“iron from the sky”
To the ancient Egyptians, iron was known as the “metal of heaven,” says the University College London. “In the hieroglyphic language of the ancient Egyptians it was pronounced ba-en-pet, meaning either stone or metal of Heaven.”
For thousands of years before they learned to smelt iron ore, Egyptians were crafting beads and trinkets from it, harvesting the metal from fallen meteorites. The rarity of the metal gave it a special place in Egyptian society, says Nature: “Iron was very strongly associated with royalty and power.”
For the past century, researchers have been locked in debate over whether the iron in a set of 5,000 year-old beads, dating back to ancient Egypt, came from a meteorite or was crafted as the byproduct of accidental smelting. A new study, says Nature, has confirmed that the iron beads hail from the heavens. The beads contain high concentrations of nickel and show a distinct crystal structure known as a Widmanstätten pattern, says New Scientist, both evidence that the iron came from a meteor.
Mining is the economic engine of Chile. Its origins in the current Chilean territory date back to excavations made between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago in an iron ore mine in Taltal in the Antofagasta Region, the oldest in the continent. Centuries later, the successive exploitation of coal in the South, silver in Chañarcillo and nitrate in the North brought mining to play a pivotal role in the country’s economy.