Humans have been using materials of extraterrestrial origins before they learned how to smelt iron ore. Findings of a new study have revealed that iron tools in the Bronze Age used iron that may have come from meteorites.
Technology Scans Archaeological Artifacts Without Damaging Them
In a new study, Albert Jambon, from the University Pierre and Marie Curie, surveyed Bronze Age artifacts using portable X-ray fluorescence scanner. The imaging technology, which was also used to determine the origins of King Tutankhamun's dagger, makes it possible to scan important archaeological artifacts without damaging them.
Extraterrestrial Iron And Iron From Space
When celestial bodies such as our planet were forming, most of the nickel drifted towards its molten iron core, which explains why it is rare to find a nickel on the surface. Some meteorites, however, were formed when celestial bodies were shattered. Meteorites that are composed of core material mostly have iron with high levels of cobalt and nickel.
Meteoric iron is likewise already in a metal state, so it is ready for use, and this may explain why it was used in Bronze Age iron artifacts. Iron compounds from terrestrial ores, on the other hand, need to undergo processes that would remove the oxygen to produce the desired metal. This is the bases of smelting in furnaces, which marked the start of the Iron Age
These explain the iron that suggests iron tools produced in the Bronze Age were possibly made of metal that came from meteorites.
Nickel And Cobalt Offer Clue To Origin Of Metal In Bronze Age Artifacts
In the new study, Jambon sought to find out if the metals from Bronze Age artifacts indeed have space origins. The nickel and cobalt content of the artifacts dated between 1300 and 3200 B.C. may provide evidence that the iron used in the ancient tools fell from the sky.
Jambon analyzed beads from Egypt, pendant and ax from Syria, a dagger from Turkey, and an artifact from China.He found that each of these contains levels of nickel and ratio of iron to cobalt, which suggest the metals were from space.
"The few iron objects from the Bronze Age sensu stricto that could be analyzed are definitely made of meteoritic iron, suggesting that speculations about precocious smelting during the Bronze Age should be revised," researchers wrote in their study.
The findings were published in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.