Using “X-Ray Florescence Spectrometer” analysis of various Bronze Age artifacts, researchers have determined that the iron within them had to have come from space. On Earth, a lot of the nickel ore is buried very very deep as it sank closer to the core while the planet cooled, so extraterrestrial iron contains significantly more nickel than we might otherwise expect. And since humans would not develop smelting techniques hot enough to produce our own iron for another 2,000 years, finding a pre-smelted chuck of meteor would have been a great find for a smith of that age. They used those fortuitous finds to forge jewelry, tools and weapons including a dagger found in the tomb of King Tutenkhamen, shown above. you can read the full academic paper Bronze Age Iron: Meteoric Or Not? A Chemical Strategy in the Journal of Archeological Science though it requires a subscription, but check out Science Alert for a deeper dive.
We have a general rule of thumb: if a headline ends in a question mark (?), the answer is almost always “NO”. This is no exception but is one of the times where a better answer is “probably not, but maybe”! In a recent paper, Ioannis Liritzis, an archaeologist at the University of the Aegean, along with his co-authors examined the writings of Plutarch to discern the meaning behind one of the tales. In it, a character talks of a grand adventure from which he’d recently returned. He describes it as a long voyage to a distant “great continent” which travelers would make the trip roughly every 30 years, when the planet Saturn appeared in the constellation Taurus. Using this and other context clues, Liritz’s team examined solar eclipse records to ballpark date such a voyage to 56CE and they examine a number of possible explanations for how and why these sailors might have made such a journey. In the end, the conclusion is that it’s certainly possible but not altogether probable given the lack of archeological and metallurgical evidence. But the entire theory is a fascinating read that explores the potential fora while chapter of unknown historical exploration.
Mary Blagg started the effort to standardize astronomical feature names in the early 1900s and today, the work is carried on by Tenille Gaither and Rosalyn Hayward of the USGS. Together, they manage the database incredibly known as the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. The article is a great read about the history of naming features beyond Earth and the people who have kept everyone in sync. and then check out the Gazeteer’s website where you can browse all the named features, some of which feature great imagery like Pantheon Fossae on Mercury, the Baphyras Catena of Mars or a full maps of Uranian moons.
National Geographic has been publishing in-depth coverage of explorers, scientists, adventurers and more for 130 years. My collection only stretches back to the late 90’s but this short time lapse video takes you all the way back to 1888 and warps through a showcase of every cover they’ve printed right up to January 2018, interspersed with profiles of the magazine’s biggest stories.