Muscat: 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, Undersecretary for Heritage Affairs, and Beda Hofmann, Head of Earth Science Department at the Museum, and Head of the Swiss mission for meteorite.
The Undersecretary stressed in his speech on the importance to maintain Oman’s archeological legacy , pointing that the new Heritage Law, has strict legislations and it keeps in line with the best international practices in the field of heritage preservation. It contains incentive clauses in addition to punitive clauses. He quoted UNESCO when it said that illegal trade of antiques comes second after drugs smuggling.
Dr Ali bin Faraj al Kathiri, Advisor at the Ministry in meteorite field, commented “ 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 were divided into large pieces; remain in the Sultanate, and small samples, which are taken to Switzerland for further studies and research and to classify their quality” he added .
Al Kathiri continued that “So far, no meteorite was captured while falling on earth, and we used to find meteor pieces after many years of search. For this, 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”, indicating that the latest meteorite was found in 2012.
Rahma al Farsi, DG of Museums in the Ministry mentioned that the Ministry will organize an exhibition to be hosted by the National Museum, next April, showcasing rare sample of meteorites found in Oman. “it will be open for a month to give chance to all people, including school students, get more knowledge about this precious archeological treasure through its accompanied lectures.
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 at the Ministry, as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009 between Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the museum to study and classify the meteorites of different ages.