Talk about out-of-this-world bling!
Spanish researchers have discovered that two iron artifacts from a hoard of precious treasure that dates back to the Late Bronze Age — before man started the widespread smelting of iron — contain iron from meteorites estimated to be around 1 million years old.
The researchers’ findings, as detailed in a paper published in the journal Trabajos de Prehistoria last year, detail the chemical composition of what looks to be a portion of an iron bracelet or ring and half of a hollow iron sphere covered with fine gold filigree.
Scientists plucked the two artifacts from an around 3,000-year-old cache called the Villena Treasure, which Spanish historian and archaeologist José María Soler García uncovered just outside Villena, Spain back in 1963.
The two iron pieces have always generated intrigue among researchers and consternation on their chronology because craftspeople made them at a time “before the production of terrestrial iron started,” the researchers state in the paper.
To finally put these questions to rest, researchers subjected the pieces to analysis via a spectrometer, first in Spain and then in Germany. Results strongly suggested the iron came from space.
Surprisingly, the composition of the two artifacts is so similar, “both objects could [have] come from the same meteorite,” as senior author and researcher at Spain’s Institute of History Ignacio Montero Ruiz told Live Science.
Using iron meteorite in the ancient world and prehistoric era isn’t unprecedented.
For example, researchers found an iron arrowhead in Switzerland and determined it was made 3,000 years ago from an iron meteorite.
And scientists believe King Tut’s dagger, discovered by archeologists inside Tutankhamun’s tomb in the early 1920s, may have also been crafted from an iron meteorite.
Regardless, the latest findings could shed new light on metallurgy practices during the Bronze Age.
The iron technology is completely different to the copper-based metallurgy and to the noble metals (gold and silver),” Montero Ruiz told Live Science. “So, people who started to work with meteoritic iron and later with terrestrial iron must [have had to] innovate and develop new technology.”
The scientists are now trying to pinpoint the origins of the extraterrestrial material found in the two artifacts — an archeological puzzle for the ages.
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