32,000 year old meteorite on public display in UK

The biggest meteorite to ever fall in Britain 32,000 years ago has gone on display for the first time here.

Updated: Sep 13, 2012, 13:01 PM IST

London: The biggest meteorite to ever fall in Britain 32,000 years ago has gone on display for the first time here.

The rock lay undiscovered on the doorstep of a house for at least 80 years before archaeologists discovered it was a 90 kilogrammes space rock, measuring 1.6 ft long.

After sitting on the step of Lake House near Wilsford-cum-Lake, Wiltshire, since the 1900s, it is on display for the first time at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, the Daily Mail reported.

Researchers have worked out that the rock had landed in UK 32,000 years ago - making it bigger than any other meteorite found in Britain.

It was handed in to the Natural History Museum when the Bailey family sold Lake House to musician Sting in 1991.

Professor Colin Pillinger, said he realised the meteorite`s amazing history when he spotted a photograph of it in Country Life magazine.

"We know that it fell onto this part of the world around 30,000 BC, and it probably would have fallen onto an ice sheet, which preserved it. We think it must have been found by Neolithic people who built Stonehenge and all the hundreds of burial barrows all over Salisbury Plain," Pillinger was quoted as saying by the paper.

"They buried it, which preserved it again, in the chalk, because meteorites don`t tend to last long in the British climate," Pillinger added.

"It was when we realised from photos in Country Life, that this stone had been at Lake House before the Baileys and going back into the 19th century that we realised it must have been dug up by Edward Duke, whose family lived there for 11 generations, who was a trained archaeologist and who excavated lots of barrows on his estate," Pillinger said.

Professor Pillinger, who has been researching the meteorite`s history for more than a year, found photographic evidence of the rock on the steps of the house before the family owned it.

The meteorite, known as a common chondrite, went on display at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum, in the city, on Tuesday.

"It`s not uncommon for exotic rocks to be built into burial mounds. And it`s still covered in chalk which is the bedrock of the landscape," Adrian Green, director of the museum, said.

"And it`s colossal - it would take four people to lift it - and it`s not aesthetically pleasing, so common sense dictates that this has not been shipped from abroad at ridiculous cost and significant effort, but that it came from the UK," Green added.