Space Rock Sold! 4.5-Billion-Year-Old Meteorite is the Oldest Item Ever Sold on Earth
A 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite is one of the oldest of its kind in the world and a chunk of this space rock has now become the oldest item ever sold in an auction. But its purchaser is not the first one to be enthralled by a rock from space.
The meteorite cost approximately $18,900. That may seem like a hefty sum, but Sputnik reports the price per gram of the most expensive meteorites can be 40 times more than gold – meteorites are often considered a good investment.
This meteorite is the oldest item to have ever been bought in an auction. (Catawiki)
According to the online auction site Catawiki, the iron meteorite sold in the auction is “exceptionally large” as it weighs 26.5 kg (58 lb.) They claim that its size is “an ideal weight for collection and also offers wide sides for slicing.”
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Full slice (across 9.6 cm) of the Muonionalusta meteorite, showing the Widmanstätten pattern. (R. Tanaka/CC BY SA 2.0)
RT reports that Catawiki had hoped the meteorite would return to its homeland of Sweden, but it was sold by a person in Spain to an individual in Hungary. As Claes Hain of Catawiki told the Swedish newspaper Norra Skane, “Of course, it would have been fun if the meteorite came back to Sweden, but bearing in mind that the seller was in Spain, the stone still comes a bit closer to its native origin.”
In reality, it is perhaps marginally closer to its native origin, but that is unverifiable, as (of course) it came from outer space with its final formation happening as it seared through Earth’s atmosphere and collided with that much larger rock, all in the unimaginably distant past.
The meteorite was found in 1906 in the Muonio River, outside the village of Kitkiöjärvi in the Pajala municipality of Sweden. It’s called Muonionalusta after the location it was found. Although the Muonionalusta is making headlines now, it isn’t the only meteorite to be found in Sweden. In fact, it has been estimated that the country is hit by a meteorite almost every two years!
Only about 40 pieces of Muonionalusta have been discovered, many of which have ended up in museums. For example, geological museums in Moscow, Vienna, Berlin, and Chicago all have pieces of this meteorite.
The Muonionalusta meteorite on exhibition in the entrance hall of the National Museum in Prague, Czech Republic, in April 2010. (Public Domain)
Humans have been fascinated by meteorites for a long time. As Timothy McCoy from the National Museum of Natural History told IBTimes UK, “Meteorites have a long history of use by humans, reaching back at least 5,000 years including to make knives, hammer stones, beads, adzes (axes), and, among more recent objects, a camel charm.”
Many cultures viewed the fallen meteorites they encountered as artifacts that held special significance. Meteorites were elevated as religious icons, talismans, and objects of power. One example of this can be found in jewelry created by ancient Egyptians. Meteorites were so valued by that civilization that the famous pharaoh Tutankhamun even had artifacts such as a dagger made from the material.
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Tutankhamun’s meteorite dagger. (Zeinab Mohamed/CC BY NC SA 2.0)
The Hopewell culture also made meteorite jewelry, as shown by 22 beads made of this material found in 1945 in Illinois, USA. And an example of meteorite in a religious setting is the Ka'aba Black Stone, which many Muslims believe holds supernatural powers. The Black Stone is so important that Muslims try to kiss it and Non-Muslims are strictly forbidden from touching it. Most of the year the Ka’aba is covered in black cloth. As Ancient Origins previously reported,
“Muslims also believe that the Kaaba stone was once part of the stones of heaven. There are various versions of its story of origin, all similar to one the another. When Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden, he was filled with sin. The Black Stone was given to him to erase this sin and allow him entrance back into heaven. Some instead believe the ancient stone was brought from a nearby mountain by the archangel Gabriel.”
The Ka'aba Stone with the black stone corner facing. (Al-fouqarah)