Category:Book of Mormon/Weapons/Scimitars

Scimitars/Cimeters in the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Weapons

Hoskisson: "the mistaken assumption that scimitars did not exist in the pre-Islamic Old World"

Some critics have termed the presence of scimitars in the text of the Book of Mormon anachronistic. They base their claim on the mistaken assumption that scimitars did not exist in the pre-Islamic Old World and therefore could not have appeared among Book of Mormon peoples who claim an Old World nexus with Iron Age II Palestine.3 This assumption is based no doubt on one or more of the following considerations: (1) the scimitar is not mentioned earlier than the sixteenth century in English texts;4 (2) the Persian word samsir probably provided the etymon for the English word;5 and (3) the mistaken assumption that the period from A.D. 1000 to 1200 saw the "perfection of the Moslem scimitar."6 None of these observations asserts the presence or absence of scimitars in pre-Islamic times. Any arguments to the contrary based on these observations are simply arguments from silence and in this case would result in false conclusions.

There can be no question that scimitars, or sickle swords, were known in the ancient Near East during the Late Bronze Period, that is, about six hundred years prior to Lehi's departure from Jerusalem. There have been several early attempts to demonstrate this,7 but more recently Brent Merrill has convincingly shown that scimitars existed in the Late Bronze Age.8 In addition to the sources Merrill cited, Othmar Keel, on the basis of artifactual and glyptic evidence, dated the use of the scimitar as a weapon in the ancient Near East from 2400 to 1150 B.C., just a little after the traditional 1200 B.C. closing date for the Late Bronze Age.9 Robert Macalister found a late Bronze Age sickle sword at Gezer in Palestine (together with a Mycenaean pot), which Maxwell Hyslop dated to the "14th century B.c."10 Yigael Yadin discussed such swords in the context of warfare in the Near East, including the curved sword in use from Egypt to Assyria during the Late Bronze Age.11. [1] —(Click here to continue)

Roper: "a strange double-curved weapon held in the left hand of the warrior figure on the Loltún cave relief might be considered a scimitar/cimeter"

Matthew Roper: [2]

The possibility has been suggested that a strange double-curved weapon held in the left hand of the warrior figure on the Loltún cave relief might be considered a scimitar/cimeter.[3] Its two blades curve in opposite directions from the ends of a central handle. Grube and Schele consider the object to be a weapon, and it looks something like a special version of the short-sword discussed above. We recall that the date for the figure at Loltún falls within the Book of Mormon period. Moreover, the Izapan art style in which the figure is carved originated in Pacific coastal Guatemala or southern Mexico. That region includes the territory thought by most Latter-day Saint researchers to have been the Nephite and Lamanite heartland. Thus the weapon shown at Loltún has a good chance of being one of the arms that Lamanites and Nephites were using during the central segment of Book of Mormon history. In fact, at Kaminaljuyu, the great ruined city in the valley of Guatemala, which many consider to have been the city of Nephi (or Lehi-Nephi), Stela 11 shows a warrior figure holding a curved object similar to that on the Loltún portrait. It may be even earlier than the one at Loltún, dating to the early Miraflores period (250 to 100 BC). Some Mesoamerican experts consider that the curved object on Stela 11 was the equivalent of the double-bladed weapon at Loltún.[4]

Roper: "A curved wood weapon with inset stone blades"

A number of candidate forms are known that plausibly fit the Book of Mormon category cimeter. One category consists of simple agricultural or hunting devices that could also have served in battle. Others were more obviously weapons from the outset.

Matthew Roper: [5]

A curved wood weapon with inset stone blades. While the Book of Mormon cimeter may have been a curved wooden blade, the Nephite and Lamanite use of armor, starting in the battles of the first century BC, could have brought about a need for more effective blades. In a recent study of Mesoamerican warfare, Hassig describes a curved, clublike weapon that he labels a "short-sword."[6] He knows of their presence only from the post-Classic codices (after AD 1,000).[7] This device consisted of a curved piece of hardwood approximately 18 inches long with obsidian blades inset into its cutting end. Hassig credits this slashing weapon with a number of characteristics that clubs, for example, could not provide.[8]

Such a weapon may have survived right up to the Spanish conquest in highland Guatemala. One Spanish account of a native tradition relates that "the weapons with which it is said they fought were bows and arrows and certain cutlasses that they say were made of flint."[9] The curved form of the end of the "short-sword" could justify the term cutlasses.

Despite Hassig's belief in the late invention of this weapon in Mesoamerican history, evidence from earlier Mesoamerican art shows that it was known far earlier than he realized. A stela from Comitan, Chiapas, from before AD 1,000, portrays a curved object like this weapon, while something similar is depicted on a monument at Chichen Itza, dated, according to its inscription, to AD 874.[10] Moreover, murals from Teotihuacan as early as AD 450 display curved-bladed knives that look very similar to short-swords.[11] Hassig grants that these "were doubtless used in combat as auxiliary weapons. . . . All combatants [among the Teotihuacanos] may have carried them."[12] By their curved shape they too could be called cimeters.

Even back in the era of the Book of Mormon, a weapon was pictured that is similar to the short sword. Hayden notes that a "hooked implement" depicted on Stelas 3 and 4 at Izapa (second century BC) and on Stela 2 at La Venta (no later than the sixth century BC) "bears a remarkable resemblance to the hooked machete used by some groups today." To him "it seems most probable that the item was being used as a weapon," which must have been made of wood since no archaeological remains of this form have been recovered.[13] Another early Guatemalan site, now known as Abaj Takalik, contains carved stone monuments somewhat similar to the sculptural styles at Izapa and La Venta and seemingly dated to the centuries before 400 BC One of these pictures a man who grasps a weapon with a curved blade. It is impossible to tell from these sculptured images whether the blades were of wood alone or had an inset obsidian edge.

Hamblin and Merrill: "a warrior holding in one hand a macuahuitl and in the other a strange curved weapon"

William J. Hamblin, A. Brent Merrill: [14]

There are three characteristics that distinguish the scimitar from an ordinary sword: it is sharp only on one side, its blade is curved, and it is used only to cut. Some of the same characteristics that distinguish a scimitar from a sword distinguish several different types of Mesoamerican melee weapons. Indeed, the early Spanish conquistadores and colonists correlated some Mesoamerican weapons with the scimitar. Antonio de Solis y Rivadeneyra relates that the Aztecs "had likewise long Swords, which they used with both Hands, as we do our Scimitars." [15]

One of the earliest Mesoamerican candidates for the Book of Mormon scimitar is found in a Late Pre-Classic sculpture that shows a warrior holding in one hand a macuahuitl[16] and in the other a strange curved weapon (see fig. 3, p. 339 in chapter 15). It is impossible to say for certain what this item is supposed to represent. However, a similar weapon is known in India — the haladi.[17] Note that this warrior holds both a macuahuitl sword and a curved weapon just as Zerahemnah is described in the Book of Mormon as being armed with.

In our opinion, however, the Book of Mormon cimeter should probably be identified with a curved, axlike weapon held by many of the figures in the Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza. It appears to be a curved piece of wood in the end of which was inserted obsidian or flint blades (see fig. 1).[18] Although in appearance it is somewhat like an ax, it is structurally different, in that an ax has a straight shaft of wood with a blade mounted on the shaft, while this weapon has a curved shaft of wood with a blade mounted at the tip of the wood.


  1. Paul Y. Hoskisson,"Scimitars, Cimeters! We Have Scimitars! Do We Need Another Cimeter?", Warfare in the Book of Mormon, (1990)
  2. Matthew Roper, "Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 34–43. wiki
  3. William J. Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill, "Swords in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990) 343.
  4. Antonio P. Andrews, "El 'Guerrero' de Loltún: Comentario Analítico," Boletú­n de la Escuela de Ciencias Antropológicas de la Universidad de Yucatán 8–9/48–49 (1981): 42; Lee A. Parsons, The Origins of Maya Art: Monumental Stone Sculpture of Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala, and the Southern Pacific Coast (Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1986), 78–79.
  5. Matthew Roper, "Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 34–43. wiki
  6. Ross Hassig, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) 112–13.
  7. Roper states, "For example, Furst, Plate III and The Codex Nuttall: A Picture Manuscript from Ancient Mexico. The Peabody Museum Facsimile, ed. Zelia Nuttall (New York: Dover, 1975), plates 66, 68, 72, 76."
  8. Hassig, War and Society, 113.
  9. Juan de Estrada and Fernando de Niebla, "Descripción de la provincia de Zapotitlán y Suchitepéquez," Sociedad de Geografia e Historia de Guatemala, Anales 28 (1955): 74.
  10. Franz Blom and Oliver LaFarge, Tribes and Temples: A Record of the Expedition to Middle America Conducted by Tulane University of Louisiana in 1925, 2 vols. (New Orleans: Tulane University of Louisiana, 1926–27), 2, fig. 352; J. Eric S. Thompson, "Some Sculptures from Southeastern Quetzaltenango, Guatemala," Notes on Middle American Archaeology and Ethnology 17 (30 March, 1943): 104. The date is given in Linda Schele and David A. Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya (New York: Morrow, 1990), 392.
  11. Laurette Sejourné, Arquitectura y Pintura en Teotihuacán (Mexico: Siglo XXI Editores, 1966), fig. 173; George Kubler, "The Iconography of the Art of Teotihuacán," Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology (1967): figs. 11–14; Arthur G. Miller, The Mural Painting of Teotihuacán (Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1973), 85, 116, 162.
  12. Hassig, War and Society, 47.
  13. Brian Hayden, "Past to Present Uses of Stone Tools in the Maya Highlands," in Lithic Studies among the Contemporary Highland Maya, ed. Brian Hayden (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987) 167.
  14. William J. Hamblin, A. Brent Merrill, "Notes on the Cimeter (Scimitar) in the Book of Mormon", Warfare in the Book of Mormon, (1990)
  15. Cited in Ross Hassig, Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 15.
  16. William J. Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill, "Swords in the Book of Mormon," Warfare int eh Book of Mormon
  17. George C. Stone, A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor (New York: Jack Brussel, 1961; reprint of 1931 ed.), 275a, fig. 342.
  18. Hamblin and Merrill state, "For dozens of examples, see Earl H. Morris, Jean Charlot, and Ann A. Morris, The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, Yucatan (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, pub. #406, 1931), vol. 2, p1. 77, 79, and so on."