Like most iron meteorites, Gibeon meteorites originated 4.5 billion years ago from the molten core of an asteroid located between Mars and Jupiter whose shattered remains are part of the asteroid belt. Unlike most meteorites, this massive, compelling sculptural form will be the centerpiece in any room it occupies.

An impact event between two asteroids ejected what were to become Gibeon meteorites into interplanetary space, a journey that ended thousands of years ago when the wandering mass plunged through Earth’s atmosphere before exploding and slamming into what is now the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. In previous generations, indigenous tribesmen recovered small meteorite shards at or near the surface and fashioned them into spear points and other tools. This specimen was recovered with the aid of a metal detector. Its final form is the product of a combination of variables including its shape upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, its composition, the soil chemistry in which it landed, its orientation in the ground, the amount of groundwater to which it was exposed — and the amount of time it resided on Earth. This exposure to the elements slowly reshaped this mass as it sat upon Earth’s surface as the seasons turned over thousands of years.

As evidenced by the flat surface at the meteorite’s base, this meteorite split along a crystalline plane. Indeed, iron meteorites are crystalline and the presence of a crystalline pattern is diagnostic in the identification of iron meteorites. Meterorites derived from the same parental mass generally have the same Widmanstätten pattern. If this meteorite were to be cut — which should never be the case — its interior would look like the Gibeon end piece also offered in the present sale (see lot 40).

Draped in a variegated gun metal-hued patina with ochre accents, this complex form is embossed with a relative rarity for iron meteorites that have been sitting outside for thousands of years: regmaglypts (i.e., scoops which are an aerodynamic artifact from melting during its fiery plunge through Earth’s atmosphere. When it entered the mesosphere — the outer layer of the atmosphere — this meteorite was traveling at a cosmic velocity of approximately 11 miles/second and reached temperatures of more than 3,000° F, and those little sockets are telltale evidence of that experience. Originating from the asteroid belt, and shaped by forces both extraterrestrial, atmospheric and terrestrial — with final contouring having occurred during its millenniums-long residency at the edge of the Kalahari Desert — this massive conversation piece from interplanetary space is accompanied by a custom armature and pedestal.

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.

584 x 482 x 304mm (23 x 19 x 12 in.) and 139.55 kg (307 lbs)
Macovich Collection of Meteorites, New York
Sale, lot 201, 8 June 1996, Phillips New York
An Important East Coast Collection
Sale, lot 72012 28 September 2019, Heritage Dallas
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