King Tut's Dagger Was Made From a Meteorite

King Tut's Dagger Was Made From a Meteorite

Ever since King Tutankhamun's mummy was discovered in 1922, archaeologists and historians have been fascinated by the many objects preserved in his burial chamber, not least of which was a dagger found folded into the pharoah's wrappings. It inspired plenty of study due to its ornate gold handle and especially its iron blade, which was an unusual material for knives of the time. For a 2016 study, scientists used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to analyze the blade, and found that its iron, nickel, and cobalt composition was of extraterrestrial origin: it matched a meteorite that had hit the ground in northern Egypt. This is astonishing enough before you note that the new discovery also lines up with an ongoing hieroglyphics mystery: while ancient Egyptian texts had long used one hieroglyphic to refer to iron, around the 13th century B.C.E. -- a short time after King Tut's rule -- a new symbol began appearing next to it that changed its meaning to "iron of the sky." This could mean that the ancient Egyptians knew about the existence of meteorites more than 2,000 years before Western culture did.

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Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    King Tutankhamen's tomb was found intact in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter. (0:16)

  • 2

    Research has found that a dagger buried in King Tut's tomb was made of meteoric iron. (0:35)

  • 3

    It's fairly common for ancient artifacts to be made of materials that fell from the sky. (1:35)

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