The Gerzeh bead originally discovered more than 100 years ago at a cemetery just south of Cairo dates back to 3350B.C and 3600 B.C., according to the Mother Nature Network (MNN).
The metal beads are curiosities in themselves, but even more curious for predating the Pharoah nation’s Iron Age by thousands of years.
Many people suspected that Gerzeh beads were crafted from fallen meteorites given their high nickel content (the first hint), but a team of academics cast doubt on this theory by suggesting that the nickel might have been derived from other sources.
Of course, scientists working in 1980 lacked some of the sophisticated tools they currently have at their disposal, like an electron microscope and an X-ray CT scanner that researchers from the Open University and the University of Manchester used to determine that indeed the jewels were made with pieces of meteorite.
And we’re not talking about just any old meteorite.
“The researchers say the bead had a Widmanstätten pattern,” writes MNN, “a distinctive crystal structure found only in meteorites that cooled at an extremely slow rate inside asteroids when the solar system was forming.”
In other words, these jewels bear a very significant time stamp – the dawn of time.
“Today, we see iron first and foremost as a practical, rather dull metal,” study researcher Joyce Tyldesley, an Egyptologist at the University of Manchester, said in a statement.
“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.”
Image via Open University