Buddhist statue discovered by Nazis is made of meteorite
A 1,000-year-old Buddhist statue discovered in Tibet by Nazis searching for the origins of the Aryan race was hewn from meteorite, scientists have found.The "Iron Man" statue, which bears a swastika on its chest, was brought back to Germany in 1938 after being found in Tibet by a team of SS members led by zoologist Ernst Schäfer.
The expedition was backed by Heinrich Himmler, the SS chief, who believed that the secret origin of the entire Aryan race could be uncovered in Tibet.
Now the first scientific study of the statue's origins by experts from Stuttgart University has found that it is made of ataxite, a rare type of iron meteorite with a high nickel content.
Experts concluded it had been chiselled from a remnant of the Chinga meteorite which fell to Earth near the border of Mongolia and Siberia 15,000 years ago.
Meteorites were worshipped by a host of ancient cultures including the Inuits of Greenland and Australia's aborigines.
The 10kg Iron Man statue, believed have originated from the 11th century Bon culture, depicts the god Vaisravana, the Buddhist King of the North, who is also known in Tibet as Jambhala.
After being brought to Munich in 1938 it was included in a private collection and was only made available for scientists to analyse after it was auctioned in 2007.
Dr Elmar Buchner, who led the study published in the Meteoritics and Planetary Science journal, said: "While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before.
“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.
"Its origins alone may value it at $20,000 (£12,500); however, if our estimation of its age is correct and it is nearly a thousand years old it could be invaluable.”