Despite the name, there was iron in the Bronze Age. It was just extremely rare. Most famously, the pharaoh Tutankhamun had a headrest, bracelet and dagger made of iron. Other iron artifacts from the same time have also been found around the globe. The existence of these artifacts has led to an archaeological debate: was there, in fact, iron smelting in the Bronze Age?
According to a , the answer is no. The iron humans had during the Bronze Age came from space.
Albert Jambon, a researcher at the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, surveyed all the Bronze Age iron objects he could with a portable x-ray fluorescence scanner. The scanner could break down the composition of each object non-invasively, allowing for him to determine origin. Specifically, Jambon was looking for evidence of nickel and cobalt. Nickel is one of the biggest differences between space-based iron and man-made, as the element is not present in smelted iron.
Jambon looked at King Tut's space dagger, as well as Egyptian beads, a Turkish dagger, a Syrian axe and pendant, as well as artifacts from China. They were all from 1300 to 3200 B.C., generally considered to be the Bronze Age. While some of these places, especially the land we know today as Syria, were crucial in the history of smelting, the results were the same each and every time. The iron contained meteoric amounts of nickel.
In his paper's , Jambon says that his analysis "opens the possibility of tracking when and where the first smelting operations happened, the threshold of a new era."