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Valera Revisited:

Buying a Bigger Bovine Bashing Bolide


Collecting the Cow Cranium Crushing Chondrite


The Methodical Marketing of the Moo Muting Meteorite

I remember once when a travel brochure caught my eye. It was for the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta Canada. Having grown up in Montana, I was quite aware of the concept of a buffalo jump, but still, the bold yet truthful marketing surprised me. No sugar coating here. So when I first heard about the circumstances of the fall of the Valera meteorite, I couldn't help but think about the buffalo jump.
The Valera, Venezuela meteorite is mildly outside my usual collecting desires as it is both a fairly recent fall, and one with a relative abundance of available material. However, I had to do some quick soul-searching when this 150g half slice of Valera, came up for sale simply because of the fame surrounding this modern-day murderer.

And as you might have guessed by now, I bought it. In reality, it is my third piece of Valera and my second specimen upgrade of this locality.

My first piece of a Valera was a partial slice with one edge of crust. When the above-pictured specimen came along, I chose crust over internal surface area.

However, neither my first slice nor this crusted triangular fragment were showpieces that would display well with the documents of the fall. Now I am content with how Valera is represented in my collection.

The country of Venezuela was one of three that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830. Although Venezuela celebrates an independence day from Spain as July 5, 1811, an amazingly small number of meteorites claim Venezuelan citizenship. Three to be exact. And as if that tiny number was not alone bad enough, all three meteorites (two falls and one find) were recovered in a 12 year period beginning in 1960. Yes, I know the Venezuelan population is only two-thirds that of California, but Venezuela is more than twice as big as "The Golden State."


The Meteoritical Bulletin (no.85) entry:

Trujillo, Venezuela
Fell 1972 October 15
Ordinary chondrite (L5)

"On the evening of 1972 October 15, a bright light accompanied by a loud noise was witnessed near the El Tinajero farm. The next morning, Dr. Arginiro Gonzales and his guest, Juan Dionicio Delgado, discovered that a cow had apparently been killed by a falling stone.

The stone had broken into three pieces weighing 38, 8, and 4 kg, respectively. The largest specimen remained outdoors for decades after the fall.

Classification and mineralogy (A. Rubin, UCLA): olivine, Fa24.20.3; shock stage, S4; weathering grade, W3.

Specimens: main mass, 24 kg, DPitt; 6 kg, Cott; 4 kg, Alan Lang; type specimen, 100 g, UCLA.


The first documented meteorite fall in Venezuela occurred two years before Valera. This slice of Ucera is from the 4.95kg single mass that fell on January 16, 1970. Ucera is classified as an H5, and it fell rather close to a house. This small slice has been in my collection for many years.

The first meteorite discovered in Venezuela is named Muenatauray. It is a IIAB iron of about 30kg, and was found March 5, 1960.

Several pictures and documents accompanied the first piece of Valera which I bought from Michael Cottingham many years ago.

One of the pictures included a nearby cow grazing by the main mass of Valera. For some odd reason, this picture reminds me of the famous quote by Mel Brooks: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.

This environmental portrait of Valera shares the rustic surroundings of where the meteorite called home since it sat outside for many years prior to its formal discovery by meteorite collectors.

As might be expected, when a formally healthy cow was found dead, it only made sense that it should be eaten by those on the farm. And it was.

An affidavit from January 11, 2001 was part of the original documentation of Valera as a certified cow killer. While some in the media hinted that financial motives may have skewed the reported events surrounding the fall of Valera, I have found no evidence supporting anything but what was stated by the witnesses. And that is good enough for me.

The text of the affidavit, in Spanish, is complete with official stamps and signatures.

The above is an English translation that accompanied the Spanish language documents. I wonder if there is any way to find the cow's skull. If so, to me the skull would easily be worth its weight in Valera meteorite material.

As the list of collectible hammer stones continues to grow, with Park Forest, Peekskill, Claxton, and New Orleans coming to mind, the price of Valera seems to remain not only steady, but comparatively low. This fact begs the question of why? Is it that collectors don't have the same appreciation for Valera as they do for US hammers? Or do hammers require available physical evidence of what was hammered? Or is the value of a hammer based upon its total known weight?

Regardless of the reasons why others have not emptied the market of Valera, I chose to massively upgrade the Valera in my collection simply because the story is too good. And as time goes on, the more I appreciate how stories like that of Valera sustain my interest in meteorite collecting.


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