35 million years ago, a torrent of glassy stones poured down onto the southeastern coast
of North America and the Caribbean. Similar showers descended upon central Europe, West
Africa, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Later, about
750,000 years ago, 100 million tons of the same rock fell into the Indian Ocean,
Australia, and Southeast Asia.
In 1900, scientists found that these widely scattered rocks had a similar composition,
and maybe a common origin. The stones appear in unusual shapes, some like buttons or
barbells, but all the liquid, blob-like shapes passed through the earth’s atmosphere at
high velocities. Because of this, they were given the name tektites, from the Greek word
for “molten,” tektos.
Most researchers think that tektites originate from the earth. Some think volcanoes shot
burning lumps of matter high above the atmosphere, forming tektites as it fell down and
across the earth. However, no volcano has enough power to launch so much material so high
into the sky, and lava does not contain the same materials as tektites. Others believe
that huge meteorites fell onto Earth, melting some surface rock and throwing the pieces
A few investigators still believe the moon is the source for these stones, estimating
that debris from lunar volcanoes could have broken free from the moon’s gravity and
fallen to earth. Although the Apollo astronauts have already brought back lunar samples
whose composition does not match that of the tektites, these investigators still believe
the interior of the moon may contain the right match of chemical components.