By: Virgil E. Barnes

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1996

The name tektites is derived from the Greek word tektos, meaning "melted." Tektites are bits of natural glass formed on earth by the impact of meteorites or comets. They are mostly black; some are green or yellow. Most weigh less than 300 grams and are characterized by splash forms such as spheres, teardrops, dumbbells, disks, and rods, as well as layered forms. The layered tektites formed as puddles of melt, chunks of which may weigh thirty pounds or more. Although known to prehistoric man, tektites were first described in scientific literature in 1788. Unlike meteorites, which are found worldwide, tektites occur in limited areas called strewn fields. Tektite strewn fields are mostly named after the area in which they are found. The Australasian strewn field includes the australites, javanites, philippinites, and indochinites. The latter includes the Indochina countries of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam as well as Thailand, Malaya, China and Myanmar. Tektites were first recognized in North America from Grimes County, Texas. These tektites were named bediasites after the Bedias Indians, who formerly roamed the area. As tektites from the same event, around 35 million years ago, are found in Georgia, Barbados, and Martha's Vineyard (a lone specimen), and as microtektites are found as far away as the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, the bediasites are now included as a part of the North American strewn field. Tektites also have been found in Walker, Brazos, Burleson, Lee, Fayette, Lavaca, Gonzales, and DeWitt counties in a strip five miles wide, 140 miles long, roughly parallel to the Gulf of Mexico coast, and coinciding with the upper part of the Jackson Formation of late Eocene age. The point of impact responsible for the tektites in North America has been found beneath Chesapeake Bay in Eocene rocks beneath younger sedimentary rocks. This discovery was preceded by the finding of tektites, microtektites, and impact debris in a drill core off the coast of New Jersey, indicating that the actual impact site was nearby.

Virgil E. and Mildred A. Barnes, eds., Tektites (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1962; rpt., Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania: Dowden, Hutchinson, and Ross, 1973). C. W. Poag et al., "Meteoroid Mayhem in Ole Virginny, Source of the North American Tektite Strewn Field," Geology 22 (August 1994). O. Stecher et al., "Nd and Sr Isotopic Evidence for the Origin of Tektite Material from DSDP Site 612 off the New Jersey Coast," Meteoritics, June 1989.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Virgil E. Barnes, “Tektites,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 29, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/tektites.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996