We take iron for granted these days.
Before human cultures mastered the art and science of metallurgy, the ability to purify and alloy Earth’s various metals, especially iron, into useful stuff like swords, spoons, and steel, pure iron was rare stuff. Despite being common in the crust, Earth’s iron isn’t sitting there in huge nuggets like California gold. It is trapped in ores and require extensive science magic to extract.
Yet iron artifacts have been found that date back thousands of years before the beginning of the Iron Age. So where’d that metal come from?
Iron-rich meteorites have been falling to Earth since Earth was a thing. If early humans traced the streak in the night sky to its landing spot, they could collect the metal and carve it directly into tools or artifacts, given a little bit of inspiration and free time, which I hear there was a lot of before the internet.
I’ve collected a few meteorite-sourced goodies above. Not all date from pre-Iron Age, but they represent what could have been done. From top:
- Perhaps the most magical artifact on Earth, a meteorite-tipped harpoon made from narwhal tusk!!!
- The "Iron Man" sculpture, an 11th-century carving of a Buddhist deity from a single pice of space metal
- A dagger made from meteorite-source iron steel
- These are oldest iron artifacts ever found to date! These 5,000-year-old Egyptian beads were carved from meteoric iron and found in Gerzeh.
The word “iron” actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “holy metal”, and many of these space-rock artifacts are ceremonial or meant for the era’s royalty or refer to deities. Before we knew that meteorites were just space debris, it’s no surprise that these rocks were sourced to a different sort of heaven.