Earliest Evidence of a Death Caused by a Meteorite

Map detailing the likely trajectory of the Sulayminiyah meteorite fall based on the historical letters that killed a man in 1888. Image credit: Figure 4 of Unsalan et al. (2020)

A team of researchers led by O. Unsalan at Ege University in Turkey have uncovered historical records from the Ottoman Empire detailing the earliest reliable evidence of a meteorite killing a human being. The meteorite fell on a hill near the Ҫişane village on August 22, 1888, in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, killing one man and leaving another paralyzed. Some crops and fields were also damaged. Three letters written by local government officials detailed the event and were forwarded to the Sultan of the time, with one letter suggesting that it also contained samples of the meteorite. However, the researchers have so far been unable to find the stones in the state archives. They may be located at the Archaeology Museum in Istanbul along with other meteorite samples. The researchers plan to continue a systematic search of the inventories of the state archives and the museum. Human injuries from meteorite falls are incredibly rare and not well documented, particularly before the Chelyabinsk fall in Russia in 2013, with many modern cases proving unreliable. These reports from Turkey so far provide the most convincing evidence of the earliest case of a meteorite causing death and injury to humans in the historical record. READ MORE