©1984  by Erich A. von Fange


There is no country in the world that is more closely associated with iron than Brazil. Brazil contains some of the richest and most extensive iron deposits in the world. The strange and uncanny relationship between iron and the word Brazil has been remarked upon by scholars for generations. The possibility that the word Brazil is older than Sumer and that the ancients knew about this Island of Iron illustrates the archaeological finds that can be spaded up in words.

The connection between iron and the word Brazil is not proved, but it remains an intriguing possibility. The word for iron in most Semitic languages is BRZL (barzil or barzel), but it is not a Semitic word. A puzzling fact to the Sumeriologist is that the word for iron in that language is PARZILLU or BARZILLU. Long ago this word was carried into Atlantic regions. In the midland counties of England, brazil means iron pyrites, and the English idiom, "hard as brazil," means very literally "hard as iron." It is curious that Old Irish lore spoke of Hy Brazil (various spellings), an otherworld overseas to the west. The word is not Irish but rather is linked with the Phoenicians.

In ancient times as well as in modern, regions noted for their metal deposits were named for the metal found there. Thus Nubia is the Egyptian word for gold; Hatus, the Hittite capital, meant Silver City; Cyprus is the ancient word for copper, and Brazil, as we have shown, was the Land of Iron.

There are three relationships of possible significance. First, the association between Brazil and iron may go all the way back to Genesis 4:22: "Zillah (wife of Lamech) bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron." In many societies the child is son of the mother, not the father. Thus Tubal-cain was also known as Barzillah. The word for iron in both Hebrew and Sumerian could be a link back to the son of Zillah. The following observation fits the above. In 1882 a scholar mused that Barzil, which means iron in Hebrew, comes from Bar, the word for son, while the second syllable means to pour out, and also contributes to a word indicative of violent heat.

Second, scholars have noted the very ancient links between words derived from Tubal-cain and the smith or ironworker. In antiquity a tribe associated with metal working was known as the Tibareni (a modified form of the word Tubal). In a village in the Middle East it was noted that iron sparks were called "tubal." The Roman god of the Tiber (which may also mean Tubal-cain) was Vulcan whose forge is the volcano. Vulcan is associated with fire and metal working. Curiously, Vulcan was said to be a cripple thrown out of heaven by his father Jupiter as punishment for taking his mother's side in a quarrel - a strange link to Genesis because there is reason to believe that Tubal-cain is the young man on whom his father, Lamech, revenged himself, as told in Genesis 4:23 "Adah and Zlllah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me" (Victoria Institute, 16:164; Gordon, 1971, p. 119-126; Custance, 1967, p. 6-7).

Third, there is the interesting fact that the last part of the name,Tubal-cain, is the Hebrew word for smith. Another way of spelling Cain is Ken. Ken is a form of the Hebrew word for a copper spear, and the Kenites were a tribe of wandering smiths who made Implements of metal (Horizon, 2:2, November 1959, p. 9).

Thus we have three linguistic paths leading back to Tubal-cain, the first metalsmith, and the country of Brazil, one of the world's oldest place names, may have been well known to very ancient navigators.

The line of Cain and Tubal-cain ended at the Flood, but we can infer that Noah and his sons collected the technology of the Pre-Flood world, including metallurgy, and then taught it to their descendants in the Post-Flood age.

The example above illustrates the kind of attempts linguists make in searching out the past. In the following analysis we shall look at a number of specific words to show how we can discover in them support for at least some of our basic theses about the ancient world.

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