Near Eastern Weapon Parallels

Certain weapons in use in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica resemble those that were used in the ancient Near East. This Canaanite sickle sword (a) is so much like a scimitar-like weapon shown in the Mexican Codex Borgia (b) as to be very interesting.

The odd curved weapon pictured in the grasp of the sculptured warrior figure at Loltún Cave, Yucatan (see p. 34), has two blades projecting in opposite directions from a central handle. Whether the blades were of chipped obsidian or hardened wood, this device would have been fearsome to face in hand-to-hand combat. What seems to be another version of the same concept is pictured in the early art of highland Guatemala.

Hamblin noted that this weapon has a close parallel in ancient Syria and India. There it has been called a curved double-dagger or haladie. Each of its blades was approximately 8 1/2 inches long and the two were connected by a small handgrip, probably of wood.1 The fact that the Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites of the Book of Mormon record had their origins in ancient Israel, adjacent to Syria, is interesting, to say the least. To all appearances the haladie, the Loltún Cave weapon, and the Kaminaljuyu weapon were constructed in response to one shared idea, and both must have functioned very similarly.

A second parallel between Mesoamerica and the Near East may support the position that the latter area could have been a cultural source for the former in some aspects of armament. The obsidian-edged sword that was called macuahuitl by the Aztecs was labeled hadzab among the Maya of Yucatan in Spanish colonial days. The Maya word signifies “that with which one strikes a blow.”2 In Hebrew hsb means “to hew,” as in chopping, although in certain passages in the Hebrew scripture the meaning is “to cut.”3The phonetic similarity of these two terms seems interesting at least.

This is not the only parallel between Maya and Hebrew terminology.4 In fact many cultural complexes are shared by the Near East and Mesoamerica that lead to the possibility of some type of historical link between them.5

Given these parallels, it seems appropriate to search carefully in the vocabulary related to arms and warfare of the two areas to look for other specific parallels that would shed further light on the nature of the relationship between them.

Notes

1. George C. Stone, Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times (New York: Brussels, 1961), 275.

2. Ralph L. Roys, The Indian Background of Colonial Yucatan (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972), 66.

3. Francis Brown, S. L. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1907), 345.

4. David H. Kelley, “Calendar Animals and Deities,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 16 (1960): 325–29; John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985), 79.

5. John L. Sorenson, “The Significance of an Apparent Relationship between the Ancient Near East and Mesoamerica,” in Man across the Sea: Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, ed. Carroll L. Riley et al. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 219–41.