Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 20, 2015

The Camp Verde Meteorite


by Paul Cooley

On the evening of March 6th the Sedona Westerners hiking club, at their monthly meeting, was treated to a shower of meteor information by Kenneth Zoll, Executive Director of the Verde Valley Archaeological Center.

Zoll was prompted to pick meteorites as the subject of his presentation by the fact that the Verde Valley Archaeological Center recently brought back for display a meteorite with a long and interesting history behind it. The Camp Verde Meteorite display began March 1st in Camp Verde.

Ken Zoll, Executive Director of the Verde Valley Archaeological Center.
Photo by Paul Cooley.

In 1915, an “amateur collector of Indian relics” uncovered a stone cyst in a ruin along Clear Creek east of Camp Verde, Zoll said. The cyst was covered in about 18 inches of loose dirt and inside, wrapped in a blanket of turkey feathers, was a large object that was eventually determined to be a nickel-iron meteorite. It was subsequently named the Camp Verde Meteorite, after the geographical location of its find.

Kenneth Zoll continued to relate that the Camp Verde Meteorite was later confirmed to be a coarse octahedrite meteorite from the Canyon Diablo fall east of Flagstaff. It created the Meteor Crater about 50 thousand years ago. An octahedrite meteorite was the most common structural class of iron meteorites.

In correspondence related to the original discovery of the meteorite, Zoll determined that the feather blanket had been cut into small pieces and given away by the founder of the meteorite to various friends and family members. He detailed the history of the Camp Verde Meteorite, from the time of its discovery up until its present display at the Verde Valley Archaeological Center and its relation to other meteorite finds in northern Arizona. Zoll said in 1935 Dr. Henry Nininger of Sedona, a self-taught meteorite scientist and collector heard about the meteorite and ended up purchasing it for $75.00 and naming it. The meteorite weighed 135 lbs. and was about two feet long and 12 inches wide with a maximum thickness of 5.5 inches.

When he researched the meteorite, Kenneth Zoll was presented with a challenge to determine the exact location the “relic collector” found it. He studied a photograph of Dr. Henry Nininger in the 1930's standing in a ruin where the meteorite was supposedly found. It was later confirmed that this ruin was a known specific ruin location east of Camp Verde.

Zoll was further challenged by the fact “ if the Camp Verde meteorite was a part of the meteorite that had created Meteor Crater, how did it get 100 miles south to Camp Verde?” He turned to Dr. Lawrence Garvie, a Research Professor at the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration, for an explanation. Zoll said Dr. Garvie believed that the Camp Verde Meteorite wass more likely a fragment of the original 300,000 ton meteorite that separated from the main mass as it broke apart in the atmosphere and landed closer to Camp Verde, as opposed to it being carried the 100 miles distance.

Kenneth Zoll is involved with the field of Archaeoastronomy. Archaeoastronomy is the study of how people in the past have understood the phenomena of the sky, how they have used these phenomena and what role the sky has played in their cultures in the Verde Valley-Sedona area. Zoll has published several books relating to this field and archaeology in general, including Sinagua Sunwatchers and Understanding the Rock Art of Sedona and the Verde Valley.

Zoll was also known for his discovery of a Sinaguan solar calendar at V Bar V Ranch Heritage Site in 2005. While a docent there, he made this discovery when he noticed how the sun came through two rocks and matched up with concentric circles scratched on another rock.

The Camp Verde Meteorite is on display March 1st through August 31st at the Verde Valley Archaeological Center located at 385 S. Main Street in Camp Verde and is open Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission is free.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.