While doing more research for it, Daniel was reading sections of Prescott's Conquest of Mexico, an important work in this field, based on the reports of early Spanish chroniclers. Quite unexpectedly, he came across a passage that could be significant to the Book of Mormon mention of silk, long held by critics to be an anachronism and major goof. The account describes Hernán Cortés' meeting with ambassadors from the Aztec empire, who brought him precious gifts. Some of the items were clothing, described as "robes of cotton, fine as silk, of rich and various dyes, interwoven with feather-work that rivalled the delicacy of painting." Peter Martyr describes a curious fabric made of the hair of animals, feathers, and cotton thread, interwoven together.
More than likely, the 'silk' described in the Book of Mormon was not the kind we know, a product of Asian silkworms, but rather some costly, luxurious fabric used by the wealthy classes. 'Silk' may be the best translation into English that makes sense. We see that such cloth was had by later Mesoamerican people like the Aztecs. The fact that it came from Moctezuma shows its importance, status, and cost.
Daniel will be giving a fireside on Book of Mormon and archaeological similarities this Sunday evening at the LDS chapel in Petaluma, his first presentation of the year. Interested parties are always invited.
(For those interested in the reference to the silk-like fabric, see William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico vol. I (Philadelphia: David McKay, Publisher, 1892), p. 295.)