TechTutankhamun's dagger of cosmic origin: Scientists trace ancient weapon's iron back to meteorite

Tutankhamun's dagger of cosmic origin: Scientists trace ancient weapon's iron back to meteorite

Tutankhamun's Mask
Tutankhamun's Mask
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons, La Rosa, Lic. CC BY-SA 4.0
9:03 AM EST, February 19, 2024

During the examination of the pharaoh's body, who passed away at 19, a noteworthy object was uncovered near his right ear: a short dagger boasting a gold-covered handle, a crystal ball on top and an iron blade. The tomb's discoverer, Howard Carter, referred to the weapon as a "sumptuous golden dagger with a crystal base".

Modern scientists from Italy and Egypt, guided by Dr. Daniela Comelli from the Department of Physics at the Polytechnic of Milan, conducted extensive research on this artifact. Their examination of the dagger revealed that the artifact is more extraordinary than it might have initially appeared.

Meteoritic Iron

The primary enigma was the uniform blade of steel, composed of iron with various additives. Employing spectrofluorometry (testing of samples exposed to X-ray radiation), the researchers discerned the exact composition of the material used to construct the pharaoh's weapon.

Tutankhamun's Dagger
Tutankhamun's Dagger© Daniela Comelli

The dagger blade of Tutankhamun contains 88 percent iron, 10.8 percent nickel, and 0.6 percent cobalt. This composition is rare, as terrestrial iron items usually contain up to 4 percent nickel. However, such proportions are quite common in meteorites that fall to Earth.

This cosmic iron was used in the crafting of the esteemed pharaoh's weapon many centuries ago. Moreover, through the compositional analysis, scientists established the precise origin of the iron used in the dagger's creation. It is highly likely that the iron came from the Kharga meteorite, discovered once again near Alexandria in 2000.

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