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Historic Archive Tells Dark Story Of Death By Meteorite

Historic Archive Tells Dark Story Of Death By Meteorite

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Researchers have unearthed the only historically documented case of people being struck by a meteorite.

Tales of meteorites falling to Earth are carved on prehistoric stones and featured in the Bible, for example, in Revelation 6:13, when we read “the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale”. But now, the first documented case of a space rock killing someone has been discovered by Turkish researchers, when on August 22, 1888 a meteorite killed a man and paralyzed another when it crashed into a pyramidal-hilltop in what is now Sulaymaniyah in Iraq.

The new research has been published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science detailing three letters found in the General Directorate of State Archives of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, that had been written by regional local authorities shortly after the catastrophic occurrence. The paper says the meteorite was one of several that fell during a 10 minute interval and a reported “fireball in the sky” over nearby settlements suggests the object approached from the southeast before it exploded high in the atmosphere.

Path of the ancient meteorite. (Meteoritics and Planetary Science)

Extraterrestrial Meteorite Attacks

Since 1988, according to NASA’s fireball database, at least 822 meteorites have exploded in Earth’s atmosphere and according to Cosmos Magazine up to “17 meteors collide with Earth's surface every day,” which would lead one to expect many more records of death by meteorite. Why then, is this the first such record ever discovered?

According to a 1951 Harvard University paper published in Popular Astronomy, historical evidence of meteor strikes is thin because of the lack of material evidence supporting claims that the missiles involved in the accidents were indeed genuinely meteoric, and not something else. Adding to this doubt is “the impossibility” of subjecting the survivors or eyewitnesses, who saw these sometimes sensational events, to interviews.

According to Science Magazine it is for these reasons records of people being killed by meteorites are “vanishingly rare” and the only generally accepted confirmed victim of a meteorite strike appears in a 1954 account of one Ann Hodges, who while napping on her couch was struck on the hip after a space rock crashed through her roof. The rock was later tested and confirmed as being of extraterrestrial origins.

A slice of the meteorite that struck Ann Hodges. (Basilicofresco / CC BY-SA 2.0)

A slice of the meteorite that struck Ann Hodges. (Basilicofresco / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Documented Fire Balls, Flaming Rain And Shockwaves

No such rock exists for the 1888 Iraq report but the researchers say the archival documents, that had only been recently transferred to a digital archive, are “extremely convincing” and because they had been written in a difficult-to-translate Ottoman Turkish language they had until now evaded understanding.

The researchers wrote in their paper that on August 10 th at about 8:30 pm “a large fireball was seen in the sky” and for about 10 minutes fire fell “like rain” over a small village resulting in “the death of one unnamed man and the paralytic injury of another”. Further supporting the actuality of this event, reports of damage to crops are “consistent with a fireball shockwave,” say the researchers.

Ancient records about the meteorite describe a large fireball in the sky. (Tryfonov / Adobe Stock)

Ancient records about the meteorite describe a large fireball in the sky. (Tryfonov / Adobe Stock)

Based on the accounts from villages, over which the fireball was seen, the researchers believe the meteorite traveled from the southeast before exploding in the atmosphere sending thousands of burning pieces of rock towards their destiny on the pyramid-shaped hill in Sulaymaniyah.

Historic Meteorites Hiding In Archives?

The team believes that a reply from the sultan may also be lost in the archived documents yet to be digitized and organized. They also think there are documents, already in the digital archives, that have not been examined which might also be directly related to this event.

In conclusion, the researchers told Science Mag that their find is an interesting one because it not only “highlights a large gap in our knowledge,” abut also a lack of work on historical documents in languages other than English. In order to overcome such difficulties, “a great deal of work and interdisciplinary collaborations with historians, librarians, and translators” is not so much required, as is an “obligation” say the team of scientists.

Researchers state there may be other historical texts that have more information about the ancient meteorite. (torange.boz / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Researchers state there may be other historical texts that have more information about the ancient meteorite. (torange.boz / CC BY-SA 4.0)

According to the researchers, these three letters represent the first-ever known proof of “death by meteorite strike” and their very existence hints that there might be many more similar records hiding in archives, waiting to be discovered, telling of End of Days events caused by “falling stars of the sky”.

Top image: Representation of a meteorite hitting a person. Source: GIS / Adobe Stock.

By Ashley Cowie



Hi Mr. Cowie,

Great article.

That's intriguing, I always thought that people, were killed by falling meteorites on an occasion not a once in while type of scenario. The records in Turkey 1888?

What is it with the 1880's? Over in Indonesia, 1883, Krakota, erupted and is heard almost all over The World, followed by the destructive tidal waves that follow in it's wake.

So Turkey gets struck with a meteorite in 1888.

That's odd your article on Turkey, reminds me of a documentary, that I saw in the 1990's, Mysteries of The Bible; the segment dealt with, Sodom and Gomorrah, an scientist theorized that an asteroid or an meteor was to blame for the twin cities destruction.

What your Article shows is how much destruction just
1 meteor can do in seconds. Again, great article Mr. Cowie.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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