After taking a new look at a pair of ancient cobalt beads, archaeologists now believe these Bronze Age artifacts may have been manufactured in the same workshop as the blue glass on King Tut’s death mask.
If that’s the case, an extensive trade network likely ran from ancient Denmark to Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3,400 years ago, the researchers say.
For the research, an international team of Danish and French archaeologists used a technique called plasma-mass spectrometry to analyze the chemical composition of 23 glass beads dating back to between 1400 and 1100 B.C. The set of beads was unearthed from Danish graves in the late 19th century.
The analysis revealed that two cobalt beads in the set contained the same trace elements as glass made in Egypt around the same time, which suggests they came from the same region. In fact, the researchers say the new discovery is the first Egyptian cobalt glass that has been found outside the Mediterranean area.
A grave excavated in 1880. Next to the woman's left arm was a blue glass bead (from Egypt), two amber beads, and two small bronze spirals.
According to Jeanette Varberg, curator at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark who participated in the research, it’s “highly probable” the beads came from the same workshop as the death mask’s glass. But until researchers conduct a similar "chemical analysis of the glass in the mask we cannot be absolutely sure,” she told The Huffington Post in an email.
Regardless of the beads' connection to King Tut, Varberg said the discovery reveals new information about ancient trade routes.
“It is a significant research result with broad impact on history that will change our perceptions of how far the commodities of Egypt and Mesopotamia travelled in the 2nd millennium B.C.,” Varberg said in the email. “The movement of people, trade goods and initial ideas were much more essential in the past than we thought.”
The research was published in the October issue of the Danish journal SKALK.