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King Tut's jewelry and other ancient artifacts came from meteorites

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2017

No, that’s not a magic amulet. Well, it is, or is at least it's supposed to be, but it has something the ancients would have probably considered magical but we know is from outer space—still kind of magical, but also science.

Turns out some ancient Egyptian artifacts might have deep-space origins, including those of King Tut. Tutankhamun was not the only one wearing jewelry and wielding a sword made of metal from an alien source, as Seeker found out. The swords of Bronze Age luminaries like Mughal Emperor Jahangir and even (if he really existed) King Arthur were all made out of meteoritic iron, which suggests that people of that time period found meteorites that had previously fallen to Earth. The extraterrestrial origin of the metal made it that much more valuable for people who believed it came from the realm of the gods. Ancient Egyptians had something of a mystical connection to the cosmos, and highly valued rocks that had once crashed down from space.

"[They were] something like thunder and rain under gods' command," Albert Jambon of the French National Center for Scientific Research told Seeker after recently having a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. "Meteorites were considered as pieces of the sky, which is the word used primarily to designate iron at that time."

Since the Pharaoh was considered a living god, it makes sense that metal from the heavens was found in Tut’s bracelet, his dagger, and even his headrest, as Jambon and his colleagues found through their newly developed geochemical approach that can tell extraterrestrial and terrestrial iron apart. He believes that true Bronze Age artifacts have their origin in fallen meteorites, which is why he argues that anything made of terrestrial iron melted out of its ore emerged later. The discovery of smelting was the advent of the Iron Age.

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An iron-nickel meteorite like this one is what King Tut's sword and jewelry came from. Credit: The Smithsonian

Distinguishing and aging those artifacts made of meteoritic iron is helping scientists figure out exactly when the sun set on the Bronze Age ended as the Iron Age dawned. While previous investigations focused on just the nickel content, Jambon’s non-invasive method takes a macro look at the content and ratio of iron, cobalt, and nickel found in relics that are supposedly from the Bronze Age. The chemical structure of meteoritic iron varies significantly from iron that originated on Earth. Meaning, this analysis could rewrite history.

“The few iron objects from the Bronze Age sensu stricto that could be analyzed are definitely made of meteoritic iron, suggesting that speculations about precocious smelting during the Bronze Age should be revised,” Jambon concluded.

Just in case whatever has been downloaded about our own history is deleted someday, we can only wonder what scientific approaches will distinguish the period we live in when the Computer Age is considered as fascinatingly ancient as jewelry glittering in an Egyptian tomb. 

(via Seeker)