After the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamen died, an iron-blade dagger with a gold sheath was placed in his sarcophagus. This was rediscovered in 1925 after thousands of years.
Nowadays, the gold sheath attracts our attention, but in ancient times, the iron would’ve been much more valuable.
I never thought about this before now.
You might recall the news stories two years ago about this particular iron dagger. There was a scientific article that showed that it was likely of meteoric origin- that it literally fell out of the sky!
Iron is the most abundant element on earth. Why would it be so valuable in ancient times?
And then it dawned on me. The answer, quite simply is that is very little free iron on the earth’s crust. Most of the iron is in ores. Before the iron age, or more accurately before iron smelting was developed, the only way to get iron metal would be from falling meteorites.
The oldest discovered iron, also in Egypt, was of decorative iron beads. And yes, you guessed right- these are also of meteoric origin. They had to be.
For most of humanity iron was this abundant, versatile metal in the ground but no one knew how to extract it or use it!