The Kaali Meteorite Crater is situated in the village of Kaali on the Estonian island of Saaremaa, almost 18 kilometers from its capital, Kuressaare. It is believed that it was the last gigantic meteorite to fall into a densely populated area, and the scar it left on the landscape expresses the dreadful events that happened here during the Bronze Age.
More than 7,600 years ago, a huge rock, between 20 and 80 tons in mass, ripped through Earth’s atmosphere at a velocity in the middle of 10 to 20 km/s. At an altitude of 5 to 10 kilometers, the meteorite broke up into countless pieces and fell in fragments.
The biggest of them slammed into the earth, releasing energy comparable to approximately 20 kilotons of TNT, or 25% more potent than the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima during the end of World War II. The explosion removed about 81,000 cubic meters of dolomites and other rock, shaped a fireball 7 to 8 kilometers tall, and incinerated forests within a 6-kilometer radius.
During that time, the village was forested with a small human population and the impact was less severe. Perhaps casualties must have been several, but the exploding meteor left a whole of nine craters in an area that is now recognized as the Kaali Meteorite Crater Field.
The main craters have a diameter of 110 meters and a depth of 22 meters. Other pieces of meteorite-shaped, smaller craters have diameters ranging from 12 to 40 meters and their relevant depths vary from one to four meters. All lie within a distance of one kilometer from the main crater.
These days, Kaali Meteorite Crater has a lake in it, mainly fed by groundwater and precipitation; it is mainly dependent on the time of year and this lake has a diameter of 30–60 meters and a depth of 1-6 meters. The surrounding Kaali crater is the remains of a huge stone wall 470 meters long, 2.5 meters thick and around 2 meters high, believed to have been built during the early Iron Age (600B.C. to 100A.D.)
A massive number of domestic animal bones have been found inside the walled area, the newest dating to the 17th century, signifying that the lake was not only used as a watering hole but as a place for ritual sacrifices. Moreover, there is an indication of a fortified settlement inhabited from the 5th to the 7th century BC and a slight hoard of silver jewelry from the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD.
The wall, the silver, and the bones have led to gossip that a century after the catastrophic explosion took place, the crater took on the role of a pagan worship site. The Estonians are recognized to have made animal offerings to certify good harvests, which persisted in being made in secret long after the Church forbade such pagan practices.
Stories of the catastrophe and the lake appear prominently in Finnish mythology, particularly the national epic Kalevala, which gives a very truthful description of fire falling from the sky that burned houses, fields, fens, and humans.