Ancient Egyptians Used Meteorites as Fashion Accessories

Posted on May 30, 2013

Gerzeh Bead


Researchers at The Open University (OU) and The University of Manchester have discovered evidence that Ancient Egyptians used meteorites to make fashionable and symbolic accessories. The Gerzeh bead, pictured above, is the earliest discovered use of iron by the ancient Egyptians.

The Gerzeh bead was loaned by the Manchester Museum to the OU and the University of Manchester's School of Materials for testing. Researchers used a combination of the OU's electron microscope and Manchester's X-Ray CT scanner to demonstrate that the nickel-rich chemical composition of the bead confirms its meteorite origins.

OU Project Officer Diane Johnson, who led the study, said in the announcement, "This research highlights the application of modern technology to ancient materials not only to understand meteorites better but also to help us understand what ancient cultures considered these materials to be and the importance they placed upon them."

Dr Joyce Tyldesley, a senior lecturer in Egyptology at The University of Manchester and co-author of the research paper, says, "Today, we see iron first and foremost as a practical, rather dull metal. To the ancient Egyptians, however, it was a rare and beautiful material which, as it fell from the sky, surely had some magical/religious properties. They therefore used this remarkable metal to create small objects of beauty and religious significance which were so important to them that they chose to include them in their graves."

The research paper is published here in the Meteoritics and Planetary Science journal.

Photo: Manchester Museum