King Tut's dagger has a blade made from meteorite

King Tut was buried with two knives, one of which has an iron blade and another that has a gold blade. Though a gold blade isn't terribly practical in terms of usability, it's pretty and seemingly benefitting of a king. As it turns out, though, it's the iron blade that is most notable and rare — it was crafted from a meteorite, scientists have confirmed. The blade's origins had long been a source of debate, but a new study has put the controversy to rest.

The iron dagger was discovered within Egyptian King Tutankhamun's sarcophagus in 1925. This isn't the first time the knife has been analyzed; past research led many researchers to speculate that the blade was made from meteorite, one reason being the relative scarcity of iron objects created during the dagger's time period. Iron was rare and more valuable than gold, and technologies likely hadn't yet uncovered ways to produce iron in large quantities.

A relatively small number of ancient artifacts from around the world have been discovered with meteorite-derived iron, but it is difficult to determine in part because of issues getting permission to analyze such precious discoveries. A group of researchers recently got that chance with King Tut's iron blade, which had been positioned near his thigh and is described as having a "finely manufactured blade" that has not rusted. The handle, meanwhile, is made of gold, as is its sheath.

In the past, research showed a high nickel content in the iron dagger, which had spurred speculation about the blade's meteorite origins. To put the matter to research, a large group of researchers used portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry to determine the blade's precise composition, finding that it is iron, 10.8-percent nickel, and 0.58-percent Cobalt.

This composition "strongly supports its meteoritic origin," the study concludes, while the high quality of the blade's design relative to iron artifacts from other places in that time period indicates "a significant mastery of ironworking in Tutankhamun's time."