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The Supuhee Meteorite: Assimilation and Transformation with Indigo

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The Supuhee, India Chondrite fell to earth in the form of six individual stones back in 1865. Several of those stones landed on an indigo factory but unlike post-industrial revolution factory to follow, the indigo factory was where dyes were made and fabric was dyed.

Supuhee Meteorite

With 80% of this stone still intact, the sharp contrast between the interior and fresh crusted surface of a meteorite is obvious.

 

Indigo dye begins with the leaves of the indigo plant. The leaves are steeped in warm water until the indican, or blue color, is released. Then soda is added raising the pH. Add a little oxygen to the mix by aggressive string, and you have a beautiful precipitate settling to the bottom of your vat. Here are a couple pictures of what the indigo factory might have looked like.

 

Supuhee Meteorite

An image from an old postcard shows an Indian Indigo Factory in the 1800s.

Imagine tossing golf balls at the factory from a distance. In addition to the astronomically small odds of meteorites falling, add the danger of losing them into a vat of warm dye given that the factory is mostly vats of warm dye.

 

Supuhee Meteorite

From this perspective the stone of Supuhee looks almost perfect. Centered is the Catalogue Museum number from the British Museum of Natural History. Given the British rule of India at the time of the fall, I suspect that this label is almost as old as the meteorite, some 152 years.

 

When the dust settled, a total of six individuals were recovered, with only five of them making it into collections. Of the five, three were smaller stones and they were the ones that fell on the Bubuowly Indigo Factory.

 

The Catalogue of Meteorites lists a specimen in their collection as number 41050, a 55g nearly complete stone and one that was part of the trio of “hammers” that landed on (in?) the Bubuowly Indigo Factory. Today, that stone is nine grams lighter and no longer in the British collection. For the moment it is in my collection.

 

Supuhee Meteorite

The cut and polished face of Supuhee shows the beautiful breccia with clasts large and small. Shock veins, metal flake, vague chondrules, and a large inclusion in the upper left. So much going on!

 

This 80% individual is a fully crusted oval specimen with one section removed providing a wonderful window into a very busy H6 chondrite. The brecciated matrix is lightly similar to Peekskill, another H6 breccia that fell 127 years after Supuhee.

 

Supuhee Meteorite

41050. Perhaps a century and a half ago, someone sat at an oak desk with feather pen, ink jar and magnifying glass. Carefully and perfectly, the numbers were printed by hand on paper. Then the small oval was cut out and glued onto a very special meteorite. The number was an entry taken from a leatherbound book cataloguing the meteorite collection of the British Museum of Natural History. The world kept in order.

 

William Dalrymple wrote in his 2012 book White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India

“India has always had a strange way with her conquerors. In defeat, she beckons them in, then slowly seduces, assimilates and transforms them.”

I believe the same can be said about Indian meteorites. From Shergotty, to Goalpara. From Haraiya to Kendrapara, the meteorites of India transform collectors and collections.

Until next time….

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About the Author

Dr. Martin Horejsi is a Professor of Instructional Technology and Science Education at The University of Montana. A long-time meteorite collector and writer, before publishing his column The Accretion Desk in The Meteorite Times, he contributed often and wrote the column From The Strewnfields in Meteorite Magazine. Horejsi is currently a monthly columnist in The Science Teacher, a journal by the National Science Teachers Association.

Horejsi specializes in the collection and study of historic witnessed fall meteorites with the older, smaller, and rarer the better. Although his meteorite collection once numbered over a thousand pieces with near that many different locations, several large trades and sales have streamlined the collection to about 250 locations with all but 10 being important witnessed falls.

Many of the significant specimens in Horejsi’s collection are historic witnessed falls that once occupied prominence in the meteorite collections of Robert A. Haag, James Schwade, and Michael Farmer. Other important specimens were acquired through institutional trades including those from The Smithsonian Institution, Arizona State University, and other universities.

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