Saturday 2 July 2016


Nice analysis of a dagger found wrapped up with boy king Tut Ankh Amun reveals that the iron blade was almost certainly a chip off a meteoric block.  Indeed, like the matching of a stone axe found in England to a boulder in the Appenines, the geochemists have matched King Tut's knife to a particular meteorite found near Mersa Matruh in Northern Egypt. Both samples are mostly elemental iron but have 11% Nickel and 0.5% Cobalt which is a very close match even on these two axes of variability. Wiley have made this hip /sexy paper available as full text to you&me as a publicity come-on. Most papers in the journal Meteorics and Planetary Science are buried behind a pay-wall.  If you want to read more than the abstract of Complexities in pyroxene compositions derived from absorption band centers: Examples from Apollo samples, HED meteorites, synthetic pure pyroxenes, and remote sensing data, for example, then you'll have to cough up at least $6.

King Tut's dagger was a) an heirloom and b) an import. The quirks of history (so much gone for ever, the remaining evidence absurdly patchy) have left us with only 7 plays by Sophocles out of his known oeuvre of more than 100. On the other hand we know, or can infer, quite a lot about this dagger. Seemingly it was made as a diplomatic gift for Tushratta, King of Mitanni, to give to Pharaoh Amenhotep III. The Mitanni lived where Syria is now in bloody conflict and they were skilled metal workers - better than the Egyptians were at the time. The raw material must have been shipped to the workshops in the North and returned to the Pharoah with a neatly decorated gold sheath. It is possible / probable that this Amenhotep was young Tut's grandfather. The fact that meteors fell from the sky and arrived hot from heaven, was not lost on the ancient Egyptians. Iron was rare because they lacked the technology to raise a sufficient temperature to smelt iron from its abundant ores. Meteoric iron was thus very much a gift of the gods; and so an appropriate possession for one revered as a god on earth.

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