Unidentified Animals


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In his description of his travels, Marco Polo wrote about named elements unfamiliar to his native country. Hugh Nibley then applied the general principles of Polo’s experience to Book of Mormon animals named in the Book of Mormon but unknown to our culture:

‘They have plenty of iron, accarum, and andanicum,’ says Marco Polo of the people of Kobian. ‘Here they make mirrors of highly polished steel, of large size and very handsome.’

The thing to note here is not primarily the advanced state of steelworking in Central Asia, though that as we have seen is significant, but the fact that no one knows for sure what accarum and andanicum are. Marco knew, of course, but since the things didn’t exist in Europe there was no western word for them and so all he could do was to call them by their only names. It is just so with the cureloms and cumoms of Ether 9:19. These animals were unknown to the Nephites, and so Moroni leaves the words untranslated, or else though known to the Nephites, they are out of our experience so that our language has no name to call them by. They were simply breeds of those ‘many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man’” (Hugh W. Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites [1952], 217–18).


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