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Meteoritic Iron: Meteorites in Art and History

meteorite knife blade

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METEORITES IN ART AND ANCIENT HISTORY

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Iron meteorites are some of the most recognizable space rocks. They stand out because of their size and surface features, but also because they look closest to what one might expect a rock from outer space would look like. Imagine the journey an iron meteorite takes to get to Earth’s surface, originating in the molten cores of ancient asteroids that once orbited the sun between Mars and Jupiter. These asteroids would eventually collide with other asteroids or planetary bodies and were torn apart, their pieces flung far and wide across the solar system.

Some of those pieces ended up in our atmosphere; they were superheated to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit at speeds of up to 100,000 miles per hour, melting to form the beautiful, sculptural indentations we call regmaglypts. Inside, these meteorites form fantastic geometric structures called Widmanstätten Patterns, from cooling very gradually over millions of years. 

Iron Meteorites in Ancient History

These dazzling rocks have been falling to Earth for millions of years. In ancient times, early humans worshipped these strange rocks that fell from the sky as divine beings or gifts from the heavens. There are recorded events throughout the ancient history of stones falling from the sky. Ancient Greeks even had a term for it; diopetes, meaning “falling from heaven.”

In addition, ancient peoples also used iron from meteorites – meteoritic iron – to craft tools and weapons. Not only is this fact supported by analysis of ancient artifacts, but the name for “iron” in ancient languages is evidence of their celestial origin. For example, the Sumerian name for iron was “an-bar,” which meant “fire from heaven.” Similarly, its Egyptian name was bia-en-pet, which loosely translated means “thunderbolt from heaven.”

Gold, Silver, and Meteorites

Precious metals from heaven also include gold and silver, famously used in ancient times as currency and for worship. Gold is believed to be a product of supernova nucleosynthesis, which occurs when supernovas explode. How, then, did gold arrive on Earth? According to one theory, the majority of gold that was present in Earth’s infancy sank into its core and the gold found on its surface arrived there by asteroid impacts. For example, the asteroid that created the famed Vredefort crater is thought to have resulted in one of the richest gold deposits on Earth. 

Similar to gold and silver, meteoritic iron has been used to forge not only weapons but also pieces of art. For example, a Buddhist sculpture dubbed the “iron man” that came out of Tibet was likely created from the Chinga meteorite, which was found in Russia. Other examples of art created from meteorites in the ancient world include a bead found in Egypt, a pendant found in Syria, and perhaps most famously various items, including a bracelet and headrest, found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. 

Contemporary Meteorite Art

While most iron meteorites today are used for academic study on planetary science, on display in museums, or sold into private collections, a few special meteorites are made into art by talented craftspeople. Few possess the skill and knowledge needed to manipulate meteorite iron without compromising the features that make them recognizable and unique.

For example, the knives in our Ice Age Series are crafted from the Muonionalusta meteorite – scientists believe this meteorite pre-dates at least one ice age – which is known for its exquisite Widmanstätten pattern. The blades of these knives have been fashioned from this meteorite as to proudly display this pattern, of which no two are alike.

meteorite knife blade

View the rest of the knives in the Ice-Age Series here.  These knives are handmade in the United States have been crafted with painstaking care. These knives also feature other rare and ancient materials, like dinosaur gembone, mammoth tusk, and shattuckite. These works of art are truly echoes of Earth’s primordial past.

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Rumuruti Meteorites: Chondrites That Are Anything But Ordinary

rumuruti meteorite chondrite

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Rumuruti Has It…
Chondrites that are anything but ordinary

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Rumuruti-type meteorites take their name from a 1934 witnessed fall; on January 28, a bright light and loud explosion were observed by locals at around 10:43pm. The shower of stones occurred over ¾ of a mile. The samples collected by academics were tested and determined to be chondrites, though they don’t belong to any of the major chondrite classes. They are the first and only documented R chondrite, making them incredibly rare.

Where do rumuruti meteorites come from?

Scientists believe these meteorites may have come from the parent asteroid’s regolith, which refers to the blanket of loose deposits that sit over solid rocks. As such, they have a dusty matrix that cements together fragments of broken rock and mineral inclusions. Though the exact age of this material has yet to be determined, researchers believe the collision event may have occurred somewhere between 15 and 25 million years ago.

To that end, meteorites that fall under this class of chondrites are quite rare and offer a lot to collectors and scientists. For collectors, slices of rumuruti meteorites, like Northwest Africa 11304, are unique and introduce variety to an existing collection; these slices have fabulous interiors, with brightly-colored chondrules.

Scientific Value of Rumuruti Metoerites

On the other hand, for scientists, the introduction of a new meteorite class offers new opportunities to reconsider what other meteorites are classified as, like the LaPaz Icefield 04840 meteorite. For academics, rumuruti chondrites are valuable because they contain a new kind of “building block” called sulfide chondrules that are leftover from the dawn of the solar system. These sulfur-rich chondrules contain data on a mysterious area in the “protoplanetary disk,” from which the planets in our solar system came.

Further understanding of this region and how gases were distributed in the early solar system is key to the study of so-called primitive bodies and will affect plans for future exploration. Missions like OSIRIS-REx aim to further these goals.

To view our available stock of rumuruti meteorites, click here!

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