Mined Materials and Iron from the Sky Found in An Egyptian Dagger
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Ancient Egyptians knew a thing or two about mining and metal work. Iron extracted from meteorites was so prized in ancient Egyptian culture that it had a special name, “iron from the sky,” and was used in the most important contexts: to form a dagger for a king.
Italian and Egyptian experts led by Daniela Comelli of Polytechnic University of Milan have found that the blade of a dagger buried with Egyptian King Tutankhamun was made with iron extracted from a meteorite. Findings were first reported in the journal, Meteoritics & Planetary Science.
Although the dagger was discovered in 1925, it wasn’t until recently that scientists had the technology to unearth the exact components of the materials. The research team used x-ray fluorescence spectrometry to discover that the iron in the blade very closely resembled that of components found in meteorites from that time period and region.
The dagger handle is made of equally precious, mined materials: gold and crystal and also suggests extreme mastery of metal working during this period of ancient Egyptian history.
Although Tutankhamun plays an important role in our understanding of ancient Egypt—primarily because his tomb was discovered nearly intact—he was a minor figure in Egyptian history, reigning only 8 – 9 years and accomplishing little in that time.
Mining has been a major industry in Egypt since the dawn of civilization. Ancient Egyptians regularly mined precious metals, particularly copper and gold, and precious stones such as emeralds, malachite, turquoise, carnelian, and amethyst. They also mined for minerals, including salt, Natron, alum, and sulphide, which were used in cooking, domestic chores, and makeup.
The dagger can currently be seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
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