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Spacey Artifacts

June 24, 2016

The religion of ancient Egypt said that when a pharaoh died, his soul ascended to the heavens to join with the god Osiris, in the modern-day constellation Orion. His tomb was filled with items he might need to help him on his way. And in the case of at least one pharaoh, some of those items probably came from the heavens.

The tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun contained thousands of artifacts. Many of them were made of gold, including a dagger buried inside his coffin. But Tut also had a second dagger, made of iron.

When Tut was buried, Egypt hadn’t started to work with iron ore, so the dagger probably was made from an iron meteorite — a space rock that fell to Earth. The iron hasn’t been tested to confirm a celestial origin. But a few years ago, scientists tested some iron beads buried 2,000 years before Tut, and confirmed that they were made from meteorites. So it seems likely that the dagger was as well.

Another artifact was an elaborate piece of jewelry known as a pectoral. Its centerpiece is a scarab beetle carved from yellow glass.

The glass formed about 26 million years ago when an asteroid or comet plunged toward Earth, either hitting the surface or exploding in the atmosphere. Heat from the explosion melted some of the desert sand, creating chunks of glass. One of those chunks eventually made its way to an Egyptian artist, and then to Tut’s tomb — a piece of glass from the heavens for a king ascending to the heavens.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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