Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords Part IV

Critics often find it difficult to understand that what went on in the Andean area of South America was in no wise linked to that of Central America. That is, because metallurgy did not develop in Mesoamerican until somewhere between 200 and 900 A.D., they link the same understanding with the Andean area. However, metallurgy in Ecuador and Peru reached such high levels of achievement that archaeologists and historians have written volumes about their ancient accomplishments—most dating that to the first and second millennium B.C.
According to Burland, “the Peruvians had a long heritage as metallurgists, stating “we come to an understanding that the quality of preciousness attributed to these metals was something quite different and superior in Peru from what is in the civilized world of today, and the quantity of metal was quite considerable and it is quite probable that the long-continued use of charcoal for smelting accounted for the greater part of the deforestation of the Andes. The earliest metallurgy in the Americas was practiced in Peru about 900 B.C., and over the intervening centuries a variety of techniques were developed, like that of an almost incredible skill in welding copper objects.”

But while the critics claim no metallurgy was practiced in South America before 800 A.D., and that iron and steel has never been found there (see the last post), LDS apologists take the unbelievable approach of saying, that the word "steel", as used in the Book of Mormon, likely refers to a hardened metal other than iron. This argument follows from the fact that the Book of Mormon refers to certain Old World articles made of “steel”. Similar “steel” articles mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible are actually hardened copper. It has been amply demonstrated that much of the terminology of the English Book of Mormon, parallels the Authorized King James Bible. It is pointed out that copper and its alloys have the ability to rust, thus satisfying the description of “blades” which had “cankered with rust.”

This approach to dealing with the scriptural record is totally improper and inaccurate in dealing with the Book of Mormon, which stands on its own because the words are accurate, and the terms correct. Nephi wrote “steel” for his bow and Laban’s sword, both made in Jerusalem by 7th-century metal smiths—a process that began in the 10th century B.C. in the eastern Mediterranean according to Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly, and Tamara S. Wheeler, "How the Iron Age Began," Scientific American volume 237 No. 4, October 1977, pp 127-131. These blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron through deliberate carburization, a process that was well known to blacksmiths, as was quenching—another method of steeling iron, both of which made iron a useful material for tools and weapons in the 7th century B.C.

Thus, Nephi knew what iron and steel were—as did Joseph Smith in his translation. When the Lord showed Nephi where to go to get ore and smelt it for the tools to make the ship, he used his metal smith knowledge to do so. And once in the Land of Promise, he again smelted ore to make tools and to teach his people how to do so with iron and steel (2 Npehi 5:15). Nephi also mentioned iron, steel, copper and brass in the same sentence, obviously showing he knew the difference between them, as did Joseph Smith in his translation.

The problem always lies in what archaeologists have found in the ground and what the sectarian world accepts. The problem with metal is that it rusts and cankers. Rusting is a chemical procedure that takes place in metals of antiquity that are uncovered to the environment. While not all metals rust, which is a general term for a series of iron (red) oxides formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture, it is extremely common with iron, and its alloys, such as steel, when a brown substance forms known as iron oxide, which is a slow chemical reaction that takes place over a period of time. If salt is present, as in saltwater or ocean spray, it tends to rust more quickly as a result of electro-chemical reactions.

This happens because metal is an element that readily loses electrons to form positively charged ions known as cations. Metals can form ionic bonds with non-metallic elements when positively charged ions are arranged into a lattice surrounded by a cloud of delocalized electrons. In addition, metals can be combined with other substances to form alloys to give them better properties. Steel is such an alloy, which is a combination of iron and carbon—bronze is copper and tin, brass is copper and zinc.

Modern man has found that rust can be prevented with the help of the common methods like painting, greasing, electroplating and galvanizing. But in antiquity, all metals rusted and cankered as these iron compounds formed and flaked off from the surface. Which, in turn exposed fresh iron, and the corrosion process continued until all of the iron was consumed and simply disappeared over time.

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