This story originally ran in the Northwest Florida Daily News three decades ago.
Experts have verified that a bowling ball-size hunk of metal unearthed near
The 24-pound meteorite is thought to have crashed to Earth at least 400 years ago. Two amateur treasure-hunters found it amid a smattering of Indian artifacts, suggesting that
Harold Povenmire, a widely respected South Florida meteorite buff, and Dr. Glen Huss, director of the American Meteorite Lab in
Phil Gibson of Dune Allen and Dr. John Green of Destin made the discovery Oct. 30 while pursuing their hobby of treasure-seeking.
Gibson said he and Green were using metal detectors to scan the undeveloped coastal area just west of
The two dug through layers of Indian pottery shards before uncovering the rust-colored lump.
Gibson, who has found numerous Indian, Spanish and pirate artifacts along the
Although a single hammer blow usually breaks the crust off centuries-old Spanish armor, Gibson said his hammer "bounced back past my chin when I hit it."
That was the first clue that they had stumbled upon something odd.
They consulted with scientists in
A cigarette pack-size piece was sent off. Two days later Gibson received confirmation that the object was an extraordinarily old, hunk of out-of-this-world metal.
Povenmire traveled to Destin last week to verify the find, examine the site where it was unearthed and confer with Gibson, Green and three geology professors at the
He also mailed part of his sample to Huss in
Huss said the dimpled chunk of nickel, iron, olivine and other minerals is a rare find for
The excellent condition of the
Povenmire agrees with Huss on that point. Since the meteorite was found in a midden site - an ancient Indian trash heap - Povenmire thinks local Indians may have grown weary the curio and discarded it.
Although Gulf coast Indians often heated rocks and clay balls to cook with and warm their mud-and-reed huts in the winter, Povenmire said the Grayton Beach Meteorite shows no signs of heating other than by entry into Earth's atmosphere.
He estimated that 20-30 percent of the meteorite' mass disintegrated during its fiery descent.
Yulee Lazarus, curator of the
Lazarus said she would have to examine shards from the depth at which the meteorite was found to determine how long it had been there.
Although there is no mention in local Indian mythology of objects falling from the sky, Lazarus said the oral history of Central and South Florida Indian cultures contains references to "people going to the heavens and sending things back down." As for Povenmire's theory that the meteorite was a trade item, Lazarus said local Indians had an active exchange with tribes as far north as the
Copper and other metal objects from that region have been found among local midden sites, and
Povenmire, author of a book titled "Fireballs, Meteors and Meteorites," said the Grayton Beach Meteorite is the second largest ever found in
The largest meteorite found in the Southeast was a 92.4-pounder unearthed at
Gibson and Green say they hope to eventually place the meteorite on display in a museum, either a local one or a larger institution elsewhere.
They already have been approached by a collector who wanted to buy the meteorite, but the weekend treasure-hunters say they are reluctant to part with their once-in-a-lifetime find.