A bunch of excitement about a 'heaven-sent' bead recently! Archeologists have found a 5,000-year-old iron bead in a grave in Gerzeh, near Cairo, Egypt. And they've learned it was made from a meteorite!
Beyond the 'cool beads' element of this story, the bead also represents the earliest known use of iron in Egypt. Further, it is a manifestation of how important the sky and 'heavens' were to Egyptians. As the co-author of the new study says, "Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods."
Other iron artifacts previously found were associated with high-status graves like that of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. This new bead from Gerzeh was examined with optical imaging, as well as with an electron scanning microscope and a CT scanner. The nickel-rich areas in a virtual model are colored blue, and prove its meteoritic origin.
This same pattern, the authors noted, has been found in Native American iron beads from the Hopewell burial mounds in Illinois from 400 BC, and similar weathering crops up in two Chinese blades from 1000 BC.
The researchers hinted that meteoric iron may have played an important role in Egyptian culture. Studies of the language reveal that about 2,000 years after the bead was beaten into shape, a term known as "iron from the sky" came into use.
"Reasons for the creation of this new word at this particular point in time are unknown,” the researchers say, “but it is possibly a literal description resulting from the observance of a major event by the Egyptian population."
The authors pointed out that the tomb of Tutankhamen -- King Tut -- held several nickel-rich items that could potentially be of meteoric origin: A dagger blade, 16 miniature blades and a miniature head rest. These haven't yet been analyzed to verify the theory, but there is no doubt, now, about the bead. For the whole story, go to: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-egyptian-iron-bead-meteorite-space-ancient-20130531,0,7396522.story
In keeping wth all the excitement, Shannon is planning a new creation -- a meteorite necklace from some small, beautiful meteorites we got at the Tucson gem show. Let us know if you're interested and we'll keep you posted when it's complete!
If you enjoyed this post, you'd likely also be interested in the post Rocks to Gems, a Metaphor of Transformation.