Egyptian pharaohs were once believed to be half-man, half-god — almost a cosmic deity.
King Tutankhamun, who rose to prominence in the modern world when his tomb was discovered, was no exception.
Although it's been nearly a hundred years since archaeologists unearthed the boy king's 3,300-year-old tomb, it turns out there are still more to learn about his life and burial.
Now, the spotlight is on one of two daggers discovered within the wrapping of the mummified king.
In 1925, Egyptologist Howard Carter found one iron dagger and one gold blade in the tomb of King Tutankhamun or King Tut. The iron dagger was tucked near the mummified abdomen, while the golden blade was placed on the right thigh.
What scientists found interesting was the design of the iron dagger. It had a gold handle, rock crystal pommel and lily, as well as a jackal-decorated sheath.
This design left scientists puzzled, especially because the ironwork was rare in ancient Egypt. Also, the blade's metal had not rusted.
Through the use of X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, a team of Italian and Egyptian scientists analyzed the dagger to determine its chemical composition.
They found that the metal's high nickel content and levels of cobalt strongly suggest an "extraterrestrial origin." Researchers say the iron used in the dagger was from a meteorite. They compared the composition of the metal to known meteorites within 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) around the Red Sea coast in Egypt and detected similar levels in one.
The said meteorite was named Kharga and was discovered about 150 miles of Alexandria in Mersa Matruh. During the age of Alexander the Great, this place was called Amunia.
Indeed, the nickel was a huge giveaway to the origin of the metal, experts say. Typical iron ore contains only about 4 percent nickel, while King Tut's dagger had 11 percent. The traces of cobalt supported this idea.
Falling Rocks From The Sky
King Tut's dagger is not the only object whose material came from the sky.
Researchers say that because ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron in producing precious objects, others like the dagger have been fashioned out of the cosmic material. One example is the small beads from Gerzeh, Egypt, which are likely made from meteoritic metal.
Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist from University of Manchester who was not involved in the study, says ancient Egyptians may have revered celestial objects that fell on Earth.
"The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptians," says Tyldesley. "Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods."
The study suggests that ancient Egyptians were already aware that rare portions of iron fell from the sky during the 13th B.C.E., even millennia before Western culture. This indicates that ancient Egyptians had an advanced understanding of the source of the metal.
Additionally, the results of the research also mean that significant mastery of ironworking was already evident among ancient Egyptians during King Tut's time. Skilled ironworkers may have supported the boy king.
The details of the study are published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.