Siena Meteorite — Complete Slice of the First Scientifically Accredited Rock from Space
Lot 32
Siena Meteorite — Complete Slice of the First Scientifically Accredited Rock from Space
Sold for US$ 1,314 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Siena Meteorite — Complete Slice of the First Scientifically Accredited Rock from Space
LL5
Tuscany, Italy


This is a superlative complete slice of the meteorite responsible for the science of meteoritics. It was the Siena meteorite shower of June 16, 1794 that provided conclusive proof to scholars in the Age of Enlightenment that rocks do indeed fall from the sky. Up to this point in time, such events were simply denied, explained away, or never fell into the embrace of science (see lot 1). Siena was the first meteorite event to occur near a highly populated European city, and as a result, the first to be extensively witnessed. Curiously, adding to the plausibility for the foregoing was that not all of the observers were Italian, and English visitors corroborated an account which told of a dark cloud from which sparks and bolts of red lightning emanated just prior to a deafening explosion and rocks raining from the heavens. Siena was the first meteorite fall to be thoroughly investigated by academics, and it rocked the claim that stones could not fall from the sky.

Among the decisive reports was that from James Smithson, an Englishman who never visited the U.S. but whose bequest led to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithson happened to be in Florence and immediately traveled to Siena upon hearing of the phenomenon. Smithson extensively interviewed local residents and reported the same to Henry Cavendish, the British scientist who discovered hydrogen. When subsequent meteorite falls were reported, such testimony was treated in Europe with less skepticism—except in France, where a number of highly regarded scientists remained unconvinced (see lot 8).

With a complete rim of fusion crust and loaded with chondrules and flakes of nickel-iron, this select specimen from Tuscany will forever be among the most historic meteorites. Provenance: The Natural History Museum (the former British Museum of Natural History).
22 x 28 x 4mm (1.0 x 1.0 x 0.2in) and 3.99 grams
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