Ancient Egyptians Crafted Jewellery From Meteorites
Scientists have discovered that an ancient Egyptian jewellery item found in a 5,000 year old tomb was carved from a meteorite. The tube-shaped iron beads were originally uncovered over a hundred years ago at the Gerzeh cemetery, south of Cairo, but it wasn’t until scientists from the Open University and the University of Manchester analyzed the composition of one of the beads that its cosmic origin was realised.
The first evidence of jewellery making in Ancient Egypt dates back to the 4 th millennia BC and was very popular amongst both men and women, not only as a symbol of wealth and status, but also for aesthetic adornment, and as protection from evil. The Egyptians became very skilled when making jewellery from turquoise, metals like gold and silver, and small beads. Jewellery items included such commonly found ornamentation as bracelets, brooches, clasps, coronets, girdles, and earrings, but also included items that were unique to ancient Egypt.
The latest discovery, published in the journal of Meteoritics and Planetary Science, revealed that the beads are quite unique in that they displayed a Widmanstätten pattern, a distinctive crystal structure found only in meteorites that cooled at a very slow rate inside asteroids when the solar system was forming. Researchers were also able to determine that the beads had been created by hammering them into shape by cold-working, rather than by moulding them while hot.
"Today, we see iron first and foremost as a practical, rather dull metal," study researcher Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester, said in a statement. "To the ancient Egyptians, however, it was a rare and beautiful material which, as it fell from the sky, surely had some magical/religious properties."
The iron beads' inclusion in burials also suggests this material was deeply important to ancient Egyptians, Tyldesley added.