Similar discoveries have been made all over the planet proving that thousands of years ago, ancient cultures used exotic, otherworldly materials to create not only ornaments but weapons and tools.
In 1945, archaeologists excavating a 2000-year-old Native American grave in Havana, Illinois-USA, made a peculiar discovery: 22 metal beads made from shards of a meteorite. Since then, scientists have wondered about the identity of the space rock that crashed to earth responsible for the metal fragments.
Now, thanks to a new study, strong evidence has been found linking the artifacts to a meteorite known as Anoka, which fell to Earth more than 700 kilometers away from the site of the archaeological find in Minnesota.
According to experts, the intricately crafted metal beads belonged to a member of the elite Hopewell culture, known for its elaborate Earthen mounds and the use of alien materials, explains an article published this week in Nature.
Despite the fact that previous studies had ruled out the Anoka meteorite as a possible source, a recent analysis of a piece of the meteorite—discovered in 1983—has given experts convincing evidence of having been the progenitor of the shrapnel from which the aborigines elaborated the items.
In order to come to this conclusion, scientists used mass spectometry— an analytical technique that ionizes chemical species and sorts the ions based on their mass-to-charge ratio.
Scientists found that both the meteorite fragment and the beads of the necklace had equal compositions. Both, for example, contained tiny pieces of iron enriched with nickel.
Authors of the study—published in the Journal of Archaeological Science—explain that meteoric metal like the iron found in the Hopewell beads is the ‘most exotic raw material used during the Middle Woodland period in Eastern North America.
“The similarity in major, minor, and trace element chemistry between Anoka and Havana, the presence of micrometer-sized inclusions of gamma iron in kamacite in both, and the obvious connection via the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers between Anoka and Havana point to the production of the Havana beads from a mass of the Anoka iron,” the authors wrote.
The meteorite analyzed by experts also had traces of schreibersite, a fragile mineral that would have allowed it to break into small pieces of metal. Attempts to replicate the manufacturing process of the accounts made in the laboratory, support the latter hypothesis.
Furthermore, co-author Timothy McCoy—the curator-in-charge of meteorites at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC—told Nature “2,000 years ago, goods and ideas were moved hundreds of miles across eastern North America.”
Experts believe that the iron used to craft the beads was most likely collected by locals and exchanged to the Havana Hopewell center where they manufactured it.
Interestingly, similar discoveries—were ancients used meteorites to craft tools and weapons—were found thousands of kilometers away, in Africa.
There, scientists discovered that the ancient Egyptians used fragments from meteorites to create weapons for the ruling elite.
In fact, ancient Egyptians knew of the ‘otherworldly’ origins of the metal and wrote about the ‘metal’ that came from the heavens in ancient texts.
In previous studies, researchers wrote: “The celestial or terrestrial origin of ancient Egyptian iron, and when its usage became common are contentious issues, which are subject to debate. The evidence is drawn from many areas, including architecture, language, and belief.”