In short, the Tarahumara meteorite is an IIE type iron, one of only 14 classified as such. The main mass originally weighed 2.5kg and was found by ranchers in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1994 while roaming the high desserts of the area. Aside from the classification itself, Tarahumara is rare because it is one of a small handful of iron meteorites that contain silica inclusions. Even more rare than that the specimen contains crystals of sodic plagioclase, which is more commonly referred to as Albite. The main mass was acquired by Bob Haag who still holds the bulk of it. It has not been cut much, and as a result there are very few specimens of this meteorite in private collections.
Tracking down details of how specimens become distributed into private collections is always difficult, but it can be a nice bit of history. At some point after classification Haag cut a 368g specimen of Tarahumara that was sold to Jay Piatek. Roughly ten years ago Jay’s specimen was cut and about 230g of it traded to USNM. This was the only cut of Jay’s specimen until recently, but at some point either the USNM specimen was cut, or Haag cut another slice from the main mass because there are definitely a scarce few specimens of Tarahumara out there in private collections. A lovely representative specimen can be found online in the collection of the Southwest Meteorite Laboratory.
After the USNM specimen was cut, Jay had 140g remaining that has now been further subdivided. Some of the specimens cut from that 140g mass have already been, or are being sold privately, but I wanted to make some specimens available on my page for anyone else who has a burning desire to get their hands on a rarely offered iron specimen.
A bit about the features of this meteorite…
The etch pattern is somewhat distinct appearing, and is frequently altered by the presence of silica inclusions. See below for more on this. The metal is relatively soft and saw marks polished out relatively quickly by comparison to other irons or even some of the more shocked stoney’s I’ve worked on.
Tarahumara specimens generally have some nice inclusions within them. Within the IIE classification is the Miles “silicated iron” from Australia, which is by far the most commonly seen IIE on the market. It is called a “silicated iron” because it is one of only a handful (actually less than 4%) of iron meteorites that contain silica inclusions.
Most of you are familiar with silica inclusions within chondrules of ordinary chondrites, but what no one ever really talks about outside of research journals is the difference between chondritic silica inclusions (also called primitive silica) and non-chondritic silica inclusions (also called fractionated silica). There are more variations of silica, though what is most interesting about silica inclusions in IIE specimens like Tarahumara is that they represent to scientists the sequence of crystallization of silica when it is taking place amidst the cooling of a metal host. For us collectors this represents something of a factoid at best, but for scientists who publish on this topic it is another clue in the endless journey of discovering how our universe put itself together eons ago.
Another interesting inclusion seen in Tarahumara are crystals of sodic plagioclase. This is a petrological term (one that is synonymous with the term Albite) used to represent plagioclase feldspars that are dominant in sodium. Sodium in general is not rare in meteorites, but crystals such as this certainly are. Most of the Albite crystals in Tarahumara are microscopic, but a scarce few are grossly visible to the naked eye. They are also sometimes found within the silica inclusions previously discussed.
And now, a bit of history and myth…
There is an entire culture of people referred to as the Tarahumara, also referred to as the Raramuri. They are a native culture living in Sierra Tarahumara/Copper Canyon region of Chihuahua, Mexico, and at the last estimate they are between 50,000 to 60,000 people in population. The Tarahumara are one of a small number of native groups that still live “traditionally”. They reside in natural shelters such as caves, cliff overhangs or small cabins built with stone or timbers. They once populated much of the region of Chihuahua though they retreated to their current settlements around the Sierra Madre Occidental in the 16th century when the Spanish invaded.
Like many traditionally living populations their perception of the world is deeply rooted in myths. One of these speaks of a bird called “Korema”, also called “Gorema” or “Orema”. This is a strictly mythological bird that (much like a shooting star) only flies at night. It is depicted as small, brightly colored, having a flaming tail, and it is said to live behind waterfalls. While that sounds somewhat fanciful and fun, Korema lives in service to witches, and for that reason it is something of a wicked animal that is regarded with significant apprehension.
As you may have gathered by now, Korema is also associated with meteorites by the Tarahumara. Unfortunately the details of any relationship between the mythical bird and what the Tarahumara people would speak of as a meteorite remain unknown. Obviously a meteorite from the same region as the Tarahumara exists, and whether or not that is strictly coincidence given this myth we will probably never know. There have of course been times when meteorites and native cultures have collided to the degree where they are inescapably linked. Read up on the Iron Creek meteorite from Saskatchewan, or the Camp Verde meteorite from Arizona for more on this notion. The Tarahumara meteorite does not appear to be strongly associated to the culture of the Tarahumara people, but I for one find the myths surrounding meteorites as a great source of interest. Myths such as these add an additional layer of intrigue to our interest in collecting meteorites.
Anyone who has been following my sales in the past knows that I tend to be a straight shooter when it comes to specimens. When something is weathered I point it out. When something is not particularly rare, I point it out, etc. I do not hesitate at all to emphasize that Tarahumara is a truly rare specimen, both in abundance and in the nature of the classification. I have never seen it for sale before I acquired Jay’s remaining specimen.
The price per gram of these specimens represents both my acquisition cost and the cost incurred in having Jay’s larger mass butterflied by Marlin Cliz. Further cuts to produce smaller specimens, as well as polishing and etching, were undertaken by myself in order to cut down on the cost of producing specimens for sale.