The Bronze Age and Metal Ages in particular are of fundamental importance to the humanity and life that we live in today, as many things wouldn’t be possible in the world as we know it if our ancestors hadn’t move on from the Stone Age. Now, according to a new study, most of the iron used during the Bronze Age to craft weaponry and other artifacts is possibly in fact of extraterrestrial origin. The study also unveils how our ancestors used metal without access to smelting.
The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science by French scientist Albert Jambon. He used geochemical analyses in order to make a difference between metals from Earth and extraterrestrial metals used in a lot of artifacts from around the world originating from the Bronze Age. He studied ratios of iron, cobalt and nickel which were found in the artifacts and created a system which can differentiate between iron produced through smelting of ore, or iron of meteoric origin used during the Bronze Age.
Scientists already have found that meteorites are a major source of iron. However, they didn’t know which meteoric iron played a role in artifact building during the Bronze Age. Since it was the Bronze Age, it was extremely rare to find weapons made out of iron and they were more prized possessions. As the Iron Age didn’t start playing out until around 1200 BCE, and the Bronze Age happened roughly 2,000 years before that, anyone who had weapons or other artifacts consisting of iron were more appreciated and had more military and economic advantage compared to the other people living during that age.
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Jambon and his team of researchers conducted chemical analyses of samples with an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer in museums that stored artifacts and weapons from the Bronze Age. Some objects that they studied included “beads from Gerzeh” which originated from Egypt around 3200 BCE, a dagger from Alaca Hoyuk, which originated from Turkey around 2500 years BCE, and a pendant from Umm el-Marra, which originated from about 2300 years BCE from Syria. There were also several other artifacts belonging to the Shang dynasty civilization, which lived in China around 1400 years BCE.
When making iron ore, the iron found on our planet needs to be reduced, which includes removing the oxygen in the ore in order to craft weapons and other objects. On the other hand, meteoric iron is already in its metal state, making it ready for use, and didn’t require processes such as smelting which people started performing with the coming of the Iron Age.
“When large celestial bodies like our planet are forming, nearly all nickel drifts towards the molten iron core,” the scientists wrote in the study, implying that not even the most advanced mining techniques which were popular during the Bronze Age, would have allowed our ancestors to dig deep enough to get a sufficient amount of nickel or iron in their metallic form.