Sunday, 28 February 2021

King Tut's jewels made of desert glass

In 1922 Howard Carter was searching the tomb of Tutankhamun and found a large breastplate, decorated with gold, silver, various precious jewels and a strange gemstone. Carter identified it as chalcedony, a common variety of quartz.

Ten years later pieces of glass were found in the Libyan Desert along the border of modern Egypt. The pale yellow and translucent material was identical to that found in Tutankhamun's tomb.
Libyan Desert glass (LDG), is an impactite with fragments found over areas of tens of square kilometers.
Tektites are natural glass formed from terrestrial debris ejected high into Earth's atmosphere during meteorite impacts. LDG is almost pure silicon-dioxide, like quartz, but its crystal structure is different. It also contains in traces an unusual combination of elements, like iron, nickel, chromium, cobalt and iridium.
It's thought LDG formed 28 to 26 million years ago when an impact melted the quartz-rich sands of the desert.