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Some Egyptian relics may have come from outer space

June 3, 2013 6:44pm
Did the iron in some Egyptian relics that are thousands of years old come from a meteorite from space?
 
Researchers have found some ancient Egyptian trinkets, including a 5,000-year-old iron bead, that may have originated from a meteorites that fell to Earth, Nature.com reported.
 
“The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptians. Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods,” said Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester, UK, and a co-author of the paper.
 
In a paper published in "Meteoritics & Planetary Science" May 20, the researchers noted ancient Egyptians regarded meteorites highly as they began to develop their religion.

Ancient iron artifacts
 
Also, Nature.com cited one of nine tube-shaped beads found in a cemetery at Gerzeh in 1911, which could be dated about 3,300 B.C.—among the oldest known iron artifacts.
 
On the other hand, Nature.com cited a 1928 study showing the iron in the beads had a high nickel content, which could be a signature of iron meteorites.
 
This suggested the artifact was of celestial origin, though scholars argued in the 1980s that the nickel-enriched iron could be due to accidental early smelting.
 
Microscopy, tomography
 
A team led by Diane Johnson, a meteorite scientist at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, used scanning electron microscopy and computed tomography to analyze one of the beads they borrowed from the Manchester Museum.
 
Microscopy showed nickel made up some 30 percent of the original metal, indicating it did come from a meteorite.
 
Further backing this up was that the metal had a distinctive crystalline structure called a Widmanstätten pattern - found in iron meteorites that cooled extremely slowly inside their parent asteroids.
 
With tomography, the researchers built a 3D model of the bead's internal structure, showing the ancient Egyptians had made it by hammering a fragment of iron from the meteorite into a thin plate, then bending it into a tube.
 
Iron smelting
 
The first evidence for iron smelting in ancient Egypt appears in the archaeological record in 6th century B.C., where only a few iron artifacts have been discovered in the region from before then.
 
All came from high-status graves such as that of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.
 
"Iron was very strongly associated with royalty and power," said Johnson.
 
Also, objects made of such divine material were believed to guarantee their deceased owner priority passage into the afterlife.
 
But Campbell Price, a curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum, said nothing is certain about the Egyptians’ religious beliefs before the advent of writing.
 
Price, though, said that during the time of the pharaohs, the gods were believed to have bones made of iron.
 
He speculated meteorites may have inspired this belief, being perceived as the physical remains of gods falling to Earth.
 
Johnson said she would want to check if other early Egyptian iron artifacts originated from meteorites, if she is allowed to do so. — TJD, GMA News
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