We Became Exceedingly Rich in Iron Making All Manner of Tools

Jarom mentions that "we [the Nephites] became exceedingly rich . . . in iron" (Jarom 1:8). The mention of iron is problematic for a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. Hunter and Ferguson explain that it is the consensus of opinion among the archaeologists that the ancient Americans did not work with iron. It should be borne in mind, of course, that iron is one of the most perishable of metals. It would have been particularly subject to rapid corrosion in the damp tropical regions where the principal center of early American cultures were located, in southern Mexico and . . . Guatemala. Even at the present time, in the middle of the twentieth century, ornamental iron is used very little in the gulf coast region of Mexico. Covarrubias points out that the ornamental balconies of the homes in the city of Vera Cruz are of "turned wood (because iron rusts too quickly in the tropical sea air)." American archaeologists have found but one or two small pieces of iron.

Nevertheless, at Uaxactun, Guatemala, within an ancient pyramid were found some jars containing oxide of iron and iron (hematite) crystals. Furthermore, the Mesoamerican historian Ixtlilxochitl, like the Book of Mormon, says the Tultecas (Bountiful people) used it. He says that when the Tultecas fought they used, among other things mentioned by him, ". . . long lances, and others [javelins] which are thrown, and clubs garnished [nailed] with iron." [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 263]

Jarom 1:8 In iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every king ([Illustration]): Sahagun's Florentine Codex pictures an Aztec metalworker plying his craft with a very simple but effective apparatus. Molten copper pours from the crucible into a mold to form an axe head. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 53]

Jarom 1:8 In iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind ([Illustration]): (a) The practical quality of metal tools like these mainly of copper, left much to be desired. They did not retain a good cutting edge for long. A stone axe was cheaper and about as effective as one with a metal head. (b) Custom-finished obsidian tools were sometimes made from large, semiprepared chunks of the raw material at or near markets, where customer needs could be matched more easily than at the obsidian source. (c) Skilled men used an antler tip or a bone point to press at key points on chunks of the volcanic glass, splitting off thin fragments one after another. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 52]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary