King Tut's dagger was fashioned from a meteorite, discover researchers

Technically, the knife's metal had extraterrestrial origins.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun, the boy king who ruled Egypt around 1332-1323 BC, has known his share of fame in a world thousands of years after his life. And the fame is sure to grow as an exciting new discovery set the international media on fire. A team of Egyptian and Italian researchers just published a paper showing that King Tut's beautiful dagger, already an object of admiration and mystery, turns out to have been made from a meteorite.

Yes, he had a space dagger.


The paper, with the immediately intriguing title “The meteoritic origin of Tutankhamun's iron dagger blade," reveals that X-ray analysis showed the dagger to be made mostly of iron, with small amounts of nickel and cobalt. This particular combination of elements was the key in tracing the dagger's origins to a meteorite.

“The introduction of the new composite term suggests that the ancient Egyptians… were aware that these rare chunks of iron fell from the sky already in the 13th century BCE, anticipating Western culture by more than two millennia," write the researchers, led by Daniela Comelli, an associate professor at the department of Physics of Milan Polytechnic.

This is remarkable in that it proves that Egyptians were well-versed in adopting iron, while the rest of humanity was still living in the Bronze Age. In fact, the researchers see the quality of the dagger's blade as indicative of Egyptian mastery of iron work.

The dagger, which was found in the wrapping of the mummified pharaoh in 1925, was analyzed utilizing X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, a technique that energetically excites various compounds within the object to compare different radiation wavelengths. This allows researchers to figure out which elements are present without damaging the object.

Once they figured out the iron in the compound came from a meteorite, researchers looked back through historical records to pinpoint which meteorite it was. They concluded it was the Kharga meteorite, which was found 150 miles west of the city of Alexandria, near the seaport city of Mersa Matruh (known as Amunia at the time of Alexander the Great).

Researchers also think that this finding adds special meaning to the term “iron from the sky" which was a hieroglyph found in ancient Egyptian texts.

Indeed, this discovery proves that even such famous historical finds as King Tut's tomb can still reveal groundbreaking secrets about the life of the ancients.

You can read the study, published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science, here.

Stand up against religious discrimination – even if it’s not your religion

As religious diversity increases in the United States, we must learn to channel religious identity into interfaith cooperation.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Religious diversity is the norm in American life, and that diversity is only increasing, says Eboo Patel.
  • Using the most painful moment of his life as a lesson, Eboo Patel explains why it's crucial to be positive and proactive about engaging religious identity towards interfaith cooperation.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

Where the evidence of fake news is really hiding

When it comes to sniffing out whether a source is credible or not, even journalists can sometimes take the wrong approach.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • We all think that we're competent consumers of news media, but the research shows that even journalists struggle with identifying fact from fiction.
  • When judging whether a piece of media is true or not, most of us focus too much on the source itself. Knowledge has a context, and it's important to look at that context when trying to validate a source.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less