Source:Reexploring the Book of Mormon:Ch:12:2:Old and New world use of magnetite

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Old and New World use of compasses

Old and New World use of compasses

it is worth noting that the function of magnetic hematite was well understood in both the Old and New Worlds before Lehi left Jerusalem. Magnetite, or lodestone, is, of course, naturally magnetic iron (Fe3O4), and the word magnetite comes from the name of a place in which it was mined in Asia Minor by at least the seventh century B.C., namely Magnesia.[a] Parenthetically, Professor Michael Coe of Yale University, a top authority on ancient Mesoamerica, has suggested that the Olmecs of Veracruz, Mexico, were using magnetite compasses already in the second millennium B.C. This is based on Coe's discovery during excavations at San Lorenzo-Tenochtitlán of a magnetite "pointer" which appeared to have been "machined," and which Coe placed on a cork mat in a bowl of water in a successful test of its function as a true floater-compass.[b] The Olmecs (Jaredites?) of San Lorenzo and their relatives in the Oaxaca Valley were utilizing natural iron ore outcroppings by the Early Formative period (c. 1475-1125 B.C.), and at the end of the San Lorenzo phase and in the Nacaste phase (c. 1200-840 B.C.). Mirrors and other items were also fashioned from this native magnetite (and ilmenite).[1]


  1. Robert F. Smith, "Lodestone and the Liahona," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 12, references silently removed—consult original for citations. Citations in the original are [a] Thales of Miletus is the first known to have mentioned its strange properties, c. 600 B.Cc; [b] J. B. Carlson, "Lodestone Compass: Chinese or Olmec Primacy?" Science 189 (September 5, 1975): 753-60; R. H. Fuson, "The Orientation of Mayan Ceremonial Centers," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (September 1969): 508-10; E. C. Baity, "Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy So Far," Current Anthropology 14 (October 1973): 443; [c] Kent V. Flannery and J. Schoenwetter, "Climate and Man in Formative Oaxaca," Archeology 23 (April 1970): 149; see also Kent Flannery, ed., The Early Mesoamerican Village (New York: Academic Press, 1976), 318.