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EGYPTOLOGY, THIS TIME WITH HIGH TECH

WHEN I MENTIONED EGYPTOLOGY as the topic of yesterday’s SimanaitisSays, Daughter Suz said, “Oh, you mean that thing about King Tut’s meteorite?” Then the postman delivered Wife Dottie’s latest BBC History Magazine—with Tutankhamun on the cover.

Is SimanaitisSays timely, or what?

Here are today’s tidbits on yet more Egyptology.

Tutankhamun, Kid Pharaoh. In “Tutankhamun Unmasked,” BBC History, Vol. 20, No. 12, Professor Joann Fletcher of Britain’s University of York offers “seven intriguing truths about the pharaoh and his legendary treasures.”

Tutankhamun, you’ll recall from yesterday’s SimanaitisSays, succeeded his father Akhenaten after the latter’s subjects, courtiers, and priests tired of 17 years’ worshiping a single god, the Sun. Tut was a kid of eight or nine at the time, but wise enough to convert Egyptians back to polytheism.

One of Professor Fletcher’s tidbits is that Tut was hardly unique in being a kid pharaoh. Other youthful Egyptian pharaohs include Tuthmosis III, age two, and Ptolemy V (of Rosetta Stone fame and a Cleopatra antecedent), age five.

Typically, an Egyptian queen would serve as regent for a young pharaoh. This and the following image from BBC History, Vol. 20, No. 12.

Tut’s Successive GPRs. Ground-penetrating radar played a role in a rumor about secret chambers in King Tut’s tomb. The burial chamber, a tourist attraction since the 1920s, was deteriorating because of humidity, dust, and microbacteria. High-resolution 3D laser scanning was used to produce a facsimile chamber to the exact dimensions of the original.

Fletcher writes, “When the scan data was published in 2014, it revealed faint traces of what appeared to be two doorways on the north and west walls of the burial chamber.”

Were these entries to hidden chambers?

Fletcher continues, “The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities commissioned further investigations using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to detect any hidden voids, declaring they were ‘90 percent sure’ that further chambers did indeed exist.”

A second GPR scan was performed by engineers from the National Geographic Society in 2016. It “found no such hidden features,” Fletcher says, “meaning that archaeologists proceeded to argue among themselves as the world media continued to speculate.”

Engineers conduct a GPR scan of a suspected doorway in the King Tut tomb north wall.

A third set of GPR scans was performed in 2018. This one cross-checked previous studies. Fletcher says, “They concluded ‘with a very high level of confidence’ that ‘the existence of hidden chambers… was not supported by the GPR data.’ ”

Done deal? Says Fletcher, “that is, at least, until the next scans are undertaken.”

Tut’s Meteorological Pectoral. As described in Cosmos Magazine, May 24, 2019, “Mystery of Libyan Desert Glass Solved At Last,” geologist Aaron Cavosie of Australia’s Curtin University writes, “In the remote desert of western Egypt, near the Libyan border, lie clues to an ancient cosmic cataclysm.”

Libyan desert glass in its natural condition, formed about 29 millions years ago. Image by Linnas/Shutterstock in Cosmos Magazine.

“Among items recovered from King Tut’s burial chamber,” Cavosie says, “is a gold and jewel-encrusted breastplate. In the centre sits a beautiful scarab beetle, carved from Libyan desert glass.”

This King Tut pectoral has a scarab beetle carved from Libyan desert glass. Image from space.com

Libyan Desert Glass Formation. The material, Cavosie notes, “is nearly pure silica, which requires temperatures above 1600 degrees Celsius to form, and that is hotter than any igneous rock on Earth…. Ideas about how the glass formed include melting during meteorite impact, or melting caused by an airburst from an asteroid or other object burning up high in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Cavosie and his colleague Christian Koeberl offer evidence that Libyan desert glass is the product of a meteorite impact, not an airburst. Their paper, published in Geology, July 2019, notes that shock waves of a meteor’s impact are on the order of a million times greater than those attributable to airbursts.

Libyan desert glass, the researchers observe, contains grains of zircon uniquely formed under such high pressures from reidite, an extremely rare mineral associated with meteor impacts.

So King Tut’s pectoral scarab owes its existence to an extraterrestrial visitor. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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