Extraterrestrial Elements in Egyptian Equipment

Bible and archaeology news

A CT scan of an iron bead from the Gerzeh cemetery reveals oxide and metal components. Image: Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

Where did Egyptians get the iron found in beads in a fourth-millennium-B.C.E. cache at the Gerzeh cemetery? Scholars have long been mystified by the discovery, which predates evidence of iron smelting in the region by thousands of years. Archaeologists have searched the dirt for evidence of early (and possibly accidental) smelting sites, but a new study in Meteoritics & Planetary Science suggests that they should have been looking up, rather than down, for answers.

A research team led by Open University meteorite scientist Diane Johnson examined the nickel content and crystalline structure of one of the beads to confirm that the iron came from a meteorite. The team was able to reconstruct the way the ancient Egyptians worked the material: “Successive virtual CT slices revealed bending points and a joining edge, suggesting production by beating flat a fragment of iron, followed by bending to produce the tube.”

While there is no confirmed evidence of iron smelting in the region before Greco-Roman times, the presence of iron objects in royal tombs reveals that they were a symbol of status in earlier periods of Egyptian history. The Egyptians themselves appear to have been aware of the otherworldly source of their iron. The authors of the study write that “from the late 18th Dynasty, approximately 1300 BCE, the term biA-n-pt starts to be used, which literally reads iron from the sky and from this point onwards … the term becoming synonymous with metallic iron in general.”

Read the study “Analysis of a prehistoric Egyptian iron bead with implications for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt” by Diane Johnson, Joyce Tyldesley, Tristan Lowe, Philip J. Withers and Monica M. Grady as it appears in Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

Interested in ancient metallurgy? BAS Library Members: Read Thomas E. Levy and Mohammad Najjar, “Condemned to the Mines” as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 2011.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

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  1. Tim says

    For once, a believable ET story!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Extraterrestrial Elements in Egyptian Equipment « Science Blok linked to this post on June 3, 2013

    [...] Extraterrestrial Elements in Egyptian Equipment [...]

  2. Extraterrestrial Hippies? New Research on Egyptian Technology Tries to Get Noticed Online | PaleoBabble linked to this post on June 6, 2013

    [...] few days Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) posted a link online to an article entitled, “Extraterrestrial Elements in Egyptian Equipment.” Ancient astronaut believers (and Giorgio Tsoukalos’ hairdresser) no doubt saw the [...]

  3. Extraterrestrial Hippies? New Research on Egyptian Technology Tries to Get Noticed Online | Filter_paleo linked to this post on September 29, 2013

    [...] few days Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) posted a link online to an article entitled, “Extraterrestrial Elements in Egyptian Equipment.” Ancient astronaut believers (and Giorgio Tsoukalos’ hairdresser) no doubt saw the [...]


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