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Gibeon Meteorites

Windhoek | Namibia

Visitors to Namibia's capital city Windhoek can see one of the country's most visited national monument without too much trouble or extra expense. The Gibeon Meteorites are situated in Post Street Mall, a popular tourist attraction to for Namibian arts and crafts. They are permanently fixed at the Meteorite Fountain, not far from the Independence Avenue entrance.

Namibia is renown for its meteorites with the most extensive, The Gibeon Meteorite Shower, landing in southern Namibia. Estimates are that it occurred over an initial area of some 20,000km², with the more concentrated centre covering 2,500km² in the surrounding region of the village of Gibeon, (approximately 60km south of Mariental. The distribution of meteorites was uneven with the farms south-east of Gibeon baring the brunt of the deluge.

Between 100 and 150 specimens have been recovered since they were first reported in 1838 by the then Captain (later General) Sir JE Alexander, on his travels on the east side of the Great Fish River. He took a few fragments back to London and they were analysed by the famous astronomer Sir John Herschel, and identified as of meteor origin from the amount of nickel present. Due to the amount and traces of materials found in The Gibeon Meteorites, they are classed as iron meteorites.

The contents of these meteorites were to be of a distinct advantage to the local Nama population, who used to belt out the fragments and hammer them into assegais and other weapons such as rifle bullets.

Before the advent of WW1, the export of meteorites was prohibited and from 1911 to 1913, 37 specimens of the Gibeon Meteorites were brought to Windhoek by German SWA's State Geologist, Dr P Range for safekeeping. Despite the restrictions and the threat of a maximum fine of 600 German Marks, several specimens were donated worldwide to research institutions. The original 33 found near Gibeon were kept in Windhoek. After WW1, the meteorites were displayed in Zoo Park in the city centre. They ranged from 195-506kg in weight.

In 1975 it was decided to remove them from Zoo Park and place them in storage in the courtyard of the Alte Feste Museum. Unfortunately 2 were stolen and this explains why the 2 westernmost pedestals of the Mountain Fountain display in Post Street Mall are empty as the design of the display could not be changed. The 3rd was stolen after they were installed on the Mountain Fountain. So only 30 meteorites are currently secured.

All meteorites found in the country are automatically protected as national monuments and are not to be removed from their original sites, damaged or destroyed. Any meteorites that have been legally removed and aren't on display in Post Street Mall, can be viewed at the Geological Survey Museum in Aviation Road near Eros Airport, Windhoek.

The Gibeon Meteorites, Post Street Mall, Windhoek, were proclaimed a national monument on 15th February 1950.

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Travel Namibia