Sunday, July 14, 2019

Metal Working in Ancient America – Part VII – The Olmec Not the Jaredites

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.
    Now, let us take a look at the Mesoamericanists’ claim that the Olmec Culture of Mesoamerica were the Jaredites. First of all, we do not know what name these people called themselves—the word Olmec comes from the Mayan name for them (Nathuatl: Ōlmēcatl singular or Ōlmēcah plural, which means “Rubber People”). Second, this culture prospered in Mesoamerica from 1600 to 400 B.C., about half of the period of the Book of Mormon Jaredites (2100 to 600 B.C.) The Olmec are also considered by these theorist to have been the forerunner of all subsequent Mesoamerican cultures including the Maya (whom Mesoamericanists consider to be the Nephites) and Aztecs, making them the ancestors of both the Maya and Aztec. It is interesting to note, then, that the Olmec, according to Mesoamericanists, would be the ancestors of the Nephites, or stated differently, the Jaredites were the ancestors of the Nephites—which is totally inaccurate according to the scriptural record.
    It is also understood by anthropologists that the Olmec religious practices of sacrifice, cave rituals, pilgrimages, offerings, ball-courts, pyramids and a seeming awe of mirrors, was also passed on to all subsequent civilizations in Mesoamerica until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century AD. This, again, is inaccurate since there is no mention of the Nephites embracing any former cultural aspects of the Jaredite kingdom, which was wiped out long before the Nephites learned of their existence sometime around 200 B.C., and only through Mosiah interpreting a stone brought to him after he and the Nephites arrived in Zarahemla (Omni 1:21-22).
Sites of the principal Olmec Settlements in Mesoamerica; note that several of these (red circle) are on the right or east side of the (red line) isthmus or their narrow neck of land, and in their Land Southward contrary to the scriptural record

It is of note that La Venta, shown above in the Mexican state of Tabasco adjoining Guatemala, is not only a pre-Columbian archaeological site, but one of the first settlement areas of the Olmec Culture. It is part of what is referred to as the Olmec Heartland (present day states of Veracruz and Tabasco), though it is about 100 miles “south” (really east) of the Mesoamericanists’ narrow neck of land in their Land Southward, a region the Jaredites never settled in the Land Southward, preserving that land as a hunting preserve (Ether 10:21).
    Due to a lack of archaeological evidence the ethnic origins of the Olmec and the location and extent of many of their settlements are not known. However, major sites have been identified and while several are shown in the area east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. In fact, according to Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology and director of the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, during a joint University of California and Cornell University, find there have been scores of Olmec sites located in the Mesoamericanists’ Land Southward, including ones in Guatemala (such as Tak’alik Ab’aj, San Bartolo, and La Democracia) and in Honduras’ Puerto Escondido, Yarumela, and the Ulua Valley (Gretchen Kell, “An Ancient Honduran Village Shows Olmec Ties,” Office of Public Affairs, University of California).
    The problem is, for Mesoamericanists’ to claim that the Olmec were the Jaredites, they simply ignore the references to the scriptural record that the Jaredites never settled the Land Southward, and that numerous Olmec sites have been identified by anthropologists and archaeologists deep into the Mesoamerican Land Southward, including not only southern Mexico, but also Guatemala and Honduras.
    In fact La Venta, though dated to 814 B.C., which was the cultural capital of the Olmec in the region, is one of the largest archaeological sites in Mesoamerica, with several complexes, and a main section that is twelve miles from end to end. Built on an island within a swamp, the large basalt stones for its construction were brought from the Tuxtla Mountains to the northwest. The site itself, which supported some 18,000 people, is located at the nexus of four different ecosystems: marshes, mangrove swamps, tropical forest, and the Gulf of Mexico.
A platter hammered out of natural copper first hammered into sheets, by forming, bending, hammering, texturing and flame coloring

It should be noted that while the Olmecs used metal, it was not until sometime between 600 and 800 BC. However, this was cold hammering of natural copper and neither mined out of the ground nor smelted to separate it from other metals and rock. It should also be noted that while this copper usage was existent during the Olmec period, it was in West Mexico, stretching in a belt along the Pacific coast from Guerrero to Nayarit, which region was a regional nucleus of metallurgy, an area the Olmec never occupied.
    In addition, metal items crafted throughout Mesoamerica may be broken into three classes: utilitarian objects, objects used for individual ornamentation, and ceremonial/ritual objects ((David M. Pendergast, "Metal Artifacts in Prehispanic Mesoamerica," American Antiquity vol.27, 1962, pp520–545). The latter two categories comprise the bulk of distinctly Mesoamerican artifacts, with metals playing a particularly important role in the sacred and symbolic cultural realms.
    Previous studies have revealed the regional importation of iron-ore, minerals and stone, such as obsidian, greenstone, and mica, for sculptures, grinding tools and artifacts used in domestic, ceremonial and productive activities. This study focuses on the sourcing of non-local artifacts, made from iron–titanium (Ilmenite) oxide mineral and iron-ores, found in large quantities in the archeological excavations, in order to shed light on Early Preclassic trade. We study multi-perforated ilmenite artifacts and iron–titanium oxide ores from potential provenance areas using rock magnetic analyses, macroscopic observations, petrography, scanning electron microscopy and micro-geochemistry. 
    Magnetic analyses include magnetic susceptibility as a function of high temperature, hysteresis, isothermal remnent magnetization (IRM) acquisition and back field demagnetization of saturation IRM, and first-order reverse curves. Based on the Curie points and coercivity ranges, we suggest that the geographically unidentified source III-a, proposed earlier, corresponds to the Huitzo anorthosites. The mineralogical and textural relations between ilmenite and granulite host-rocks also suggest for the Ilmenite in Olmec samples an origin that is similar to the Huitzo anorthosites. The compositional similarity between large apatite grains in the Huitzo and Olmec samples, and the high MgO content (1.3(6) wt%) of Olmec Ilmenite are additional evidence that the provenance of the Olmec Ilmenite artifacts is in the Huitzo area, within the northern part of the Oaxaquia Precambrian complex.
The Olmec simply polished these small ore fragments and drilled holes in the crystals. For this reason the Olmec artifacts have been referred to as beads. As Pendergast further noted, the Olmec did not know how to work gold, silver, or copper, nor did they know how to smelt alloys like brass. Thus without gold or silver or the ability to smelt ore, the Olmec people could not have been the advanced Jaredite metallurgists described in the Book of Mormon, who worked 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; where 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. And they did make all manner of tools to till the earth, both to plow and to sow, to reap and to hoe, and also to thrash {thresh}. And they did make all manner of tools with which they did work their beasts. And they did make all manner of weapons of war. (Ether 10:23,25-27). 
    To discover the metallurgical skills used by the Book of Mormon people we need to look to ancient South America.
    In 2007 archaeologists discovered cold-hammered gold artifacts at a secure and undisturbed burial site at Jiskairumoko, Peru. It was a Late Archaic-Early Formative period site in the Lake Titicaca basin. Carbon-14 dating indicated that the discovery is the earliest known gold recovery so far in the Americas - 2155-1936 B.C.  
    The discovery in the Lake Titicaca area has caused the archaeologists to question their assumption that a hunting and gathering people could not work gold (Robert West, "Early Silver Mining in New Spain, 1531–1555" In Bakewell, Peter (ed.). Mines of Silver and Gold in the Americas (An Expanding World: The European Impact on World History, 1450 to 1800), Ashgate Publishing, London, 1997, p. 48)
    They believed that the early people of the Lake Titicaca basin were not advanced enough to possess such technology. What they did not realize is that a group of colonists, the Jaredites, who had the technology had recently migrated to the area. 
(See the next post, “Metal Working in Ancient America – Part VIII– Did South America Give Metallurgy to Mesoamerica?)


  1. One could argue that there could have been inconsequential Jaredite settlements in the land southward before the time of Lib (aprox 1350 BC) when the serpents the hedged up the way were destroyed, and they preserved the land southward for a wilderness to get game.

    21 And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants. --Ether 10

    But that argument would still not justify the many Olmec settlements in their land Southward.

  2. Either that or the dating system is not accurate. I subscribe to that theory. It is possible I suppose that there could be a settlement there before the Nephites came. It would be interesting to find how the settlement coalesced with the Nephites. If that happened then of course it means it wasn't Jaredite at all and the dating system is not accurate.