Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Egyptians accessorized with meteorites

Date:
May 30, 2013
Source:
Open University
Summary:
Researchers have found conclusive proof that Ancient Egyptians used meteorites to make symbolic accessories for their dead.

Gerzeh bead.
Credit: Image courtesy of Open University

Researchers at The Open University (OU) and The University of Manchester have found conclusive proof that Ancient Egyptians used meteorites to make symbolic accessories for their dead.

Related Articles


The evidence comes from strings of iron beads which were excavated in 1911 at the Gerzeh cemetery, a burial site approximately 70km south of Cairo. Dating from 3350 to 3600 BC, thousands of years before Egypt's Iron Age, the bead analysed was originally assumed to be from a meteorite owing to its composition of nickel-rich iron. But this hypothesis was challenged in the 1980s when academics proposed that much of the early worldwide examples of iron use originally thought to be of meteorite-origin were actually early smelting attempts.

Subsequently, the Gerzeh bead, still the earliest discovered use of iron by the Egyptians, was loaned by The Manchester Museum to the OU and Manchester's School of Materials for further testing. Researchers used a combination of the OU's electron microscope and the University's X-Ray CT scanner to demonstrate that the nickel-rich chemical composition of the bead confirms its meteorite origins.

OU Project Officer Diane Johnson, who led the study, said: "This research highlights the application of modern technology to ancient materials not only to understand meteorites better but also to help us understand what ancient cultures considered these materials to be and the importance they placed upon them."

Meteorite iron had profound implications for the Ancient Egyptians, both in their perception of the iron in the context of its celestial origin and in early metallurgy attempts.

Dr Joyce Tyldesley is a Senior Lecturer in Egyptology at The University of Manchester and worked on the research. She said: "Today, we see iron first and foremost as a practical, rather dull metal. To the ancient Egyptians, however, it was a rare and beautiful material which, as it fell from the sky, surely had some magical/religious properties. They therefore used this remarkable metal to create small objects of beauty and religious significance which were so important to them that they chose to include them in their graves."

Philip Withers, Professor of Materials Science at The University of Manchester, added: "Meteorites have a unique microstructural and chemical fingerprint because they cooled incredibly slowly as they travelled through space. It was really interesting to find that fingerprint turn up in Egyptian artefacts."

The results of the study of the bead can be obtained in the paper, 'Analysis of a Prehistoric Egyptian Iron Bead with Implications for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt.' published in the Meteoritics and Planetary Science journal.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Open University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Diane Johnson, Joyce Tyldesley, Tristan Lowe, Philip J. Withers, Monica M. Grady. Analysis of a prehistoric Egyptian iron bead with implications for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/maps.12120

Cite This Page:

Open University. "Ancient Egyptians accessorized with meteorites." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530094635.htm>.
Open University. (2013, May 30). Ancient Egyptians accessorized with meteorites. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530094635.htm
Open University. "Ancient Egyptians accessorized with meteorites." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530094635.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins