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The international meteorite market

posted by Sarah Pavis   Nov 20, 2012

Reading this Naked Scientists article about the black market for meteorites I can picture it as the basis for Indiana Jones 5. All that’s missing is someone shouting “it belongs in a museum” and then punching a Nazi.

“Meteorite science is where biology was 200 years ago with people saying, ‘Oh, here’s a strange, long-necked beast, I wonder if it’s related to the turtle.’” Yet scientists don’t necessarily get first dibs on meteorites that plummet to earth. “There is a market out there that treats these [meteorites] as collectibles and curios, almost as though they were fine art or ancient artifacts,” Dr. Harvey explains. […]

Making sure that meteorites are acquired legally has proven particularly difficult in North Africa, where it’s often difficult to determine the provenance of specimens for sale. “The skill level that some collectors have to get stones out of Africa rivals that of drug dealers,” says Dr. Harvey. “It’s clear that meteorites are so valuable to these collectors that they’re more than happy to get them and worry about the cost in terms of legality later on.”