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Archaeologists and researchers at the Natural History Museum of Bern have discovered a fascinating artifact, which has not only shed light on ancient European metallurgy practices but also highlighted the widespread trade routes in place during that time. The finding comprises a meteoritic iron arrowhead, dated between 900-800 BC and uncovered near the shores of Lake Biel in Switzerland.

Significance of the Arrowhead Discovery

This unique discovery provides evidence that meteoritic iron was traded as early as 800 BC or before, a fact that had not been recognized until now. The use of meteoritic iron in that age is considered rare, given that humans had not yet started smelting iron from oxide ores; the presence of such metallic iron was generally confined to meteorite impact fields.

Few examples of objects made from meteoritic iron have been found across other countries such as Turkey and Greece. It is even rarer for these artifacts to be discovered at central and western European sites, further highlighting the historical importance of this find.

Meteorite Provenance: Local vs Distant Sources

Initial beliefs placed the source of the meteoritic iron used in creating the arrowhead as being derived from a nearby Twannberg meteorite. However, recent studies suggest that the true origin of the material could potentially be from another meteorite that impacted Kaalijarv, Estonia around 1500 BC. This meteorite produced several small fragments that likely traveled southwest of Europe through established trade networks, ultimately reaching what is now modern-day Switzerland.

The Role of Pile-Dwelling Societies in Early Europe

Most people residing in Bronze Age pile-dwelling villages during this period focused on agriculture and fishing activities. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that some individuals within these societies developed specialized skills in metalworking, as indicated by the presence of molds for casting bronze found at the Mörigen site.

These specialized craftsmen played a pivotal role in shaping early European economies through their advanced metallurgical knowledge, and the importation of exotic raw materials such as meteoritic iron reinforces this idea.

Implications for our Understanding of Ancient Civilizations

The discovery of the meteoritic iron arrowhead near Lake Biel offers an incredible insight into ancient European life and metallurgy practices, while also shedding light on the extent of trade networks operating during the era.

  • Metalworking Skills: Despite most ancient Europeans focusing on agriculture and fishing, some individuals were able to harness advanced metallurgical techniques. This allowed them to work with innovative materials such as meteoritic iron and create unique objects like the unearthed arrowhead.
  • Ancient Trade Networks: The existence of a meteoritic iron arrowhead made from materials sourced from Estonia’s Kaalijarv meteorite suggests that extensive trade networks were already in place across the region. These routes enabled the mobility of highly sought-after commodities between regions over vast distances.
  • Early Metallurgy Practices: While humanity had not yet begun smelting iron from oxide ores back then, it is evident that ancient people knew about and valued meteoritic iron. This precious resource must have been perceived as extremely scarce, and its usage in an arrowhead showcases just how important this metallic substance was to early European civilizations.

Future Research Possibilities

This remarkable archaeological find has opened up numerous avenues for future research and exploration. Researchers can now prioritize the investigation of other potential meteorite impact sites and their influence on ancient trade networks while continuing to excavate the Mörigen site for more evidence of metalworking practices.

Ultimately, the discovery of this 3,000-year-old meteoritic iron arrowhead has forever changed our understanding of ancient European societies, proving that their knowledge went beyond agriculture and fishing. The high degree of specialized skills and advanced metallurgical techniques utilized during this time is a testament to how early Europeans were capable of shaping their world with impressive precision.


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