Copyright - M.Bandli - Historic Meteorites
Shirahagi: Twisted and evil. Photo credit: Sadao Murayama, Japan.
CATALOG No. B242.1 & B242.2
PROVENANCE: Institute of Meteoritics (IOM), University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM; The Jay Piatek Collection (XXX).
Every now-and-then I read about a meteorite whose cultural fascination exceeds its scientific importance. Naturally, these superstars are assigned to my wish-list. But even rarer than that is the occasional meteorite that shares both aspects in an unprecedented and equal fashion. Come Shirahagi - a peculiar and twisted iron, whose journey, from riverbed to royalty, earns it a spot in the meteorite hall-of-fame.
Five years later the iron was recognized as a meteorite by Kwaijiro Kondo of the Geological Survey of Japan. Shortly thereafter a well-known politician and Foreign Affairs Minister named Takeaki Enomoto caught wind of the celestial iron and purchased the meteorite. Enomoto was so fascinated by the "iron from the stars" that he commissioned swordsmith Kunimune Okayoshi to cut about one-fifth of the meteorite off to be made into swords called "The Meteor Swords." By 1898, a total of three swords were produced and, although the process was exceptionally difficult, the steel from the meteorite had a beautiful finish with patterns that resembled "knots in wood."
It wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that the true scientific fascination of this unusual meteorite would be appreciated, after Sadao Murayama of The Tokyo Science Museum noticed something peculiar on a portion of the etched surface.