The First Death By Meteorite Occurred in 1888

An unlikely cause of death, streaking through the sky.
An unlikely cause of death, streaking through the sky. / NASA/Getty Images

Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere before hitting Earth, but those that do survive their fiery descent can have disastrous consequences. Meteorites have destroyed a car, a mailbox, and a fishing boat. In 1888, a falling meteorite hit a person, marking the earliest known death by space rock, according to Science.

The incident was recorded in documents recently uncovered from the Turkish state archives and reported in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science. In 1888, local authorities described several meteorites landing in what's now Iraq and wreaking havoc on the area. One meteorite reportedly left one man dead and another paralyzed. According to the documents, fields and crops were also destroyed by the event. The writing suggests a chunk of the deadly meteorite once accompanied one of the letters. If this still exists, the researchers who uncovered the historical documents haven't been able to locate it.

The meteorite shower was likely big news at the time. The researchers found evidence of reports of a fireball spotted above a nearby city from the same period. Abdul Hamid II, the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, was even notified of the disaster.

In modern history, reports of meteorites striking people are still incredibly rare. For decades, the only person known to have been hit by a meteorite was Anne Hodges, who had the unfortunate experience of being woken up from a nap when one punched a hole in her roof, bounced off a radio, and then hit her in 1954.

[h/t Science]