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Archaeology & History

King Tut's blade was made from a meteorite

By T.K. Randall
June 1, 2016 · Comment icon 23 comments

The ancient Egyptians made good use of meteoric iron. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Harry Potts
The dagger buried alongside the young pharaoh appears to have been more valuable than previously thought.
Using a technique known as X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, researchers from Milan Polytechnic, Pisa University and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo determined that the iron in the ancient blade contained a high percentage of nickel as well as other materials typically found in meteorites.

The team was even able to track down the specific meteorite the blade was constructed from - a rock named Kharga which was discovered 16 years ago in a limestone plateau at Mersa Matruh.
The find suggests that meteoric iron was considered to be a highly valuable material in ancient Egypt and also helps to highlight the skillful craftsmanship of the smiths who worked with it.

"It would be very interesting to analyze more pre-Iron Age artifacts, such as other iron objects found in King Tut's tomb," said study author Daniela Comelli. "We could gain precious insights into metal working technologies in ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean."

Source: Gizmodo | Comments (23)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #14 Posted by EllJay 8 years ago
  I can recommend, for those interested in Tut Ankh-Amon, to watch the mini-series Tut      
Comment icon #15 Posted by Beacon_Field 8 years ago
So "Gods" from space came to Earth and helped the Egyptians build pyramids. Not only did they do that but they also gave them daggers and swords made out of meteorites. Ancient Egyptians, Aliens and Space are linked like a spider's web.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Leonardo 8 years ago
Just to clarify, the method of "cold-forging" I refer to just means the metal was not melted and forged via being set in a mold. It's likely heat was applied to the meteoric ore to soften it though, before it was hammered into shape. So, the "cold" is only relative. Items created through cold-forging would likely be much brittler than smelted copper weapons and tools, as the impurities in the metal would not be removed via smelting. So, Tut's meteoric iron dagger was likely ceremonial rather than practical.
Comment icon #17 Posted by EllJay 8 years ago
Comment icon #18 Posted by kmt_sesh 8 years ago
In clearing the tomb Howard Carter found a receipt from Amazon. Tut ordered the dagger from there, along with a copy of Mummies for Dummies as a gift for the royal embalmers. So maybe I made that up. But you're right about meteoric objects—beads and such fashioned from meteoric iron date in very limited quantities all the way back to the late Predynastic. It was definitely considered a luxury item. More spectacular to look at is the solid-gold dagger which was wrapped within Tut's bandages. It has cloisonné work on the handle. This was not a common technique among Egyptian craftsmen so it's... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
kmt_sesh, wouldn't a weapon made of iron be profoundly interesting to the warrior class?  Wouldn't they aggressively chase that technology?
Comment icon #20 Posted by EllJay 8 years ago
I wonder if it could be some early version forged out of Wootz Steel. The Wootz Steel later on (several hundred years later) became the famous Damascus Steel. I'm not sure about the timeline though. How far before A.D did Tut live? A 1000 years?
Comment icon #21 Posted by kmt_sesh 8 years ago
That's an excellent question. I don't know whether ancient Near Easterners of Tut's time (or earlier) fully realized the military potential for iron. Even if they did, meteoric iron was the only form available, and you can imagine how scarce it was. Egypt in Tut's time was a superpower and was doing quite fine for itself (after rebounding from the Amarna interlude), so as with other kingdoms of the time, well-made bronze weapons were sufficient. As it is, the first true Iron Age military did not emerge until the Neo-Assyrian empire, and they ended up rolling over everyone, Egypt included. Tut ... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by Leto_loves_melange 8 years ago
...i wonder if the knife would have to be sharpened after 3000 plus years. 
Comment icon #23 Posted by EllJay 8 years ago
Well, according to this they exported steel for weapons to Egypt the Egyptians got their steel via import. But it doesn't add up time-wise though. This was after 1300 BC

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