While the family was in the wilderness, Nephi broke his steel bow. The question begs to be asked, "Could Nephi have found bow wood in the mountains of Arabia, and if so, where?
It became obvious to us that we needed to visit the western region of Arabia in order to find out for us what woods were there.
Fortunately for us, we knew Neil Holland, member and a retired F-15 pilot with a degree in history who was living near the Frankincense Trail in southwest Arabia. Neil has a keen interest in archaeology, desert exploring, and the Book of Mormon.
We asked Neil if he could explore for a source of bow wood in the mountains southwest of Bishah, the area on the trail where we believe Nephi broke his bow and where the trail passes close to the mountains. He agreed and made numerous trips into the Asir Mountains looking for bow wood.
Hugh Nibley wrote that the only place where bow wood grew was near the steep slopes of Mount Jasim.
Neil took our challenge and within a few weeks was on a dirt road high up Mount Jasim.
From that point, Neil began to take wood samples of trees that Dr. Nibley mentioned in his book.
One day, Neil found himself high up a tree, thousands of feet up a remote mountainside, when out of the corner of his eye he saw an approaching vehicle. The Saudi driver stopped and looked in amazement at the American hanging upside down from a limb of a tree with a saw in his hand and a smile on his face. Finally his curiosity got the best of him and asked what Neil was doing. Neil greeted him and explained that he was looking for "Geoos wa sahim" (bow and arrow wood).
The Saudi man said that the tree we were looking at was not good for bows, but further south there was another tree that was good for making bows. As they traveled southward, the Saudi pointed at another variety of tree and said that it was good. He called it the Atim tree.
We found that the Atim is a wild variety of the olive tree and that it is found on both western and eastern slopes of the Asir Mountains of southwest Arabia, the same area where we had theorized that Nephi broke his bow. The Atim tree grows only in a range about 100 miles in length and at altitudes of 6,500 to 7,800 feet.
Neil took a sample of Atim wood and made a bow from it.
The December "Photograph of the Month" is of Neil Holland and the bow he constructed from the Atim tree from Mount Jasim in western Arabia which was selected from Part 4: Discovering Nephi's Trail & Bow Wood of our 6-part film DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail.
Nephi wrote in the Book of Mormon that he smelted tools that he used to build his ship.
Back in 2006 George holds a piece of slag from the first smelter archaeologists discovered in the ancient ruins at Khor Rori.
The inlet of Khor Rori is the harbor where we believe Nephi built his ship.
As noted above, several more smelters have been discovered at the harbor.
Suggesting that metal works were abundant there during Nephi's time.
The November "Photograph of the Month" is of George in 2006 as he explains his recent research finding at and near Khor Rori on our "Nephi Project Research Discoveries" page.
This and many more discoveries are highlighted in our major discoveries page.
Nephi writes, "And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools." (1 Nephi 17:9)
In April 1998, a team of researchers from Brigham Young University found a small iron ore deposit below Jabal Samhan.
The discovery was made only five miles from Khor Rori, our candidate for Nephi's Harbor.
The team reported that "It is from these simple forms of iron ore that a person like Nephi could make tools."
In this photo George Potter repeated the BYU discovery of iron ore by dragging a magnet through a sandy wash below the mountain.
The October "Photograph of the Month" is of George holding a large magnet was selected from Part 6: Discovering Nephi's Harbor of our 6-part film DVD,
I have spoken much about where Nephi's ship had to be constructed and that shipbuilders today have to deal with the same requirements that faced Nephi.
However, Nephi's ship was constructed not after the manner of man.
This raises the question, "How were ships being constructed in Nephi's homeland that caused Lehi to have traveled such a great distance so his son could build a ship?"
In Nephi's time ships were being constructed near Palestine by the Phoenicians. I would call their vessels "works of art." The Phoenician ships were constructed of cedar wood.
Today, the cedar tree is found on Lebanon's country flag.
Briefly, today the remains of Phoenician ships can be observed restored in museums. Their hulls were a thin shell of planks joined edge-to-edge and then stiffened by a keel and light transverse ribs.
We probably could say that Nephi considered this technique to be the way ships in his day were being constructed after the manner of man near Jerusalem.
So why didn't the wealthy Lehi purchase a Phoenician ship and save a long trip across the desert? First off, those ships were not made for trans-oceanic crossings. With few exceptions, Phoenician ships only plied the waters of the Mediterranean. If anything they were considered "coast huggers" never sailing out of the sight of land.
In the same era, ships constructed in Oman, where the Nephi Project believes Nephibuilt his ship, were larger and were constructed of a heavier wood. However, they were sewn together with rope. We could say that this was the Omani way of building ships "after the manner of man."
The Book of Mormon tells us that the Lord told Nephi where he could find ore to fabricate tools. Why fabricate tools if ships were already being constructed with tools in Bountiful? My thoughts are that the tools Nephi made were actually nails or spikes.
Omani ships at that time were not using nails, spikes, and the like to provide them the strength they would have needed to endure a voyage across the Pacific or Atlantic.
Further, the wood Nephi used to build his ship appears to have been pre-cut, probably brought to Oman by Frankincense traders exchanging wood from India for incense.
Nephi remarked that the timber he used was "of curious workmanship" suggesting he did not cut the wood himself; rather he was seeing the wood for the first time in that form.
These are my thoughts on how ships were being constructed when Nephi took his family on the great historic voyage to the Promised Land, and why Nephi needed to construct his ship in Oman.
My "Photograph of the Month" for September of a shipwright setting a keel of a small vessel was selected from Part 6: Discovering Nephi's Harbor of our 6-part film DVD,
In September 1999, George Potter and I flew to Salalah, Oman to document our candidate for Nephi's harbor, a unique natural port where Nephi would have been able to find all the resources he needed to construct the ship the Lord instructed him to build. (2 Nephi 5: 2)
East of Salalah is the inlet called Khor Rori. In Nephi's era the inlet was the site of the famous frankincense harbor. It is the only natural harbor in southern Oman that possesses what maritime expert Maritime Engineer Frank Linehan calls the "deep calm waters" and "protective harbor" necessary to construct, launch, and outfit a large ship.
To illustrate this ship-building principle, Linehan invited me aboard the USS Cape Intrepid, moored in the calm waters of Commencement Bay at Tacoma, Washington.
Brother Linehan states, "Nephi would have needed this type of calm waters and protective harbor [Commencement Bay's] in the building of his ship at Bountiful."
Only one natural harbor exists in southern Oman where Nephi could have constructed an ocean-going ship.It is the natural harbor of Khor Rori.
In December 2000, UNESCO designated Khor Rori as a "World Heritage Site" stating that the harbor was "one of the most important trading activities in the ancient world."
My "Photograph of the Month" for August was selected from Part 6: Discovering Nephi's Harbor of our 6-part film DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail .
On a cool December morning in 1999, my daughter Tara and I traveled to the great Northwest to pay a visit to maritime expert Frank Linehan.
Brother Linehan invited us aboard the USS Cape Intrepid docked at Commencement Bay, Tacoma, Washington, a 45 minute drive south of Seattle.
I took this photograph, while standing on the bridge wing of the USS Cape Intrepid. The giant ship's bridge 150 feet above the calm waters of Commencement Bay.
Frank Linehan pointed out to us that as far back as early antiquity this is the type of water conditions that seaman and shipbuilders would have looked for to construct a ship, to fit her out, to do cargo handling, to take aboard consumables and expendables, and to change crews.
Frank Linehan said, "Nephi would have needed the same type of calm waters and protective harbor in the building of his ship at Bountiful."
My "Photograph of the Month" for July was selected from Part 6: Discovering Nephi's Harbor of our 6-part film DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail .