In the Late Bronze Age, humans learned to smelt iron, and things haven’t been the same since. Between 1200 and 1000 BCE, the movement of information stemming possibly from ancient Anatolia on how to utilize the metal and turn it into tools both led to more permanent settlements and put sturdy weapons in the hands of lots of people for the first time in history.
But even before the Iron Age, which ended around 600 BCE, iron could still be turned into tools since the material can be found naturally—mostly off of the planet, however. One example of such extraterrestrial iron, which was typically found in meteorites in conjunction with nickel or silicate minerals, in tools was recently rediscovered in the depths of Switzerland’s Bern History Museum. There, a team of archaeologists spotted an arrowhead made with what they believe to be iron from a meteor. They published their findings recently in the Journal of Archeological Sciences.
The 1.5-inch long, 2.9 gram arrowhead was originally discovered in the 19th century in a late Bronze Age lake dwelling community called Mörigen on Lake Biel about an hour drive from Bern. Archeological finds made from meteoritic iron are quite rare, the Bern History Museum wrote in a release—there are only 55 objects in all of Europe, Asia, and Africa, including King Tut’s ‘space dagger’, and these all come from 22 sites.
The settlement of Mörigen is located a mere five miles from the location where the Twannberg meteorite struck earth around 150,000 years ago. Strangely enough, the meteorite, which was discovered only in 1984, couldn’t have been the original source for this particular tool. After some analysis, the authors found that the arrowhead itself was made up of 8.3 percent nickel, twice as much as the Twannberg meteorite holds. The tiny tool also is made up of a high content of geranium and a low concentration of aluminum-26. This hints that the meteorite was likely a IAB type and originally had a mass of at least two tons.
Three such meteorites have hit Europe—one in the Czech Republic, one in Spain, and one in Estonia. The authors estimate that the meteorite that could’ve sourced this rare find is the Kaalijarv meteorite, which formed a giant crater on the Estonian island of Saaremaa around 1,500 BCE. This impact site, a 864-mile-journey through modern day Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, also suggests a complex trade and transport system could have been in place during this era. Now, it’s just a matter of finding the rest of the ancient gadgets and tools that could’ve been made from space rocks long before anyone knew what they were.