A new study claims that most of the iron used in armaments and artifacts dating from the Bronze Age is, in fact, of extraterrestrial origin. It also explains how our ancient ancestors could use metal without access to the foundry.
The new research, directed by French scientist Albert Jambon and published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, used geochemical analyzes to differentiate the terrestrial and extraterrestrial metals found in a range of Bronze Age artifacts from around the world. By studying the proportions of iron, cobalt and nickel found in the artifacts, the researchers created a system to differentiate the iron produced by the melting of ore and "prefabricated" iron of meteoric origin.
Context, meteorites were already recognized as an important source of iron, but the scientific community was still in the sights as to the extent to which meteoric iron contributed to the construction of the iron artefact of the Bronze Age . The iron weapons created during the Bronze Age were extremely rare and prized possessions (something like Valyrian steel in the Game of Thrones).
The Iron Age began around 1200 BCE, while the Bronze Age was played 2,000 years earlier, so anyone who bragged about iron weapons or jewels had a significant military or economic advantage over his contemporaries.
Jambon performed non-destructive chemical analysis of samples using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer in situ in museums where Bronze Age artifacts are currently stored. The objects studied include: accounts of Gerzeh (Egypt, -3200 BCE); a dagger from Alaca Höyük (Turkey, -2500 BCE); a pendant from Umm el-Marra (Syria, -2300 BCE); an ax of Ugarit (Syria, -1400 BCE) and several others of the civilization of the Shang Dynasty (China, -1400 BCE); and even the dagger, the bracelet and the headrest of Tutankhamun (Egypt, -1350 BC).
The terrestrial iron ore must be reduced, eliminating the oxygen contained inside it, before it can become weapons and other objects. But the meteoric iron was already in a metallic state and, therefore, it was ready to be used, without the need for anachronistic innovations like the foundry, which marked the beginning of the Iron Age.
Celestial bodies such as meteorites, asteroids and comets are created when the planets break and break. "When large celestial bodies form like our planet, almost all of the nickel moves to the molten iron core" the study authors write, indicating that the common extraction techniques during the Bronze Age would not have decreased enough to extract significant amounts of nickel or iron.