“Send Forth Much Timber by the Way of Shipping”

Brant Gardner

The demand for timber is so great that it is imported. There is no direct evidence for timber shipping, but there is Mesoamerican evidence that there were large coastal canoes in use at the time of the Conquest, and there is no reason to suppose that they were not in use much earlier. Ferdinand Columbus describes one such coastal canoe they met off the island of Guanaja in the Gulf of Honduras:

“…there came at that time a canoe as great as a galley, 8 feet wide, all of a single trunk loaded with merchandise from westem parts. Amidships it had a canopy of palm leaves, like that of gondolas in Venice. Under this canopy were the children, women and all the baggage and merchandise. The crew of the canoe, although they were twenty-five, did not have the spirit to defend themselves against the battles sent in pursuit…” (cited in David Drew. The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings. University of California Press, 1999, p. 18).

The Mesoamerican tribes with access to the coast employed such vessels to ply trade along the coast. Until recently, the major transportation arteries for the Maya were the rivers and swamps that covered their lands. (Linda Schele and David Freidel.  A Forest of Kings.William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1990, p. 60)While there is no shipping of timber yet attested for the New World, it is ancient and well attested in the Old World:

“If you go back to the earliest records of Egypt, the Old Kingdom, to the time of Seti or the time of Pepi II [you find a similar situation]. He left lots of inscriptions. Then there’s that great account from the year 1085 B.C., the story of Wenamun who was an agent of one of the pharaohs in the north. He was sent up to buy timber for Egyptian buildings. Of course, Egypt is not rich in timber, to say the least, as you know. So they would bring it from Lebanon. And it is described in those texts way back before 2000 B.C., and then the other was 1085 B.C. He had letters of credit. [It told] how he was to buy them and the trouble he had in the business. At times he was robbed, etc. And then he described how the oxen pulled the great logs down from Lebanon, how they were lined up and classified on the beach all ready to be taken to Egypt. They were pulled by special ships. This was going on 4,000 years before Christ. The earliest tombs have these cedars of Lebanon in them.” (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988--1990 [Provo: FARMS, p. 209.)

The technique for delivery would easily have been the same. The timber would not have been inside ships, but simply transported by the power of the oarsmen in the large canoes.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon