Thursday, June 2, 2016

King Tut's Space Dagger

That headline sounds like the title of a History Channel special discussing alien contacts in ancient Egypt, but it's actually true. New analysis has confirmed that a dagger found in the tomb of the Pharoah Tutankhamun was crafted from meteoric iron.

So the material used in the blade literally came from outer space, making the term "space dagger" more appropriate than you might think at first.

In 1925, archaeologist Howard Carter found two daggers, one iron and one with a blade of gold, within the wrapping of the teenage king, who was mummified more than 3,300 years ago. The iron blade, which had a gold handle, rock crystal pommel and lily and jackal-decorated sheath, has puzzled researchers in the decades since Carter’s discovery: ironwork was rare in ancient Egypt, and the dagger’s metal had not rusted.

Italian and Egyptian researchers analysed the metal with an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine its chemical composition, and found its high nickel content, along with its levels of cobalt, “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin”. They compared the composition to known meteorites within 2,000km around the Red Sea coast of Egypt, and found similar levels in one meteorite.

That meteorite, named Kharga, was found 150 miles (240km) west of Alexandria, at the seaport city of Mersa Matruh, which in the age of Alexander the Great – the fourth century BC – was known as Amunia. The researchers published their findings on Tuesday in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

Meteoric iron must have seemed magical to the ancient Egyptians. It was super-hard and super-strong, didn't rust easily, and randomly fell from the sky. I never have done ritual with a tool made from it, but I have heard from a number of other practitioners that it works quite well.

Tutankhamun's dagger, with its gold wrapping and crystal pommel, was almost certainly a ritual object of some sort rather than a weapon that would have been used in combat. It would be interesting to find out how it was used, and what attributions the ancient Egyptians might have associated it with.

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