Tutankhamun: cool name, cool kid, cool pharaoh, cool tomb. Everyone knows that. And he's just become even cooler than you ever imagined.
A new analysis of a dagger found in his tomb has shown that it was made with iron from an extraterrestrial object. That's right, Tutankhamun was tooled up with a space-knife.
Archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the long-lost tomb back in 1925 whereupon he found a stash laded with gold and precious materials, alongside the sarcophagus of the boy Pharaoh, who took the throne in 1332BC aged around 9 years old and died at the age of just 18. It is not known how he died, but there is evidence that his burial was rushed.
In amongst this treasure trove were two daggers: one made of iron and one with a blade of gold, housed within the wrapping of the body. The iron blade was adorned with a gold handle, rock crystal pommel and a lily and jack-decorated sheath - but it had always attracted curiosity from Egyptologists, since ironwork was rare in ancient Egypt. Furthermore, the metal had not rusted.
Now, research published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science by Italian and Egyptian researches, claims that its chemical composition - with high levels of nickel and cobalt, "strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin". They compared it to known meteorites found within 2,000km of the chamber and found one, named Kharga, which was discovered 240km west of Alexandria that closely matched the composition.
The team wrote, “As the only two valuable iron artifacts from ancient Egypt so far accurately analysed are of meteoritic origin, we suggest that ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of fine ornamental or ceremonial objects”.
They continued, “The introduction of the new composite term [using 'iron' to refer to both 'rocks from the sky' and the conventionally found metal] 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,”
Remarkably, the dagger may not be the only extraterrestrial object in the tomb: in 2006, an Austrian astrochemist suggested that a gem in King Tutankhamun's burial necklace was a glass formed from the heat of a meteorite crashing from space into sand.