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Iron: “Metal of Heaven”

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Iron is the most-used metal on this planet. It is also the most common element on this planet. It forms much of the earth’s inner and outer core as well as its crust. Iron is a prevalent and necessary element for life on this planet, including human life. Ironically (no pun intended by use of this word), iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency known to humans. Iron deficiencies can cause anemia, slowed motor and mental function, slow physical growth and development in children, and premature births in pregnant mothers.

The prevalence of iron is not limited to Planet Earth. It is, in fact, the sixth most abundant element in the entire universe. Don’t ask me how they figured that out; but according to the Powers That Be, this is a scientifically proven fact.

The earliest archaeological evidence of man-made iron items go back over 6000 years. Iron tools and beaded jewelry daring back to 4000 BC have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians. Iron was also a preferred choice of metal for ancient weaponry.

Most interestingly, the first source of iron did not come from this planet. It came from outer space.

That’s right: it’s called meteoric iron. In fact, in spite of the abundance of iron on this planet, humans first worked meteoric iron before they ever realized that an abundance of more “locally grown” supplies was also available. In fact, because they observed the meteorites falling from the sky, the Egyptian name for iron is ba-na-pe, meaning “metal of heaven”.

Iron comes to our planet from the heavens in the form of highly recognizable meteorites. Iron meteorites are thought to be the fragments of the cores of larger ancient asteroids that have been shattered by impacts. Because iron meteorites are very distinctive and easy to recognize, they can be readily identified even if they are not a hugely abundant item on this planet. It would take humans quite a few more years before they realized that the same element which came down from the heavens already existed in significant, if less easily identifiable quantities all over Planet Earth.

The fact that the first iron used by humans came from the sky is accurately reflected in a number of well-known myths and legends. Probably the most famous of all is the tale of Excalibur’s brother sword, Clarent – more commonly known as the Sword in the Stone. According to this legend, a meteor, in the shape of a red dragon’s head, fell to earth, conveniently landing at the precise moment when Uther, Arthur’s father, was given command of an army after its last commander had fallen. A red dragon’s head also happens to be the symbol of Briton, which may help to explain why witnesses present thought it looked a lot like a dragon’s head. The meteor’s appearance was taken by Merlin as a sign that Uther’s destiny was to become King of All the Britons. Merlin had the meteoric metal forged into Clarent, the magic Sword in the Stone, and gave Uther the surname Pendragon, which is Welsh for “dragon’s head”.

Let’s not forget about Zeus’ thunderbolt, which was made by our good old friend Hephaestus (see last week’s blog article, “Hephaestus: the original Man of Steel”). Hephaestus made everything out of iron, including Zeus’ super-powered thunderbolt. Considering that Zeus’ power was attributed to come directly from the Heavens, meteoric iron would be the most fitting material for the earthly symbol of his power.

In the sense that our entire way of life would be threatened if not destroyed if we didn’t have iron, this humble and abundant metal really should be viewed as the most precious of all on this planet. And – who knows – based on its abundance throughout the known universe, maybe there’s some other intergalactic blogger out there who’s writing the same thing right now.

-Anja Wulf

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© C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc. 2011


C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc.