Analysis of a prehistoric Egyptian iron bead with implications for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt
Version of Record online: 20 MAY 2013
© The Meteoritical Society, 2013.
Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Volume 48, Issue 6, pages 997–1006, June 2013
How to Cite
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, 48: 997–1006. doi: 10.1111/maps.12120
- Issue online: 13 JUN 2013
- Version of Record online: 20 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 29 MAR 2013
- Manuscript Received: 14 DEC 2012
- STFC. Grant Number: ST/I001964/1
- EPSRC. Grant Numbers: EP/F007906/1, EP/F028431
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 wt% 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.