Friday, August 9, 2013

Scimitars in Mesoamerica in Book of Mormon Times (Howlers # 19)

Part 3

Hassig suggests that the short sword is a Post-classic Toltec invention and was unknown in Mesoamerica before this time (Hassig, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica, 112-13), however, curved scimitar-like long daggers are portrayed in the hands of warriors at Teotihuacan circa A.D. 450 (Arthur G. Miller, The Mural Painting of Teotihuacan. Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1973, 85, 116, 162). A monument from Tonina, Mexico, which dates to A.D. 613, shows a noble posing with a curved “scimitar-like flint blade” (Mary Miller and Simon Martin, Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004, 188, plate 106). A figurine found today in the Museo Regional de Campeche, which most likely dates from this period, portrays a warrior wearing a death mask who grasps an unhappy captive in his right hand and a curved weapon in his raised left hand with which he is about to decapitate his victim. The weapon in the figure’s left hand has been called an ax by some scholars, but given its curved form it could just as well be a scimitar (Linda Schele, Hidden Faces of the Maya, 1997, 100-101).

       Similar blades are portrayed in classic and preclassic Maya art from Comitan, Loltun Cave, Izapa,and La Venta, Mexico, and at Kaminaljuyu in highland Guatemala (Roper, “Swords and `Cimeters’ in the Book of Mormon,” 35-40).  Curved scimitar-like blades are also portrayed on several monuments at the Olmec site of San Lorenzo in southern Veracruz (1500-900 BC). Ann Cyphers, currently the leading archaeologist at the site observes that Monuments 78 and 91 portray weapons resembling the Aztec macuahuitl, except that they are curved. Monument 78 “has a curved body with eleven triangular elements encrusted in the sides” (Ann Cyphers, Escultura Olmeca de San Lorenzo Tenochtilan. Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 2004, 145).  Monument 112 portrays a figure with a curved dagger in his belt (Cyphers, 190, figure 126). Monument 91 also displays “an object in the form of a curved macana with 14 triangular points” including one on the tip (Cyphers, 159). These weapons appear to represent variants of the same curved “short sword” weapon known from later postclassic art. This suggests that Mesoamerican scimitars were not a late innovation, but were known from preclassic times as the Book of Mormon text suggests.

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