King Tut, Egypt’s famous boy king, was buried with many treasures, like gold-covered furniture and precious jewelry. But a dagger discovered with his mummy has recently attracted extra attention. Researchers have concluded that the dagger was probably made from an extraterrestrial (coming from a place outside of Earth) material. In May, they published the findings from their study of the dagger in a scientific journal. The article states that the iron used for the blade likely came from a meteorite, or a rock from space that landed on Earth.
DISCOVERING THE DAGGER
King Tut was only about 9 years old when he became pharaoh, or ruler, of Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. The young king, whose full name was Tutankhamen (TOO-tahn-KAH-men), died when he was just 19. His body was preserved as a mummy and buried in an elaborate tomb filled with objects that people believed he would need in the afterlife.
In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Still filled with treasures, it was the best-preserved ancient Egyptian tomb ever found. In 1925, Carter found the dagger in the linen fabric wrapped around Tut’s mummy. The dagger has a gold and crystal handle, the iron blade, and a gold, decorated sheath (case for a dagger). The blade had mystified experts because iron was hardly used at that time in ancient Egypt. In fact, it was so rare that it was considered more valuable than gold. Where did the iron for the blade come from?
A FAR-OUT FIND
Around the time of King Tut, ancient Egyptians started using a new word for iron that translates as “iron from the sky.” This led some experts to believe that the iron for the blade came from a meteorite. But studies of the dagger carried out in the 1970s and 1990s didn’t support that idea.
That’s where modern technology comes in. Researchers from Polytechnic University of Milan, the University of Pisa, and the Egyptian Museum used a new technique called X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to examine the blade. They discovered that it was made up of iron and other materials found in meteorites. After comparing it to several meteorites, they even found its possible match—a meteorite that landed in northern Egypt thousands of years ago.
Scientists hope the new study will lead to more discoveries about other ancient Egyptian artifacts. “It would be very interesting to analyze more pre-Iron Age artifacts, such as other iron objects found in King Tut’s tomb,” Daniela Comelli, a professor at Milan Polytechnic, told Discovery News. “We could gain precious insights.”