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Tutankhamun's dagger comes from space

Research reveals the meteorite origin of the blade's iron. Thanks to the X-ray fluorescence technique, scientists have confirmed what was written on an ancient papyrus.

The Tutankhamun's dagger
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The Tutankhamun's dagger

Egyptian iron objects are very few, because the ancient Egyptian civilization had not developed iron metallurgy and there were no quarries. Thus, it was considered more precious than gold.

In 2016, with the use of the X-ray fluorescence technique, scientists have confirmed the iron of the blade of Tutankhamun's dagger comes from space. The metal is of meteoric origin.

What was written on a ancient Egyptians papyrus, "an iron that rained from the sky" seems therefore true.

Black and white picture of Tutankhamun mummy showing the iron dagger (34.2 cm long) placed on the ri
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Black and white picture of Tutankhamun mummy showing the iron dagger (34.2 cm long) placed on the right thigh (arrowed).

Everything begins with the discovery of an ancient crater caused by the impact of a meteorite. The crater is the Kamil Crater initially discovered in 2008 by Vincenzo De Michele, curator of the Civic Museum of Natural History of Milan and confirmed in 2010. It is a small "lunar crater" very rare on our planet since erosion erases the signs of meteorite impacts.

When the crater was discovered, scientists talked about the never resolved question of the dagger on the mummy of Tutankhamun. So they decided to carry out analyses, overcoming some reluctance of the Egyptian authorities, who rightly jealously guard the finds.

A 2016 study financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Egyptian Ministry of Scientific Research reported that the blade of the Tutankhamun's dagger, approximately 35 centimeters long, appears perfectly intact and not rusty at all. Considered very precious, it had been slipped into the pharaoh's bandages in preparation for his entry into the kingdom of the afterlife.

As reported in the article published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science (, non-invasive chemical analysis, performed using the X-ray fluorescence technique, revealed that the iron blade of the dagger, exhibited at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, contains nickel (10%) and cobalt (0.6%) in concentrations typically observed in metallic meteorites.

The study confirms how the ancient Egyptians attributed great value to iron of meteorite origin, using it for the production of precious objects. The high quality of the manufacturing of the dagger blade also testifies to the high level reached in iron working already at the time of Tutankhamun.

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