Tutankhamun's Knife was 'Made From Meteorite Iron'
"The dagger is exceptional because of its composition and its high manufacturing quality", researchers say.
A dagger entombed alongside the mummy of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was made with iron that came from a meteorite.
The weapon was one of a pair of daggers discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1925 within the burial wrappings of the teenaged king.
The origin of its unrusted iron blade has baffled scientists because such metalwork was rare in ancient Egypt. Tutankhamun was mummified more than 3,300 years ago.
Italian and Egyptian researchers used "a non-invasive X-ray technique" to confirm the composition of the iron without damaging it, according to a study published in the journal of Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
Scholars have long discussed the introduction and spread of iron metallurgy in different civilizations. The sporadic use of iron has been reported in the Eastern Mediterranean area from the late Neolithic period to the Bronze Age. Despite the rare existence of smelted iron, it is generally assumed that early iron objects were produced from meteoritic iron.
Nevertheless, the methods of working the metal, its use, and diffusion are contentious issues compromised by lack of detailed analysis. Since its discovery in 1925, the meteoritic origin of the iron dagger blade from the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun (14th C. BCE) has been the subject of debate and previous analyses yielded controversial results.
We show that the composition of the blade (Fe plus 10.8 wt% Ni and 0.58 wt% Co), accurately determined through portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, strongly supports its meteoritic origin. In agreement with recent results of metallographic analysis of ancient iron artifacts from Gerzeh, our study confirms that ancient Egyptians attributed great.
The researchers say the presence of iron - along with levels of nickel and cobalt - "strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin".
They compared the composition of the dagger to known meteorites within 2,000km around the Red Sea coast of Egypt, and found that one in particular - which landed 150 miles (240km) west of Alexandria - contained similar levels of nickel and cobalt.
Ancient Egyptians attached great significance to meteoritic iron for the production of fine ornamental or ceremonial objects, the researchers say.
"They were aware that these rare chunks of iron fell from the sky already in the 13th [Century] BCE, anticipating Western culture by more than two millennia," they write in their findings.
The high manufacturing quality of the blade in comparison with other simple-shaped meteoritic iron artefacts "suggests a significant mastery of ironworking in Tutankhamun's time", they say.
The dagger - which features a decorated gold handle and a gold sheath with a floral lily motif on one side and a feather pattern on the other - is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.