I think several sources are saying that Hittites had some iron artifacts already around 1800 BC and had iron works in 1380 BC?
I don't recall that scene from the book, but anyway, Waltari wrote it during WW II using just library sources in Helsinki; he never set foot in Egypt. (He said "I have lived in Egypt although I've never been there.")
I get laughed at when I'm asked "how do you know so much about [place]?" and the answer is "The Internet" :)
Probably 1 of 3 reasons Gold was valuable at all to the ancients:
1. Gold is the most malleable of all the metals, making it easy to coin in extreme detail.
2. Antimicrobial properties (probably known to the ancients).
3. Oh look, its shiny!!! We are no less vain now, than then. Or perhaps no less vain then, than now.
Edit: Sorry I think you were referencing aluminum.
0. Gold doesn't corrode/oxydize/otherwise react easily with most common elements, thus keeping it properties over extremely long periods of time.
I doubt they knew or cared about 2). They did care about 1) being malleable and therefore easy to turn into pretty objects. They also cared that 3) it was shiny. But the main selling point was the fact that those pretty, shiny things lasted and could even be passed to the next generation ;)
You are probably right about 2 as well, the reasons I like to think they might have been aware: 1.) there were Amphora made of both silver and gold; and 2.) they recognized the antimicrobial properties of other things (example: honey on wounds to avoid infection).
Obviously the Amphora could simply be chalked up to displays of wealth, but I would think they observed the delay in food/beverage degradation in those Amphora compared to standard clay. I guess the funny thing with gold is even today we don't have broad industrial usage (probably good because of the limited supply), though I I suppose trace amounts are used in some modern electronics.
J. Waldbaum, "The coming of iron in the Eastern Mediterranean: thirty years of archaeological and technological research" in The Archaeometallurgy of the Asian Old World (1996).
Thilo Rehren et al, "5,000 years old Egyptian iron beads made from hammered meteoritic iron," Journal of Archaeological Science (2013). Link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440313...
One theory about the origins of black stone embedded in the Kaaba in Mecca (whose worship dates back far beyond Islamic times) is that it's also composed of meteoric material.
Iron, on the other hand, is a very different beast. The carbon monoxide trick works just as well with iron, but the relevant working temperatures of iron are way higher than with copper. Which means that you need a more advanced furnace to work with iron. However, the melting point of iron is higher than the melting point of its impurities, so you can't use the same trick you can with copper to purify it. Instead what you have to do is hold iron at around its welding temperature, and you melt the impurities within the iron. What you end up with is an iron "sponge" (or bloom) that you then remove from the furnace and beat with hammers to squirt out all the remaining molten impurities. Worse yet, cast iron is not a particularly good material in comparison to cast bronze, especially for tools and weapons. The proper way to make tools from iron is to make steel, and to forge it (heating it and beating it with hammers and other implements into shape). There are yet additional complexities involving quenching and cooling that can greatly affect the material properties of forged steel. All of these things are very much unlike bronze working and also require a lot of non-obvious steps to improve the process from one step to the next.
All of which is why the bronze age lasted for such a long time, even though some elements of iron working were known (from, for example, working with meteorites). The big advantages of iron working are that the materials (iron ore, etc.) are fairly common everywhere if you know where to find them (compared to the rarity of tin) and iron/steel implements can be mended and recycled extremely easily, even in the field.
As a side note, Tutankhamun is an interesting figure largely due to his father, Akhenaten, who completely upset the entire Egyptian religious system. Akhenaten demanded that the egyptians worship him directly, and he in turn worshiped the god Aten, forsaking all other gods in the egyptian pantheon. This was a big deal due to the importance of the religious bureaucracy at the time, among other reasons. When Tutankhamun (originally Tutankhaten) came to rule after his father's death he restored the old ways, including the importance of the religious establishment. It's thought by many that king tut's lavish funeral gifts are in large part from the religious order, as a thank you to bringing them back to prominence and power.
Which is the origin of his name. We write "Tutankhamun", but his name is literally "Tut-Ankh-Amun" - the Ankh of Amun, or the life of Amun (the God he restored).
"Tutankhamun means "Living Image of Amun"."
Thank you, sir, for this insightful post!
Some technological advancements are easy to access, others require a lot more investment to mature, and often it's the second category which are superior. Given the general lack of investment in serious R&D by most of SV, and how much the tech industry in general has backed away from pure research, I think there are some applicable lessons there.
No. he is famous because his tomb was found intact by Howard carter.
The word chemistry/alchemy comes from ancient word for Egypt - Khmet, because they were such experts at metal.
Do you think he was he was too young( too developmentally challenged?) to be making such momentous decisions. I've heard that it was mostly his mentors and generals ( HOremHeb ?) making those decisions.
"For centuries, Inuit living near the meteorites used them as a source of metal for tools and harpoons. The Inuit would work the metal using cold forging—that is, by stamping and hammering it."
Egypt was fuel-starved. Its only arable region is along the banks of the Nile river, a band at best a few kilometers wide, which to this day remains the population center of the country. Wood came either from up-river (rarely), or from other points in the Mediterranean. I'm weak on the specifics, but the ancient references to the Pines of Lebanon bear on this.
Meteoric iron is valuable because it is molecularly pure iron. It's essentially supernova ash -- what's left after the final stages of stellar fusion result in least-nuclear-potential atoms, iron and nickel. It's molecularly pure because it hasn't rusted -- in space, no one can hear you rust, either.
Iron on Earth is rusted in large part due to the early stages of biological evolution in which the great oxygenation event occurred, and with it the great rusting -- oxidation of what was, at the time, pure molecular iron lying on Earth's surface, with the now newly-available oxygen. Semlting is a de-oxidation process.
Many of the great iron ore fields are also the result of biological activity -- early-stage microbial life using iron (I am not sure of how specifically) in its own metabolic processes, and depositing large stratified bands of iron as a result. These ores are 1-3 billion years old. As with other resources, they're among those humans have been tearing through, literally, at an amazing clip over the past 200 years.
Iron smelting prior to the age of coal was performed using charcoal. Charcoal kilns -- you can find pictures online -- are large beehive-shaped stone structures which were stacked full of wood and lit afire. The wood was pyrolised but not combusted, pushing out the impurities. This is close in chemical properties to coal which is, in essence, wood subject to somewhat longer pyrolisation processes, as well as geological formation.
And the modern switch from charcoal to coal (originally sea-coal, opportunistically harvested chunks broken from open seams along the English seashore) occurred as what had been a heavily-forested Britain was exhausting its own renewable wood resource and turned instead to coal. An activity which already by the late 1700s was recognised as unsustainable (John Williams, A Natural History of the Mineral Kingdom, 1789).
Discussed at greater length in William Stanley Jevons' The Coal Question:
As a kid I learned on TV about a pharaoh named Tutenkhamon, and at some point became aware of some Egyptian named "King Tut", who must surely be the same dude.
Though come to think of it, now that we have this interweb thingy, it's worth checking...
But I guess Tut won't mind.
First, the dyration of dynasty was one and a half times longer than our time back to Jesus. That is a long time!
Maybe the Catholic Church starts to approach with some factors staying constant during 2000 years and others changing.
Second there were major tech upgrades at times icluding the adoption of the wheel, the horse and iron weapons. Enemy armies discovered these first, beat up Egyptians, who then eventually learned these new techs.
I think viewing them as homogenous has basis in the fact that their religion, belief systems, social structures remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.
Ofcourse they built better boats, better tools, better tombs, better textiles, better mummifications techniques; but underlying philosophy and religion was virtually unchanged from old dynasty to Cleopatra.
They probably see it. Let's make up a story without any proof that it's real:
In some place in the countryside, they see a light moving in the sky and a not very far explosion. (The ones that see a nearby explosion are dead.) Imagine something like the meteorite at Russia a few years ago. (From the videos it looks like a nice show if it doesn't land on your head.)
The local governor/priest/whatever heard about it and send a crew to the site, let's say 5-10 persons. They found some molten glass and a strange metal stone, that is like bronze but has a weird color.
They share the story for generations, if you are lucky someone they wrote an inform for the pharaoh. Everyone think they are nuts, but a they have this weird stone.
Wait a few centuries, and repeat this a few times, and now you have a collection of weird stones and/or the weapons/tools made with them, and they share a similar story. So the story is not long so weird.
Anyway, the knife made with the stone is better than the usual knives, and it has a nice story, so someone send it to the pharaoh.
All of that is pure speculation on my part, but it'd be really interesting to find out how far off my guess is.
The Viking swords in question were early examples of steel of some surprising quality. Iron technologies had existed for 1000 years at that point around Europe.