5,000-year-old beads from space
Tuesday 20th August 2013, 12:50AM BST.
Iron beads used to make a 5,000-year-old Egyptian necklace originated in outer space, a study has shown.
Scientists discovered that the beads were hammered from meteorite metal rather than Earthly iron ore.
The nine beads, made from tubes of metal rolled from thin sheets, had once been strung into a necklace with gold and gemstones.
They were found in 1911 in a cemetery near the village of el-Gerzeh in lower Egypt dating back more than 5,000 years.
Scanning the beads with a beam of neutrons and gamma rays revealed high concentrations of nickel, cobalt, phosphorous and germanium, characteristic of meteorites.
Study leader Professor Thilo Rehren, from University College London, said: “The really exciting outcome of this research is that we were for the first time able to demonstrate conclusively that there are typical trace elements such as cobalt and germanium present in these beads, at levels that only occur in meteoritic iron.
“We are also excited to be able to see the internal structure of the beads, revealing how they were rolled and hammered into form. This is very different technology from the usual stone bead drilling, and shows quite an advanced understanding of how the metal smiths worked this rather difficult material.”
The findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.