Egyptian Museum, Cairo

An iron dagger, its blade believed to be made of meteoritic iron, and its gold scabbard are just two of the many magnificent items buried with Pharaoh Tutankhamen, about 1331 B.C. Also recovered from that royal tomb were a gold dagger and sheath (pictured in Does the Bible Exaggerate King Solomon’s Golden Wealth? BAR 15:03), but it is the iron dagger—the only one known from the Bronze Age—that is considered the greater rarity. When the treasures of Tutankhamen toured the world, the gold dagger was a part of the exhibition; the Egyptian government refused, however, to allow the precious iron dagger out of Cairo.

“The haft of the dagger,” wrote Howard Carter, the excavator of the tomb, in 1922, “is of granulated gold, embellished at intervals with collars of Cloisonnè work of colored rock crystal; but the astonishig and unique feature of this beautiful weapon is that the blade is of an iron still bright and resembling steel!”

The Hittite king Hattusilis III (1289–1265 B.C.) may well have used a similar looking iron dagger to establish good intentions with another ruler, possibly the king of Assyria. Hattusilis had received a request for iron from the other monarch, but the amount requested was not available at the time. The dagger was sent as a good-will gesture instead—a telling indication of its great worth.