Impoverished villagers in eastern Turkey have been showered with cash, earning $350,000 collectively from selling fragments of meteorites that rained down on the area in September.
The locals from the village of Saricicek, in Turkey’s Bingol province, are still scouring fields near the village after their neighbors and friends have earned enough to buy cars or houses after selling the meteorite fragments, which are fetching up to $60 a gram.
Thirty year old Hasan Beldek has so far been the luckiest of Saricicek’s 3,200 residents. He found a 3.3lb chunk after being pestered to go searching by his mother-in-law who had heard other villagers were making money.
“I couldn’t bear it any more so I went out and decided to give it a try. I searched the area for three to four hours. Then a bright black stone larger than a man’s fist looked right up at me.” Beldek has turned down offers of $120,000 for the “rock” because he thinks he can get more. He says any money he gets will be used to “open a pastry shop in Istanbul with my brothers”.
Russia’s Chelyabinsk region went through a similar space treasure hunt in 2013, when a huge meteor showered fragments across a wide area of land before crashing into a lake.
Scientist say that the minerals in the fragments have nothing of great scientific interest, but large meteorites are highly sought after by researchers and collectors.
The price for meteorites is driven by where they crash or their fragments land, because in some countries the trade in meteorites is largely illegal. There is a flourishing global market, with fragments available for sale on the Internet. There is a Web site called Star-bits.com which is devoted to the trade.