A new study has brought forward strong evidence that a dagger buried with King Tutankhamun was hammered from iron that fell to Earth from space.
This news, published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science, is pretty awesome. It’s cool to think that ancient Egyptians were clever enough to seek out meteorites and make useful tools out of them, before they figured out how to smelt and forge iron from other sources. The downside of this discovery, however, is that it has bolstered a particular stripe of conspiracy theorists who were already convinced that King Tut himself was from outer space.
The basic outline of the conspiracy theory is this: Tutankhamun’s father, the pharaoh named Akhenaten, was part alien, part human. The evidence for this is that in depictions of the great king, he looks sort of weird, like he had an elongated sort of head. The only conclusion, the story goes, is aliens. Don’t we also sometimes think of extraterrestrials have having enlarged skulls? What other explanation could there be?
This theory plays into widespread theories about the connections between ancient Egypt and alien life, many tied to the construction of the pyramids. The conspiracies are sophisticated and compelling, borrowing from the language and form of science communication to turn skeptics into believers. When the History Channel produced a pseudoscience documentary-style series on the question, millions of viewers left the world of reason with little hope for return.
Although conspiracy theorists use borrow the language of science, their evidence almost always amounts to: This thing is cool and mysterious, therefore, aliens.
It’s the same flawed logic that leads others to insist that wonders of the universe must be the result of intelligent design.
Arguably, the version of history that we actually have evidence for is more awesome: 16,000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, people looked up to the skies, watched for shooting stars, and wondered what they were. Occasionally a rock would fall from the skies, and in the rubble there might be chunks of a sort of stone that could be hammered and molded into tools, stronger and sharper than those produced from any other material known to them.
These rocks that tumbled from the sky were rare and valuable, and the people below wondered if they might be gifts from gods above, or some other strange and wondrous treasure of the universe.