Libyan Desert Glass
Comet impact glass! 28,500,000 years old!
In the southeastern spur of North Africa’s Great Sand Sea, there are several fields of luminous, yellow-green glass known as Libyan Desert Glass (LDG). Due to the lack of any visible impact crater, the most likely source is a low-density asteroid or comet airburst explosion leading to the fusion of silica-rich sands roughly 28,500,000 years ago.
Above: Photo of the Great Sand Sea taken from the International Space Station (Source: NASA http://go.nasa.gov/1NCZMr4)
This specimen is a fragment of Libyan Desert Glass. The pieces vary widely in size, shape, and color though most are between 0.75" and 1.5" (2.5-3.5cm) in length.
Above: Closeup image of a Libyan Desert Glass specimen.
The glass is enclosed in a classic, glass-topped riker display case. The case measures 4 1/2" x 3 1/2" and comes with a small information card about the specimen and guarantee of authenticity issued by Mini Museum.
Libyan Desert Glass made its first appearance in the Second Edition of the Mini Museum.
Please Note: We've tumbled these specimens slightly to remove sharp edges, but even though it is 28,500,000 years old it is still glass and there might be a few pointy places. In other words, be careful while handling this specimen.
More About Libyan Desert Glass
The distribution of Libyan Desert Glass across several sites leads some scientists to speculate that there may have been multiple explosions, though recent surveys of the surrounding watershed provide stronger evidence for distribution by erosion.
Above: Map of the Great Sand Sea
While the dunes of the Great Sand Sea may seem timeless, during the Early to Middle Paleolithic Era the region was often home to a wetter climate capable of supporting playa wetlands. Further to the south, in what is now one of the least hospitable places on earth, permanent lakes and savanna grasslands supported an even greater abundance of life.
Above: Artifact sketches from "Silica-glass from the Libyan Desert", Nature, 1933
Throughout the region, there is plentiful evidence of multiple periods of early human settlement. Coming and going as the climate changed, our ancestors shaped the glass into tools and decorative items, but paleolithic cultures are not the only ones to use the glass.
Above: Image of burial pectoral from Treasures of Tutankhamen, 1972
When English archeologist Howard Carter cataloged the tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1922, he identified the scarab at the center of this pectoral as chalcedony, a naturally occurring silica formation. Seventy-five years later, a chance viewing by an Italian mineralogist named Vincenzo de Michele led to studies that revealed the material to be Libyan Desert Glass.
This 18th Dynasty find is unique among the gems of ancient Egypt, as it is the only known use of Libyan Glass. The scarab is part of a twofold representation of the sun-god, which in Egyptian mythology could be represented by both scarab and falcon.
Above: The many colors of Libyan Desert Glass