Nazis found 'out-of-space' Buddah

2012-09-28 07:28
Researchers say a Nazi-backed expedition to Tibet returned to Germany in 1938 with an ancient Buddhist statue that was carved from a meteorite. (AFP)

Researchers say a Nazi-backed expedition to Tibet returned to Germany in 1938 with an ancient Buddhist statue that was carved from a meteorite. (AFP)

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Berlin - Researchers say a Nazi-backed expedition to Tibet returned to Germany in 1938 with an ancient Buddhist statue that was carved from a meteorite.

Scientists from Germany and Austria determined the origins of the 10.6kg statue through chemical analysis.

They say its composition indicates it comes from the Chinga iron meteorite that crashed on the border of Russia and Mongolia 15 000 years ago.

The meteorite was officially discovered in 1913, but Elmar Buchner of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, said on Thursday the statue could be 1 000 years old and represents a Buddhist god called Vaisravana.

Elmar Buchner of the University of Stuttgart 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.

Swastika

The existence of the statue, known as "iron man", was only revealed in 2007 when its owner died and it came up for auction, Buchner said.

German and Austrian scientists were able to get permission from its new owner, who wasn't disclosed, 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 Nazis were probably attracted to it by a left-facing swastika symbol on its front. The swastika has been used by various cultures throughout the ages, but the Nazis tried to appropriate it as the symbol of their ideology, going so far as to put a right-facing version of it on their red and white flag.

Rhian Jones, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico who specialises in meteorites, said the claim appeared conclusive.

"There is a clear and convincing argument that the meteorite the statue is made from is the Chinga iron meteorite," she said.

But 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."

The research was published in the current issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
- SAPA

Read more on:    space  |  archaeology
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