Ancient iron beads found in Illinois linked to meteorite

In 1945, archaeologists excavating a 2,000-year-old Native American burial site in Illinois made a peculiar discovery – 22 iron beads crafted from the shards of a meteorite.

Scientists have long struggled to pinpoint the exact source of the beads, but now, a new analysis has found strong evidence linking them the Anoka meteorite, which ‘fell as a shower of irons across the Mississippi River.’

The study revealed that the iron ornaments found alongside over 1,000 shell and pearl beads in Havana have nearly identical chemical composition to a fragment of the space rock, which fell more than 700 km (435 miles) away in Minnesota.

In 1945, archaeologists excavating a 2,000-year-old Native American burial site in Illinois made a peculiar discovery – 22 iron beads crafted from the shards of a meteorite. Beads are pictured alongside a 1-cm-wide cube for scale, above

HOPEWELL CULTURE 

The Hopewell culture was a Native American culture that thrived throughout eastern North America and the US Midwest during what’s known as the Middle Woodland period.

It flourished from roughly 200 BCE to 500 CE, and its influenced stretched all the way from Kansas to New York.

The Hopewell people inhabited areas along the rivers and streams, and were known for the elaborate crafts, from pottery and stonework to earthworks.

They had well developed trade routes, and often used non-local materials, including using copper sheet, silver and meteoric iron, and mica.

The beads were found in an ancient grave from the Hopewell culture – a group known for their elaborate earthworks and the use of non-local materials, according to Nature.

But, meteoric metal like the iron found in the Hopewell beads is the ‘most exotic raw material used during the Middle Woodland period in Eastern North America,’ the authors explain in the study, published to the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Though previous studies have dismissed Anoka as a possible source based on a fragment found in 1961, a new analysis on a second chunk of that same meteorite discovered in 1983 now offers a strong argument in favor of the Minnesota space rock.

Using mass spectroscopy to analyze the samples, researchers found several details linking the Hopewell beads to the Anoka meteorite.

Both the beads and the meteorite fragment, for example, contain micrometer-sized bits of iron enriched with nickel, according to Nature.

Using mass spectroscopy to analyze the samples, researchers found several details linking the Hopewell beads to the Anoka meteorite. A 26-cm-wide chunk of the space rock is pictured 

Meteoric metal like the iron found in the Hopewell beads is the ‘most exotic raw material used during the Middle Woodland period in Eastern North America,’ the authors explain in the study. One of the Havana beads is shown on left, compared to a fragment from the…

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