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Meteorite metal...
Topic Started: Dec 13 2017, 06:48 PM (130 Views)
J. Viriato
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https://www.seeker.com/archaeology/king-tuts-jewelry-and-other-bronze-age-treasures-contain-meteorites
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Matthew Amt
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Huh! The last analysis I saw of Tut's dagger was not as conclusive, not finding enough nickel content to *prove* that it was meteoric. So I'm wondering if this guy is overstating the case, and how he determined there were no signs of smelting. Gotta roll my eyes at the whole chesnut of bronze being softer and easier to work...

Not that I'm ready to argue with the basic conclusion! As I understand it, iron only occurs naturally as an oxide ore, EXCEPT for meteors. So those would be obvious sources for early iron objects.

Curious...

Matthew
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Dan Howard
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There is no point analysing the nickel content. Nickel is preferentially lost as meteorites oxidise, so the longer they have been on Earth, the less nickel they contain. There are surviving daggers that we know were made of meteoritic iron yet contain almost no nickel.

There are naturally-occurring nickel-iron alloys in several parts of the world - where basaltic magmas have intruded into carbonaceous sediments and it is possible to smelt nickel-bearing lateric ores to produce iron that matches the metallurgical properties of Tut's dagger. In addition, there were nickle-bearing iron ores in regions such as Greece during the time in question. Apparently the best indicator of meteoritic iron is whether it contains cobalt, not nickle. IIRC Tut's dagger does contain cobalt so it could have been forged from meteoritic iron.
Edited by Dan Howard, Dec 20 2017, 03:43 PM.
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Matthew Amt
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Ah! Thanks, Dan, I knew it was more complicated than I had remembered!

Matthew
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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"According to the Meteoritical Bulletin Database, there are only about 1,000 documented records of iron-containing meteorites"
Holy crap, I already own 5 of them. Nah, 1000 impact sites maybe. Some impact sites have whole landscapes covered in iron meteorites from a single impact, where the ground is litered with huge amounts of them.

With regards to distinguishing smelted iron from meteor, that would be clear by slag contents or lack thereof. Smelted iron consists of fibrous iron mixed with slag. It's quite easy to recognize if you know what to look for. Meteoric iron can have some amount of slag, if the meteor wasn't fully iron, but nowhere near the amount of smelted iron.

I wonder though about the European bronze age iron. You're not going to find iron meteors here. So did they use imported iron from the near east, or did they use smelted iron? It has been demonstrated that you can get iron blooms as byproduct when smelting iron rich copper ores. It's just very difficult to impossible to make anything substantially solid from it without knowing forge welding. The whole reason the iron age would have started would not be due to the invention of iron smelting, they already could do that, even by accident, but due to the invention of forgewelding. Only then you can turn the spongy iron bloom into artifacts, without just falling apart.
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Dan Howard
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I think the author must mean "impact sites" because a single site can have over a thousand fragments all by itself. I've brought home iron-bearing meteor fragments from an impact site in outback Australia and there were hundreds of others scattered around that I could have collected.
Edited by Dan Howard, Dec 27 2017, 10:31 PM.
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Todd Feinman
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They may have thought other meteoric remains or meteors generally were special; there is an amulet made of vitrified sand from a meteorite impact that is part of one of Tut's pectorals:

https://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortsharpscience/2006/07/king-tuts-alien-necklace.html

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