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Egyptians Rocked Stylish Space Jewelry, Researchers Find

Update Date: May 31, 2013 11:44 PM EDT

Egyptians first introduced the world to writing, geometry among other discoveries, and now a new study found that  5,000-year-old iron beaded jewelry was made from space rock from fragments that fell from the sky.

Scientists from the Open University and the University of Manchester recently analyzed one of the beads with an electron microscope and an X-ray CT scanner. They found the nickel-rich chemical composition of the bead's original metal confirms its meteorite origins.

The tube-shaped piece of jewelry was first discovered in 1911 at the Gerzeh cemetery, roughly 40 miles south of Cairo. . It had previously been theorized that a string of iron beads dated to somewhere between 3350 to 3600 BC, were composed of meteorite due to its nickel-iron rich composition.

"The celestial or terrestrial origin of ancient Egyptian iron, and when its usage became common are contentious issues, which are subject to debate," the authors wrote. "Evidence is drawn from many areas, including architecture, language, and belief."

The British scientists used high-tech tools such as a 1.8-centimeter-long bead from Gerzeh tomb 67, then used scanning electron microscopy and an X-ray CT scan to study its structure. According to the study, they found that the distribution of fragmented metal and oxide compounds, along with the chemical makeup, closely resembled a well-known pattern of weathered iron meteorite.

"This research highlights the application of modern technology to ancient materials not only to understand meteorites better but also to help us understand what ancient cultures considered these materials to be and the importance they placed upon them," wrote Diane Johnson, the lead researcher.

The findings were published in the May 20 edition of Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

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