Ancient Egypt

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

This undated image shows a dagger and sheath found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun

This undated image shows a dagger and sheath found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun  (Daniela Comelli/Polytechnic University of Milan)

An Egyptian dagger found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb was made with iron from a meteorite, a study has confirmed.

Using a hi-tech X-ray, the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy found the famous dagger contained 10 percent nickel and 0.6 percent cobalt.

A comparison with 11 metallic meteorites found they were made of similar elements.

The dagger dates back to the 14th century B.C. and was found in the wrapping surrounding the right thigh of King Tut’s mummy. It features a decorated gold handle with a rounded knob of rock crystal. It was encased in a gold sheath that was decorated with a pattern of lilies, feathers and a jackal’s head.

Another separate gold blade was found under King Tut’s wrapping on the abdomen.

Iron objects were rare and considered more valuable than gold during the Bronze Age and were mostly decorative. This may have been because Egyptians found iron difficult to work with as the metal requires a very high heat to forge.

Archaeologist Howard Carter found King Tut’s tomb in 1922 and it was long suspected that the iron blade was made from a meteorite but previous analysis has been controversial. The use of a portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry to identify its elements now confirms the theory.

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