Martin Horejsi

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


A March 1868 Witnessed Fall: Daniëlskuil, South Africa

First Principles

and Principles First

I'm a materialistic estheticist. What are you?

Daniëlskuil meteorite


The Daniëlskuil meteorite, or Daniel's Kuil as it is listed in meteorite references, arrived on earth on March 20, 1868.

The single stone of a single kilogram was later classified as an EL6 S2 enstatite chondrite.

For a small old stone, it sure has been a busy little fellow contributing greatly to the scientific literature with 21 referenced articles listed for it in the Catalogue of Meteorites.


First Principles cannot be deduced from any other principles.

They are the foundation for all that follows.


Trying to pin down any reason at all to collect even a single meteorite opens up entire fields of philosophy from metaphysics to esthetics. So in order to define ones journey through time along side meteorites, the exercise of characterizing the first principles of a personal collecting philosophy aids in the decision-making when faced with available meteorites.

Material Girls and Boys

On the materialism side, we collect to both possess valuables, and value those possessions. Sticking close to home, the materialist collector measures reality in quantifiable numbers including classification, weight, dimensions, dates, and distributions. The rocks from space carry significance only in their elemental geology and measurable parameters. No more. No less.


Daniëlskuil meteorite


Does it make a difference that Daniëlskuil shows the largest enrichment of carbon 13 in the bulk carbon content of any meteorite ever? If so, materialism might be important to your collecting philosophy.

And if you don't know C13 from C4, but you're impressed with the "est" in largest, then materialism is definitely for you.


Dueling Chondrites

Edging up the materialism scale is Dualism. By adding eternal truths as a second higher level to the baseline physics of the universe, the advanced materialistic meteorite collector, in addition to mineralogy, also includes the metaphysics of the wonder and limits of the universe, with each meteorite as representing one of myriad versions of eternal truth about the solar system.


The Beat of Drums, the Crash of Symbols.

If one bends toward the epistemological lifestyle, then meteorites become physical symbols of the processes of solar system development. Not that any one meteorite holds all the answers, but truth is derived from the compellation of stones and irons in our collections, with the process of how we know what we know playing a central role. The epistemological meteorite collector appreciates the rocks in hand and the knowledge in mind, but also knows that our meteorite science is and always will be inadequate since true reality, although feeling nearby, will forever be just out of reach.

Daniëlskuil meteorite


The origin of the name Daniëlskuil has been traced to a missionary in the area around 1820. The missionary named a natural depression in a limestone formation that reminded him of the den where the lions restrained themselves from eating Daniel in the Biblical account of the story.

Interestingly, the "den" in the limestone formation has been described as a crater, and craters in limestone have often been discovered to be meteoritic in origin. In fact, one not too far away (in global terms) is the Kalkkop Crater in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

I cannot help but find the enjoyment in the fact that the Daniëlskuil meteorite gets its name from an unrelated crater. If you find that appealing as well, then your collecting habits might be epistemological in nature.

According to the distribution of Daniel's Kuil in the Catalogue of Meteorites, my piece sits politely between the specimen in the TCU collection and the one listed in the Africian Museum in Capetown which when I was there, a curator told me they had none.


No really. It's from space, right?

Carrying epistemology further, a collector could specialize in rationalism or even skepticism with the latter raising the collecting question, "What's the point?".

The rationalists would stress the limits of what knowledge meteorites bring us, and can find comfort collecting science with the same unbounded joy as collecting the meteorites themselves.

Like a rationalist mind on steroids, the skeptic pretty much wallows in their belief(?) that nothing is known for certain, and the mind is a terrible place to look for change. Meteorites may or may not be what the scientists say they are. But does it matter? A skeptic accepts that science is really just what's in the scientist’s mind, and not necessarily what is actually in meteorites.


Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is a rusty Campo.

Those collectors who possess the philosophy of esthetics consider science knowledge side by side with questions such as what is beauty, and if defined, what is the purpose of that beauty? Now while I might get disagreement from the phormal filosophers, I believe that those who subscribe to esthetics in their collecting would naturally extend the concept of beauty beyond the mere form of a meteorite, the parts of the specimen photons of light bounce off, but also to appreciate the beauty of the science of meteorites including the circumstances of its arrival on earth.


Daniëlskuil meteorite


In the visible metal department, Daniëlskuil does very well for an EL given that the L stands for relatively low in iron at 25%. Relatively since the EH chondrites have a whopping (or not) 30% iron. This image shows a reflective view of one of the polished surfaces of of my slice of Daniel's Kuil.

If the percent of iron is not impressive to you, or if you have not yet wondered how many EL6 chondrites there are, and how many of them were witnessed falls, you might be an estheticist. And if you cared more about the wonderful look of the graceful texture of Daniëlskuil, and couldn't care less that it formed in an area of the solar nebula that was very poor in oxygen and possibly in the neighborhood of the planet Mercury, then esthetic meteorite collecting is your philosophy.

First principles of any philosophy offer the unreducible foundation supporting that particular train of though. And if one can define their interest in meteorites according to the first principles of the science or philosophy, then the personal reasons for collecting rocks from space become clearer. And as those reasons move into sharp focus, the rationale for acquiring any given meteorite specimen at any particular opportunity crystallizes into an unregrettable decision. And with the regrets gone, the enjoyment regardless of the philosophical reasoning is amplified.

The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.