Source:Roper:Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon:JBMS 8:1:A curved wood weapon with inset stone blades

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

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Weapons/Scimitars

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: [1]

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."[2] He knows of their presence only from the post-Classic codices (after AD 1,000).[3] 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.[4]

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."[5] 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.[6] Moreover, murals from Teotihuacan as early as AD 450 display curved-bladed knives that look very similar to short-swords.[7] Hassig grants that these "were doubtless used in combat as auxiliary weapons. . . . All combatants [among the Teotihuacanos] may have carried them."[8] 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.[9] 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.


  1. Matthew Roper, "Swords and "Cimeters" in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 34–43. wiki
  2. Ross Hassig, War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992) 112–13.
  3. 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."
  4. Hassig, War and Society, 113.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Hassig, War and Society, 47.
  9. 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.