King Tutankhamun is one of the most legendary kings of ancient Egypt, and his mythos has become even greater today after it has been confirmed that his dagger blade was made with the rock from a meteorite that had fallen from the stars.
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The dagger itself was discovered in 1925 by archaeologist Howard Carter in the wrapping of the right thigh of the boy king mummy. It has a decorated gold handle made with a rock crystal pommel and an iron blade protected by a dope looking gold sheath. It has a pattern of lilies on one side and feathers with a jackal’s head on the other. Stylish – check it out:
Tests were conducted on it using a technique called X-ray fluorescence. This identifies different elements from the characteristic colours of X-ray light they give off when hit with higher-energy rays. Sounds hi-tech.
The analysis – led by Daniela Comelli, a professor of materials science at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy – showed that it contains 10% nickel and 0.6% cobalt. This was tested against the composition of 11 metallic meteorites and found to be very similar, confirming that the iron did indeed come from a meteorite or as the ancient Egyptians called it the “iron of the sky.”
Comelli explained the significance of the discovery:
The dagger dates back to the 14th century BC and is one of very few iron artefacts ever found from the ancient Egyptian culture, which isn’t thought to have developed iron smelting until the 8th century BC — later than neighbouring countries.
The problem with iron working is related to its high melting point (1,538 °C). Because of it, early smiths couldn’t heat ore enough to extract iron and couldn’t forge the iron into weapons.
Earlier iron objects were typically ornamental or ceremonial and made of meteoritic iron that was considered more valuable than gold.
It was shaped by hammering. King Tut’s dagger was suspected to have been made with that type of iron, but it had not been confirmed.
In this context, the high manufacturing quality of Tutankhamun’s dagger blade is evidence of early successful iron smithing in the 14th C. BCE.
The finding also provides insight into Egyptian descriptions of iron that appeared around 100 years later, which use the term “iron of the sky.”
The introduction of the new composite term suggests that the ancient Egyptians… were aware that these rare chunks of iron fell from the sky already in the 13th C. BCE.
Crazy. I suppose a dagger made out of meteorite iron would be extra tough and give you extra damage points if you were using it on Fallout 4 or something? At least I would hope it would and its usage wasn’t purely ceremonial. Either way it’s pretty cool and will certainly add to the legend of King Tut because I doubt too many other people in human history have one of those.
For more meteorites, here’s a video of one slamming into Russia a couple of years ago.