Matthew Roper responds to James R. White concerning swords in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon; argues that the descriptions of swords in the text matches the macuahuitl.

Matthew Roper

Matthew Roper, "On Cynics and Swords," FARMS Review of Books 9, no. 1 (1997): 146-58

FARMS Review
Matthew Roper
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White notes that the Book of Mormon contains several references to sword "hilts," but makes the erroneous claim that this poses a problem in equating Book of Mormon "swords" with Mesoamerican blades such as the macuahuitl (pp. 34-5). Again he simply ignores Hamblin's discussion of this issue: "Structurally, the macuahuitl does have a hilt. The lower portion of the weapon lacks obsidian blades so it can be held, which thus functionally distinguishes the handle or hilt from the blade ." Zerahemnah 's sword, it will be remembered, "broke by the hilt." Concerning this passage Hamblin notes, "If a macuahuitl were to be broken when struck by another weapon, one expected place for such breakage would be where the obsidian blades did not protect the wood of the shaft, leaving the wood directly exposed to the blades of the other sword." According to Gomara, "The swords could cut cleanly through a lance or the neck of a horse, and even penetrate or nick iron, which seems impossible." This seems to have been what occurred to Zerahemnah 's sword.

In any case, Mesoamerican swords definitely had "hilts." According to one conquistador, the Mexicans " have swords that are like broadswords, but their hilts are not quite so long and are three fingers wide." According to the Spanish historian Solis. Montezuma possessed "Two-handed Swords and other extraordinary Wood with flint Edges, and most curious and costly Handles. " Ross Hassig, a historian who specializes in Mesoamerican warfare, also notes, "Some swords had thongs through which the user could put his hand to secure the weapon in battle." Mexican codices frequently show the macuahuitl as being knobbed at the bottom of the handle, a feature which would obviously help keep the weapon from slipping out of the hand during combat.

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