13 Jun 2017
Posted in Archaeology, Art, Culture, History, Travel with us

Tut’s knife

Nearly a century ago, archaeologist Howard Carter found the mummy of the boy king, Tutankhamun, in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. With the discovery, human history was forever changed.

Tut ruled as pharaoh from 1332 to 1323 B.C. Upon his death, he was entombed with assorted treasures, including two daggers wrapped in his shroud. One of them in particular was of interest to scientists: an ornate implement with a gold sheath and a blade of iron. Why the interest? Ironworking was essentially unheard of in Egypt during Tut’s lifetime; iron wasn’t forged in Egypt until centuries later.

Late last year, Italian and Egyptian researchers were finally able to analyze the dagger’s blade using noninvasive technology, an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, to determine its chemical make-up. The findings? The blade is made of iron, nickel, and cobalt—contents that match the composition of the Kharga meteorite that fell near Alexandria, Egypt.

Alas, the blade was crafted from a meteor. How fitting for a pharaoh.

This was not a complete surprise to the researchers, who have long known that the Egyptians attributed great value to meteors, and that they would choose such rare material to create fine ceremonial objects. Scientists also knew that Egyptians placed great importance on all things celestial. In fact, in hieroglyphics iron is written as “metal of the sky.”

“The ancient Egyptians were aware that these rare chunks of iron fell from the sky, anticipating Western culture by more than two millennia,” said the researchers in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

“The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptian,” Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley of the University of Manchester, explains. “Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods.”


You can see the dagger and other incredible pharaonic treasures—including Tut himself (his gold funerary mask)—at the remarkable Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Interested? Contact Kiran Chand at kchand@rcrusoe.com or call 888-490-8013.

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