The Ministry of Culture and Heritage is in the process of installing cameras to track meteorite falling into the Sultanate. The ministry is also stepping up cooperation with customs and police to check smuggling of meteorites. Some meteorites, which are aged thousands of years, can fetch millions of dollars in the black market.
“The ministry is in the process of installing cameras that monitor the sky in some places to detect any meteors entering the atmosphere of the Sultanate and try to get access to them as soon as they fall to conduct more scientific research before being affected by ground factors. So far, no meteorite was captured while falling on earth, and we used to find meteor pieces after many years of search. The latest meteorite was found in 2012,” said Dr Ali bin Faraj al Kathiri, adviser at the ministry. He was speaking to the media after the Ministry of Heritage and Culture signed on Tuesday an agreement with the Natural History Museum of Bern, Switzerland to survey, document and study meteorites. The agreement was signed by Salem bin Mohammed al Mahrouqi, Under-Secretary for Heritage Affairs and Beda Hofmann, Head of Earth Science Department at the Museum and Head of the Swiss mission for meteorite.
The under-secretary stressed in his speech on the importance to maintain Oman’s archaeological legacy, pointing that the new Heritage Law, has strict legislations in line with the best international practices of heritage preservation.
It contains incentive clauses in addition to punitive clauses. Anyone who has meteorite in possession must immediately hand over it to the ministry and the owner will be rewarded. According to studies, the rate of falling of meteorites is equal at any point on planet Earth, however the Sultanate possesses several distinctive, which is why so many of them have been found in Oman.
Dr Kathiri said this agreement is an extension of cooperation between the Swiss-Omani team to search for meteorites that began in 2011 in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and industry. “The meteorites that were found in Oman by the joint team within the scientific project kept large pieces in the Sultanate, and small samples were taken to Switzerland for further studies and research and to classify their quality.”
Rahma al Farsi, DG of Museums in the ministry, mentioned that the ministry will organise an exhibition along with lectures will be hosted by the National Museum in April to showcase rare sample of meteorites found in Oman. “It will be open for a month to give chance to all the people, including school students, to get more knowledge about these stones.
Last January, the first batch of Omani meteorites that were in the custody of the Natural History Museum in Bern, including two rare meteorites that originated from the moon and mars and dated back to billions of years, was handed over to the ministry as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009 between Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Swiss museum to study and classify the meteorites of different ages.