Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Additional Clues to the Land of Promise Location-Part II More Nephite Gold & Coins

As has been pointed out in this series on coins, in ancient times, pieces of gold and silver were widely used in trade. However without standardized coinage, the weight and purity of the metal had to be tested every time it changed hands. By 650 BC, inhabitants on the Greek island of Lydia were using bean-shaped lumps of electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver, stamped with official symbols indicating weight and purity.

By 550 BC, the practice of striking coins was established in all the important trading cities throughout the known world; however, no coins, or even signs of metallurgy, has ever been found in Mesoamerica before the Christian era. On the other hand, gold coins have been found in the Andean area dating into B.C. times. The problem is in identifying what is found against what is believed.

First of all, when it comes to ancient coins, we are used to seeing ancient Greek and Roman coins that invariably had the head of an emperor, leader, hero, god or animal on them..

However, ancient coins, not so well known, also had other designs—some complex, some very simple and seldom make the color pages of coin brochures, let alone be in the public conscience—yet they were ancient coins issued by countries or states.

In addition, many ancient coins outside of the Greek and Roman areas of influence, were mere designs some without apparent meaning or symbolism. These are sometimes the hardest to identify, frequently thought of as ornaments hung around the neck, fastened to cloaks, or symbols of private families, etc. However, they were issued coins of an ancient era.

The first three coins from the left are ancient coins traded on the open market today, some dating to very ancient times. In fact, the coin in the middle was an electrum (gold and silver ore) coin struck in Ionia about the time Lehi left Jerusalem. The two coins on the right of very similar simplicity and without the typical Greek or Roman type heads or writing, were found in pre-Columbian Peru, and date to ancient metallurgic times.

Most very early coinage was stamped or struck on electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, with trace amount of copper. It is interesting that in the area of the Andes, gold, silver and copper occur naturally in single ore deposits. It is also interesting that when Nephi wrote of the ore he found in the Land of Promise, he stated that “We did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” (1 Nephi 18:25). The use of the word both, followed by three items typifies the ore compoun was made up of gold and silver as precious metals, or a single type of item, and copper as a non-precious metal, or a second item. Thus, both (gold and silver) and (copper) ore found with a single ore—what today is known as electrum--and abundantly found in the Andean area of South America, but not at all in Guatemala according to the USGS.

This electrum was called “gold” or “white gold” by the ancient Greeks, as opposed to “refined gold.” Anciently, electrum was used in the Old Kingdom Egypt as an exterior coating to the pyramidions (capstone) atop the ancient pyramids and obelisks, for the making of drinking vessels, and coins.

However, much later in Peru, by the time of the Inca, natural electrum in ore was the property of the Emperor, and refined into the gold that was cast in sheets for wall decoration and murals, and ornamental items, such as large plates, animal molds, table service and finely crafted decorations of all kinds. Since the Emperor held all things as his own, and the people were taken care of by The Inca, it is doubtful any coins were necessary or used for any purpose.

The point to all of this, is that while gold and silver coins were introduced by Mormon in the 11th chapter of Alma, and that gold, silver and copper were abundant in the Andean area, and that ancient coins were found there, it is just another example of matching the Land of Promise location to all points mentioned in the scriptural record.

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