King Tut's Dagger Has Out-of-This-World Origins

It's from a meteor, researchers say
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2016 6:33 AM CDT
Updated Jun 1, 2016 6:50 AM CDT
King Tut's Dagger Has Out-of-This-World Origins
The ceremonial dagger and sheath found in the tomb of King Tut.   (AP Photo/Dallas Museum of Art,Mike Stone)

King Tut’s dagger is out of this world—or at least it was at some point. Italian and Egyptian researchers teamed up to analyze the blade found in the boy king’s sarcophagus (placed on his right thigh) using portable fluorescence spectrometry. They found that the iron used to make the dagger came from a meteor, reports Discovery News. (As Gizmodo puts it: "King Tut Had a Space Dagger.") "Since its discovery in 1925, the meteoritic origin of the iron dagger blade ... has been the subject of debate and previous analyses yielded controversial results," the researchers write in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. However, the recent analysis "strongly supports its meteoritic origin." The tipoff? Nickel, researcher Daniela Comelli tells Discovery News. While many iron artifacts have a maximum of 4% nickel, the blade of Tut’s dagger (complete with a gold handle and decorated gold sheath) contains nearly 11%.

And then there’s the cobalt concentration, a slim 0.58%. "The nickel and cobalt ratio in the dagger blade is consistent with that of iron meteorites,” Comelli says. Researchers also think they may have identified the meteor the iron came from. Of the 20 they looked at, just one's nickel and cobalt measurements are in the ballpark. That meteor, called Kharga, was discovered in 2000 on a limestone plateau about 150 miles west of Alexandria. The researchers say the quality of the blade indicates that Egyptians of the 14th century BC already were skilled ironsmiths. And then, a linguistic insight: The researchers note a "composite term" introduced one century later means "iron of the sky," and "suggests that the ancient Egyptians ... were aware that these rare chunks of iron fell from the sky already ... anticipating Western culture by more than two millennia." (Egypt has been accused of hiding the truth about Tut's tomb.)

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