Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/381

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367
A TALK ABOUT METEORITES.

the Image of Venus at Cyprus, are now considered to have been similar meteoric masses.

There is a stone whose history goes back at least twelve centuries, built into the northeast corner of the Kaaba at Mecca, held in great reverence by the Moslems, which is supposed to have had a similar origin.

There are also numerous accounts of meteorites having been worshiped in more modern times. One which fell about one hundred and fifty years ago was worshiped for some time in the temple of Ogi in Japan; and a stone which fell in a field near the village of Dooralla, in India, in 1815, was immediately decked with flowers, and the natives would have built a temple over it were it not for a powerful constraint which took it to the British Museum.

Undoubtedly the oldest meteorite still preserved is one now in the Harvard collection, which was found by Prof. Putnam on the altar of Mound No. 4 of the Turner Group (Little Miami Valley, Ohio). It possibly had been an object of worship to the old mound-builders during some prehistoric age, and the worship of such sky-stones is considered by many writers to have been the oldest form of idolatry. It is well known, however, that meteoric iron was used by the mound-builders for coating bronze ornaments with a white metal; and two meteoric fragments, consisting wholly of iron, were found on a neighboring altar. Many such ornaments are to be found in our museums. There is an account in Dio Cassius of an attempt, under the Emperor Severus, to coat bronze coins with silver which was said to have come down from heaven. The same mistake of taking meteoric iron for silver is frequently made in the present day, owing to an unusual whiteness of the iron and its extreme malleability.

The oldest undoubted meteorite seen to fall was, till recently, suspended by a chain from the vault of the parish church of Ensisheim, in Alsace. The following, translated from a document still preserved in the church, gives an account of its fall:

"On the 16th of November, 1492, a singular miracle happened; for, between eleven and twelve in the forenoon, with a loud crash of thunder and a prolonged noise heard afar off, there fell in the town of Ensisheim a stone weighing two hundred pounds. It was seen by a child to strike the ground in a field near the canton called Gisgaud, where it made a hole more than five feet deep. It was taken to the church as being a miraculous object. The noise was heard so distinctly at Lucerne Villing and many other places that in each of them it was thought some houses had fallen. King Maximilian, who was then at Ensisheim, had the stone carried to the castle; after breaking off two pieces, one for the Duke Sigismund of Austria and the other for himself, he forbade fur-