Ore Analysis and History of Plates of Metal used for records
Jeff Lindsay - Metal plates and the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal and Metallurgy - an excellent article at FAIRLDS.org.
Where is Gold available in the americas?
Was both Gold and Copper, Zinc, Arsenic, and Tin available to the ancient American people for mining/smelting/allowing materials.
Gold ore is found in the Western United states - Rocky Mountains as well in South America all along the western coast. The capability to have access to this resource is well established and ore mining is established also through archeological records in central and south america. In North america however there is little archaeological evidence of mining or smelting, the exception to this is that of copper mining in the Michigan area as shown below. Here are just a few references concerning metallurgy in ancient america both North and South.
Copper Sources, Metal Production in Late Postclassic MesoAmerica
Metal artifacts first appeared in Mesoamerica in the west around 650AD. Metallugy was introduced from South America by a meritime route. West Mexico contains the most varied array of ore minerals available to ancient Mesoamerican smiths, including copper carbonates and sulfides, arsenopyrite, argentite, and silver sulfosalts. Cassiterite, the tin oxide ore, occurs in a southwestern extension of Mexico's Zacateccas tin province. West Mexican metalworks focused primarily on fashioning ritual and sacred objects throughout the 900-year history of this technology. Before 1200 AD they used copper, principally for bells, but also for small cold worked imlements.
Metallurgy in pre Columbian America - Wikipedia
History of Metals - buildingsguide.com
Michigan Archaeologist 41(2-3):119-138 - Although she does disparage the idea that Old World people came to america :)
"Native copper deposits come in may forms, from filling linear fissures, to conglomerate deposits, to amygdaloid deposits. Each is useful, but requires differing extraction and treatment routines to make it so. Mass copper is not unusual at all; Sodders herself documents many other mass occurrences as do other early chroniclers. It's also well-known that geological copper appears in systematic patterns with indicator rock and typical land forms nearby; there is no cause to prescribe 'inscrutability' to this fact of geology. It's quite possible that native cultures were better at finding copper than Europeans were, seeing as how the indigenous peoples had been adapting to their home region for 6000 years or more!"
"The ancient prehistory copper pits found along the 120-mile Copper Range of the Keweenaw Peninsula represent one of the most unique aspects of prehistoric remains found in Michigan today" (1990:21). I'd actually go beyond this to state that Michigan's prehistoric mining data are unique in the world. Their discovery, description and explanation make an exciting story, one of which the citizens of this region can be rightfully proud and of which they should all be aware. There is no need to cloak this story in mystery to make it interesting; all that mythic silly chatter does is generate misinformation. Sadly in that pursuit, the true value of the archaeological record, to inform us about our unique past, is forgotten and ignored. In my opinion, it is the duty of the professional archaeological corps to make accessible their collective findings about the past and thereby to build public support for the study of archaeology and the conservation of the archaeological record. This is a task too important to leave to casual authors"
And of course a second point of view - Jay Stuat Wakefield - Michigan Copper in the old world
Journale of Book of Mormon Studies - CopperBronzeBrass
Gold Plates Anciently , H. Curtis Wright, BYU Studies, Vol. 10, No. 4, (Summer, 1970) pp.457-475
Metals of the Book of Mormon, Wm. Revell Phillips BYU Studies
Gold in Ancient America
Ancient Native American Metallurgy - Video
Thus no matter what your opinion is concerning Old World/New World interaction, Mining, Smelting, or historical alloy availability, it is an an undisputed fact that copper, zinc, tin, silver, arsenic, and gold and the use of alloys were available in both North and South america during the time of the Book of Mormon period. Which is sufficient for our discussion.
So we have established the availability and capability of individuals in the americas to create different alloys of materials for different purposes.
What then would the possible composition of the plates be in order to maintain the characteristics described:
- 7x8 inches in size and 4 inches deep of plates
- The color of Gold - Yellow
- Thickness of common tin
- Filled with engravings and a black stain to make letters more legible
- Approxiamate weight 60-70 lbs
Improvement Era April 1927 - Page 526
David Whitmer, in an interview in the Kansas City Journal, said of the plates shortly before his death:
"They appeared to be of gold, about six by nine inches in size, about as thick as parchment, a great many in number, and bound together like the leaves of a book by massive rings passing through the edges."
Weight/Color/Composition - Issues with amount of plates etc. covered in 1927! nothing new here :)
Improvement Era April 1923 - Page 541 even shows a sample of a page in hebrew!
mprovement Era April 1923 - Page 544-545 discussion concerning weight of the plates (basic weight of plates between 50-75 lbs)
“Weighing altogether, from forty to sixty lbs.” —Martin Harris Iowa State Register, Aug. 1870, in Milton V. Backman Jr.,Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (1983), 226.
“I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.” —Emma Smith “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” The Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, 290.
People of that time period were accustomed to purchasing household supplies by weight. A farmer would have a good idea of what a 60-pound bag of grain would feel like. A woman working in her kitchen would be required to lift a heavy iron kettle filled with water that may weigh up to 60 pounds.
“Upon each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings, which were stained with a black hard stain so as to make the letters more legible and easier to be read.” —Orson Pratt Deseret News, Jan. 12, 1859, 190.
Density of pure Materials
Gold: 19.3 g/cm3
Copper: 8.97 g/cm3
Zinc: 7.14 g/cm3
Arsenic: 5.727 g/cm3
1 inche: 2.54 cm
1g: .0022046 lbs
Total Volume of plates = 7(2.54)x8(2.54)x4(2.54) - cm^3 = 17.78*20.32*10.16=3670 cm^3
Baseline Calculations - pure gold block of this size:
3670cm^3*19.3g/cm^3=69730grams = 153.73 lbs
Possible Ores of Gold that provide gold color, engravability, durability and malleability to match the description of the plates.
Tumbaga: Wikipedia Tumbaga Gold Plates
Tumbaga was widely used by the pre-Columbian cultures of Central America to make religious objects. Like most gold alloys, tumbaga was versatile and could be cast, drawn, hammered, gilded, soldered, welded, plated, hardened, annealed, polished, engraved, embossed, and inlaid.
The proportion of gold to copper in artifacts varies widely; items have been found with as much as 97% gold while others instead contain 97% copper. Some tumbaga has also been found to be composed of metals besides gold and copper, up to 18% of the total mass of the tumbaga.
Tumbaga objects were often made using the lost wax technique and the alloy used was a mixture of copper (80%), silver (15%), and gold (5%). The indicated concentrations varied from object to object. Once the object was taken out of the cast, it was burned and as a consequence, copper from the surface of the object was oxidized to copper oxide and was then removed mechanically. The object was then placed in an oxidizing solution containing, it is believed, sodium chloride (salt), and ferric sulfate. This process removed through oxidation the silver from the surface of the object leaving only gold. When looking through a microscope, one may clearly see the empty spots from where the original elements copper and silver were removed.
Plates without space solid volumen of Tumbaga:
3670*.85*8.97*.002205 = 61.68 lbs Copper
3670*.1*10.49*.002205=8.4873 lbs Silver
3670*.05*19.3*.002205=7.8077 lbs Gold
Total Weight 77.98 - based upon solid block - however this was not a solid block but plates that were movable (1/3 of them at least) at even a 15% loss in weight by plates we are very close to the 60-70lbs mentioned.