Rare Extraterrestrial Metal Found in Ancient Treasure Stash

Researchers have discovered that the Treasure of Villena, a cache of 66 mostly gold objects from the Iberian Bronze Age, contains a pair of objects made of iron from meteorites that fell from the sky. The objects are a dull bracelet and a rusted hollow hemisphere decorated with gold. This discovery, led by the retired head of conservation at the National Archeological Museum Spain, Salvador Rovira-Llorens, suggests that metalworking technology and techniques were far more advanced in Iberia over 3,000 years ago than previously thought.

Determining the age of the collection has been difficult due to two objects, a small, hollow hemisphere thought to be part of a scepter or sword hilt, and a single, torc-like bracelet, both of which have a “ferrous” appearance, indicating they are made of iron. The problem is that the Iron Age did not begin in the Iberian Peninsula until around 850 BCE, while the gold materials in the Treasure of Villena have been dated to between 1500 and 1200 BCE. Therefore, it has been challenging to determine where the ferrous-looking artifacts sit in the context of the Treasure of Villena.

Iron ore from Earth’s crust is not the only source of malleable iron. There are pre-Iron Age iron artifacts around the world that were forged from the stuff of meteorites. Researchers obtained permission from the Municipal Archaeological Museum of Villena to test the two artifacts and determined that both the hemisphere and bracelet were made from meteoritic iron. This discovery suggests that the objects were made around the same period, dating back to around 1400 to 1200 BCE.

The results of the test are not conclusive due to the high degree of corrosion, but there are more recent, non-invasive techniques that could be applied to the objects to obtain a more detailed set of data that would help cement the findings, the team says. The researchers write in their paper that “the cap and bracelet from the Treasure of Villena would currently be the first two pieces attributable to meteoritic iron in the Iberian Peninsula,” which is compatible with a Late Bronze chronology, prior to the beginning of the widespread production of terrestrial iron.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

References:
1. Rovira-Llorens, S., Renzi, M. and Montero-Ruiz, I. (2023). “Meteorite iron in the Villena Treasure?” Works on Prehistory, 80 (2): e19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3989/tp.2023.12333
2. Araque González, R., Bastian, A., Baptista, P., Mataloto, R., Paniego Díaz, P., Rammelkammer, V.… and Ferreiro Mählmann, R. (2023). “Stone-working and the earliest steel in Iberia: Scientific analyzes and experimental replications of final bronze age stelae and tools.” Journal of Archaeological Science , 152, 105742. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2023.105742
3. Barciela González, V., García Atiénzar, G., Martín de la Sierra Pareja, P. and Hernández Pérez, MS (2023). “Personal ornaments in the Cabezo Redondo goldsmith’s shop (Villena, Alicante) and its historical context.” Complutum , 34 (Special), pp. 109-127. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5209/cmpl.85236
4. Brauns, M., Yahalom-Mack, N., Stepanov, I., Sauder, L., Keen, J., and Eliyahu-Behar, A. (2020). “Osmium isotope analysis as an innovative tool for provenancing ancient iron: A systematic approach.” PLoS ONE , 15 (3), e0229623. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229623
5. Comelli, D., D’Orazio, M., Folco, L., El-Halwagy, M., Frizzi, T., Alberti, R.… and Valentini, G. (2016). “The meteoritic origin of Tutankhamen’s iron dagger blade.” Meteoritics & Planetary Science , 51(7), pp. 1301-1309. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/maps.12664

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