[meteorite-list] THEORIES OF THE ORIGIN OF TEKTITES, Part One
From: Sterling K. Webb <sterling_k_webb_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sat Feb 18 01:49:46 2006
Got some requests to post my list of
Theories of Tektite Origins, so here it is,
in small digestible chunks. Anyone who
wants to add this to a meteorite website
is welcome to, if credit is given.
THEORIES OF THE ORIGIN OF TEKTITES
First, it should be noted that tektites have been recognized by human beings
as unique objects for millennia. Australian aboriginal peoples collected
them for their perceived spiritual qualities. There are European references
to moldavites going back to the fourteenth century. The terms in
Indomalaysian languages for tektites -- namely, moonballs, stardung, and
sunstones -- imply naive but correct theories as to their special origins.
(The Sumerians knew what meteorites were; the Sumerian word for meteoric
iron, the only kind they knew, means "star metal.")
Formal theories date from the point at which it becomes recognized that
tektites possess unique properties that require an explanation. I have
chosen to group them thematically rather than by strict chronology. My
personal count of tektite theories (38? 43?) is based on all the individual
scientists advancing theories, rather than the groupings of general
agreement listed below.
Our tour of The Museum of Tektite Origin Theories begins in the Colossally
Silly Entrance Hall.
1. Tektites are of artificial origin (that is, human products): Lindaker,
1792, suggested they were slags from furnaces and gas works, or possibly
from the burning of earth associated with them. Hillebrand, 1905 and later
Berwith, 1917, proposed that they were accidental glass artifacts later
discarded. Hillebrand, 1905, later revised this to the notion that they were
purposeful glass artifacts by "savage" man. de Groot, 1880, thought they
were tin slags. Never formalized but often mentioned, is the notion that
tektites are a product of some kind of natural fires (as in coal seams,
2. The Really Bad Geology Theories of Tektite Origins: Jensen, 1915:
Tektites form as concretations in limestones. Wing Easton, 1921 and Van
Ider, 1933: The desiccation of naturally occurring silica gels. There is
simply no basis in reality for these suppositions.
3. The Terrestrial Abrasion Theory of Merrill, 1911: Water worn, rolled,
abraded and shaped obsidian pebbles, and wind blown sand abraded obsidian
fragments, with unique shapes and textures from the gizzard wear of emus!
Clever, but only explains australities, as there are no emus in
Czechoslovakia, Africa, North America...
4. Lightning Theories: Gregory, 1912, and Chapman, 1929, 1933: The fusion of
dust in the atmosphere by lightning, "aerial" fulgarites. For a 20th Century
theory, this is surprisingly like the very ancient theories that meteorites
were aerially formed by lightning, i.e., "thunderstones." Fulgarite glass
and tektite glass are quite dissimilar, of course.
Passing through the Colossally Silly Entrance Hall, we next enter the
extensive and colorful Volcanic Tektite Exhibition.
Continued in Part Two...
Sterling K. Webb
Received on Sat 18 Feb 2006 01:49:37 AM PST