Tutankhamun’s Scarab Brooch: The Origins of Ancient Glass


The captivating narrative behind the origin of a component in Tutankhamun’s scarab brooch has taken a remarkable leap forward this week. Extensive research has revealed that certain materials within the brooch are the result of a cosmic event that transpired an astounding 28 million years ago. This extraordinary incident involves an ancient comet hurtling through space, colliding with Earth, and yielding a crucial component that would eventually grace King Tut’s brooch. However, the manner in which this event forged the unique glass remains a subject of debate. In this article, we will delve into the enthralling story of this ancient artifact’s origins and the recent scientific breakthroughs that are shedding light on its creation.

Unveiling the Unassuming Artifact

Tutankhamun's Scarab Brooch
Evidence of an ancient comet colliding with Earth found in Tutankhamun’s brooch.

Amid the array of treasures found within Tutankhamun’s tomb, a modest yet intriguing artifact emerged – a scarab brooch. In the shadow of weightier items, this unassuming piece conceals a deeper story than initially apparent. Immaculately preserved, the brooch boasts an astonishing history that was uncovered through meticulous research spanning various disciplines. At the heart of this artifact lies a striking yellow-brown scarab, crafted from a silica glass stone sourced from the Sahara sands. The stone was meticulously shaped and polished by the skilled hands of an ancient Egyptian artisan. However, it’s the scarab’s journey through time that truly captivates.

The Cosmic Creation

Tutankhamun's Scarab Brooch
Photo of Comet Hale-Bopp captured near Pazin in Istria, Croatia. ( SOURCE )

Chemical analysis has unraveled the origins of the silica glass within the brooch. A staggering 28 million years ago, a comet entered Earth’s atmosphere above Egypt. This celestial visitor subjected the desert sand beneath it to temperatures reaching a scorching 2,000 degrees Celsius. The result? The formation of an immense quantity of yellow silica glass, scattered across a vast expanse of 6,000 square kilometers within the Sahara Desert.

A Breakthrough Discovery

In 2017, a pivotal discovery was made – the silica glass within the brooch held vital clues. Professor Jan Kramers from the University of Johannesburg, along with fellow researchers, uncovered a small black diamond-bearing pebble named ‘Hypatia’. This extraordinary find provided the necessary evidence to decipher the cataclysmic event that shaped the desert landscape. Tiny diamonds within the pebble, formed under extreme pressure typically found deep within the Earth’s crust, signified a monumental shock event. This pebble represented the first-known example of a comet nucleus, solidifying the evidence of a comet’s impact on Earth millions of years ago.

The Glass-Creation Debate

Despite these groundbreaking discoveries, the method by which the cataclysmic event fashioned the glass remained a topic of contention. The question lingered – was it a direct comet strike or a near miss that led to the glass’s creation?

Recent research from Curtin University, as conveyed in a press release, addressed this debate. Dr. Cavosie, from the Space Science and Technology Centre, emphasized that the ongoing discourse revolved around whether the glass was formed during a meteorite impact or an airburst, an explosion of Near Earth Objects in the atmosphere. The research team’s findings, documented in the Geology journal, unequivocally dismiss the airburst theory. The glass’s composition, containing the rare mineral reidite, could only be born from the force of a colossal impact – millions of times more potent than an airburst.

Unlocking Cosmic Secrets

Live Science reported that while airbursts generate shockwaves in the air of thousands of pascals, asteroid impacts result in shockwaves of billions of pascals on the ground. What’s more, prior to this discovery, comet material had only been found on Earth in microscopic dust particles in the upper atmosphere and Antarctic ice. The breakthrough by Kramers and her team offers a groundbreaking approach to studying this celestial matter without the need to voyage into space.

The Significance of the Findings

The significance of this research cannot be overstated. Professor David Block of Wits University, a prominent member of the Kramer team, emphasized that comets hold the key to unraveling the secrets behind our solar system’s formation. This unprecedented discovery offers an unparalleled opportunity to study comet material firsthand, opening new doors to understanding the universe’s creation.


The awe-inspiring journey of Tutankhamun’s scarab brooch, forged through an ancient cosmic collision, has captivated the imagination of both historians and scientists. From the formation of silica glass in the wake of an incomprehensibly ancient comet to the resolution of the debate surrounding its creation, this artifact carries within it the story of Earth’s profound encounters with the cosmos. This discovery not only adds to the allure of ancient Egyptian artifacts but also contributes invaluable insights into the formation of our very own solar system.

What is the significance of the scarab brooch in Tutankhamun’s tomb?

The scarab brooch holds a cosmic secret, as its glass component was created by an ancient comet’s impact on Earth.

How old is the silica glass within the brooch?

The silica glass dates back 28 million years, formed by the heat of a comet colliding with Earth.

What breakthrough discovery led to the understanding of the cosmic event?

The finding of a small black diamond-bearing pebble named ‘Hypatia’ provided crucial evidence for deciphering the cataclysmic event’s details.

What resolved the debate about the glass’s creation?

Recent research involving rare mineral reidite confirmed that an impact, rather than an airburst, was responsible for creating the glass.

Why is studying comet material important?

Comets hold secrets about the formation of our solar system, and this discovery offers a unique opportunity to study this material firsthand.

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