Iron before the Iron Age

Just a short note to share with you one of the many wonders I stumbled upon at the British Museum yesterday.  This is an Inuit Lance Head, displayed in the Enlightenment Gallery (in the King’s Library). It was collected in Greenland in 1811 by John Ross while searching for the North West Passage.

Inuit meteorite-tipped spear (British Museum Enlightenment Gallery)

What’s significant about this is the metal tip, which is formed not from man-made iron or steel, but from meteorite material that dropped from the sky.  The whole story is here in more detail at the British Museum website.

I hadn’t thought about this rather obvious application, so the piece was doubly impressive and, while the lance tip is relatively young, much earlier examples have been found around the world that pre-date iron-making technology.  The rarity of the source ensured knives and other objects fashioned from meteorites carried special value and were likely reserved for ceremonial use.

If you fancy one of these, the modern equivalent is still being made today.

Modern meteorite knife
Modern meteorite knife (Credit: