Beads made from meteorite reveal prehistoric culture’s reach

May 16, 2017

By Traci Watson

Blackened and irregular, the prehistoric beads found in a centuries-old Illinois grave don’t look like anything special. But the latest analysis1 shows that they were fashioned from an exotic material: the shards of a meteorite that fell to Earth more than 700 kilometres from where the beads were found.

The link between the Anoka meteorite, which landed in central Minnesota, and the Illinois beads confirms that “2,000 years ago, goods and ideas were moved hundreds of miles across eastern North America”, says Timothy McCoy, co-author of the analysis and curator-in-charge of meteorites at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

The beads were made by people of the Hopewell culture, which flourished in the US Midwest from 100 bc to 400 ad — spreading from its epicentre in Ohio to as far as Mississippi. The culture is known for sprawling ceremonial earthworks and for objects made of non-local materials such as mica. The iron beads were discovered in 1945 in a Hopewell grave near Havana, Illinois, alongside more than 1,000 shell and pearl beads. Together, they indicate that the grave’s occupant was of high rank, says archaeologist Bret Ruby of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio, who was not involved with the analysis. “You’ve got to open a lot of clams to find 1,000 pearl beads.”

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2 comments on “Beads made from meteorite reveal prehistoric culture’s reach

  • @OP – The link between the Anoka meteorite, which landed in central Minnesota, and the Illinois beads confirms that “2,000 years ago, goods and ideas were moved hundreds of miles across eastern North America”,

    Meteorite material has been used and traded by humans on many continents for a very long time!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-36432635

    A dagger entombed alongside the mummy of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was made with iron that came from a meteorite, researchers say.

    The weapon was one of a pair of daggers discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1925 within the burial wrappings of the teenaged king.

    The origin of its unrusted iron blade has baffled scientists because such metalwork was rare in ancient Egypt.

    Tutankhamun was mummified more than 3,300 years ago.

    Italian and Egyptian researchers used “a non-invasive X-ray technique” to confirm the composition of the iron without damaging it, according to a study published in the journal of Meteoritics and Planetary Science.



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  • Its easy to get the impression that goods were transported directly over 100s of miles . Forgetting that they could have been traded slowly over years from community to community.



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