Part V– Did South America Give Metallurgy to Mesoamerica?)

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