Monday, December 19, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part II

Critics write that: “Steel and iron are mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon. No evidence has been found in North, Central, or South America of iron being hardened anciently to make “steel”. Though researchers have shown that primitive metallurgy existed in South America, metal production was only used for adornment purposes. The very earliest metal working there dates to 200 AD with the Moche culture. This dates thousands of years after the Jaredite civilization and 800 years after the beginning of the Nephite civilization in the Book of Mormon. Metallurgy spread to Central America by 800 AD (long after the Book of Mormon record closes).”

A critic can say that there was no advanced metallurgy found in South America anciently, however, archaeologists in the field have found plenty of evidence of such throughout Ecuador and Peru in B.C. times. Even recently, Purdue University archaeologist Kevin J. Vaughn, discovered a 2000 year old hematite iron-ore mine near Nazca, Peru. While Vaughn believes that the hematite was then being mined for use as red pigment, there was evidence of numerous excavations that included iron minerals.

What archaeologists find and what they think are two entirely different things. One may “think” there was no iron being mined in an ancient iron deposit area, but that does not change the fact that such a mine existed 2000 years ago. To the contrary, according to publications in 2001 and 2004, there is evidence that the earliest metallurgy in the Americas was practiced in Peru about 900 B.C., and this technology spread into Mesoamerica from South America, after about 900 A.D. Over the intervening centuries a variety of techniques developed, among them alloying, gilding, casting, the lost-wax process, soldering, and filigree work.. According to David and Ruth Whitehouse, “The Peruvians practiced a more advanced technology than those of Mesoamerica in mastery of gold, silver, copper, and alloy metallurgy. Smiths in Peru worked gold, silver, and copper, demonstrating a very fine workmanship.” And according to Cothe A. Burland, “A united separate culture arose on the northern half of the Peruvian coast, and it was within this culture that the use of metals really developed beyond the gold-working of the old cupisnique people.”

According to archaeological findings, architecture and urban living developed between 1500 and 1200 BC in the Andean area, and that weaving and pottery making was developed to an extraordinary degree during that period. By 600 BC metal working techniques such as casting, hammering, repoussé, riveting, wire drawing, and cire perdue had been mastered in Peru, and metallurgical techniques continued to evolve over the centuries after that time. In fact, the processes of working metals of all types is well documented, especially in Peru, including gold, silver, platinum and copper expertly used in creating some of the finest metal art in existence. These highly advanced techniques have been used for centuries in the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Africa, China, and Greece as well as in the Andes of South America. Obviously, it is the gold, silver, copper and brass that survived because such items are free from the problems of rust, cankering, and corrosion.

Iron, on the other hand, is highly corrosive, and over time does not last, and as useful as Iron was compared to other materials, it had extreme disadvantages. The quality of the tools made from it was highly variable, depending on the region from which the iron ore was taken and the method used to extract the iron. The chemical nature of the changes taking place during the extraction were not understood; in particular, the importance of carbon to the metal's hardness. Practices varied widely in different parts of the world. There is evidence, for example, that the Chinese were able to melt and cast iron implements very early, and that the Japanese produced amazing results with steel in small amounts, as evidenced by heirloom swords dating back centuries. Similar breakthroughs were made in the Middle East and India, but the processes never emerged into Europe, which lacked methods for heating iron to the melting point.

To produce iron, the ancients slowly burned iron ore with wood in a clay-lined oven. The iron separated from the surrounding rock but never quite melted. Instead, it formed a crusty slag, which was removed by hammering. This repeated heating and hammering process mixed oxygen with the iron oxide to produce iron, and removed the carbon from the metal. The result was nearly pure iron, easily shaped with hammers and tongs but too soft to take and keep a good edge. Because the metal was shaped, or wrought, by hammering, it came to be called wrought iron.

The different varieties of iron and steel do not oxidize in dry air, or when wholly immersed in fresh water free from air, but they all rust when exposed to the action of water or moisture and air alternately. And very thin iron, such as used in swords anciently, oxidises more rapidly than thick iron. Thus, finding any iron swords would be a rarity in an area covering several thousands of square miles.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part III,” for the reason why no iron or steel swords have been found in the Western Hemisphere before the arrival of the Spaniards)

1 comment:

  1. Not to nention of iron "fastners" being used to join megalithic stone structures in the Andean region; a technique used by the Egyptians too.