ananyo writes "Researchers have found that a 5,000-year-old Egyptian trinket is made from a meteorite (abstract). The result explains how ancient Egyptians obtained iron millennia before the earliest evidence of iron smelting in the region, solving an enduring mystery. It also hints that they regarded meteorites highly as they began to develop their religion. The tube-shaped bead is one of nine found in 1911 in a cemetery at Gerzeh, around 70 kilometers south of Cairo. The cache dates from about 3,300 BC, making the beads the oldest known iron artifacts from Egypt. But the first evidence for iron smelting in ancient Egypt only appears in the archaeological record in the sixth century BC. Using scanning electron microscopy and computed tomography to analyze one of the beads, researchers found that the nickel content of this original metal was high — as much as 30% — suggesting that it did indeed come from a meteorite. Backing up this result, the team observed that the metal had a distinctive crystalline structure called a Widmanstätten pattern. This structure is found only in iron meteorites that cooled extremely slowly inside their parent asteroids as the Solar System was forming."