Scientists say dagger found in ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun's tomb was made with iron from a meteorite.
New research suggests that a dagger found in ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun's tomb has extraterrestrial origins.
A team of Italian and Egyptian researchers who analysed the metal composition of the blade said on Thursday the artefact was made with iron from a meteorite.
Archaeologists and historians have been fascinated by Tutankhamun's mummified remains and other artefacts found in his tomb since their discovery in 1925.
For decades, scientists have claimed that the iron dagger, found within the bandages covering the ancient king's body, may have come from meteorites because the existence of smelted iron was rare in ancient Egypt during Tutankhamun's rule.
But lack of detailed analysis of the artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb meant that it had been difficult to know for sure what materials were used.
Now, Italian and Egyptian researchers who used X-ray technology to take detailed pictures of Tutankhamun's dagger claim to have proved that the dagger was indeed made of "extraterrestrial iron".
In a research paper published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, they said the dagger was made of high amounts of nickel and cobalt, indicating its meteoritic origins.
The authors also said Egyptians probably knew the iron was "coming from the sky" and, as a result, they valued the dagger immensely.
"We suggest that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of fine ornamental or ceremonial objects," the article said.
Ancient Egyptians' knowledge about the origin of the iron can also be seen in their language, the researchers said.
'Iron in the sky'
Commenting on the research paper, Joyce Tyldesley, a senior lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester, said that ancient Egyptians had a word for iron, which is translated as "iron from the sky".
"So they are obviously recognising things that are coming to Earth and imagining that these are the gifts of the gods," Tyldesley said.
"What's unusual about the dagger is that Tutankhamun was buried at a time when Egyptians were not using much iron at all," she added.
Even though the dagger was found within Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt, Tyldesley said it is impossible to be sure that the dagger was made in Egypt.
"The suspicion is that it was actually an import," she said.
"Egyptologists suspect that maybe this was a dagger sent to Egypt from a neighbouring state during the reign of Tut's grandfather.
"It may have been included in his tomb because it's a very valuable piece and also because it is a family heirloom that has belonged to his grandfather."
The iron dagger was not the only artefact found with Tutankhamun's mummified remains. Thousands of mysterious artefacts from the tomb are still waiting to be analysed and Egyptologists believe that the tomb is still full of surprises.
"We are only now being able to start looking at all the artefacts and trying to make sense of them," said Tyldesley.
"This is a story that is going to keep unfolding for many many years."
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