New scientific study reveals meteorite metal used in Tutankhamun's dagger

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 4 Jun 2016

A new study reveals that Tutankhamun’s dagger is made of meteoric iron

The iron dagger in subject

The blade of a dagger found in Tutankahmun’s mummy wrapping has been the subject of debate since it was discovered in 1925. But recent studies carried out by an Italian-Egyptian mission at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square have revealed that it was carved from iron from a meteorite.

“We show that the composition of the blade, accurately determined through portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, strongly supports its meteoritic origin,” Egyptologist Abdel Rasek Al-Naggar, one of the research team, told Ahram Online.

Al-Naggar went on saying that in agreement with the results of metallographic analysis of ancient iron artifacts from Gerzeh, the Italian-Egyptian study confirms that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoric iron for the production of precious objects.

Al-Naggar asserted that the high manufacturing quality of Tutankhamun’s dagger blade, in comparison with other simple-shaped meteoritic iron artifacts, suggests significant mastery in ironworking in Tutankhamun’s time.

Mahmoud El-Halwagy, former director of the Egyptian Museum who took part in the study, said he was unable to confirm whether ancient Egyptians knew that the iron came from a meteor.

“We don't want to go to other angles, to symbolic or religious issues. These were rocks that were available and were used by humans,” El-Halwagy pointed out, adding that it is not unlikely that the daggers had symbolic or religious uses.

According to an article published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science, among several iron objects discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb were 16 miniature iron blades, a miniature head rest, and a bracelet with the Udjat eye of iron. But the dagger is the one that has attracted most interest from archaeologists and historians,

Observed by Carter, the scholars wrote in their article, the iron objects from Tutankhamun’s tomb highlight innovative features of the use and trade of iron in the Late Bronze Age. Diplomatic documents from the Egyptian royal archives from the 14th century BCE (the Amarna letters) mention royal gifts made of iron in the period immediately before Tutankhamun’s reign. In particular, it is reported that Tushratta, King of Mitanni, sent precious iron objects to Amenhotep III.


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