Lot 34. DESERT GLASS FROM AN ASTEROID IMPACT ON EARTH

Sold: $ 20 000
Auction date: 23.02.2021   10:00 UTC -05:00
Archive
ID 491244
Lot 34 | DESERT GLASS FROM AN ASTEROID IMPACT ON EARTH
Libyan Desert Glass is a natural glass formed as the result of sand on Earth being melted during an enormously energetic asteroid impact 28.5 million years ago. Closely related to tektites (see lot 37), such silicate glass formations had long been considered a mystery with some researchers having believed they originated from the Moon. More recently, scientists have concluded these materials (whose name comes from the Greek tektos, meaning “melted”) formed as a result of asteroid impacts with Earth. The extraordinary heat that resulted from such collisions liquefied terrestrial particles that were blasted into the atmosphere, and quenched into glass before landing. Tektites are named after the locality in which they are found, hence: Australites, Indochinites, Phillipinites, Moldavites, Libyan Desert Glass, etc. The higher the silica content of terrestrial impact glass, the lighter the color, and so Libyan Desert Glass — derived from sand containing 98% silica — is sunny yellow; moldavites from the Czech Republic — with only 80% silica — cover a range of greens. Libyan Desert Glass was used to make tools during the Pleistocene epoch and was used as jewelry in the Pharaonic Period with examples discovered in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The curves and ridges of this natural glass form evoke a piece of sculptural art glass. The dark wispy bands seen angling through the length of this specimen are extremely similar to other specimens with dark banding — which have been analyzed and whose bands match the chemical signature of a chondritic meteorite. In effect, the character of this object is the result of an asteroid having melted the Earth upon impact — and part of itself as well — before solidifying into the co-mingling of Earth and Space now seen.

Christie's would like to thank Dr. Alan E. Rubin at the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles for his assistance in preparing this catalogue.


60 x 40 x 60mm (2.33 x 1.5 x 2.33 in.) and 92.8g

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