there are no solid answers to the "what is a tektite?" question.
---Indeed, this is part of the mystique, and is arguably one of the biggest little questions in geology.
"...probably the most frustrating stones ever found on earth." (H. Faul, 1966, Science, 152, p1341-45,
thanks Guy Heinen!))
Darwin collected the first tektite known to modern science during the voyage of the Beagle, and since then scientists
have continued to argue. One thing is unequivocal: these
ARE bits of remarkably high quality glass that rained down out of the sky at least 5 times in earth history.
After that it gets iffy. Some claim that these came from either a volcanic
eruption or meteorite impact on the moon, the products of which escaped the moon's gravitational field and were
captured by that of the earth. Others, myself included, believe that tektites are related to exceptional meteorite
or comet impact events on the earth. In this scenario, tektites are considered to be primarily melted earth materials
that sprayed upwards during bolide impact. Picture the earth splashing like a lake of water hit by cannon fire!
Whichever way, blobs of molten glass DEFINETLY
fell out of the sky. Tektites are the result.
"Muong-Nong" type tektites apparently formed as big (up to a metric tonne or more) puddles of glass, the most famous
of which formed in Laos a little under 800,000 years ago (Pieces of which you can purchase here). Other blobs,
up to a half kilo or so, went spinning for hundreds of kilometers, forming balls, discus-like lensoid biscuits,
rods, dumbells, and teardrops (collectively known as "splashforms", pieces of which you can purchase here). Some of these were still variably plastic
when they hit the earth, yielding derivative morphologies which I have termed "splatforms" (pieces of which you can purchase
here). Others (principally represented by the Australites, and rarely exceeding a hundred grams) apparently splashed
completely out of the atmosphere and traveled hundreds to thousands of kilometers from their point of origin. These
were greatly modified by atmospheric friction during re-entry to form "ablated
splashforms" (pieces of which you can purchase here). The final
type, "microtektites", may literally have condensed from the vapor of earth material produced from hyper-velocity
impact (pieces of which you can't yet purchase here, but they're coming soon).
PS: Hominids were there for the Australasian biggie!
The glory in all this is that the jury is still out! That cool freak
piece that you buy from The Tektite Source may be the Rosetta Stone that finally solves the question!!! We DO have
the data we need to solve the question---but no one has yet collected just the right set of specimens or thought
about it in just the right way while holding their face in just the right expression---- Good Luck.
Stone tools attributed to Homo Erectus have recently been reported from Southern China
in association with tektite-bearing and carbon-rich stratigraphy. It is hard to conceive of the terror aroused
by the fall of billions of tonnes of molten glass from the sky. Traveling at supersonic velocities, the tektites
gave rise to a chorus of millions of simultaneous sonic booms (maybe the loudest moment in rock history?).
The carbon rich soil horizons suggest that those that weren't killed directly by the brimstone hail faced massive
firestorms that would in turn have posed both direct threats to survival and very real indirect threats though
starvation. Perhaps it is pure coincidence, but the ancient chinese name
for tektites (first recorded in print in the Tang dynasty around 950 AD, roughly
1000 years before modern science recognized that tektites fell from the sky)
is Lei gong mo, said to translate
roughly "Black ink pens hurled from the sky by the god of thunder". Is it somehow possible that a cultural memory of one of the greatest catastrophies in
hominid history survived in the name? (for 800,000 years!!)? There can be no doubt that it was an event of that
sort of magnitude. When junior asked grandpa what the funny black rocks were, you can bet that there was quite
an elaborate story passed down! The event most certainly DID change the course of human history. While this was
not a recognized global extinction event, those in southeast Asia at the time would have a different opinion. We
might otherwise still be battling for our place in line at the supermarket with Homo
Erectus! You heard it here first. Only the TEKTITE SOURCE faithful
know what you now know. So next time you hold a tektite in your hand, remember
our cousin. The stone you hold may have once rested in his braincase.
THE TEKTITE SOURCE
(By the way, I think that the tektites may be derived from the equivalent
of laser-ablation craters formed when some alien culture blasted earth to get spectrographic analyses at various
times in the past! Or maybe cosmic laser warfare?) Deep enough.. Let me know when you figure it out.