An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine
by Martin Horejsi of  Martin Horejsi's Meteorite and Tektite Books

Gumoschnik and Pavel:

Two Stones From

The Land Of Bulgars


Gumoschnik, Bulgaria is an H5 chondrite that fell in 1904. Although not an uncommon classification, meteorites from Bulgaria grace few collections. This is likely the result of two facts: first, there are very few Bulgarian meteorites to add to a collection, and second, of those that are in circulation, the amount of material is extremely small. So being able to add a 42g crusted slice of a century-old Bulgarian witnessed fall to my collection was truly an honor.

Many times, when I acquire a new meteorite specimen, I like to research the country, historical context, and terrain of the place it fell. Usually a quick internet search will reveal much, but sometimes I have to crack a book or two.

In this month's installment of The Accretion Desk, I selected two Bulgarian falls I entered into my collection last year. I have never been to Bulgaria, and in fact, I am not sure how quickly I could of found it on a blank world map prior to writing this article, but that did not reduce any of my appreciation for Bulgarian Meteorites.

According to online sources, in the late 7th century a Central Asian Turkish tribe called the Bulgars merged with the local Slavic inhabitants to form the first Bulgarian state. In the following centuries, Bulgaria fought with the Byzantine Empire to establish its place in the Balkans. However, at the end of the 14th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered Bulgaria. Then, on March 3, 1878, Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy, with the rest of Bulgaria becoming independent on September 22, 1908.

Bulgaria is about the size of the US state of Virginia, and claims five meteorites arrived on Bulgarian soil. Are stones, and all are falls with four of the five listed as chondrites, and one, a 1740 fall, described only as a stone.

Gumoschnik, Bulgaria fell on April 28, 1904 at 6:20 in the evening. Published reports state that five or six stones fell with the largest weighing 3.8kg and the total known weight at 5.7kg. Analysis showed Gumoschnik as an H5 chondrites, the second most common classification there is after the L6 chondrites.

The meteorite collection catalogue of the Natural History Museum in London lists only 5.7gram piece of Gumoschnik in their collection. At more than seven times larger, my slice of Gumoschnik represents a substantial piece of this historic meteorite.

The interior of my Gumoschnik slice offers the classic mottled texture common to H5 chondrites. Metal flake is abundant, and there is minimal weathering of the surface even after more than a century of curation. Gumoschnik fell four years before Bulgaria was (again?) declared an independent nation.

Seemingly unskilled at picking friends, Bulgaria was aligned with both loosing sides in the World Wars finally succumbing to the intense gravity of the Soviet communist's grasp in 1946. But in 1990, Bulgaria emerged from communist domination and held its first multiparty election since World War II. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004, and has hopes to join the European Union in the not-too-distant future.

Another Bulgarian meteorite named Pavel fell to earth on February 28, 1966 at 2:00 in the afternoon. Accounts state that shortly after the fall, two stones were recovered about 100 meters from the town of Pavel. One stone weighed 2968 grams, and the other one weighed only 6.15 grams. Like Gumoschnik, Pavel is classified as an H5 chondrite, and is a wonderful stone with much geologic activity buried beneath its characteristic black crust. Pavel is also a notable entry into any private collection catalog given that less than 3kg of material fell with a vast majority of that limited mass residing in larger pieces locked up in institutional collections. The overall winner of Pavel mass is the 110 year-old Observatory at the Sofia University in Sofia, Bulgaria listed in the Catalogue of Meteorites as the home of the main mass. By the way, in case you didn't know, Sofia is the capitol of Bulgaria. That is Sofia the city, not SOFIA the NASA airborne observatory.

Pavel, Bulgaria is an H5 chondrite that fell in 1966. Two stones from this fall were recovered, one very small, and the other 482 times larger and still mostly intact and in a University collection in Bulgaria. Although a fairly recent fall, The extremely low distribution of Pavel makes this 38g crusted fragment with polished face an important contribution to any meteorite collection.

Outside the main mass of Pavel, the second largest piece of listed in the COM is one of 49g in the Bartoschewitz collection in Germany, and I suspect my piece ranks third in the world of Pavel pieces.
The geologic activity stored inside Pavel is as diverse and complex as the history of Bulgaria itself. Clasts, inclusions, chondrules, metal and matrix are scattered throughout. But like its home country, few Westerners have visited it, and fewer still even knew it was so appealing.

Listing a meteorite as historical is more than simple old age. If that were the case, then the most historical meteorites on the planet would come from Antarctica and the hot sands of the Sahara. Instead, the term historical must be referenced to human culture. For me, the term historical can only be expressed through documented interaction with people in the past. And Bulgaria's past runs centuries deep in war, repression, occupation, and famine. So any meteorite specimen that moved through Bulgarian time along with the people of that land is by my definition historical. So in order to truly appreciate the nature of a Bulgarian meteorite, a collector must study the people, culture, and history of the region.
Even though the oldest Bulgarian meteorite in my collection fell just over 100 years ago, the amount of history generated in those ten decades is substantial. Today, as a meteorite collector now invested in Bulgarian history, I feel a special interest in the outcome of Bulgaria's quest to join the rest of Europe as a member of the EU. Maybe when that happens, traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria to visit the parents of my meteorites will be as easy as visiting the parental stones in London or Paris.

Best of Luck, Bulgaria, in your continuing historical journey!

The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.