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Updated: October 1, 2012 09:02 IST

Buddhist statue made from meteorite

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Undated photo of an ancient Buddhist statue brought back from Tibet by a Nazi ecpedition shortly before World War II.
Undated photo of an ancient Buddhist statue brought back from Tibet by a Nazi ecpedition shortly before World War II.

Nazi-backed venture in part to trace origins of Aryan race

An ancient Buddhist statue that a Nazi expedition brought back from Tibet shortly before World War II was carved from a meteorite that crashed on Earth thousands of years ago.

What sounds like an Indiana Jones movie plot appears to have actually taken place, according to European researchers publishing in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science this month.

Elmar Buchner of the University of Stuttgart has said the statue was brought to Germany by the Schaefer expedition. The Nazi-backed venture set out for Tibet in 1938 in part to trace the origins of the Aryan race — a cornerstone of the Nazis’ racist ideology. The existence of the 10.6-kg statue, known as “iron man”, was only revealed in 2007 when its owner died and it came up for auction, he told AP.

German and Austrian scientists were able to get permission from its new owner, to conduct a chemical analysis that shows the statue came from the Chinga meteorite, which crashed in the area of what is now the Russian and Mongolian border around 15,000 years ago.

The meteorite was officially discovered in 1913, but Mr. Buchner said the statue could be 1,000 years old and represent a Buddhist god called Vaisravana. The Nazis were probably attracted to it by a left-facing swastika symbol on its front.

Scientists said the research linking the statue to the meteorite was credible.

“Looks like a solid piece of geochemical ‘forensic’ work,” said Qing-Zhu Yin, a researcher in geology at the University of California, Davis. “No terrestrial artefact would generally contain that much nickel content. Chemical elements don’t lie.”

Rhian Jones, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico who specialises in meteorites, said the claim appeared conclusive. But Mr. Yin cast doubt on the claim that the statue represented a Buddhist deity. “I am not a historian. But the ‘iron man’ does not look like a Buddha to me from my cultural background,” he said. “It looks more like a warrior with a sword ... (a) resemblance of Genghis Khan. ... I have never seen a Buddha with a sword or knife.”

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How did they come up with the symbol? What does it mean?

from:  Terry
Posted on: Oct 1, 2012 at 21:00 IST

The concluding part of the article with doubts cast by Mr Yin is no coincidence. Indeed, the
bearded 'iron man' looks like any warrior from Central Asia, home of the Aryans, swastika
and all. Any resemblance to Buddha is purely subjective.

from:  Rajan Mahadevan
Posted on: Oct 1, 2012 at 18:59 IST

@ N.G.Krishan, indeed you have to update your knowledge. Hindu swastika is right facing swastika with 4 dots and Hitler also used the right facing swastika. Where as the left facing swastika was used by Buddhist. But orientation does not affect the meaning of this symbol.

from:  o. kumar
Posted on: Oct 1, 2012 at 16:03 IST

@ sripad: Thanks! I stand corrected!

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Oct 1, 2012 at 15:57 IST

@ N.G.Krishnan - With due respect, kindly update your knowledge
regarding the swastika symbol. Hindus and Aryans both used the same
right-facing swastikas. Left Facing swastikas were used by budhist in
there temples.

from:  sripad
Posted on: Oct 1, 2012 at 11:47 IST

Nazi explorers took the iron man with them because of the ancient Hindu
swastika, a symbol of good luck and success, on the statue. The Nazis
used a right-facing swastika, a symbol of the Aryan race,where as
Indian swastika is left facing. Amazing sculpture considering it was
made out of meteorite Iron alloy containing 16 % Nickel an extremely
hard material and would have presented an extraordinary challenge to
curve even with the modern machining technology involving laser or
spark erosion!

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Oct 1, 2012 at 07:26 IST
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