Monday, November 14, 2011

What about Ziff?

Ziff is mentioned twice in the Book of Mormon. Both Mosiah 11:3 and Mosiah 11:8 are set in the land of Nephi during the reign of King Noah. John L. Sorenson has suggested that ziff may have been tumbaga, a Mesoamerican alloy of gold and copper. An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985, p. 284. Reed Putnam "Were the Plates of Mormon of Tumbaga?" and Robert F. Smith "The 'Golden' Plates" present convincing evidence that The Book of Mormon plates translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. were a gold/copper alloy. Sorenson gives two other possibilities for ziff: tin and mercury.

We established previously that gold and copper were both available in large quantities within 80 air kilometers of the likely city of Nephi - Kaminaljuyu. See the article "Metallic Minerals in the Land of Nephi" in this blog. The USGS world mineral resources data set shows that Sorenson's other two suggestions, tin and mercury, could have been available to King Noah's Nephites via trade. A commercially viable deposit of tin is found 321 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu in modern Belize, and a large deposit of mercury is found 203 air kilometers away in present-day Honduras.
Deposits of tin and mercury shown
in relation to Kaminaljuyu.
There are 86 metals in the periodic table of elements, only 12 of which were known to western science before the 18th century. Seven of those are the so-called "metals of antiquity."
  1. Gold
  2. Copper
  3. Silver
  4. Lead
  5. Tin
  6. Iron
  7. Mercury
In this and the previous post, we have shown that all 7 metals of antiquity were available within reasonable trading distance of the proposed city of Nephi - Kaminaljuyu.

There are two other possibilities for the metal the Nephites called ziff: aluminum and platinum. Pliny the Elder describes a metal that sounds like aluminum. Shown to the emperor Tiberius, it was shiny, lightweight, and made from clay. Platinum was first introduced to western science by the Spaniards who brought it from the New World, although the Casket of Thebes (modern Luxor) from 700 B.C. is ornamented with gold, silver, and platinum. A major aluminum deposit is found only 52 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu. Platinum is 221 air kilometers away in present-day Honduras.

Aluminum and platinum ore deposits
shown in relation to Kaminaljuyu.
The aluminum source is less than 20 air miles from (and in the same mountain range as) an excellent candidate for the hill north of Shilom where King Noah built a large tower Mosiah 11:13.
Aluminum ore deposit less than 20 air kilometers
from proposed hill north of the land of Shilom.