When Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team found steps that led to Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, on November 4, 1922, they were startled to see all the extraordinary treasures in his burial. At the time, the scientists had no idea some of the artifacts were produced with otherworldly material.
King Tut’s cosmic dagger. Credit: T. Matsui – Meteoritics & Planetary Science 2022
It took many years before researchers could determine some of King Tut’s afterlife gifts were formed when a meteorite smashed into the Earth 28 million years ago.
A new study now sheds light on King Tut’s cosmic dagger that was not made in Egypt researchers say.
Takafumi Matsui and his colleagues at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan have re-examined the ancient dagger and it turns out its background is more interesting than previously thought.
Scientists took a took a high-resolution optical image of the dagger and conducted on-site non-contact, non-destructive two-dimensional chemical of the object which is housed in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo. The results of the study revealed the dagger has a definite cross-hatched texture known as a “Widmanstätten pattern” (named after the Austrian mineralogist Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten) that is typical of an octahedrite iron meteorite.
Everything indicates the dagger’s gold hilt was crafted using an adhesive material known as lime plaster.
Lime plaster was not used in Egypt at the time but was employed by crafters in other parts of the world at the time.
According to the scientists, the low amount of sulfur in the black patches and the Widmanstätten pattern comprised strong evidence that King Tut’s dagger was forged at a relatively low heat of less than 950° C (1,724° F).
Where the dagger was manufactured is still unknown, but the researchers suggest we may find clues to this question in the Amarna Letters.
King Tutankhamun’s golden mask. Credit: Roland Unger – CC BY-SA 3.0
Amarna Letters, also known as Amarna Tablets are mostly diplomatic letters (with a few myths and epics) dated to an interesting, historical period in ancient Egypt, related to the reigns of pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt and his wife Nefertiti, and Amenhotep III (1402-1364).
In 1887, local Egyptian peasants found a few tablets in the Akhenaten’s palace complex ruins.
“The gold hilt hints at the dagger’s foreign origin, possibly from Mitanni, Anatolia, as suggested by one of the Amarna letters saying that an iron dagger with gold hilt was gifted from the king of Mitanni to Amenhotep III, the grandfather of Tutankhamen,” the researchers write in their paper.
Researchers described their investigation this month in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary