What Is the Oldest Specimen in the American Museum of Natural History?

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is home to an impressive collection of specimens from around the world. Among its countless treasures, there is one specimen that stands out as the oldest in the museum’s collection. This artifact has a special place in the history of science and offers a glimpse into the distant past.

The oldest specimen in the AMNH is a meteorite that fell to Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. The Allende meteorite was discovered in Mexico in 1969 and has been on display at the museum ever since.

The Allende Meteorite

The Allende meteorite gets its name from its place of origin, the town of Allende in Mexico. It is classified as a carbonaceous chondrite, which means it contains organic compounds that are believed to be remnants from the early solar system.

Discovery and Composition

The Allende meteorite fell to Earth on February 8, 1969. The event was witnessed by local residents who heard a loud explosion followed by a rain of stones. Scientists quickly identified it as an important find and began studying it.

The meteorite weighs over two tons and is made up of various minerals such as olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase feldspar. It also contains small, spherical objects known as chondrules that are thought to have formed within the solar nebula.

Scientific Significance

The Allende meteorite has been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the early solar system. Its organic compounds have provided valuable insights into how life may have originated on Earth.

In addition, researchers have used isotopic dating techniques to determine that the meteorite is around 4.5 billion years old – roughly the same age as our solar system itself. This makes it one of the oldest objects ever studied by scientists.

On Display at the Museum

The Allende meteorite is now on permanent display at the AMNH’s Rose Center for Earth and Space. Visitors can see the meteorite up close and learn about its scientific significance.

  • Location: Rose Center for Earth and Space
  • Weight: Over two tons
  • Composition: Carbonaceous chondrite with organic compounds
  • Age: Approximately 4.5 billion years old


The Allende meteorite is not only the oldest specimen in the American Museum of Natural History, but it has also played a crucial role in advancing our understanding of the early solar system. Its discovery and subsequent study have provided us with valuable insights into the origins of life on Earth and the formation of our solar system. As such, it remains one of the most important objects in the museum’s vast collection.