Ancient weapons forged from meteorites thousands of years ago

A collage of photos shows the Chinese ancient meteorite axes known as 'A Ge' and a meteoriteCollected

Humankind, since time immemorial, has looked into the sky in search of answers to countless questions. It has gazed through the stars in quest of finding connections between the universe above and the earth.

In the process, it witnessed endless cosmic phenomena that kept mankind spellbound for thousands of years in the ancient past.

Since its inception, Mother Earth has been bombarded with celestial objects, including asteroids, comets and meteorites. Human beings have always been witnesses of these celestial phenomena since the moment they learned to look above and watch. There have also been cases of matters from extraterrestrial worlds falling from the sky that the ancients could touch and feel.

As humankind progressed through the course of history, it learned to worship the skies and craftsmanship to utilise materials, even those that came from beyond our planet. Since then, humans have crafted weapons, tools and other artefacts using materials from celestial objects such as meteorites.

The picture shows an ancient meteorite dagger at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Alacahoyuk, Turkey
Collected from the website of Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

It is this craftsmanship that drove human civilisation towards advancement throughout the course of history. The history of humans is the history of craftsmanship. Humankind, by its nature, has always tried to craft tools and artefacts from whatever it came across.

And when meteorites crashed on earth, people would rush to examine what had fallen from the ‘heavens’. They would collect those space materials to learn and eventually would find a way to make tools and artefacts out of it.

According to experts, meteorites contain meteoric iron, a completely pure form of iron. There are records of only around 1,000 cases of iron-containing meteorites colliding with the earth, as per the Meteoritical Bulletin Database.

Although it wasn’t abundant, people would craft all sorts of things from it, especially intricately designed weapons. In this article, we will journey back to a time that predates history in search of artefacts crafted from meteorites thousands of years ago.

Celestial dagger of Tutankhamun

The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings is considered one of the greatest that archaeology has ever made. The legendary excavation led by British archaeologist Howard Carter in the year 1922, led to an uncanny treasure trove of completely untouched ancient relics, weapons, and artefacts of intricate design with ultimate precision.

While exploring the tomb of Tutankhamun, Howard Carter found two intricately designed daggers with the wrappings of teenage pharaoh Tutankhamun. One was made of iron with a handle made of gold and the other was entirely built of gold.

A collage of photos shows Tutankhamun's meteorite dagger and a meteorite

However, it was the dagger with the iron blade that has baffled scientists over the years. Despite being thousand years old the blade of the dagger didn’t rust and is still very sharp. Besides, the blade has high nickel content which suggests its extra-terrestrial origin.

In 2016, a team of Italian and Egyptian researchers, through X-ray analysis, found that the dagger was crafted with meteoric iron. According to Egyptologists, it was called a ‘gift from the gods’ in ancient Egypt.

Tutankhmun’s dagger is an excellent specimen of masterful craftsmanship in ancient times. The hilt of the dagger was made out of gold. The gold hilt is adorned with inlays of colourful glass and stones.

Besides, additional gold was used as filigree (threads of metal used for intricate designs). The pommel was carved from rock crystal, a transparent form of quartz. The dagger also has an ornate sheath designed with a floral lily motif on one side, and some feathers and a jackal on the other.

The dagger was found around the right thigh of the pharaoh Tutankhamun’s mummy. In an interview, Victoria Almansa-Villatoro, an Egyptologist from Harvard University said, “The dagger was something that he (the pharaoh) would need in the afterlife to fight against the demons, or whatever dangers the afterlife has because the afterlife is a dangerous place according to Egyptian mythology.”

This picture shows posterior of the sheath of Tutankhamun's celestial dagger and the golden dagger found in his tomb

It's fascinating to think about how the ancient Egyptians may have had an understanding of meteorites falling from the sky. It's even more intriguing to consider how they might have incorporated this knowledge into their religious beliefs. It just goes to show how advanced and sophisticated their culture truly was.

Archaeologists note that such high-precision artefacts and weapons in Tutankhamun’s tomb indicate that ancient Egyptians mastered craftsmanship on metal like iron long before the emergence of the Bronze Age.

A 4,500-year-old dagger in Turkey

Not only in Egypt, artefacts crafted from meteorites were found in different parts of the world. Archaeologists have found numerous evidence of ancient cultures using weapons made of meteoritic iron.

A similar ancient dagger was found in the archaeological site of Alacahoyuk in Turkey which predates Tutankhamun’s dagger by around a thousand years. It is another astounding ancient weapon forged from meteorites.

The illustration depicts the meteorite dagger found in Alacahoyuk, Turkey in its prime condition

The blade of the dagger is made of meteoritic iron and the hilt is carved out of a piece of gold. It was excavated from a royal tomb at the ancient burial ground of Alacahoyuk. WG Hamilton, an English explorer, discovered the archaeological site of Alacahoyuk in Anatolia in modern-day Turkey in 1835. The ancient burial ground was later excavated throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This ancient weapon belonged to Haitian culture. Experts have confirmed that the meteorite dagger dates back to around 2500 BC, which means it was crafted from meteorite fragments at least 1300 years before the Iron Age. It is one of the oldest weapons of its kind ever discovered.

In 2008, Japanese scholars studied the dagger to confirm its components. They concluded that the dagger was forged from meteorites.

This ancient meteorite dagger is conserved in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Alacahoyuk in Turkey.

Two 3,000-year-old meteorite axes in China

Two three-thousand-year-old axes, crafted from meteorites, were found in the tomb of a ruler from the eighth or ninth century BC in the Jincun area under the Henan Province of China in 1934. The weapons are locally known as 'A Ge'.

Archaeologists have confirmed that these two meteorite weapons belonged to two royal brothers likely from the 8th or 9th century BC Guo state. According to Professor Kunlong Chen of the Beijing University,  "It is believed that the two unique axes date back to the early Zhou Dynasty, to around 1,000 BC."

This pictures shows the ancient 'A Ge' axes found in China

The axes were likely ceremonial weapons, similar to the jade blades found in Chinese tombs from the same period.

The axes are believed to have been combined with two different metals - one common at the time and the other unknown in China. Later, in 1946, researchers at the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute confirmed that the unknown component of these ancient weapons was meteoric iron.

Archaeologists have also found evidence that the axes were joined together by casting-on, which was a widespread technique in China during the Bronze Age.

These two axes are among the rarest pieces of ancient meteorite weaponry in Asia. The unique meteorite weapons from ancient China are now preserved at the  Freer Gallery of Art. The ancient relics are rarely exhibited due to the risk of erosions in contact with air contaminated by human breathing.