It was crafted during the Late Bronze Age.
In a surprising discovery, an ancient arrowhead found in Switzerland has been identified as being crafted from extraterrestrial iron. But this is more than a tale of ancient craftsmanship; it’s a story that could retrace extensive trade networks from thousands of years ago.
Excavated in the 19th century, the arrowhead has been revealed to be composed of iron from an unexpected celestial origin. Astonishingly, the iron didn’t come from the closest meteorite to the Swiss settlement but possibly from as far away as Estonia. This hints at extensive trading networks existing in ancient times.
Ancient Arrowhead Crafted From Extraterrestrial Iron
The discovery was made during a dedicated search for ancient meteoritic iron artifacts. Led by geologist Beda Hofmann of the Bern Museum of Natural History and the University of Bern, the team recognized the significance of meteoritic iron in prehistoric times. Composed mainly of iron, with traces of nickel and other metals, meteoritic iron is believed to be the source of nearly all Bronze Age iron tools and weapons.
While such artifacts have been common in the Middle East, Egypt, and Asia, Europe’s vast expanse has yielded relatively few. The Mörigen settlement in Switzerland, dating from 800-900 BC, was a prime location for exploration, lying just 8 kilometers from the Twannberg field filled with fragments of ancient meteoritic rock.
Discovery of the Ancient Arrowhead
Among the objects previously excavated, Hofmann and his colleagues found an iron arrowhead measuring 39.3 millimeters long and weighing only 2.89 grams. This arrowhead showed traces of birch tar, likely used to fasten it to a shaft, and bore the unmistakable signs of meteoritic iron, including a radioactive isotope of aluminum.
What piqued interest further was that the arrowhead’s specific metal mixture did not match the local Twannberg field. It was identified as belonging to a type of iron meteorite known as IAB meteorites, with three potential origins in Europe. The most probable source was determined to be the Kaalijarv meteorite from Estonia, which fell to Earth around 1500 B.C.
Uncovering Ancient Trade Routes
The Kaalijarv meteorite’s distance of about 1,600 kilometers from Mörigen implies that the arrowhead traveled possibly along the same trade routes as Baltic amber. This discovery not only unveils ancient craftsmanship but opens doors to further investigation into trade and connection across Europe in prehistoric times.
With the substantial shrapnel from the Kaalijarv impacts, researchers believe that other artifacts may still remain undiscovered in various collections. The arrowhead’s find raises the possibility of more worked fragments existing across Europe, providing potential insights into the broader use of meteoritic iron in ancient civilization.
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