Saturday, July 25, 2009

The answers to whats wrong with this picture

I got quite a few good and funny responses. Maybe I will have a "caption this" contest in the future with Mormon war themes. Before I point out the answers I must make two statements. First, I appreciate the beauty of art no matter what my academic mind says about it. Second, the "answers" are simply based on current scholarly consensus. A new archaeological discovery or new geographic theory could cause a complete rethinking of the field, thus every answer can include a qualifier such as "probably" or "most likely".

Here is the picture one more time:

And here are my answers:

1. Chris pointed out correctly that both weapons and armor look too Western European. Moroni looks like he is about to cross the Rubicon in this picture. Except for the Sword of Laban, which seemed like a status symbol for much of Nephite history (see The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Words of Mormon 1:13, Mosiah 1:16). Other than that, the evidence suggests that they used the standard Mesoamerican sword called a macuahuitl.
2. Likewise, their armor would look more Mesoamerican. Remember Moroni's armies wore: breastplates and arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing— Hamblin points out the differences in the likely armor between European and Mesoamerican forces:(The table is formatted better in the article than it is here)

Table 1. Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Armor Terminology KJV Bible Book of Mormon

armor armor
— arm-shield
breastplate breastplate
buckler buckler
coat of mail —
greave —
— head-plate
helmet/helm —
— thick garments/clothing

The print version also has several visual aids. Chris mentioned that the armor was metal instead of some leather wood variant. I agree, the search party mentioned in Mosiah 8:10 brought back the most amazing artifacts they could find: metal armor. Moroni being a part of a heredity military household could have had extremely rare and prestigious armor. But this is not supported by Mesoamerican evidence or the armor mentioned in Alma 43:19.

3. Shannon pointed out and I mentioned this earlier, that Moroni's skin color looks too European as well. We have this belief that the Nephites were a bunch of Anglo Saxon's running around in ancient America. Soreson points out the flaws in this reasoning: We can safely infer that Lehi and his party showed physical features in the normal range for people in Palestine in his day...Their build was slender and gracile (sic.), unburdened by heavy muscles. (This information was not known to the artist who prepared tahe illustrations used in the Book of Mormon...) Hair was shaded black to fully brown. Eyes too, were most often brown, alhtough they could also range...Light reddish-brown or copper colored (untanned) skin was normal... (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, 81-82)

Sorenson also mentions the possibility of inter marriage with local native populations that would make them darker.
4. I was surprised to read that the banner was in Hebrew and not Reformed Egyptian. This article discusses what reformed Egyptian would look like to modern eyes. And I didn't know enough Hebrew to notice, so that is extra points to Chris for noticing something that I did not.
5. I'm such a geek that I took Scott's suggestion about a leg tattoo as a chance to examine the practice of pre classic Mesoamerican body art. I know Micheal Coe discussed it in his seminal book called The Maya. He used face painting as the reason there were light and dark skinned people in Mesoamerican murals. As Mormons, we have a slightly difference explanation for that of course. So I appreciated the joke not only for the laughter, but for an idea to study once I get some free time.
6. There were some other comments about the nature of the flag waving and the bad quality of the Jpeg file. Way to get into it!

Thanks for the comments, stay tuned for a potential "caption this" contest.

1 comment:

Christopher Smith said...

Looks like I get plenty of points. ;-)

In the artist's defense, the BoM's mention of swords "cankered with rust" found on the Jaredite battlefield suggests that in the Jaredite civilization at least there were numerous iron or steel swords.

(While obsidian can "rust" after a manner, it results only in a color change from black to red and does not result in "cankering". Obsidian does eventually crystallize in a way that might be described as "cankering" but this takes millions of years and is not properly rust.)