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  • Tute’s Glass Ball September 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient , trackback

    Beach is in a meteor mood again and has been flicking back through his notes to some particularly interesting cases that Andy the Mad Monk sent him last year. Andy, in fact, provided a series of remarkable examples but Beach’s favourite is probably this curious case from ancient Egypt.

    In the picture above we see Tutankhamen’s Pectoral that will have hung down over the doomed one’s pigeon chest and in the centre of this piece there is a beautiful yellow stone. This ‘stone’ is actually a piece of glass, which is curious as Ancient Egypt – at least by Tutankhamen’s time – did not have  glass-making technology.The matter is complicated and fraught – i.e. Beachcombing despite reading up doesn’t really understand – but it seems that glass-making knowledge in Egypt declined through the Bronze Age and had been lost by the boy pharaoh’s time.

    So where did the stone come from? An Italian scientist Vincenzo de Michele noted, in a visit to Cairo museum, that this glass looked suspiciously like a naturally occurring substance found in the Great Sand Sea several hundred miles away. An optical measurement confirmed its provenance and Tutankhamen’s ‘stone’ is now officially catalogued as Great Sand Sea Glass (aka Libyan Desert Glass).

    But if that answers one question it begs another. Where did the glass that litters several tens of kilometres in the deep desert come from? It seems that the only thing in nature able to create the necessary heat to melt sand into glass in this way would have been a huge fire ball, created by an unstable meteorite disintegrating as it came towards earth. Luckily you and I were not around twenty six million years ago to see this go down.

    The Bedouin who brought Tute his special glass would have had no idea that a meteorite had created the polished treasure in his hands. But it is a pleasing thought that this hunk that hung around the neck of the one of the most powerful men in the ancient world had been created by a meteorite blast several million years before, many times more potent than an atom bomb. Got to beat your bog standard crown jewels!

    Beachcombing should also note that – on the subject of atom bombs – there are some fringe Egyptologists  who claim that the scattered glass marked the remains of an antique nuclear war. Presumably the pyramids were missile silos…

    Beach is always on the look out for meteorite stories: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    28 Sept 2011: Some interesting responses to this one. First up is HC who has noted a mistake on the question of Egyptian glass production. Beach would love to learn more about this and the supposed loss of glass-making skills in the Near East: ‘Interesting article, but there is a factual error in it I should point out.  Contrary to the article,  the ancient Egyptians did manufacture glass in industrial quantities although they used it primarily for jewelry, as an artificial gem.  Egyptian glass was translucent, not transparent, and usually highly colored due to impurities.  There’s lots of sand there, and its likely it was first produced accidentally in the manufacture of ceramic glazes and during the smelting of metals, as the article describes, and then became a craft of its own.  The object in question may have also been acquired by trade.  For example, In Tut’s tomb an iron dagger was found, and although the Egyptians did not have the technology to work ferrous metal, they were familiar with it and had access to it from meteorites and from trade with the Hittites who did have crude iron-smelting capability.’ KMH pushes the minority opinion with force: ‘There may be more to the mystery of this glass than appears on the surface. The case for atomic weapons also rests on the finds of highly radioactive skeletons in the Indus valley and certain passages of the Mahabharata: check out world mysteries and multiman. However, the idea that once a culture discovers atomic weapons it will likely destroy itself is highly romantic. Undoubtedly there have been significant meteor falls in human history, but this particular area in the Sahara seems to lack an impact crater and other things characteristic of a meteor impact‘. Next up is Rick, one of our friends at the Anomalist: ‘I thought you might be interested in another theory for the creation of the Libyan Glass in Tutankhamen’s rich bauble.  Checkout what Electric Universe Theory proposes for this piece of glass: Libya’s Kebira Crater. Also see the information in another site that is related.  There you’ll find these statements concerning the dating of the “craters”: “The press release from Boston University listed the Kebira formation as “millions of years old”, corresponding to the dates fixed for other areas of the Gilf Kebir Plateau. But, is that the case? Could intense electromagnetic bombardment influence the apparent age accepted by the scientific community? The most common dating method is by measuring the isotopic ratios of particular elements. For example, uranium 235 decays into lead 207 with a half-life of 700 million years. That means, when the rock was first formed, it contained a fixed quantity of uranium 235 and every 700 million years thereafter it will exhibit half the amount of uranium 235 and an increasing amount of lead 207. Because a mineral sample’s age depends on that sample existing today exactly as when it was initially formed, if it has been affected by radioactivity, or heat, or a blast or electricity, any measurement of its age will be inaccurate. Therefore, if a multi-billion joule electric discharge, sufficient to excavate a crater 19 miles in diameter were to strike the earth, the gamma and x-ray pulses would drastically alter the decay rate, the isotopic ratios and, perhaps, form new elements within the rocks. For these and other reasons presented in these Pictures of the Day, it is not unreasonable to ask if Kebira and its surrounding craters may be the remains of electrical events, perhaps occurring in a more recent past than geologists have previously imagined.’ Then Ricardo with a general reflection on things with fiery tails: Comets are not meteors (although they can become such) but your meteor post reminded me of a delightful line in one of Jules Verne novels: ‘[…] La comète est le « Deus ex machina’; toutes les fois qu’on est embarrassé en cosmographie, on appelle une comète à son secours. C’est l’astre le plus complaisant que je connaisse, et, au moindre signe d’un savant, il se dérange pour tout arranger!’ (Clawbonny, Le Désert de Glace) I think it translates the spirit of the time regarding this natural phenomenon.’   Thanks to HC (and Larry who sent HC’s comment in), KMH, Ricardo and Rick!