In 1576, the governor of a province in northern Argentina commissioned the military to search for a huge mass of iron, which he had heard that natives used for their weapons. The natives claimed that the mass had fallen from the sky in a place they called Piguem Nonralta, which the Spanish translated as Campo del Cielo ("Field of heaven"). The expedition found a large mass of metal protruding out of the soil and collected a few samples, which were described as being of unusual purity. The governor documented the expedition and submitted the report to the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, but it was quickly forgotten and later reports merely repeated the native legends.
Following the legends, in 1774 Don Bartolomé Francisco de Maguna rediscovered the iron mass which he called el Mesón de Fierro ("the Table of Iron"). Maguna believed that the mass was the tip of an iron vein. The next expedition, led by Rubin de Celis in 1783, used explosives to clear the ground around the mass and found that it was likely a single stone. Celis estimated its mass as 15 tonnes and abandoned it as worthless. He believed that it had formed by a volcanic eruption, rather than being a meteorite. However, he sent samples to the Royal Society in London and published his report in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Those samples were later analyzed and found to contain 90% iron and 10% nickel; they were assigned to a meteoritic origin.
Since the crater field's discovery, hundreds of iron pieces have been recovered, weighing from a few milligrams to 34 tonnes. Otumpa, a mass of approximately 1 tonne, was discovered in 1803. A 634-kilogram (1,398 lb) portion of this mass was taken to Buenos Aires in 1813, then donated to the British Museum. The mass called El Taco was originally 3,090 kilograms (6,810 lb), but the largest remaining fragment weighs 1,998 kilograms (4,405 lb).
In 1969 El Chaco, the second-largest mass at 28,840 kilograms (63,580 lb), was discovered 5 metres (16 ft) below the surface using a metal detector. It was extracted in 1980 and, at the time, was estimated to weigh about 37 tonnes. This made it the second heaviest meteorite after the 60-tonne Hoba meteorite, discovered in Namibia. Currently, more than 100 tonnes of Campo del Cielo fragments have been discovered, making it the heaviest set of such finds on Earth.
In 1990 an Argentine highway police officer foiled a plot by Robert Haag to steal El Chaco. It was returned to Campo del Cielo and is now protected by provincial law.
In 2015, police arrested four alleged smugglers trying to steal more than 907 kilograms (2,000 lb) of protected meteorites.
In 2016, the largest-known meteorite of the strewn field was unearthed. Named the Gancedo meteorite after the nearby town of Gancedo, which lent equipment to aid in the extraction, this nickel-iron meteorite has a mass of 30,800 kilograms (67,900 lb) (less than the original estimated mass of El Chaco). Due to a suspected lack of precision when El Chaco was weighed in 1980, the latter was reweighed with the same instruments and discovered to only have a mass of 28,840 kilograms (63,580 lb), making Gancedo the largest Campo del Cielo fragment recovered.