Iron from the Sky Logo
You may have noticed that my Iron from the Sky “logo” contains a bit of Egyptian hieroglyphics. This hieroglyphic group, from the XIX Dynasty (1580-1314 B.C.) denoting “Iron from heaven,” documents one of the early written references regarding meteorites. These celestial visitors have been documented many times in our most ancient cultures:
History and Iron Meteorites
Excerpts from “The Antiquity of Iron” by George Frederick Zimmer (January 1915)
Archaeologists occasionally find a few, but not many, iron objects that predate the time when the process of iron working was discovered. Some of these objects were made by stone age people. These iron artifacts even had some nickel combined with them, making a hard iron-nickel alloy. History may never reveal to us when where and how iron was first manufactured, because iron is far older than any existing history or tradition.
The most ancient name for iron was ‘Metal of Heaven.’ In the hieroglyphic language of the ancient Egyptians it was pronounced ba-en-pet, meaning either stone or metal of Heaven. A basic Egyptian idea, expressed in ancient religious texts, was that the fermament of Heaven was of iron. This belief probably arose from iron’s blue color and from the occasional fall of meteoric iron from the sky.
The importance of iron in ancient Egypt is not only limited to references in religious texts. The name of one of the Pharaohs of the 1st dynasty was Mibampes, and a component part of the name was Penipe. As the letters B and P are sometimes transposed, this Pharaoh’s name is believed by Egyptologists to be equal with Benipe, which signifies the ‘Iron Pharaoh’ or the ‘Lover of Iron.’ According to a later reading, the name of this Pharaoh was pronounced Mer-ba-pen, literally ‘Lover of this iron.’ A Pharoah would not bear that name if iron had not been known to the Egyptians of the 1st Dynasty.
This ancient history of iron is also found in the cuniform language of Assyria and Babylonia, pronounced par-zillu. It is the same in the language of Sumeria and Chladea; barsa, Barsal and Barzel, and again in the Hebrew language where the name is the same as it is in the Assyrian. All of these transate to mean ‘Metal of Heaven.’ We can say the first iron was undoubtedly meteoric, as is shown by these ancient names.
Even across the globe, evidence of iron in prehistory was found when Spanish explorers discovered the Aztecs in the 1500s. They found objects made with this iron-nickel alloy as well. When asked, the Aztec claimed the metal fell from the sky. For centuries afterward, farmers and rural folk had claimed to have occasionally come across metallic rocks made mostly of iron that fell from the sky, and for centuries most rational scientist dismissed these claims as superstitious.
We now know these objects as meteorites.