Category:Ship building/Old world

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Old World Ship Building Techniques and the Book of Mormon


Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful: Timbers

Trees form part of the luxuriant, tropical growth in Dhofar, Oman. One question, of course, is which of the species Nephi shaped for his ship (see 1 Nephi 18:1–2,6). We do not know. It is possible that Nephi somehow acquired teak logs floated from India, because sources earlier than Lehi speak of this kind of import for the work of shipwrights in the area of the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles to the north. It is the judgment of George Hourani that "Arabia does not. . . produce wood suitable for building strong seagoing ships," and thus "the materials for building strong vessels had to be brought from India."110 On the other hand, it seems more likely that Nephi secured timbers that were nearby, because he relates that he and his brothers "did go forth" to obtain timbers (1 Nephi 18:1).

Although we do not know the species of tree that Nephi may have used—he may have cut different trees for different parts of his ship—trees have been growing in the Dhofar region for millennia. To be sure, most trees grow on the escarpment above the maritime plain and coastal waters of the sea. But there is evidence that trees once grew closer to the sea before people stripped them from the lower lands, most recently in the 1960s. In fact, Jörg Janzen writes that apparently the coastal plain of southern Oman was once "thickly wooded," at least in the vicinity of the wadis.111 Before him, Bertram Thomas had seen in 1928 the "the seaward slopes [of the foothills] velvety with waving jungle."112

The heavy vegetation of southern Oman is something of an oddity. Why? Because the rather scantly vegetated mountains of northern Oman, hundreds of miles away, actually receive on average 10 percent more rain per year. Janzen explains that the vegetation of Dhofar is far richer because of the relatively slow rate of rainfall during the summer monsoon—it comes in the form of mist and drizzle—and thus the ground absorbs the water better. In addition, the monsoon cloud cover slows evaporation.113 As a result, the vegetation remains rich and diverse and supports a wide variety of life forms.114[1]

Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful:Ore

Where could Nephi have found ore to make his tools? (see 1 Nephi 17:9–10,16). We know that there were copper mines at ancient Magan near the Persian Gulf that had been worked as early as the Sumerian period (third millennium BC). But the mines were more than six hundred miles to the north of where the party of Lehi and Sariah reached the coast.117 And because Nephi offers no hint that he had to travel far to find ore, particularly a trip that would have taken him back into the desert, it seems out of the question that he traveled to the distant Persian Gulf region in order to obtain copper. Moreover, concerning iron ore, Hourani observes that "Arabia does not . . . contain iron for nailing [ships], nor is it near to any iron-producing country."118

For the record, Nephi did not need a large deposit of copper or iron ore for his tools. Fifty pounds or so would have met his needs. In February 2000, geologists from Brigham Young University discovered two large deposits of iron ore in the Dhofar region of Oman. And they both lie within a few days' walk of any campsite along the seacoast.119 Although iron ore in the amounts that make mining profitable do not occur in southern Oman, ore does occur in sufficient quantities that Nephi could easily have traveled to a substantial deposit and extracted enough to smelt for his tools. Thus, the natural occurrence of iron ore in the Dhofar area offered a clear solution to Nephi's need for tools.[2]

Notes

  1. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  2. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.

Pages in category "Ship building/Old world"

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