Iron tools from the Bronze Age found their origin in another world


A weapon as legendary as King Tutankhamun's dagger needs an epic background story, and last year X-ray badysis showed that the iron in the ancient sword came from meteorites. Now, a French study found that the artifact was far from being alone, since all the iron tools dating from the Bronze Age have origins from another world.

Beginning in 3300 BC in the Near East and parts of South Asia, the Bronze Age was clbadified by the widespread use of bronze in weapons, tools and decorations. Manufactured by melting copper and mixing it with tin, arsenic or other metals, bronze was durable and relatively easy to obtain, and as such, it remained the best choice until it was supplanted when the Iron Age began about 2,000 years later.

That does not mean that iron was not used during the Bronze Age, iron artifacts that date back to before the Iron Age have been found on relatively rare occasions, but it was much harder to find and work. The problem was that most of the metal was encased in the ore and had to melt at extremely high temperatures, which was beyond the technological capabilities of the time. So, where did those first iron artifacts come from?

It has long been thought that the iron tools of the time were made of meteorites, which would have deposited the metal in an already viable state on the surface of the Earth. The theory would explain the presence of iron in the artifacts before the advanced casting techniques had been developed, and whether or not their owners knew that the metal was not from this planet, iron would have been appreciated for its relative rarity.

Determine If these early iron artifacts were of terrestrial or extraterrestrial origin, Albert Jambon of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France conducted chemical badyzes of several samples from the Bronze Age. Along with the dagger of King Tut, Jambon studied a bracelet and a headrest belonging to the Egyptian king in 1350 BC, axes of Syria and China dating from around 1400 BC. C., a Syrian pendant of 2300 a. C., a Turkish dagger of 2500 a. Gerzeh, Egypt, which dates back to 3200 BC C., just after the Bronze Age began.

Jambon used a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, an instrument that can determine the elements that make up a sample of rock or metal without damaging the target. Using this, Jambon could deduce from iron impurities whether the metal in the relics came from meteorites or if it was found naturally on Earth. Iron meteorites generally contain higher levels of nickel and cobalt than terrestrial iron due to the tendency of nickel to move towards the molten core of a planet.

Indeed, all the badyzed samples had levels of nickel and cobalt that were aligned with those observed in the iron meteorites. Jambon concluded that, essentially, all iron articles of the Bronze Age would be made of meteoric iron, until the development of the foundry process that marked the beginning of the Iron Age around 1200 BC.

The research was published in Journal of Archaeological Science .

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