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Iron In Egyptian Relics Came From Space 119

Posted by timothy
from the blaming-the-ancient-astronauts-for-everything dept.
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."
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Iron In Egyptian Relics Came From Space

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  • by Swampash (1131503) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @09:52AM (#43860065)

    It was the lizard men!

  • by chinton (151403) <chinton001-slashdot@gmail . c om> on Thursday May 30, 2013 @09:57AM (#43860121) Journal
    "Next on Ancient Aliens..." in 3... 2... 1...
  • by Ashenkase (2008188) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @09:59AM (#43860137)

    That only the Egyptian women would search for and collect meteorites for such jewellery.

    These "Iron Maidens" would run to the hills, locate a meteorite, perform a customary dance of death and return to their camps 2 minutes to midnight due to a widespread fear of the dark.

    • by stiggle (649614)

      Why did they have to become a Powerslave to the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son?

    • Hah, the next thing you'll try to make us believe is that they were walking like Egyptians while doing so.
    • Wasted years, but at least they were running free instead of wasting love back in the village.

    • by laejoh (648921)
      No one knows who they were or what they were doing But their legacy remains Hewn into the living rock...
    • by tonyx12 (926628)
      ...so that they can be back home for dinner with Iron Man (stark) who might be finally starting to be Afraid to shoot Strangers
  • Yeah, but (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @09:59AM (#43860143)

    ...where did they get all that naquadah?

  • Amazing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:01AM (#43860165)

    The stone dropped from millions of miles away in the Solar System onto the land of a civilization that was relatively advanced for the time, so they developed it into jewelry that somehow survived 5,000 years before tourists arrived to deface it with grafitti.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      somehow survived 5,000 years before tourists arrived to deface it with grafitti.

      Just wait another 1000 years and the graffiti will be a relic too. "Who knows Dr. Jones. In a thousand years even you may be worth something".

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Funny)

      by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:06AM (#43860971)

      a civilization that was relatively advanced for the time

      ...then they undertook a huge involvement into religion...

      • The Inuit's primary source of iron was meteors (which are relatively findable in snowy low-vegetation areas), and researchers in the Antarctic have also found them.

  • Dammit, O'Neill, we told you not to use that damn thing during Solar Flare activities. And tell Carter that the kitschy iron-bead jewelry is NOT part of her uniform!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, when do we get to see the Stargates?

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:05AM (#43860209)

    The Egyptians already made use of glass from an impact:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHEbg2b5wYs [youtube.com]

  • by mmcxii (1707574) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:10AM (#43860235)
    Everthing on Earth came from space.

    The idea that a civilization would use a rock that fell from space to make some trinkets doesn't seem too earth shaking to me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Depending on the size of the rock, I would think it would actually be earth-shaking. Mostly at the time of landing.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Of course it isn't. That they had some means of smelting iron ore so early would be though.

      Showing that these particular iron items aren't in fact evidence of that is useful information gathering.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Ancient Alien guys are going to be insufferable now.

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:17AM (#43860311)
    *crazy hair*

    "I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens"

    /crazy hair

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:18AM (#43860319)

    Archaeologists have been theorizing about this for ages. In 1989 for instance they were speculating on meteorites being the source of iron in this paper. [robertbauval.co.uk]

    Significantly the word ‘Bja’ meaning iron in ancient Egyptian also meant the ‘material of which heaven was made'.

  • Ha ha (Score:4, Funny)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:28AM (#43860437)
    Who's the pyramidiots now.
  • How about that iron pick they found inside one of the blocked passageways inside the Pyramids. Did they ever solve where that came from?

  • The fact that meteoric iron has been used for artifacts has been known for a while:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoric_iron [wikipedia.org]

    • The funny thing is that it was in a book on Egyptology that I learned about the existence of meteoric iron as a child - in connection with Tutankhamun's iron dagger (18th dynasty, 14th century BCE).
  • by jzarling (600712) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:37AM (#43860567)
    Did all these rocks fall from the sky, maybe, but, could some have been brought by ancient astronauts, as gifts to the native population?
    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:42AM (#43861469)
      Occam's Razor says hell to the no. Besides which I would wager if some extraterrestrial intelligence wanted to leave something behind it would be more than space gravel.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mveloso (325617)

        Occam's Razor is a cheap parlor trick used by the mentally lazy to dismiss, well, everything.

        If you said "billions and billions of random events occurred to create anti-entropic self-organizing entities" people would say "well, Occam's Razor says no." And yet here we are.

        • That's a misuse. In the first place, Occam's Razor is comparative. It postulates that out of a spectrum of possible explanations, the simplest is more likely to be correct. So unless you have a more simple explanation for the panoply of evidence in physical reality for life, then the consensus on its purported origins is not denied by Occam's Razor.

          (Though in truth I doubt you understand what underlies all that, since you characterize life as 'anti-entropic' which is wholly false because you probably have
        • by femtobyte (710429)

          If you said "billions and billions of random events occurred to create anti-entropic self-organizing entities" people would say "well, Occam's Razor says no."

          If you said that in a world where we have no evidence for such self-organizing principles to occur, then that would be a crazy leap to make. But, in our world, we have abundant data for self-organizing systems developing and increasing in complexity. Specifics in a few gaps are missing, but the overall framework is certainly there for explaining the generation of life from "chance interactions" between organic precursor molecules demonstrated to form "spontaneously" under early-earthlike conditions. "Occam'

        • by cyborg_zx (893396)

          No.

          We know meteorites abundant with iron are out their floating about. We know they sometimes crash to Earth.

          We don't know if there are any alien life forms out there. We don't know if they've visited Earth. We don't know if they'd have any interest in leaving bits of iron about that look like iron from meteorites.

          Occam's razor - choose the simplest.

          The simplest explanation does not invoke things we've never seen before to explain the phenomena. Therefore aliens go home.

        • by Bengie (1121981)
          Some currently theorize that life increases the rate of entropy in system with very low entropy. You also have the whole "literally anything could happen in our universe because of quantum-randomness". Our life could be just a random occurrence with low probability.
        • by OneAhead (1495535)
          Second law of thermodynamics: anti-entropic processes don't exist.
          Also, you don't seem to understand Occam's razor; see the other replies. Now hand in your geek card, thank you very much.
        • If you said "billions and billions of random events occurred to create anti-entropic self-organizing entities" people would say "well, Occam's Razor says no." And yet here we are.

          Unless you have a simpler explanation, Occams Razor says Yes.
        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          "billions and billions of random events occurred to create anti-entropic self-organizing entities" is the simpler explanation that "God did it". So no, Occam's Razor would side with your example out of those two reasonably commonly proposed explanation.

    • I believe in the Doctor Who theory. Obviously he got a few chunks of meteorites, brought them to the Egyptians for some crucial purpose, and left them. I mean really, how else do you think they found so many?
    • beside the lack of evidence of alien, why would they use meteoritic iron with a high percentage of nickel, and not highly purified steel or something solid ? This is the same bullshit as with "ancient alien building pyramide". Why the heck would they use local stone material, using locally known method of transportation and cutting, instead of modern method of cutting and transprotation, or even modern material ?

      The simplest explanation is that "they" did not, there was no alien, jsut the locals using wh
  • by Ixtl (1022043) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:42AM (#43860639)
    ALIENS DID NOT BUILD THE FUCKING PYRAMIDS. Erich von Däniken is still an idiot. The Egyptians just made something out of this cool space rock they found. It does not mean that ancient astronauts killed JFK.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:56AM (#43860823) Homepage

      Then explain Dick Cheney... He has to be from out space.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      well of course ancient astronauts didnt kill JFK, it was the ancient astronauts great great great great......great great grandkids! The ancients died milenia ago!!
    • by MiniMike (234881)

      Your statement is not sufficient to convince those who have built up an entire industry based on fleecing gullible morons.

      The people who actually believe that alien-pyramid tripe are generally not the type to be reading a website related to technology, unless it's something like transmuting pig crap into gold. Any argument which relies on elements such as "facts," "logic," or "evidence" is unlikely to sway them.

  • well duh (Score:4, Funny)

    by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @10:48AM (#43860717)
    everything on Earth came from space...
  • I always thought it was common knowledge that the iron used in various artifacts that predates iron smelting the the region came from meteorites. I don't know what culture I ran across that was doing it (Indian, Mesopotamian, Germanic, Egyptian, Chinese, etc.) but it doesn't seem like a stretch that if one culture figured out that a metallic rock could be heated and pounded into something that others cultures couldn't, especially since most of those cultures were already working with copper, gold "rocks" s
    • It should be, but some historians are incredibly arrogant or inflexible toward the introduction of new knowledge. Mention the water-based weathering around the Sphinx, suggesting the site is much older than originally thought, and watch the establishment cover their ears and ignore you.

      • I thought that the exact nature of the weathering around the Sphinx is still contentious (as in, not completely conclusive)? Using the word "establishment", as far as I've been able to observe, is a shibboleth of conspiracy theorists.
        • One of the arguments against the advanced age hypothesis is that there were no known civilizations with such grand structures. Since then, we've discovered GÃbekli Tepe, which is about 11,000 years old. Another argument is that the erosion is from the wind; however, wind erosion would be horizontal, whereas water erosion is vertical.

          It should be noted that Zahi Hawass was booted from his position due to his close ties to the Mubarak family. There is a very good chance that, once Egypt gets its act toge

          • I'm not all that conversant with the details, but if the Sphinx is indeed supposed to be so old, where are the necessary living quarters and funeral places of the people who worked on it? You'd expect *something* to be associated with a significant population of workers...pottery shards, damaged tools thrown away, animal bones, remains of bakeries, garbage pits, *some* artifacts or traces of human activity in the landscape, datable back to the period in question using stratigraphy, artifact typology, or rad
  • The direct quote

    hints that they regarded meteorites highly as they began to develop their religion.

    The Black Stone; Although it has often been described as a meteorite, this hypothesis is now uncertain.

    The Black Stone is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba, the ancient stone building toward which Muslims pray, in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca,
    Saudi Arabia. It is revered by Muslims as an Islamic relic which, according to Muslim tradition, dates back to the time of Adam and Eve.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Stone [wikipedia.org]

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:59AM (#43861671)
      And you see what religion does to people. A single core drill would be able to resolve the issue. But no, it's supposed to be holy, not holey! We can't do that!
      • by hawkfish (8978)

        And you see what religion does to people. A single core drill would be able to resolve the issue. But no, it's supposed to be holy, not holey! We can't do that!

        Um, the same thing that art does to them? Or do you think it is OK to drill holes in the Mona Lisa?

        And before you start going on about how "religions are different, scientists get to take small samples of artworks, etc" go look into how the Vatican reacted to requests to take samples for dating the Shroud of Turin. Surprise! - they allowed it as long as it wasn't destructive.

        • Even keeping the stuff is destructive. The only thing that would ensure no further destruction would be destroying it completely right now. Or did I miss something and they put Mona Lisa into a dark freezer to eliminate all the chemical and photochemical processes acting on its surface? Can't tourists see it anymore?

          Also, it's a piece of rock, not a fine painting. Even if you completely ignore the touching, the licking, and the occasional feces smearing (if Burckhardt's story about the vengeful infidel is t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Two item: 1) They were smelting iron in the Lake Region of Africa (Rwanda) thousands of years ago. So it is possible that the Egyptian either knew how or they could of traded for it if they needed iron. 2) The Egyptian used iron from Meteor for sacred purpose. It was important to them that this iron came from the stars/heaven. The item was made of Meteor iron not because the Egyptian couldn't smelted iron but because it was important that the object be sacred.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Two item: 1) They were smelting iron in the Lake Region of Africa (Rwanda) thousands of years ago. So it is possible that the Egyptian either knew how or they could of traded for it if they needed iron. 2) The Egyptian used iron from Meteor for sacred purpose. It was important to them that this iron came from the stars/heaven. The item was made of Meteor iron not because the Egyptian couldn't smelted iron but because it was important that the object be sacred.

      Iron smelting in Africa dates back to somewhere in the range of 1500-1750 BC (see Google books link [google.ca] and wikipedia link on the topic [wikipedia.org]). However, per the Nature article the artifact in question dates back to about 3300 BC, over a thousand years earlier. So at the time point 1 is invalid (at least based on present evidence). Point 2 seems pretty likely, though.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Actually, I've heard Egyptologists mention in passing that the Egyptians referred to iron as "semen of the gods" because it came from the sky. It's good when the physics provides confirmation of the translations.

  • Really old story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @03:12PM (#43864261)

    I saw this in a documentary maybe 10 years ago. I couldn't tell enough from the article to know what was new besides being a study on one specific trinket.

    Slightly OT, but one of the theories posited in Carl Sagan's Comet was that magic swords were historically crafted from meteorites composed of a higher grade of iron than could be smelted/mine/whatever at the time. The magic came from how much better they performed in battle and having been dropped to earth from the heavens.

  • Doesn't the greek word for iron mean something like "came from the sky"? I've once thought about why the modern iron industry is often called siderurgy, and came across a few references for the use of iron from meteorites, as early technology wasn't sufficient to extract it from the ore.
  • Anyone who has played Serious Sam already knows that Egyptian relics come from space.
  • Then the Egyptians must have been *real* hicks....

    Excerpt:
    The Hittites appear to be the first to understand the production of iron from its ores and regard it highly in their society. They began to smelt iron between 1500 and 1200 BC and the practice spread to the rest of the Near East after their empire fell in 1180 BC.[37] The subsequent period is called the Iron Age. Iron smelting, and thus the Iron Age, reached Europe two hundred years later and arrived in Zimbabwe, Africa by the 8th century.
    --- end excerpt ---
    - wikipedia, iron, history

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