A dagger found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun was made from a rare sort of iron meteorite, according to Egyptian and Italian researchers who recently examined the object using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry.
According to Professor Abdel Razeq al-Naggar, who has been coordinating the Italian-Egyptian research project, ancient Egyptians used a meteor that fell to earth thousands of years ago to make the dagger.
Naggar said that the object, which dates back to the 14th century BC, shows that ancient Egyptians were skilled manufacturers of iron blades long before the start of the Iron Age in Egypt.
In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun's tomb, later finding two blades — one gold and one iron — in the wrappings of the mummy.
Since then, scientists have speculated on the origins of the metal used in the iron dagger, since Tutankhamun ruled during the Bronze Age, long before iron was in common use. Scientists in the past have suggested that the nickel content of the dagger meant is was not likely to be made from meteoritic iron.
However, the new results from the Egyptian-Italian research project show that the chemical composition of the iron is consistent with at least one meteorite that fell to Earth in Egypt in ancient times.
According to Daniela Comelli, senior Italian researcher on the team, all meteorites within a 2,000 km radius of the Red Sea were considered, and 20 iron meteorites were identified as a possible source for the blade's iron. Researchers then narrowed this down to one meteorite in the Marsa Matruh area that has the same concentrations of nickel and cobalt.
Naggar said that scientists examining the blade in the 1990s did not possess the scientific technology to properly determine its chemical make-up. However the x-ray fluorescence spectrometry techniques applied by the current team have revealed that the percentage concentrations of nickel and cobalt are indeed consistent with the meteorite theory.
Naggar said the that techniques used to examine the dagger in no way damaged it. He also clarified that the extraterrestrial source of the iron in no way indicates that the dagger itself had been crafted by aliens.
The research project involves the Fayoum Faculty of Antiquities, Milan Polytechnic, Pisa University and the Egyptian Museum. A documentary film about the research is being prepared and will be displayed soon, Naggar said.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm