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5,000 years old Egyptian iron beads made from hammered meteoritic iron

Rehren, T; Belgya, T; Jambon, A; Kali, G; Kasztovszky, Z; Kis, Z; Kovacs, I; ... Szokefalvi-Nagy, Z; + view all (2013) 5,000 years old Egyptian iron beads made from hammered meteoritic iron. Journal of Archeological Science , 40 (12) pp. 4785-4792. 10.1016/j.jas.2013.06.002. Green open access

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Abstract

The earliest known iron artefacts are nine small beads securely dated to circa 3200 BC, from two burials in Gerzeh, northern Egypt. We show that these beads were made from meteoritic iron, and shaped by careful hammering the metal into thin sheets before rolling them into tubes. The study demonstrates the ability of neutron and X-ray methods to determine the nature of the material even after complete corrosion of the iron metal. The iron beads were strung into a necklace together with other exotic minerals such as lapis lazuli, gold and carnelian, revealing the status of meteoritic iron as a special material on a par with precious metal and gem stones. The results confirm that already in the fourth millennium BC metalworkers had mastered the smithing of meteoritic iron, an iron–nickel alloy much harder and more brittle than the more commonly worked copper. This is of wider significance as it demonstrates that metalworkers had already nearly two millennia of experience to hot-work meteoritic iron when iron smelting was introduced. This knowledge was essential for the development of iron smelting, which produced metal in a solid state process and hence depended on this ability in order to replace copper and bronze as the main utilitarian metals.

Type: Article
Title: 5,000 years old Egyptian iron beads made from hammered meteoritic iron
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2013.06.002
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2013.06.002
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Meteoritic iron, Egypt, Beads, Neutron methods, X-ray methods
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1430496
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