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Old 15th December 2017, 12:29 AM   #1
Battara
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Default Meteoric Blades on Bronze Age Weapons

Greetings folks,

Here is a link to a short article discussing the new finding that iron blades on bronze age weaponry were not from smelting but from meteorites:

https://newatlas.com/bronze-age-iro...teorites/52474/


Here is a picture of the actual burial dagger of the Pharaoh Tutankamun. Notice the iron blade:
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Old 15th December 2017, 07:44 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Greetings folks,

Here is a link to a short article discussing the new finding that iron blades on bronze age weaponry were not from smelting but from meteorites:

https://newatlas.com/bronze-age-iro...teorites/52474/


Here is a picture of the actual burial dagger of the Pharaoh Tutankamun. Notice the iron blade:


Yes it is nearby, that this early iron blades were made from meteorites.
In this case the humans must have had a giant genius, because the Tut-dagger is pretty obviously differential hardened and how in all the world had they found out this technique with small amounts of iron from meteorites? Differential hardening is a completely different world compared to bronce.
Maybe they had larger ammounts of iron than we think. Iron from vulcanic activities?

Roland
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Old 15th December 2017, 09:55 AM   #3
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Hello Roland,

Can you please substantiate the asertion that Tutankhamon's blade was differentially hardened?

Regards,

Marius

PS: I attach a couple of example of blades that display a difference in oxidation around the edge and are NOT differentially hardened (if you take a Magbetu knife from the photos below and clean a little bit more the forging oxidation from the surface of the blade, you may end up exactly with the type of visual effect you noticed on Tutankhamon's blade).
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Old 15th December 2017, 11:45 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Hello Roland,

Can you please substantiate the asertion that Tutankhamon's blade was differentially hardened?

Regards,

Marius


Hello Marius,

I can only judge by the pictures, I never had King Tuts dagger in my hands.

But almost every picture of this particular dagger shows a brighter area around the edges, which is normally a sign for a complex heat treatment.

King Tuts dagger is fully polished, your examples only have a grinded/polished cutting edge, typical for Africa. The upper curved blades are artificially blackened.

To be 100% sure, I need to polish and etch this dagger .

My personal theory is very simple. I believe, that there was a unknown sophisticated culture like the fictional Atlantis, which brought the knowledge to Egypt and other parts of the world.


Regards,
Roland
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Old 15th December 2017, 12:15 PM   #5
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There are instances of Inuit peoples making iron spear/harpoon points etc from fallen meteorites (beaten out cold)...
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Old 15th December 2017, 12:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
There are instances of Inuit peoples making iron spear/harpoon points etc from fallen meteorites (beaten out cold)...



Yes, many collectors including myself have a tendency to underestimate the capabilities of ancient or native cultures.

But compared to the King Tut dagger Inuit people iron works are cold hammered, realtively simple and not much bigger than a thumb nail.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencet...ls-weapons.html

King Tuts dagger is an evidence for sophisticated working on steel 1000 years before the use of steel was wide spreaded.

As with the pyramids the Egyptians startet a new technology at an extraordinary high level. I think this a very strange fact.

Roland
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Old 15th December 2017, 04:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
There are instances of Inuit peoples making iron spear/harpoon points etc from fallen meteorites (beaten out cold)...

More than spearpoints and harpoons, the Tlingit supposedly forged this "Killer Whale" dagger (really more a short sword) out of meteorite back in the 17 century. That's certainly not pre-iron age for much of the world, but pretty advanced technology for these northern tribes way back then.
http://juneauempire.com/art/2015-05...-hidden-history
That said i must say that i am really not completely convinced that the method with which the King Tut dagger was determined to be made from meteorite is 100% fool proof. The make-up of this blade is still all of elements that can be found terrestrially. That it is similar to the make-up of know meteoric blades makes this more a maybe for me than a sure thing.
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Old 15th December 2017, 05:11 PM   #8
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sorry double post
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Old 15th December 2017, 05:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland_M

King Tuts dagger is an evidence for sophisticated working on steel 1000 years before the use of steel was wide spreaded.

Roland


Hello Roland,

I believe that your theory is based on wrong and unsubstantiated assumptions, therefore it is quite susceptible to be wrong.

First not substantiated assumption is that Tutankhamon's knife is made of meteoritic iron.

Second not substantiated assumption is that the knife shows evidence of advanced iron processing (namely differential hardening).

Last, but not least while Tutankhammon has lived about 1000 years before the use of iron was widely spread, he also lived at least 100 years after the first iron blades were made (in central Anatolia and in India; while some claim the earliest smelted iron blades were made around 1800 BC, namely around 500 years before Tutankhamon lived).

But in the end we all believe what we want to believe.

Regards,

Marius

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Old 15th December 2017, 07:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc

Last, but not least while Tutankhammon has lived about 1000 years before the use of iron was widely spread, he also lived at least 1000 years after the first iron blades were made (in central Anatolia and in India; while some claim the earliest smelted iron blades were made around 1800 BC, namely around 500 years before Tutankhamon lived).


Very interesting and valid argument.
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Old 15th December 2017, 09:18 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Very interesting and valid argument.


Hello Ariel,

I wrongly added one extra "0" in my original posting but I corrected it now. I meant to say that he lived at least one hundred years later (not 1000) as the most consevative oppinions date the use of smelted iron around 1400 BC.

Anyhow, during his time, Iron blades were certainly available, albeit very scarce but he was the pharaon of Egypt.

And only about 100 years after his death (around 1200 BC), Iron Age officially begun... at least in parts of Asia.

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Old 15th December 2017, 09:31 PM   #12
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This idea of the King Tut dagger being of meteoritic origin is not a new idea, from my recollection it has been floating around for at least 50 years.

It might well be true that the KT dagger has its origins in meteoritic material, but this examination carried out by Albert Jambon does not, in my opinion, confirm meteoric origin of the material, what it does is to confirm possibility or meteoric origin of the KT dagger material, as well as virtually all other ferric material used in early iron artifacts. This possibility seems to be based upon the percentages of nickel and cobalt present in the KT dagger, which align with the median composition of a group of iron meteorites. We have a possibility, we do not have proof. Jambon has presented a hypothesis, it is not yet even a theory.

I will be very interested in any peer reviews that Jambon's findings may generate.

Personally, I do not find the KT dagger such a remarkable object.

The best authenticated early iron object comes from the burial find at Alaca Huyuk in Turkey, this dates from between 2500 to 2300 BC. It is a 30cm overall length dagger with an iron blade.

The Hittites were present in Asia Minor before 1700BC, they were at their peak of power in about 1400BC, they had developed viable iron weapons by about 1500BC. I am unclear on the form of iron that Hittites used in their production, but the sheer volume of iron of Hittite manufacture seems to indicate it was not of meteoritic origin. I think it was probably limonite in one form or another, a form of iron ore that can be turned into useable weapons and tools, and which was used as a source of ferric materials by early --- and not so early --- iron workers from Africa to Sweden. It would not have been likely to be haematite because of the requirement for smelting, and I think Hittite culture was a bit early for the smelting process, so they needed a source that can be worked in the forge, and limonite can be worked with forge technology.

Interestingly, in limonite we find iron in combination with nickel and with cobalt.

Even more interestingly, the Royal Houses of Egypt and of the Hittites were connected by marriage.

Hittite iron weapon technology in place by 1500BC.

King Tut dagger dated to +/- 1300BC.

Egyptian court and Hittite court with diplomatic and marital connections.

Where is the big mystery?

The KT dagger blade is Hittite in origin, mounted in Egypt.

Hittite iron technology was probably forge technology and rested on the refinement of limonite.

Limonite is an iron ore that contains both nickel and cobalt.

Some iron meteorites contain both nickel and cobalt.

I am not a metallurgist, everything I have written above is simply common knowledge for anybody who has a broad general interest in history, archaeology and the history of iron use. It is all in the public domain and can be verified by relevant research. I have not bothered to check any of this before writing this post, it is stuff that is common knowledge and I have been aware of for a long time.

Jambon has identified cobalt and nickel in early iron artifacts, he has identified the percentages of these elements as corelevant to median percentages of the same elements in a group of iron meteorites. This is not proof of origin of the material, it is the basis for a hypothetical origin of the material, however logical analysis would seem to disallow this hypothesis.
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Old 15th December 2017, 10:01 PM   #13
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The Alacahöyük (in Anatolia, present day Turkey) dagger, overall 18.5 cm, gold mounted iron blade, about second half of 3rd millenium BC. Currently in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara.

I got the photo from Wiki Commons and the information from the museum guide book.
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Old 15th December 2017, 10:16 PM   #14
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Yes, that's the dagger.

I had two measurements in mind for this, one was 20cm, one was 30cm.

I took the 20cm as blade length, the 30cm as overall length.

My source was probably one of several books I have somewhere on the European Iron Age, I cannot remember correct titles or authors and I do not know where they are, and its not important anyway.

As for dating, I'd guess that as with many archeological finds, opinions can vary, and in this present case it is of no moment, the important thing is that iron technology was around a long time before KT played with his dagger.

This pic is the dagger I was talking about.
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Old 16th December 2017, 12:30 AM   #15
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Hi all,
A nice thread with many learned comments. The use of meteorite iron in pre-iron age cultures is not new and has been known for decades from Syria, Asia Minor, China and pre-Colombian America. The real mistery here has however not been discussed.
How they worked this meteorite iron into usable objects? Forging iron into blades is very different than working bronze, so how did they manage that at all?
.
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Old 16th December 2017, 02:56 AM   #16
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Where ferric material from a meteoritic source is involved, the only technology necessary is forge technology, same as with limonite.

Smelting is necessary with haematite, and smelt technology for iron appears not to have been available until around 1200BC, but smelt technology for copper had been used from around 5000BC.

So:-
meteorites:- forge
limonite:- forge
haematite:- smelt
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Old 16th December 2017, 06:51 AM   #17
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I am aware of development of metal working from the Chalcolithic through to the iron age in general lines. I do not know whether forging was used also as part of bronze working.
Most bronze objects were made by casting, and that is very different than forging, so they had to do something completely different and non-obvious in order to work meteorite iron.
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Old 16th December 2017, 08:02 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motan
... I do not know whether forging was used also as part of bronze working.
Most bronze objects were made by casting...

Bronze usually cast, maybe hammered to work harden edges, However gold, silver and copper were all hammer worked at this time, heated to anneal and soften the metal. I can see early metal workers trying the same techniques on their new wonder material.
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Old 16th December 2017, 08:31 AM   #19
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Yes, a type of forging was used in bronze blade production. It is "cold" forging, where the blade is first cast, then the edges are cold forged down to a very thin edge, bronze has the quality of fast and (relatively) easy work hardening, so by cold forging the blade edges down to a feather edge hardening and edge sharpening were achieved at the same time.

True forge technology is necessary to work meteoritic material, it needs to be brought to a weld heat and brought together into a homogenous mass, this is then forged out, turned back upon itself and rewelded, something in excess of 7 welds usually need to be taken before the impurities have been washed out of the material, when the material is clean it can be forged to shape and cold worked to the finished product.

Bronze is usually an iron/tin alloy that melts at about 1700F, iron melts at about 2800F and will forge weld at a little below this temperature, nickel melts at about 2600F. The 1700F necessary to melt bronze for casting can be brought up to the necessary temps for welding iron and nickel, the nickel will stick first then the iron. The 1700F needed to melt bronze is what I would call a "high cherry red", and is more than adequate to forge iron. Introduction of oxygen will raise the fire temperature to the necessary heat for welding.

Meteoritic material was used in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it was worked in primitive forges; the original Javanese/Balinese forges were not much more than a depression in the ground with air delivered to the fire through bambu tubes from feather bellows. You do not need high technology to weld iron. In fact, the traditional type of "hole in the ground" forge is still in use in some parts of Jawa, and probably is still in use in some parts of Bali.

The progression from bronze working to iron working in both Europe and in SE Asia was not a cessation of one type of production, and commencement of another, the two technologies and the two materials continued side by side for a long time, the "Bronze Age" and the "Iron Age" overlapped one another. In fact, I believe that investigation would demonstrate that bronze swords were in fact at no disadvantage at all when compared to early iron swords.

However, to return to the question of whether or not the KT dagger is of meteoritic material. My personal opinion is that the Jambon hypothesis still needs to be accepted for what it is:- a possibility.

EDIT

I probably should mention that early iron blades would have been cold forged along the edges and work hardened, not quenched like a steel blade. It took a long time before smiths discovered that adding a little bit of carbon to the iron made it hardenable. In fact even in the Middle Ages in Europe, some swords were still iron, not steel, and what they called steel then was often what we would call "mild steel", ie, low carbon steel.

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Old 16th December 2017, 09:20 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
More than spearpoints and harpoons, the Tlingit supposedly forged this "Killer Whale" dagger (really more a short sword) out of meteorite back in the 17 century. That's certainly not pre-iron age for much of the world, but pretty advanced technology for these northern tribes way back then.
http://juneauempire.com/art/2015-05...-hidden-history
That said i must say that i am really not completely convinced that the method with which the King Tut dagger was determined to be made from meteorite is 100% fool proof. The make-up of this blade is still all of elements that can be found terrestrially. That it is similar to the make-up of know meteoric blades makes this more a maybe for me than a sure thing.


The chinese qing dynasty (17c) traded with the tlingit and their coins are found sewn onto tlingit armour. not a far stretch to consider chinese iron/steel being used in their blades. the chinese were selling 'native' design blades all over their trade areas. (phillipines as another trade partner comes to mind).

Trade routes were much farther afield and well developed much further back than we think, and we find they were even further back the more we discover new evidence. heck, even the early romans preferred silk clothes.
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Old 16th December 2017, 12:25 PM   #21
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A very famous and highly professional and talented bladesmith from Russia by the name Leonid Arkhangelski described in his book “ Damascus Steel” his attempts to make a knife blade out of a meteorite. It was an abject failure: whether cold or hot, it crumbled under the hammer. Eventually, he had to mix regular iron with small quantities of meteorite pieces, melt it completely and only then was he able to make a blade with a very symbolic meteorite content.
AFAIK, bladesmiths from Java also added tiny amounts of the Prambanan meteorite to their krises.

Thus, I doubt the pure meteorite origin of the Tut’s blade. IMHO, it is a single example imported from a society wth available iron ores.
Although we do not know composition of the purported Tut’s meteorite, Occam usually rules.
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Old 16th December 2017, 12:50 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
A very famous and highly professional and talented bladesmith from Russia by the name Leonid Arkhangelski described in his book “ Damascus Steel” his attempts to make a knife blade out of a meteorite. It was an abject failure: whether cold or hot, it crumbled under the hammer.


Hello Ariel,

Maybe Mr. Arkhangelski experimented with the wrong type of meteorite. I have a couple of meteorite fragments from the Campo del Cielo meteorite and they are almost pure iron-nickel alloy (93% Iron, about 7% Ni and the rest a mixture of Co, P, Ge, etc. in negligible quantities). I don't see how such meteorite cannot be worked hot or even cold.
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Old 16th December 2017, 02:28 PM   #23
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You are correct, and I mentioned this point in the last sentence.
Still, with iron weapons available within the trading area, potentially including even the Philistines, I still think that Occam rule is likely applicable.

With nickel wouldn’t it exhibit something resembling Indonesian pamor?
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Old 16th December 2017, 03:06 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
The chinese qing dynasty (17c) traded with the tlingit and their coins are found sewn onto tlingit armour. not a far stretch to consider chinese iron/steel being used in their blades. the chinese were selling 'native' design blades all over their trade areas. (phillipines as another trade partner comes to mind).

Trade routes were much farther afield and well developed much further back than we think, and we find they were even further back the more we discover new evidence. heck, even the early romans preferred silk clothes.

Wayne, there is little doubt that there was indeed trade with the Tlingit from outside sources, including the Chinese, however, if you read the article i link to you will see that the Tlingit have a long oral history attached to this blade that includes the name of the person who forged it and the actual place of the meteorite fall that they gathered the material to make the blade from. While oral histories can indeed be incorrect at times the one surrounding this very important sacred object seems likely to be true.
This photo from the Alaska State Library Historical Collections is part of the Vincent Soboleff Photograph Collection, ca. 1896-1920. The description of the photo reads "The man holding the dagger is Gusht'eiheen (Spray Behind the Dorsal Fin) of the Killerwhale House of the Dakl'aweidí Clan in Angoon. The dagger he is holding was made by a man named Kucheesh, from a meteorite that fell near Klukwan. When it's brought out in public the words to announce its arrival are "This came to us from the sky."
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Old 16th December 2017, 07:31 PM   #25
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Oral history sometime leaves out bits. I don't disagree that the blade could have been made with major additions of a sky metal. it would have been easier to include it with some chinese supplied stock during the forging, the inclusion of the source of the chinese sources into the story would have detracted from it's traditional spirital message. It's a big No-No to try to shave off a bit for testing tho.

That dagger is gorgious by the way, they had quite good skill and artistry.

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Old 16th December 2017, 09:07 PM   #26
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Ariel & Marius.

I know a little bit about working with meteoritic material because I have worked with it.

Using fragments of the Arizona meteorite, I have made small billets of clean ready to use meteoritic iron, these small billets could have been made bigger if I had had sufficient meteorite, or they could have been made into very small blades as they were.

However, I used this refined meteoritic material to make damascus blades by incorporating it with iron and steel.

Two small billets of meteoritic material that I made were given to a Pande Keris in Solo with instructions to make two keris. The first keris he made was unsatisfactory and it was sold, the second keris he made is a part of my collection.

I worked with pure meteorite and the product I produced was pure meteorite, which was later combined with other material. There is an easier way to work with meteorite than the one I chose, but I worked with the pure material because I considered this to be a matter of work ethic.

The easier way to work with meteorite is detailed in a text book that was prepared at the request of the Surakarta Karaton. We are uncertain exactly which ruler of Surakarta ordered its preparation, but it was probably Pakubuwana X, and the Empu providing the information was probably Jayasukadgo.

In this text book, the meteoritic material being addressed is the Prambanan Meteorite. The method detailed involves making a small, thin-walled iron packet, putting small pieces of meteoritic material into the packet, closing the packet, bringing it to weld heat and then taking the weld. This initial weld will unite the pieces of meteorite, after which the material can be cleaned (refined) in the usual way.

It would be possible to weld two pieces of meteorite in a charcoal forge, but they would need to be fairly large pieces, it would be virtually impossible to weld small pieces of meteorite in a charcoal or coke forge. If a single large piece of meteor was available, this would be easier still. I had only very small pieces of meteorite to work with, and when I was working with this material in the late 1980's, it was very, very expensive material. I used a gas forge to weld and refine it.

To return to the question of what raw material was used in early iron blades, and how it was processed.

Meteoritic material will break up under the hammer. It is necessary to bring the pieces of meteorite together while they are still in the fire, they will then stick together. Then it is necessary to tap them together on the anvil until the adhesion is firm. If you hammer in a normal fashion they will simply fly into a thousand pieces. Once the first weld has been taken it becomes progressively easier. You add a small piece of meteorite at a time until you have a good sized lump, then fold and weld until there are no little star-like sparks generated at weld heat. It is not rocket science, it is simply application of logic, together with a smidgen of knowledge.

There was an overlap of bronze working technology and iron working technology. There can be no doubt of this. Since there was an overlap, it seems reasonable to assume that early iron artifacts, whether blades or something else, might have been produced by casting technology similar to that used in bronze production.

However, bronze production rested firmly upon the ability of potters to produce vessels capable of withstanding temperatures of 1700F.

To me, the big question is if the potters at this time in history were able to produce vessels capable of withstanding temperatures of 2800F.

However, a small fire in an earth depression and given a continuous infusion of air by the use of bellows can reach +2800F without a great deal of difficulty.

As Ariel has noted:- Occam rules.

The easiest, most obvious way to do something is usually the way something is done.
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Old 16th December 2017, 11:50 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Ariel & Marius.


Very interesting explanations!

Do you have any idea what makes meteoritic iron so hard to work? May it be the high Nickel content?

With respect to Tut's blades, I also believe it is much more likely to be an imported present for the Pharao from somewhere where iron working was already known.
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Old 17th December 2017, 02:29 AM   #28
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Meteoritic material is not hard to work, it is no more difficult to work than ordinary iron, but as I explained, if you do not take the very first weld very gently it will break up under the hammer, so the first weld is taken as gently as possible, and you need to bring the pieces to be welded, together in the forge, if you have more than a single piece of material, after that first weld, the following welds are easier and towards the end of the cleaning process, it is just like welding ordinary iron.

Pure nickel welded together with iron is also easy to weld, but when you want weld steel, say a simple high carbon steel like 01, together with iron, or with iron and nickel, you have a quite small weld window, so you need to be able to judge the weld temperature pretty accurately.

Material that is hot short is perhaps more difficult to weld that meteorite, but again, it is a matter of taking the first couple of welds very gently, as you get more welds into the billet you wash out more of the impurities and it becomes easier to weld.
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Old 17th December 2017, 03:24 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
With respect to Tut's blades, I also believe it is much more likely to be an imported present for the Pharao from somewhere where iron working was already known.

From Wikipedia entry on the Iron Age:
The earliest-known iron artifacts are nine small beads dated to 3200 BC, which were found in burials at Gerzeh, Lower Egypt. They have been identified as meteoric iron shaped by careful hammering.[1] Meteoric iron, a characteristic iron–nickel alloy, was used by various ancient peoples thousands of years before the Iron Age. Such iron, being in its native metallic state, required no smelting of ores.
The Iron Age proper supposedly started around 1200 BC. or so, but obviously people were aware of and working with iron in some form for up to 2000 years before they had enough of a command of the material to make it commonplace.
it would seem that iron was known to the Egyptians longer than perhaps anyone else in the world. If the earliest known iron artifacts indeed come from Egypt, why would you assume the King Tut dagger would need to come from some other origin than Egypt itself?
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Old 17th December 2017, 04:34 AM   #30
A. G. Maisey
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David, I do not understand what is meant by "the Iron Age Proper", however the Hittites were the first technologically advanced people to produce iron tools, artifacts and weapons in any considerable number, and the Hittites had developed viable iron tools and weapons by about 1500BC.

The Hittite Empire collapsed in about 1200BC, and immediately after this collapse the rise of iron technology occurred in Cyprus and Greece. With the rise of iron technology in Greece there was a leap in production of iron artifacts. Also from about 1200 BC we have the first evidence from Cyprus of iron with a carbon content --- ie, steel --- that has been quenched.

It appears that although iron with a carbon content has been found from earlier dates, there was no consistency in the carburisation process, it was an accidental carburisation that had resulted from carburisation in the forge, rather than carburisation in a bloomery. However, carbon content of iron by itself is not enough to produce a tool or weapon that is markedly superior to bronze, that iron with the carbon content needs to be heated and quenched. It would seem that this did not occur until after about 1200BC, so maybe that is what is meant by "Iron Age Proper" .

While it is true that the Ancient Egyptians did cold forge meteoritic material to produce talismans, they did not begin to produce iron tools and weapons until about 500-600BC, when iron smelting technology became available.

Egypt at the time of Tutankhamen did not possess the technology to produce a blade like the KT dagger, but the Hittites did, and there were diplomatic and marriage ties between the Egyptian court and the Hittite court.

An Afterthought

For those of us who come from a European cultural background, our idea of the Iron Age tends to focus on the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin, however, it should not be forgotten that evidence of iron working that could date back to 1800BC has been found in Uttar Pradesh in India, where it seems to be associated with the migrations of the Vedic People. The evidence includes slag, tuyeres and remains of furnaces.

If we think of the "The Iron Age" in terms of the entire world, I really do think that that the opinion that the Iron Age began with Greece and Cyprus is a rather limited point of view.

Last edited by A. G. Maisey : 17th December 2017 at 04:52 AM.
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