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RMCA
Leuvensesteenweg 13
3080 Tervuren - Belgium
Tel. (+32) 02 769 52 11
Fax (+32) 02 769 52 42

 

Treasure of the month

Fulgurites or 'petrified lightning'


 

Pronvenance: Diosso, north of Loango, Kouilou Region, Republic of Congo
Collected by: E. Dartevelle in July 1938
Dimensions: 42 x 30 x 6 cm
Inventory number: RGM 1554

 

 

 

 



Fulgurites are tubular features composed of amorphous silica that form through the impact of lightning on the earth’s surface. The lightning strike results in partial melting of the material that it hits, followed by formation of an amorphous, glass-like phase upon rapid cooling. In Africa, they have mainly been described in sand deserts of the Sahara.

The fulgurites presented here were collected by Edmond Dartevelle in the 1930s, in a small sandy depression north of Loango in the Republic of the Congo. Their discovery was presented in a 1941 publication as the first known fulgurite occurrence in Central Africa.

Edmond Dartevelle (1907-1956) was a biologist and palaeontologist who led several important expeditions to the coastal area of Central Africa, in a region extending from Angola to Gabon. The numerous and diverse items that he collected in the field, ranging from fossils to ethnographical objects, are now part of the holdings of various RMCA departments.

You can see these fulgurites until 3 September 2017 in the temporary exhibition Heaven! Science and Culture at the Palais Royal in Brussels.
 


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