The Mystery of the 2,000-Year-Old Iron Beads

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Atlas Obscura

May 16, 2017

The mystery of the origin of 22 iron beads discovered in an earthen mound in 1945 has been solved. The adornments were found among more than 1,000 shell and pearl beads just south of Havana, Illinois, when the Illinois State Museum excavated a group of Native American mounds dating to around 2,000 years ago. The Hopewell culture that made the mounds didn’t have metallurgy, and analysis soon revealed that the beads’ structure is characteristic of iron that cools in the core of an asteroid. They clearly come from a meteorite, but there are just three known iron meteorites in North America, and none match the exact chemical composition in the beads. The Hopewells’ source, it was thought, is either exhausted or undiscovered.

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