Land owner gains rights to meteorite

Published 29 March 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Andreas Forsberg and Anders Zetterqvist found the meteorite. Johan Benzelstierna von Engeström threw a 'meteorite cake' after the 2022 District Court decision

A landowner is entitled to a meteorite that landed on his property, the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) has ruled. The 14 kg stone landed in the forest in December 2020 and was later found by geologists.

In November 2020 it was noticed that a meteorite had fallen to earth. Two geologists found the meteorite in the landowner’s forest in Enköping, Sweden, about a month after it fell. The stone was then given to the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet), where it remains today. The find, an iron meteorite, has been described as ‘historic’.

– It is a unique natural object that Andreas and Anders have found. It has not happened in Sweden for more than sixty years that a meteorite observed in a fall has been taken care of, and it is the first sure example of a newly fallen iron meteorite in our country, explained Dan Holstam, curator of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, in 2021.

However, the landowner, Johan Benzelstierna of Engeström, believed he had the right to the stone because it landed on his property. However, the Uppsala District Court (Uppsala Tingsrätt) ruled in the fall of 2022 that the meteorite did not belong to the landowner, but was considered “movable property” and that the geologists who found the stone had ownership rights.

The Svea Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) has now overturned the district court’s decision and ruled that the Benzelstierna of Engeström has ownership of the stone because “there are no special rules for meteorites”. Furthermore, they say that the meteorite “consists of substances already present in the earth’s surface”.

– It feels really good. It’s been a difficult time where a lot of energy has gone into this dispute, Benzelstierna of Engeström told tax-funded Swedish state broadcaster SVT.

The verdict can be appealed

According to the geologists, there should have been an agreement between them and the landowner, which would have given them the right to the meteorite. However, they were unable to produce such an agreement.

– This is one of my greatest experiences as a ‘meteorite hunter’ and I had hoped it would end in a more pleasant way, says Andreas Forsberg, one of the people who found the stone.

Benzelstierna von Engeström says he will deposit the stone in a museum, where he hopes it will “increase interest in space and research, especially among the younger generation”.

The verdict can be appealed to the Svea Court of Appeal until April 18.

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