No evidence of silk or linen in ancient America?
Although the type of silk with which we are familiar has not been found, other types of silk were known in the ancient New World. The Spanish reported several kinds of silk. One kind of silk was spun from the hair of rabbit’s bellies, another may have come from a wild silkworm, and yet a third came from the pod of the ceiba tree. Spanish chronicles report that types of silk were spun and woven in Mesoamerica before their arrival. Since the arrival of the Spanish, however, these fabrics have disappeared—deteriorated with time. As with wheat and silk, it is possible that Book of Mormon linen refers to linen-like items rather than the linen with which we are familiar. Bernal Diaz, for instance, who served with Cortez, described Native American garments made of henequen, which is like linen. Likewise, sixteenth-century Bishop Landa recorded that the Mayan priests used linen garb in their ritual ceremonies. The native garments were enough like “linen” to warrant the use of the same label. Henequen is made from the fiber of the maguey plant and closely resembles the flax fiber used to make European linen.
Michael R. Ash, Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, Incorporated