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May 30 2013
THINK iron jewellery is down-to-earth? Not for the ancient Egyptians, it wasn't. A 5300-year-old necklace bead found in an Egyptian tomb was made with iron from a meteorite.
Evidence for iron smelting in Egypt dates back to the 6th century BC, but archaeologists have found much older iron artefacts in the region, including in Tutankhamun's tomb. Such artefacts are "pretty much exclusive to high-status tombs", says Diane Johnson of the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. Previous analyses of the oldest of these – nine iron beads from a cemetery near the Nile – proved inconclusive on their origins.
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