Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Hill Ephriam

There is an interesting account in the Book of Ether in which the son of the deposed king arms his followers with steel swords, manufactured from Iron from the hill Ephriam, and is able to dethrone his brother who had earlier usurped the kingdom. We read:
"And it came to pass that Shule was angry with his brother; and Shule waxed strong, and became mighty as to the strength of a man; and he was also mighty in judgment. Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor and gave battle unto his brother Corihor, by which means he obtained the kingdom and restored it unto his father Kib (Ether 7:8-9)."
In this blog I would like to discuss the location of this “hill Ephriam.” I have identified Honduras and Nicaragua as the areas of the early Jaredite homeland, with the capitol city Moron located in southern Honduras near the Bay of Fonseca, on the Nicaraguan border. I have not identified a location for the city Nehor, however, it is possible that it was the original settlement at the ruins of Copan.  If these locations are correct, there should be an identifiable body of iron ore in the area from which Shule could have made his steel swords.
In examining the records, I have found that there are two iron ore deposits that could have been used by the
Jaredites. One is the Agalteca deposit in the Sierra de Comayagua, 24 miles north of the present capitol of Tegucigalpa. The second, and smaller one, is the Aramecina deposit near the city San Sebastian de Aramecina, about 15 miles north of the Bay of Fonseca. Either one of these deposits could have provided the ore necessary to manufacture Shule's swords.
This scripture also implies that the Jaredites (at least some of them) had the metallurgical skill necessary to smelt iron and make primitive steel. This skill was known among the Sumerians prior to Jared's departure from Babel and so could easily have been passed on down to later generations of the Jaredites. Swords are mentioned a number of times in Ether's record, but the above scripture is the only one specifying a location.
Now as to the deposits themselves, the US Geological Survey has published a research bulletin which lists the ore deposits of the various Central American countries.  The section on Honduran iron deposits mentions both the Agalteca deposits and the Aramecina.  Portions of their report are included below.  
The Agalteca iron-ore deposits are on the Finca Santa Clara, which is in the foothills of the northern flank of the Sierra de Comayagua, in the Departamento de Tegucigalpa. The nearest settlement is the village of Agalteca (approximately lat 14°30' N., and long 87°16' W.), which lies a mile north of the mine area. Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, is 24 miles to the south. The Agalteca deposits have been known for many years, but because of their inaccessibility no attempt has been made to work them ... The ore bodies crop out in the foothills of the range south and west of the Finca Santa Clara, and, as most of the ore is more resistant than the associated rocks, the ore bodies generally form ridges rising a few feet to 200 feet above the surrounding area ... The ore bodies are tabular, lenticular, or irregular masses of iron oxides, mainly in the hornfels but partly in tactite and limestone. In some places the ore has replaced these rocks along the bedding, but generally the ore cuts the bedding ... Hematite and magnetite are the principal ore minerals; the proportion of these minerals is variable, but commonly the hematite predominates.  It is thought that the hematite may have been in part formed by oxidation of the magnetite near the surface. The magnetic variety of magnetite, commonly called lodestone, is present on the southeast end ... The ore is principally hard, tough iron oxides which form craggy outcrops, but locally this ore is weathered and is altered to soft, earthy material which forms smooth slopes
Ephriam Squier, in his book Notes on Central America (page 143) comments: The mountain of a vast mass of very pure and highly magnetic iron ore.  Some of the ore has so high a percentage of metal, that it is forged directly from the mine, without undergoing the previous process of smelting.
[There is also a smaller iron deposit at Aramecina, Honduras.]
Small deposits of iron ore are found 3 miles east of Aramecina, Departamento de Vaile, Honduras, on the south slope of Cerro Colorado at an altitude of 2,600 feet. Granodiorite, the principal bedrock in the area, is the host rock of the iron ore. The hills south of Cerro Colorado consist of Tertiary lavas and tuffs.  The iron ore is intergrown magnetite and hematite and forms lenticular body in the granodiorite. The lens strikes north and appears to dip steeply. 'It is about 30 feet long, as much as 10 feet wide, and is exposed for a vertical distance of about 15 feet. The ore in the central part of ·the lens appears to be nearly pure iron oxide (USGS Bulletin 1034, Mineral Deposits of Central America, 1957, pp. 64-71).
The Agalteca deposits are currently being mined by Five Star Mining, an Italian mining company (see above photo).

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