Ancient Egyptians attributing great value to meteoritic iron

Nearly one century ago researchers went looking for the hidden mysteries of Egypt. On their adventurous discovery trips they found all sorts of things which often brought some new mystery.

Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings

Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tutankhamun, also spelled Tutankhamen and Tutankhamon, original name Tutankhaten, byname King Tut , was the 11th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, reigning 1333–1323 bce. He is known chiefly for his intact tomb, KV 62 (tomb 62), discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. 

When Tutankhaten in his third regnal year abandoned Tell el-Amarna and moved his residence to Memphis, the administrative capital, near modern Cairo, he changed his name to Tutankhamun and issued a decree restoring the temples, images, personnel, and privileges of the old gods. He also began the protracted process of restoring the sacred shrines of Amon, which had been severely damaged during his father’s rule. No proscription or persecution of the sun god Aton, pharaoh Akhenaton (reigned 1353–36 bce) his god, was undertaken, and royal vineyards and regiments of the army were still named after the Aton who became to be the only one god (see creator god Re) to be worshipped. Re was associated with Amon as Amon-Re, who was for more than a millennium the principal god of the pantheon, the “king of the gods,” and the patron of kings.

In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter opened the sarcophagus of a teenage Pharaoh, Tutankhamun and discovered two knives wrapped in the bandages that bound the mummified remains. The knives presented a dilemma that only grew greater with time. The handle was made of gold and had a pommel of rock crystal. The ornate sheath had a floral lily motif on one side and a feather pattern on the other, terminating with a jackal’s head. What baffled scientists was the iron blade, manufactured in 1300 BCE, which showed no signs of rust.

It looked unbelievable that certain treasures discovered did not show signs of decay or erosion. Many things found have long been matter for discussion. Until now, analyses have proved inconclusive. Italian and Egyptian researchers used an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a state-of-the-art, non-invasive technique, to confirm the composition of the iron without damaging it, according to a study published in the recent issue of the Journal of Meteoritics and Planetary Science. To their surprise, the iron used to make the knife was taken from a meteorite. The knives contained a high nickel content with levels of cobalt that matched samples taken from meteorites in the region, “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin”, indicating the Egyptians were the first civilization to extract metal from fallen meteorites.

The scientists compared the composition of the dagger to meteorites that had been discovered in a 2,000km radius around the Red Sea coast of Egypt. One meteorite that was found that 150 miles west of Alexandria contained similar levels of nickel and cobalt.

Gerzeh culture is located in Egypt

Map of Egypt showing al-Girza, during the Predynastic Period of Egypt

” In agreement with recent results of metallographic analysis of ancient iron artifacts from Gerzeh, our study confirms that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of precious objects”,

the study suggested.

The study also noted that meteorites were significant for more than their practical value, saying that,

“Beyond the Mediterranean area, the fall of meteorites was perceived as a divine message in other ancient cultures”.

By many people the natural phenomena were to be considered signs of the gods. For lots of pagan people our world received several goods from the gods of the heavens. The things they saw coming down from the sky as such were looked at as special for them, given by the gods and should have to be treated special.

Concerning the material used in Egypt British archaeologist and Egyptologist, Joyce Tyldesley, a senior lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester, the material used was not from that region but suspects that maybe this was a dagger sent to Egypt from a neighbouring state during the reign of Tut’s grandfather.

“It may have been included in his tomb because it’s a very valuable piece and also because it is a family heirloom that has belonged to his grandfather.”

she says and added

“The suspicion is that it was actually an import.”

The knife is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

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