Ancient Egyptians Made Jewelry Out Of Meteorites, Securing Their Place As The Coolest Ancient Civilization

By Joelle Renstrom | Published

Egyptian jewelryAncient Egyptians are the shit. Despite the way they were built, the pyramids are so awesome that some people believe aliens made them. They also invented board games, worshipped cats, and walked in a supercool way that inspired a bitchin’ 80s pop tune. Now we can add made jewelry out of meteorites to this list.

Just over a century ago, archaeologists found nine, 5000-year-old iron beads in an Egyptian cemetery. At the time, corrosion rendered them nearly impossible to examine, and their composition remained a mystery. But that was then, before all of the newfangled science and forensic technology we have now.

Archaeologists at London’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology used neutron and gamma-ray beams to scan the beads, allowing the team to study their texture and make up. The beads contain nickel, cobalt, phosphorous, and germanium, indicating that they are composed of iron sourced from meteors. The Egyptians made jewelry of meteoric iron about 2,000 years before the traditional practice of iron smelting began. Now they’re just rubbing it in.

X-rays technique allowed archaeologists to study the inside of the beads for insight into how they were made. They believe the Egyptians hammered meteorites into sheets and then rolled them into tubes, which they then made into beads. They strung necklaces with these beads and other precious metals such as gold, indicating their comparable value.

While it’s a cliché to refer to stars as the glittering jewels of the night sky, it’s no longer hyperbole to credit the cosmos for our gemstone supply. Carbonados, better known as black diamonds, also have a meteoric origin. Found only in Brazil and the Central African Republic, black diamonds weren’t made by the crushing and heating of carbon, but rather by meteorites from exploding supernovas. Regular diamonds don’t seem nearly as special now, do they?

Similarly, science—in this case, infrared spectroscopy—reveal the composition of carbonados to contain amounts of nitrogen and hydrogen that immediately point to their cosmic birth. Researchers believe that the black diamonds are a result of a supernova that exploded 2 or 3 billion years ago. The explosion expelled debris, including one meteor thought to be approximately a mile wide and broke apart as it entered Earth’s atmosphere. The pieces scattered over Brazil and Africa that over time became the dark crystals so rare and prized. This means I might have to marry an alien just to see what the ring looks like.