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Ancient Egyptians wore space bling made from meteorites

More than a hundred years after the discovery of some ancient Egyptian iron beads, scientists finally determine their origin.

Gerzeh bead
A detailed analysis of the bead shows it meteorite origin. Open University

There have been plenty of far-out theories about otherworldly alien visitations of the ancient Egyptians, especially those involving aliens building the pyramids. That's all a load of bunk, but at least now we have a real scientist-approved story involving ancient Egyptians and objects from space.

Strings of unusual iron beads were excavated from a burial site near Cairo in 1911. The beads date back to around 3300 BCE. It took more than 100 years for scientists to conclusively sort out what they are made from. As it turns out, they are fashioned from meteorites.

Some scientists had already hypothesized that the beads were extraterrestrial in origin, but others thought them to be early attempts at smelting. Researchers from the Open University and The University of Manchester have now confirmed that a bead from the Gerzeh cemetery is, indeed, from a meteorite.

The bead was analyzed using an electron microscope and an X-Ray CT scanner. The study has been published in the Meteoritics & Planetary Science journal under the title "Analysis of a prehistoric Egyptian iron bead with implications for the use and perception of meteorite iron in ancient Egypt."

"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," says study co-author Joyce Tyldesley, senior lecturer in Egyptology at The University of Manchester.

In this age of Swarovski crystals and man-made diamonds, the Gerzeh bead doesn't look flashy, but its origin story is as beautiful as they come.