Precious Dagger of Tutankhamun Found to be of Meteoric Origin
In an exciting new find, a team of researchers have confirmed that the iron in one of the daggers found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, as well as a number of other precious artifacts from Ancient Egypt, have celestial origins as they were made from meteorites.
According to ABC.es, the research was undertaken by an international team of scientists from the Polytechnics of Milan and Turin, the University of Pisa, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the CNR, the University Fayoum, and the XGlab company. Archeologists had suspected for many decades that the iron used during the reign of the New Kingdom Dynasties and earlier, could come from meteorites, however, it was never known for certain until now.
In 2014, The Guardian presented the research of Diane Johnson from the Open University and Joyce Tyldesley from the University of Manchester. They examined artifacts discovered in the Gerzeh cemetery, 70km south of Cairo, dating from 3600 BC to 3350 BC. The burial of a man contained an ivory pot, copper harpoon, bead jewelry made of gold and iron, and more. A few rare examples of iron artifacts have also been unearthed in other places. The most impressive examples were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun, including a dagger and iron amulet on a gold bracelet. Johnson and Tyldesley used the electron microscope and the micro x-ray computer tomography to scrutinize the surface of the artifacts. They also examined the iron beads from the Gerzeh tomb, and discovered that the structure and chemistry of the iron suggested a meteoric origin.
The most recent research confirmed that Johnson and Tyldesley were right. The composition of iron used in Tutankhamun's dagger, is nickel and cobalt, which is commonly found in meteorites. In addition, the study of the iron beads from Gerzeh, which are c. 5,000 years old, confirmed that in the times of the 18 th dynasty, ancient Egyptians were advanced in working iron and that the iron used to create them comes from meteorite. Previously, it had been believed that the Egyptian Iron Age started after 600 BC.
Close up of the Gerzeh bead made from meteoritic iron. Image credit: Open University / University of Manchester
According to the authors of the research :
''The celestial or terrestrial origin of ancient Egyptian iron, and when its usage became common are contentious issues, which are subject to debate. Evidence is drawn from many areas, including architecture, language, and belief.''
The researchers suggest that meteoric iron may have been very important in Egyptian culture and religion. The iron in the blade of the knife from Tutankhamun's tomb came from one of the many meteorites that has fallen in the desert.
In Ancient Egypt people started to make jewelry not later than around 4,000 BC. It is unknown why they did start using the meteoric iron, but it seems that ancient people in many parts of the world worshiped the stones, which came from the sky. The same kind of the iron structure was discovered in two Chinese blades from 1000 BC, and in Native American iron beads from the Hopewell burial mounds in Illinois from 400 BC.
According to the article by Liz Leafloor from Ancient Origins :
''Back on Earth, meteorites have long fascinated humanity. Ancient man was in awe of and feared what were seen as unfathomable events in the skies. Modern science can now explain the meteor showers, lightning and thunder, aurora lights, and eclipses that inspired myths, religions, and legends. In antiquity meteorites were seen as messages from the gods, or profound omens.
The worship of celestial rocks continues even with modern meteorites. The ‘Church of the Meteorite’ was set up in Chelyabinsk after a meteor rocked the Russian region in 2013 and injured over 1500 people.''
The Hoba meteorite is the largest known meteorite found on Earth, as well as the largest naturally-occurring mass of iron known to exist on the earth. The meteorite, named after the Hoba West Farm in Grootfontein, Namibia where it was discovered in 1920, has not been moved since it landed on Earth over 80,000 years ago. (public domain )
Meteorites, have been important in religions and cultures of many civilizations . Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that they were gifts of the Gods. In ancient Greece, meteorites were held at Apollo's temple at Delphi as objects of veneration. Even the shrine of Islam in Mecca holds a stone, which is believed to be a meteorite.
Top image: These daggers were from within Tutankhamun's burial wrappings. The top one of made of gold and the lower, significantly rarer, made from meteorite. ( ancient-egypt.co.uk)