Findings show the possibility that the best weapons, tools, and jewelry from the Bronze Age may have been forged from the iron in fallen meteorites.
King Tutankhamun's dagger [Photo by the University of Pisa]
The Bronze Age, which began sometime around 3300 BCE, was so named because people at the time preferred to use bronze in their weapons and other metal-based possessions. Bronze was durable, widely available, and relatively easy to make by making an alloy out of copper, tin, and other metals.
The Iron Age, meanwhile, began about 2,000 years after the Bronze Age began. By then, people had discovered how to reach the intense heat necessary for smelting iron from its ore, an ability that people in the Bronze Age hadn’t been able to develop. However, the Bronze Age also had highly-prized iron artifacts, which has puzzled historians for years. If the Bronze Age didn’t yet have the technology to smelt iron, how did these iron artifacts come about?
Iron beads from Gerzeh, Egypt [Photo by Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology/Gianluca Miniaci]
According to researcher Albert Jambon, all iron artifacts from the Bronze Age were meteoric in origin. Jambon studied Bronze Age artifacts from China, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey using an X-Ray fluorescence spectrometer to put these artifacts through a non-invasive chemical analysis. He had beads from Egypt, as well as Tutankhamen’s headrest, bracelet, and dagger; a dagger from Turkey; a pendant and an axe from Syria; and more axes from China’s Shang dynasty.
Meteorites supplied the Bronze Age's iron [Photo by Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images]
The analysis revealed that all these artifacts were made of iron salvaged from meteorites. "The present results complementing high quality analyses from the literature suggest that most or all irons from the Bronze Age are derived from meteoritic iron," Jambon wrote in his study. It’s important to note that the iron in meteorites that had fallen to Earth contain a lot of nickel, while nickel on the Earth’s surface is very rare. This is because in the early days of our planet’s formation, all the nickel flowed toward the molten iron core of the Earth.
Some meteorites may have come from the core of other celestial bodies that have shattered upon impact. Thus, these meteorites have a wealth of not just of nickel and cobalt, but iron as well.
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