Cruelty to meteorites?
Wouldn't a living meteorite object to being hewn?
Sorry, couldn't resist, I'll get me coat
New analysis of a dagger entombed with King Tutankhamun "strongly supports" the theory that it was forged from meteoritic iron. The iron dagger. Pic: Wiley Tutankhamun's dagger with its gold sheath. Pic: Wiley Online Library Using portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, a team of researchers determined that the dagger's …
Iron alloys in the Earth did come from the solar disk, yes, but since that time they have been heavily affected by terrestrial processes, altering their isotope ratios. Meteoric alloys have not been so processed and retain their primordial makeup.
It's because iron smelting requires much higher temperatures than copper or bronze, and there are a few tricks necessary to achieve quality iron which they didn't know about. But they did know iron ores existed (probably), and may have considered the good iron in meteorites to be 'royal' or something.
It also seems possible to me that the meteoric iron was just more convenient to obtain in workable quantities. Compared to your average terrestrial / telluric deposit of iron ore that's worked its way up from the mantle, it seems to me a meteoric deposit from a modestly-sized meteor will be much more accessible from the surface of the planet, and much more likely to appear as a large lump of mostly metal.
I've found a couple of fist-sized meteorites of in my life, both made of significant fraction of solid metal, and I wasn't even looking for them. Atypical perhaps, but it might suggest its relatively easier to come by than underground ore of similar metallic chunkiness.
And, as we presume the ancient Egyptians didn't know much about alloys of iron, it also probably would have been handy for the meteoric variant to have lots of nickel in it. This knife has something approaching 10x the ratio of nickel to iron you usually find in terrestrial ore, making it much more resistant to corrosion without any extra input. It might have also made it tougher than low-carbon telluric iron, though I'm hardly sure; it might have had too high a ratio of nickel for that.
" I don't know why they didn't exploit them until later. "
The early iron industry cleared most of the natural forests in southern Britain to produce the needed charcoal. The later Industrial Revolution depended on coke from coal to replace charcoal to smelt the iron ore. IIRC Egypt was never forested to sufficient extent to make an iron smelting industry viable for long - even if one allows for the encroaching desert over the millennia.
Iron ore needs high temperatures and a a reducing agent - generally carbon in charcoal or latterly coal - to reduce it to the metal
I guess the African/middle eastern cultures didn't light huge roaring high temperature fires and certainly not on iron ore deposits.
Wiki says :
"It is not known when or where the smelting of iron from ores began, but by the end of the 2nd millennium BC iron was being produced from iron ores from China to Africa south of the Sahara."
Which suggests it may well have started in China.
Its one of those things - like rubbing two boy scouts together to make a campfire - that once you have done it, you wonder why you never thought of it before.
Of course metal smelting had been going for a long time, but iron needs a deal more heat to smelt.
The Egyptians didn't understand the smelting and forging techniques of iron - in part because both fuel and high quality ore are absent in Egypt. Instead they relied on the Hittite kingdom for supplies of forged metal. Relations between the two civilisations were strained through the 18th Dynasty of Tutankhamen* and were only really put on a firm foundation after Rameses II lost/won the Battle of Kadesh in the following Dynasty. Once the Hittites and Egypt formed the first known diplomatic alliance, supplies of iron ore started flowing into Egypt and local smelting took place, but the lack of fuel meant that bronze was still widespread right up to the end of Egyptian civilisation.
* There is a fascinating letter written to Suppiluliuma, King of the Hittites by Ankhesenamun - widow of Tutankhamen in which she pleads for him to send one of his sons to become pharaoh of Egypt (Tutankhamen had no living descendants) rather than her be forced to marry a commoner who would then take the throne. The prince was sent, but was murdered en route, Ankhesenamun disappears and one of the great villains of Egyptian history, Ay, seizes power.
I married a woman that I thought was a rare treasure, she turned out to be a common ore!
I am waiting for the strange people to sally forth and tell us that the aliens gave the metal sword as a gift while they were building the pyramids.
Bugger, they are here he said after reading on. Dan Brown will be along in a minute.
The Egyptians used diorite for pounders to work hard stones like granite and quartzite. Diorite is a crystalline, granular rock consisting essentially of the minerals plagioclase felspar (white) and hornblende or augite (black or dark green); it may be either fine- or coarse-grained.
Making Classical Art, Process & Practice, © Roger Ling, 2000. Page 19.
How did they manage to carve granite with their rudimentary toolset is the question
And a well-answered question at that. Very hard rocks were turned into tools and structures throughout the Stone Age using a wide range of techniques: hard grit polishing and drilling, percussion (hit the rock with rocks), fracturing with fire and wooden wedges, and so on. Look up the Maori mere's construction technique: it involved turning rock as hard as granite (nephritic jade) into a polished work of art and war long before the Maori had access to iron tools.
Of course they find extraterrestrial items from Egypt. After all, wasn't it aliens that built the pyramids with their marvelous preservative powers and anti-gravity technology? Not to mention that time line in the Great Pyramid that correctly predicts the end of the world in, uh, 1999? (Well a small percentage of error there, maybe).
They probably made that knife from an extraterrestrial Spam can dropped by one of the aliens working on the pyramids.
It probably belonged to his father, like a lot of his treasure is assumed to. Tut wasn't around long enough to acquire much personal wealth. 'Luckily' for him his father seems to have been universally despised after his death so Tut's treasure probably comes from there (and/or his mother's tomb).
It's always struck me as amusing that one of Egypt's least important and possibly least powerful rulers is the one everyone knows today. So much of his treasure probably survived because his tomb was forgotten along with him. If the Egyptian afterlife exists he'll be laughing his arse off since being remembered is how they achieved immortality.
Landed 5000 years ago and still shiny as a new penny!
The Spanish tracked it down as the locals had used it to make arrow heads and other weapons and thought they must have a mine but just found a 35 ton lump of it and then got bored. Over 100 tons landed altogether though!
The composition is very similar to Tuts dagger and I can see why tools made from this stuff are high value - they have certain sheen.
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Well, he snuffed it so young that they hadn't had time to build him a proper tomb so I believe they stuck him in whatever was available. What's truly impressive is the amount of treasure they squeezed in there with him (the tomb was filled to the brim) - if you ever get the opportunity to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo I highly recommend it - if only to see his funerary mask face-to-face.
His actual intended tomb is probably WV23 which was taken by his successor Ay who ruled for 2-4 years. Tutankhamen's tomb looks like one of the occasional noble tombs that were permitted in the Valley of the Kings - most famously that of Tjuya and Yuya who were the parents of Queen Tiye, Tutankhamen's grandmother and possibly of Ay.
Under Ay's rule, Tutankhamen and his relatives were beginning to be whitewashed from history and it does look like Tutankhamen's burial was a house clearing of all of the Armana period. Ay also used the death of Tutankhamen to legalise his claim to the throne by having himself depicted as pharaoh on the tomb paintings performing the 'Opening of the Mouth' ceremony that conferred eternal life on Tutankhamen. He was in short, a total bastard.
Some of the items in the tomb are labelled for Akhenaten and the very shadowy pharaoh Smenkare Djeser Khepheru who was either Tutankhamun's predecessor or his predecessor but one, whilst other items have been relabelled for Tutankhamen - most distinctly, his second coffin which has a different face to the others.
The complete obliteration of Tutankhamen's record came under the following pharaoh Horemheb, also not from the legal succession, who simply extended the rule of Amenhotep III to cover the reigns of Akhenaten, Smenkhare, Neferneferuaten (which might be the throne name of Nefertiti), Tutankhamen and (some measure of justice) Ay. Horemheb had the worship of the Aten banned, demolished its temples and spent his reign carving his name over the rather beautiful sculptures that went up during Tutankhamen's reign.
And yes, go to the Cairo Museum and be amazed. The new museum is almost ready and there will finally be space to see some of the exquisite works. The material from the Old Kingdom - especially the sculpture is simply mind blowing. But if you can't get that far, visit the Egyptian collection in Berlin to see the incredible work being done during the brief Armana Period prior to Tutankhamen's reign - the bust of Nefertiti is worth the air fare alone.
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