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Study confirms King Tut's dagger was made from a meteorite

Photo of the dagger courtesy: Daniela Comelli/Polytechnic University of Milan

Photo of the dagger courtesy: Daniela Comelli/Polytechnic University of Milan


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Saturday, June 4, 2016, 6:01 - A dagger found wrapped in the mummy of famed Egyptian King Tutankhamun was made with iron that came from a meteorite, a new study out of Milan, Italy confirms.

The study was led by Daniela Comelli, professor of materials science at the Polytechnic University of Milan.

Her analysis, which appears in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science, shows the dagger contains 10 per cent nickel and 0.6 per cent cobalt.

Comelli used a technique called X-ray flouresence to identify different elements contained within the dagger. Her team then compared the make-up of the blade to 11 metallic meteorites and found the composition was similar.


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"In agreement with recent results of metallographic analysis of ancient iron artifacts from Gerzeh, our study confirms that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of precious objects," the study says.

"Moreover, the high manufacturing quality of Tutankhamun's dagger blade, in comparison with other simple-shaped meteoritic iron artifacts, suggests a significant mastery of ironworking in Tutankhamun's time."

The dagger was first discovered by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1925, who first found King Tut's tomb in 1922. It was in the wrapping surrounding the young king's right thigh and dates back to 14th century B.C.

The study's authors suggest the use of meteorites by ancient Egyptians signifies society that was aware of the rarity and importance of meteorites.

"The introduction of the new composite term suggests that the ancient Egyptians … were aware that these rare chunks of iron fell from the sky already in the 13th C. BCE," the study says.

Sources: CBC | Meteoritics and Planetary Science

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