Cultures have been known to use meteoritic iron in antiquity, as meteorites represented a ready supply of workable metal. The Jalandhar meteorite, for instance, was made into a dagger, a knife, and two sabers which were presented to the emperor Jahangir. Going back further, the Sumerian word for iron was an-bar, translated as “fire from heaven”. The Egyptian term for iron, ba-ne-pe, or bia-en-pet, can be translated as “lightning” or “thunderbolt” from heaven. So there is ample evidence of these gifts from the heavens being used in ancient times.
However, a new study has confirmed that the ancient Egyptians were working meteoric iron 5,000 years ago. Metal beads found in a temple in Gerzeh in 1911 were, at the time, shown to contain nickel and were suspected of being of meteoric origin. Later tests in the 1980s were inconclusive.
New tests on the germanium content of the beads by Thilo Rehren at UCL’s Institute of Archeology, however, have now demonstrated conclusively that they are meteoritic, says Rehren. This is important evidence for metalworking in Egypt 2,000 years before the iron age.