Analysis of a prehistoric Egyptian iron bead with implications for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt
Johnson, D., Tyldesley, J., Lowe, T., Withers, P. J. and Grady, M. M. (2013), Analysis of a prehistoric Egyptian iron bead with implications
for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt. Meteoritics & Planetary Science. doi: 10.1111/maps.12120
Author Information 1Department of Physical Sciences and Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK 2Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK 3The Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK 4Henry Moseley X-Ray Imaging Facility, School of Materials, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK 5The Natural History Museum, London, UK *Corresponding author. E-mail: email@example.com
Tube-shaped beads excavated from grave pits at the prehistoric Gerzeh cemetery, approximately 3300 BCE, represent the earliest known use of iron in Egypt. Using a combination of scanning electron microscopy and micro X-ray microcomputer tomography, we show that microstructural and chemical analysis of a Gerzeh iron bead is consistent with a cold-worked iron meteorite. Thin fragments of parallel bands of taenite within a
meteoritic Widmanstätten pattern are present, with structural distortion caused by cold-working. The metal fragments retain their original chemistry
of approximately 30% nickel. The bulk of the bead is highly oxidized, with only approximately 2.4% of the total bead volume remaining as metal. Our results show that the first known example of the use of iron in Egypt was produced from a meteorite, its celestial origin having implications for both the perception of meteorite iron by ancient Egyptians and the development of metallurgical knowledge in the Nile Valley.