Swords and Spears

Over a decade I’ve been hung-up on the dearth of physical evidence, particularly Iron Age artifacts, supporting the Book of Mormon. Recently I had a mini-enlightenment: swords and spears do not grow on trees; they do not fall as manna from Heaven. Swords and spears are made, by men.

Without pretending to know more than I do about mining and metallurgy, as I understand, iron implements are the product of a complex, labor-intensive process. Their genesis lies in rock, hard rock, hematite, magnetite, picked, hacked, gouged, blasted from the earth. Picture a Pittsburg, Pennsylvania or Gary Indiana steel mill. Iron ore was crushed and dumped into a furnace. Around 2282° Fahrenheit iron melts. The dross or slag is skimmed and molten iron poured into molds or ingots.

Lacking advanced metallurgy, in Book of Mormon times, after mining and smelting, raw iron would be shaped and pounded into spear points and arrow heads, sharpened and fitted to wooden shafts. Swords and knives might have been formed in molds or wrought, reheated and reshaped, annealed, sharpened, polished and fitted to iron, wood, or bone handles.

Over five centuries, from the Rockies to the Appalachians, from the Gulf to the Arctic, virtually every square meter has been denuded, tilled, plowed, planted and harvested a hundred times over. And not just the Midwest. Pacific to Atlantic, Mexico to Canada, earth has been drilled down, dug up, built on, and paved over. Five centuries of exploration and exploitation leave museums and warehouses overrun with millennias-old Stone Age artifacts, but not one single Iron Age implement–Copper or Bronze Age for that matter!

Among myriad uses, the value of metal to an army can’t be overstated. In “Heleman Leads an Army of 2060 Ammonite Youth” artist Arnold Friberg makes this apparent. At the painting’s center, amid a forest of metal-tipped spears, pointed skyward in the grip of 2060 “stripling” warriors, in polished metal helmet and full war regalia, commander Heleman strides a steed with Spartan-like, polished-metal, head-piece–Paleontologists tell us in the Miocene Era, three-quarters of a millennia before Columbus, Hipparion, the last American stallion, kicked up his hooves.

With admiration for his skill and appreciation for artistic license, besides metal implements Mr. Friberg’s painting points to the immensity and complexity of equipping an army: shields, headgear, clothing, shoes, boots by the thousand. Not to mention logistics: workers, wagons, tents, bedding! Imagine feeding this gang three squares a day!

The Book of Mormon mentions “sword” 157 times; “brass,” “iron,” “copper,” even “steel” 68 times. But no metal implement–of war or otherwise–predating Columbus has ever been unearthed in the Western Hemisphere, not one rusty pin!

Where is the evidence? Where are the mines, mills, foundries, furnaces, slag heaps, blacksmith shops, forges, anvils, hammers and tongs? After the battles, where are the swords, spears and armor, all the equipment? After the “slewing” where are the corpses, the skeletons?

Regarding the Book of Mormon, I’m compelled to look at facts, evidence–or absence thereof.

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