Visual Arts buddha-space

Published on September 28th, 2012 | by No Artificial

Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ Statue Found by Nazis is From Space

A historic object of art made of a Chinga iron meteorite fragment.

The 9.5 inches (24 cm) high sculpture of the god Vaiśravaṇa known only as the ‘iron man’ was collected by Nazis from Tibet during an exhibition in 1938.

However, only just recently its origins were confirmed to be astral: The statue is almost certainly carved from a piece of the Chinga meteorite, that was strewn across the border region between Russia and Mongolia between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, according to Elmar Buchner, of the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and his team.

In a paper published in Metoritics & Planetary Science, the researchers report their analysis of the iron, nickel, cobalt and trace elements of a sample from the statue, as well as its structure. They discovered that the geochemistry of the artifact is a match for values known from fragments of the Chinga meteorite. The piece turned into the ‘iron man’ would be the third largest known from that fall.

Given the extreme firmness of the meteorite — “basically an inappropriate material for producing sculptures” the paper notes — the artist or artists who created it may have known their material was special, the researchers explained.

Elmar Buchner suggests that it could have been produced by the 11th century Bon Ben culture, but the exact origin and age of the statue — as opposed to the meteorite it is made from — is still unknown.

As previously mentioned, the ‘iron man’ is thought to have been brought to Germany by a Nazi-backed expedition to Tibet in 1938–39. The swastika symbol on the piece — a version of which was adopted by the Nazi party — may have encouraged the 1938 expedition to take it back with them.

Although the ‘Iron Man’ may be the only known human figure carved into a rock fallen to Earth, many cultures used meteorite iron to make daggers and even jewelry, the researchers explained, and meteorite worship is common among many ancient cultures.

“The Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite, which means we have nothing to compare it to when assessing value,” Buchner claimed in a statement. “Its origins alone may value it at $20,000; however, if our estimation of its age is correct and it is nearly a thousand years old it could be invaluable.”

Meteoritics & Planetary Science

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