Saturday, November 12, 2011

Metallic Minerals in the Land of Nephi

The Book of Mormon gives us several lists of metals found or forged in the greater land of Nephi:
Gold, silver, copper, and iron are refined or reduced from ore. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. (Bronze, which is never mentioned in The Book of Mormon, is an alloy of copper and tin.) Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon (coking coal or even charcoal), chromium, manganese, tungsten, vanadium, or other more exotic metals. The line between iron and steel is a continuum designated by various levels of hardness and corrosion resistance. A form of steel can also be made using quench hardening - heating iron and then rapidly lowering its temperature by immersing it in water. Homer refers to this quench process for hardening iron into a primitive steel. We will offer some candidates for ziff in a subsequent post. Collating the five lists produces a short list of five metallic minerals we would expect to find in the greater land of Nephi:
  • gold, silver, copper, zinc, iron
The US Geological Survey publishes a spatial data set of known ore bodies around the world. Overlaying this USGS world mineral resources data on top of a base map of the greater land of Nephi (the southern Guatemala area) shows dozens of active mines or proven mineral deposits in the area.
USGS World Mineral Resources showing active
mines and and proven mineral deposits.
Focusing in on just those metallic minerals mentioned in The Book of Mormon, we see that all five are found in commercially viable quantities within 80 air kilometers of Kaminaljuyu.
Gold, silver, copper, zinc and iron all present in large quantities within
80 air kilometers of Kaminaljuyu, the consensus candidate for Nephi.
Chromium, manganese, and tungsten are all found within a 120-kilometer radius of Kaminaljuyu. Does this mean the Nephites were forging sophisticated steel by alloying iron with these rarer metals? No. It simply means these ores were present in the Nephites' environment.
Chromium, manganese and tungsten, used in various types of steel, were
all available in large quantities within 120 air kilometers of Kaminaljuyu.