By Jack H. West, 1954.
The fifth seemingly fantastic claim of the Book of Mormon was that these early American inhabitants built cities, highways, and buildings with cement. Now I don’t know if there were any general contractors back in 1830, but if there were, I am sure some of them who read the Book of Mormon must have said: “Well now, there are just a lot of things in that book I can believe, but here you are talking about my special field of construction. Do you mean to tell me in our enlightened day and age of 1830, when we barely know what the material cement is, when we can build nothing with it, that these heathen savages, [as they kept calling them] way back there in the dim ages were able to build great highways stretching from sea to sea and coast to coast, and tremendous cities, and mammoth buildings, with the use of cement? That is ridiculous!” and all in the world our people could say in the year 1830, again was, “We have faith in that book. We believe it.” But in that year, we could not have proven that the ancient people built with cement.
Let us look at the testimony of one of today’s experts: Farnsworth quotes from T.A. Willard again on page 38. Every time I read this I get a little kick out of it, because it reminds me of an experience I had down on my hands and knees polishing out cement the hard way.
Willard tells the story of John MacAdam, a Scotch engineer who lived and died, honestly believing that he had invented a system of road making, called by us even today, “MacAdam” road. But over two thousand years before John MacAdam was born, we are told that road makers were using those same principles down in Yucatan.
…road were built in Yucatan that embodied all his sound principles of road making. And MacAdam lived and died without ever having heard of them… The thoroughness and good engineering of their construction rival the famous roads of the Roman empire or of present-day highways.
In ancient times Chichen Itza and all the great and lesser cities of the Yucatan peninsula, were linked by a network of smooth, hard-surfaced highways…… this land… once had the best roads on earth…
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The old roads, each and every one, went down to bed-rock and upon that solid foundation was built up a ballast of broken limestone, with the larger stones at the bottom. [That means that they went down fifty and sixty feet, in some cases, before they started building back up ‘with the larger stones at the bottom,’ and so forth.] As the surface of the road was reached, smaller stones were used and the crevices were filled in. The whole face of the road was then given a smooth hard coating of mortar cement… Mortar or cement was then applied in a thin coating and when this has hardened sufficiently, gangs of stout-muscled laborers, armed with smooth, fine-grained polishing stones, rubbed the plastic surface until it became compacted into a polished flatness almost as smooth-coated as tile and nearly as hard.
When Mr. Willard wrote this description of the ancient roads, he did not know that the scientists would find over 4,000 miles of one continuous highway in Central America alone, every inch of it covered with this fine quality cement. I cannot even visualize enough men down on their hands and knees to polish that fine polished stone. When I was in the bishopric of the Monrovia Ward, the bishop called me up one day and said, “Jack, how would you like to come down to the church and get some of these scouts to rub out some names they wrote in the fresh concrete down here?” So I went down with some of these “fine polishing stones,” and on my hands and knees, with those fellows, we tried to rub out the names, and it was only a few hours after they had been written. We had a dickens of a time. After that experience, I cannot even visualize polishing by hand 4,000 miles of highway.
The sixth claim of the Book of Mormon was that these early Americans had excellent tools. This was another thing that amazed the public, and still is amazing even to some scientists. The Book of Mormon tells us that those people not only made tools, but they were also able to harden copper. In the year 1830 a great man in the field we now call metallurgy may have said, “There are many things in that book that I can believe, but now you are talking in my specialized field, and any fool knows that you cannot harden copper.” Well, in the year 1830, we could not do it, and we cannot do it yet—not pure copper—it is a lost art. But the Egyptians used to be able to do it. And did you know that there have been found on this continent north of the “narrow neck” of land alone, over 10,000 ancient copper tools of these people? A fascinating sidelight is that when they check with the “carbon 14 test,” they have never found one of those copper tools going back prior to the age of 600 years before Christ. And it was only the Nephite-Lamanite people who claimed to be able to harden copper, and they came 600 years before Christ.
Now let us turn briefly to Jarom, verse 8. And may I admonish you always, please, read the four Standard Works of the Church first, and then, if you have time, by all means read the commentaries and lectures, such as these. If we are honest with ourselves, I am sure we will admit that too many of our LDS people have not read the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price from cover to cover, even though they have read many commentaries on these four Standard Works. Do not let that happen to you.
Now to Jarom:
And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war —yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war.. (Jarom, verse 8.)
Here is our point, “and copper, and brass, and steel, making all manner of tools…” This was an amazing statement in the year 1830, and it still sounds fantastic, except in the light of what we’ve found. Were they able to harden copper? You bet they were.
Let us turn for instance, to page 140 of Americas Before Columbus, Farnsworth quotes Bradford, who tells us that after he had seen some of the articles which these people had apparently carved quite easily, and he was assured in his own thinking that they must have tools of marvelous quality.
The distinguished traveler just mentioned from the observation of the great perfection of these sculptures, was induced to believe that tools of copper had been used in their formation;… this conjecture has been justified, by the discovery of an ancient Peruvian chisel, found at Villacamba, near Cuzco, in a silver mine worked in the time of the Incas, consisting of ninety four parts of copper and six of tin. Some of the articles found in the mounds are also composed of hardened copper; and Dr. Meyen, in speaking of the collection of antiquities in the Museum at Lima, says, ‘the ancient weapons are of copper and some are of exquisite manufacture.’
South of the beautiful city of Lima, as you may know, is a great desert extending along the coast of Peru. The whole coast line of Peru is just as much a desert as the Sahara. From the coast and about sixty-five miles back into the Andes we find this desert condition. Down in this desert country, eighteen miles south of Lima, at the Pachacamac ruins, a grave was opened and out of the grave were taken some copper tools. Many other copper tools were taken out of other graves.
It was there that I met Bill Salazar, an archaeologist in Peru, and Bill Salazar, an archaeologist in Peru, and Bill had some of these copper tools of the ancient people which he had dug out of Pachacamac. It is getting to be almost impossible for an individual to buy any of these ancient articles. You have to agree to put them in a museum or establish that you are connected with some museum. I said to Bill, “I would surely like to have one of these, Bill. Would you even consider selling one to me?” “Well, maybe.” So I got a little chisel. It is about six inches long and two inches wide. It is shaped very much like our present day chisels except that it comes to a very fine point instead of a very blunt point as do our hard chisels. I asked him if he had a file, and he said, “Yes.” and grinned. Well, he gave me the file and I filed through the heavy green oxide coating quite readily, but when I hit the point of the metal itself, the file just skidded. I grinned at him. He grinned back and said, “You know, don’t you?” I said, “Yes, I do know.” He said that some of the hardest metal found anywhere in the world is in the almost pure copper tools of the ancient inhabitants of this continent. I bought that chisel for $10, and what Bill Salazar did not know was that I would have “mortgaged one of my Cadillacs” for it.
I thought I would have a little fun so I went down to a hardware store in Lima and asked a salesman in my very best Spanish, (which was difficult for him to understand) “Do you have a good file? I want the best.” “Oh, si, senor,” he had the best file in Peru, so he brought it out, and I bought it. I went back to the hotel and I worked on one side of this copper chisel quite a while and was doing nothing more than just polishing it. I could not begin to cut it with the very best file I could find. So I took the file back to the store, and I said to him, “Es malo.” I told him I wanted the best, not the worst, he had. And so I said, “See,” and he said, “Es verdad, es muy malo.” (“That’s right. It’s very bad.”) And he took it back, I did not ask him to get me another file, but he insisted that he get another file, and of course it did the same thing. Yes, many of these ancient tools were so hard that our best files will not even scratch them.
Immediately after my return from South America, I read this fascinating article, It made me feel regretful, however, because I was in Lima while this was going on, and did not know about it. Time reported:
The thirty-one year old patient lay in an up-to-date operating room in Lima, Peru, surrounded by sterile gadgets and the paraphernali of modern anesthesia. At hand, to forestall infection, were ultra-modern antibiotics. Flanking the patient were two of Peru’s most distinguished surgeons, Drs. Francisco Grana Reyes and Estaban Rocca. But their instruments were bronze chisels and saws made of obsidian (volcanic glass) which were over 2,000 years old when Francisco Pizarro conquered Peru.
Tightly wound around the patient’s head was a three layer bandage tourniquet such as Inca and pre-Inca surgeons used. [Did you know they had surgeons?] With the bronze chisel and copper hammer, Grana and Rocca cut a hole in the left side of the patient’ skull, and cleaned out a blood clot ( the result of an injury) that had been pressing against his brain and had robbed him of the power of speech. They replaced the piece of skull and sewed up the scalp. The whole operation had taken fourteen minutes. The ancient surgical instruments were then sent back to the National Museum of Archaeology. Last week the doctors examined their patient, told him he could go back to his work as a cabinetmaker this week.
The Lima surgeons’ feat was no idle trick. For years they had studied ancient skulls, instruments, and bandages, and had practiced using the museum relics in autopsies. After their first use on a live patient, Dr. Grana was delighted. The operation proved, he said, that the ancients’ tools and methods were as good as the moderns’ and in some ways perhaps better. [Is not that amazing?] For the future, he foresaw wider use of the tourniquet bandage, which had given him an almost blood-less field of operation. And he thinks another pre-Inca wrinkle may prove useful: flexible bronze needles, which the surgeon can bend when putting in stitches.” (Time Magazine, October 26, 1953)
I saw case after case of hardened copper, copper instruments in museum after museum. Yes, of course, they had hardened copper.