Professor Thilo Rehren of the University College London in Qatar and colleagues presented the first evidence that the earliest known Egyptian jewelry was made in part from iron that originated in meteorites in the Aug. 19, 2013, issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The jewelry was discovered in 1911 in a cemetery near the village of el-Gerzeh in Lower Egypt that dates to an age earlier than the first Pharaohs. The strand of beads included gold, gemstones, and iron.
Neutron and gamma ray analysis of the iron indicated that the metal originated in meteorites due to the high concentration of nickel, cobalt, phosphorous and germanium that are characteristic of meteorites.
The iron had been worked by repeated hammering and possibly repeated firing to produce a sheet that was rolled into an oblong bead. This evidence indicates that the metal working technology that is a common indicator of Iron Age methods existed in Egypt at least 5,000 years ago. Blacksmithing like this was not common until 3,000 years ago in most of the world.
The majority of metal, stone, and jewel working during the same time frame in Egypt involved working with stone implements. These iron beads show the first evidence of metal working with metal implements that are the oldest ever found.