Ancient Egyptians crafted jewellery from pieces of outer space meteorites, according to a new study.
Rather than being fashioned from iron ore as was previously thought, ancient Egyptian beads held at the UCL Petrie Museum were in fact made from pieces of meteorites, says Professor Thilo Rehren from UCL Archaeology, Qatar, lead author of the paper.
Hammered into thin sheets before being rolled into tubes, the beads were originally strung into a necklace together with other exotic minerals such as gold and gemstones.
The nine beads, which are more than 5,000 years old, were completely corroded when excavated in 1911 in a pre-dynastic cemetery near the village of el-Gerzeh in Lower Egypt.
Researchers used x-ray techniques to determine whether the beads were meteoric iron and not magnetite.
The shape of the beads, it is believed, was obtained by smithing and rolling, most likely involving multiple cycles of hammering.
“The really exciting outcome of this research is that we were for the first time able to demonstrate conclusively that there are typical trace elements such as cobalt and germanium present in these beads, at levels that only occur in meteoritic iron,” said Prof Rehren.
“We are also excited to be able to see the internal structure of the beads, revealing how they were rolled and hammered into form.
“This is very different technology from the usual stone bead drilling, and shows quite an advanced understanding of how the metal smiths worked this rather difficult material.”