According to a new study, it is possible that all weapons and iron-based tools of the Bronze Age were forged using metal recovered from meteorites. The finding gave experts a better idea of how these tools were created before humans discovered how to make iron from their ore.
While earlier studies had found specific Bronze Age objects made of meteoric metal, such as one of the daggers buried with King Tutankhamun: this latter investigation answers the question of how widespread the practice was.
Albert Jambon, of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, studied museum artifacts from Egypt, Turkey, Syria and China, analyzing them using an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to discover that they all shared the same world origins.
"Current results that complement high-quality literature analyzes suggest that most or all Bronze Age irons are derived from meteorite iron," writes Jambon in his published article.
"The next step will be to determine where and when land iron foundry first appeared."
Bronze was the chosen metal for tools, weapons and jewelry during the Bronze Age, hence the name of the epoch, which began around 3300 a. The alloy was durable and readily available, made by melting copper and mixing it with tin and other metals.
The Iron Age that started about 2,000 years later gets its title because it was then that we learned how to melt the iron in its ore, then discovered how to reach the high temperatures necessary for the process.
Historians have always been disconcerted by the presence of some iron weapons and tools dating from the Bronze Age, which were highly valued as rarities at that time. Where does this iron come from?
The key to answering that question is the fact that iron from meteorites that fall to Earth contains a lot of nickel, while iron ore does not, due to the way to the molten iron core of our planet during its formation.
With the help of the X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer, which uses x-rays to analyze the chemical composition of objects without touching them, Jambon studied the museum's exhibits, including beads, a dagger, and a headrest.
Indeed, meteoric iron with a high content of nickel was found in all areas. The iron deposited by the meteorites would have been ready for use by metallurgical workers, without the need for smelting.
However, this is more than a good history of the Bronze Age: it is evidence that this type of analysis can help reduce just when and where we develop the technological knowledge to start producing our own iron products.
No one is sure when iron was fused by the human hand for the first time, but additional research with these techniques and tools could be a "The study emphasizes the importance of analytical methods to adequately study the evolution of the use of metals and metalworking technologies in our past cultures, "writes Jambon.
] The research has been published in Journal of Archaeological Science .