Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Both of Gold, and of Silver, and of Copper—Part I—The Sage of Tumbaga

In the last post we discussed the importance of Nephi’s statement: “And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” (1 Nephi 18:25). In this post, we will introduce the Saga of Tumbaga and how it misleads people and keeps them from fully grasping the importance of Nephi’s statement.

In John Lund’s book, “Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon: Is This the Place?” he notes that gold, silver and copper are mentioned several times in the scriptural record as being found in abundance in the land. He then goes on to state that “if there are proposed geographical theories that do not have all of these in abundance, then they would fail the test of being a possible site.” He goes on to explain “Four separate mining areas possessing gold, silver and copper are required in order to qualify as the lands of the primary events. Where are those criteria met? The answer is Mesoamerica, Southwestern United States, the Northern Rockies, and Western Canada.”

He then goes on to say that “Mesoamerica is known for its abundance in precious ores, which is why it was an area of such focus of the conquistadors. They raided and conquered entire civlizations in order to get gold and silver. He wrote “When Cortez reached Mexico with his army in March, the gold and silver he saw led him to conclude that it was where Solomon brought gold for the Temple.”

Lastly, and most importantly, he states: “Mesoamerican Indians also used a gold and copper (and sometimes silver) alloy called “tumbaga,” and this was a common metal alloy that Mesoamericans used. He also wrote that: “When the conquistadors sent back to Spain the gold items from the natives, they would melt them down into bars and ship them to their homeland. One of these ships was sunk in the Bahamas, and 200 5.66 lb. tumbaga bars were found in the sunken ship, and that to make large amounts of tumnbaga, there must be an abundance of both gold and copper in the area.

Some points before we get to Tumbaga: 1) Of all the areas mentioned for the answer to his question, he omits the Andean Area of South America where the greatest deposits of gold, silver and copper are found—by comparison: Gold production kilograms annually: Peru 182,291; Chile 40,834; Guatemala 8,485. Silver production in metric tons annually: Peru 3854; Chile 1301; Guatemala 128. Copper production in metric tons annually: Chile 3,356,600; Peru 1,107,789; Guatemala 0; 2) The scriptures do not say, gold, silver and copper, they say “both of gold, and of silver, and of copper”—a very different statement and meaning; 3) Cortez found the gold and silver in Mexico among the Aztecs (not Mesoamerica), 4) Mexico (not Mesoamerica) is known for its abundance in gold and silver, 5) Mesoamerica has little copper, 6) The focus of the conquistadors was Mexico and the Aztec civilization, not Mesoamerica.

Now to Tumbaga.

When the Conquistadors reached Mexico in the 16th century, they saw the enormous amount of artifacts made of a gold and copper alloy. Because both gold and copper have a yellowish shiny appearance, they called it Tumbaga (tembaga which means copper, brass). Tumbaga has come down to us through the ages exactly as it was originally meant—an alloy of gold and copper. While it is a mixture, it is not consistent—that is, it can have as much as 97% gold and 3% copper all the way to 97% copper and 3% gold. Unfortunately, to the layman, and many so-called professionals in the field, the term tumbaga is sometimes used to indicate any alloy of two or more metals.

So when the Spanish ship that headed for Spain in 1528 sank off the Grand Bahama Island, and was discovered in 1992, the term tumbaga was applied to the stash of ingots it carried, though the bars were divided into two distinct piles, one of gold and the other of silver. Thus, in the “Tumbaga Saga: Treasure of the Conquistadors” writings about this shipwreck and its cargo, the word “tumbaga” was loosely applied by the discoverers to both alloys of gold and silver, however, tumbaga literally meant the alloy of gold and copper since the Spanish did not use the term to apply to the non shiny metal of silver.

Tomaga is an alloy of gold and copper; Right: Tombak is an alloy of copper and zinc

The term “tombak,” used by Great Lakes Theorists is not the same as the Spanish “tumbaga.” Tombak (Tombac) is a brass alloy with high copper content and from 5% to 20% zinc content. Tin, lead or arsenic may be added for coloration. It is a cheap malleable alloy mainly used for medals, ornament, decoration and some modern munitions. In older use, the term map apply to brass alloy with a zinc conetent as high as 28% to 35%. Tombak should not be confused with tumbaga, which contains gold and did not exist in the Great Lakes area.

While the word “tumbaga” in archaeology means “an alloy of gold and copper” it has unfortunately become loosely used today by non-professionals as meaning “any two or more metals mixed together” which is more accurately the definition given to the word “alloy.” The word tumbaga has even been given, by some, to denote a period of time in pre-Columbian central America when just about any alloy with gold or copper is referred to as tumbaga.

Thus the inaccurate use of the Spanish name for gold and copper has led some, including John Lund, to think it applied to silver, giving him an inaccurate location in Central America for the placement of Nephi’s gold, silver and copper.

It is this type of inaccurate writing and thinking that leads one to feel he has a verification of his Land of Promise model when, in reality, he does not.

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