Category:Book of Mormon/Metals/Steel

Steel in the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Metals

Sorenson: "By 1400 BC, smiths in Armenia had discovered how to carburize iron by prolonged heating in contact with carbon"

John L. Sorenson: [1]

Steel is "iron that has been combined with carbon atoms through a controlled treatment of heating and cooling." [2] Yet "the ancients possessed in the natural (meteoric) nickel-iron alloy a type of steel that was not manufactured by mankind before 1890." [3] (It has been estimated that 50,000 tons of meteoritic material falls on the earth each day, although only a fraction of that is recoverable.) [4] By 1400 BC, smiths in Armenia had discovered how to carburize iron by prolonged heating in contact with carbon (derived from the charcoal in their forges). This produced martensite, which forms a thin layer of steel on the exterior of the object (commonly a sword) being manufactured. [5] Iron/steel jewelry, weapons, and tools (including tempered steel) were definitely made as early as 1300 BC (and perhaps earlier), as attested by excavations in present-day Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and Jordan. [6] "Smiths were carburizing [i.e., making steel] intentionally on a fairly large scale by at least 1000 BC in the Eastern Mediterranean area." [7]


Madden et al.: "by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron"

Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly and Tamara S. Wheeler:

It seems evident that by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron. [8]


Roper: "For example, an iron knife was found in an eleventh century Philistine tomb showed evidence of deliberate carburization"

Matthew Roper:

Archaeologists, for example, have discovered evidence of sophisticated iron technology from the island of Cyprus. One interesting example was a curved iron knife found in an eleventh century tomb. Metallurgist Erik Tholander analyzed the weapon and found that it was made of “quench-hardened steel.” Other examples are known from Syro-Palestine. For example, an iron knife was found in an eleventh century Philistine tomb showed evidence of deliberate carburization. Another is an iron pick found at the ruins of an fortress on Mount Adir in northern Galilee and may date as early as the thirteenth century B.C. “The manufacturer of the pick had knowledge of the full range of iron-working skills associated with the production of quench hardened steel” (James D. Muhly, “How Iron technology changed the ancient world and gave the Philistines a military edge,” Biblical Archaeology Review 8/6 [November-December 1982]: 50). According to Amihai Mazar this implement was “made of real steel produced by carburizing, quenching and tempering.” (Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E. New York: Doubleday, 1990, 361).[9]


Peterson: "Making weapons of "steel" and "iron" is mentioned by the Nephites only during their first few generations"

Daniel C. Peterson:

Making weapons of "steel" and "iron" is mentioned by the Nephites only during their first few generations (2 Ne. 5:15; Jarom 1:8; iron is mentioned only as a "precious" ornamental metal during the time of Mosiah 11:8). Just what these terms originally meant may not be clear. Jaredite "steel" and "iron" and other metals are mentioned twice but are not described (Ether 7:9; 10:23). The weapons of the common soldier were distinctly simpler: stones, clubs, spears, and the bow and arrow (e.g., Alma 49:18—22).[10]


Roper: "archaeologists have discovered a carburized iron sword near Jericho"

Matthew Roper:

More significant, perhaps, in relation to the sword of Laban, archaeologists have discovered a carburized iron sword near Jericho. The sword which had a bronze haft, was one meter long and dates to the time of king Josiah, who would have been a contemporary of Lehi. This find has been described as “spectacular” since it is apparently “the only complete sword of its size and type from this period yet discovered in Israel.”(Hershall Shanks, “Antiquities director confronts problems and controversies,” Biblical Archaeology Review 12/4 [July-August 1986]: 33, 35).

Today the sword is displayed at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. For a photo of the sword see the pdf version of the article here.

The sign on the display reads:

This rare and exceptionally long sword, which was discovered on the floor of a building next to the skeleton of a man, dates to the end of the First Temple period. The sword is 1.05 m. long (!) and has a double edged blade, with a prominent central ridge running along its entire length.

The hilt was originally inlaid with a material that has not survived, most probably wood. Only the nails that once secured the inlays to the hilt can still be seen. The sword’s sheath was also made of wood, and all that remains of it is its bronze tip. Owing to the length and weight of the sword, it was probably necessary to hold it with two hands. The sword is made of iron hardened into steel, attesting to substantial metallurgical know-how. Over the years, it has become cracked, due to corrosion.

Such discoveries lend a greater sense of historicity to Nephi’s passing comment in the Book of Mormon.[11]


Hamblin: "'steel' translates 'nechushah/nechosheth' which is copper or bronze"

An important question is what, precisely, is meant by “steel” in the Book of Mormon. Based on linguistic layer two (Jacobean English of the KJV Bible), “steel” translates “nechushah/nechosheth” which is copper or bronze (often “brass” in KJV). Certainly the Book of Mormon does not refer to twenty-first century “steel,” since the Bessemer steel process upon which modern steel-making is based was not invented until 1846.....Among the meanings of “steel” in Webster’s 1828 dictionary is “extreme hardness.” For the verbal form, one of the meanings is “to make hard or extremely hard,” while one of the meanings of “steeled” is “hardened,” “steeliness” means “great hardness,” one of the meanings of “steeling” is “hardening,” and one of the meanings of “steely” is “hard, firm.” The term steel is still used this way in modern English, such as saying someone has “steely eyes” or a “will of steel.” The concept of “steel” (the metal) seems to derive from “steel” meaning hard or strong, not the other way around.[12]


Notes

  1. John L. Sorenson, "Steel in Early Metallurgy," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15/2 (2006): 108–109. wiki
  2. Lenore O. Keene Congdon, "Steel in Antiquity: A Problem in Terminology," in Studies Presented to George M. A. Hanfmann, ed. David Gordon Mitten et al. (Cambridge: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1971), 18–19.
  3. Robert James Forbes, Metallurgy in Antiquity: A Notebook for Archaeologists and Technologists (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1950), 402.
  4. Harvey Harlow Nininger, Find a Falling Star (New York: Paul S. Erikson, 1972), 238.
  5. Congdon, "Steel in Antiquity," 24–25; D. Davis et al., "A Steel Pick from Mount Adir in Palestine," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 44/1 (1985): 42; and Muhly, "Mining and Metalwork," 3:1515.
  6. Patrick E. McGovern, "The Innovation of Steel in Transjordan," Journal of Metals 40/7 (1988): 50; Jane C. Waldbaum, From Bronze to Iron: The Transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean (Göteborg, Sweden: Paul Åström, 1978), 54; and Robert Maddin et al., "How the Iron Age Began," Scientific American 237 (1977): 122.
  7. Tamara S. Wheeler and Robert Maddin, "Metallurgy and Ancient Man," in Coming of the Age of Iron, ed. Wertime and Muhly, 116.
  8. Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly and Tamara S. Wheeler, “How the Iron Age Began,” Scientific American 237/4 [October 1977]:127. Cited by Matthew Roper, "Laban’s Sword of 'Most Precious Steel' (Howlers #5)," FairMormon Blog (17 June 2013)
  9. Matthew Roper, "Laban’s Sword of 'Most Precious Steel' (Howlers #5)," FairMormon Blog (17 June 2013)
  10. Daniel C. Peterson, "Economy and Technology" in To All the World (2000)
  11. Matthew Roper, "Laban’s Sword of 'Most Precious Steel' (Howlers #5)," FairMormon Blog (17 June 2013)
  12. William Hamblin, "Steel in the Book of Mormon," FairMormon Perspectives