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Science

Ancient Egyptian Space Bead

¡Viva la Science!

By Lisa Barrow [ Tue Jun 4 2013 11:00 AM ]
Space iron shown in the blue nickel-rich areas on the virtual model, bottom left.
Andy Tindle, Open Univeristy
Space iron shown in the blue nickel-rich areas on the virtual model, bottom left.

Did ancient Egyptians make jewelry out of metal from space? According to a new article in Nature, they did indeed.

Archaeologists believe that iron smelting in ancient Egypt started around the sixth century BCE. But an iron bead found in a cemetery in 1911 at Gerzeh, about 43 miles south of Cairo, dates from approximately 3,300 BCE. Scanning electron microscopy, optical imaging and CT scanning revealed the presence of nickel-rich areas on the tube-shaped bead, indicating celestial provenance. The metal, it seems, came from a meteorite.

According to Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley, who co-authored the study that revealed the bead's true nature, the finding offers a clue about the beginnings of the Egyptian religion. “The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptians,” she points out. “Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods.”