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Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ found by Nazis is from space

Elmar Buchner

A Buddhist statue brought to Germany from Tibet by a Nazi-backed expedition has been confirmed as having an extraterrestrial origin.

Known as the ‘iron man’, the 24-centimetre-high sculpture may represent the god Vaiśravaṇa and was likely created 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 colleagues.

In a paper published in Metoritics and Planetary Science, the team reports their analysis of the iron, nickel, cobalt and trace elements of a sample from the statue, as well as its structure. They found that the geochemistry of the artefact 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 hardness 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 say. Buchner suggests that it could have been produced by the 11th century Bon Ben [Corrected 27/9] culture, but the exact origin and age of the statue — as opposed to the meteorite it is made from — is still unknown. It 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.

“While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before,” said Buchner in a statement. “The Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite.”

Although this item may be the only known human figure carved into a rock fallen to Earth, other meteorites have also been used by many religions across the world. A 15-tonne example in North America called the Willamette meteorite is sacred to some native Americans, and some have suggested that the Black Stone in the Kaaba in Mecca is a meteorite.

Comments

  1. Report this comment

    Dave Land said:

    Fascinating article undermined by a silly misspelling: “artefact” is probably supposed to be “artifact”.

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      Peter Cary said:

      Nature adheres to British spelling guidelines. This is in fact the correct spelling (UK = Artefact). Nature Editorial

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      Tanya Zilberter said:

      1) Artifact (archaeology), an object formed by humans, particularly one of interest to archaeologists
      2) In sci. literature commonly used is ARTEFACT, 15 000 times in 2012 alone, e.g. in Nature: “Prions: Not just an artefact. R David. Nature Reviews Microbiology 10, 239 (April 2012)

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        Tanya Zilberter said:

        On the other hand, in 17 000 articles (2012), ARTIFACT is used in the same meaning: “Artifact versus reality – How astrocytes contribute to synaptic events. Glia.Volume 60, Issue 7, pages 1013–1023, July 2012”

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          Lisbon Knight said:

          It only says 15000 articles have written or edited by British English speakers whereas 17000 by US. Peace!

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    Jeffrey Satinover said:

    Uh oh. The Nazi “Ahnenerbe”, under Hitler, who treasured this, had all kinds of crazed notions as to the origins of the “Aryans” as they meant the term. The Ahnenerbe under Himmler may or may not have also had a theory that the Aryans were descended from superior aliens and that Hitler, still alive, will emerge from a space-base hidden under the ice in Antarctica. In Robert Rankin’s “Nostradamus Ate My Hamster”, Hitler and a group of Nazis escape to the future, where through media manipulation they attempt a new takeover. I won’t be surprised if we soon read all over FB that this statue was created first, then fell. Thanks a lot. Or maybe someone there has a great sense of humor when it comes to “contrefactual” notions?

  3. Report this comment

    Carl Larson said:

    Absolutely fascinating. For me now, the nuances of symbolism have a new richness.

    I apologize on behalf of those compatriots of mine who are unaware of the nuanced linguistic differences between American and British English – we do deliberately avoid educating a majority of our electorate in this country, so it’s not entirely his fault. Out of respect (or perhaps honour), I’ll use British spelling and voice when I comment here. Cheers.

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    Sebastian March said:

    Interesting. Technically speaking, don’t all statues have an extraterrestrial origin?

  5. Report this comment

    Michael Billingsley said:

    There are an unfortunate number of apparent errors in this article. The statue is referred to first as Buddhist and then as “Ben/Bon.” I believe the author meant “Bön” – but that is (during the time frame of the 10th-11th century) incompatible with Buddhism and was a separate spiritual path.

    Prof. Buchner refers often to the figure being “carved” from the meteorite (and the author also refers to it being carved from “stone”… which the meteorite is not, it is iron with nickel alloys). I see no evidence of carving but rather of “casting” – ie. via lost wax mold casting as continues to be the practice with fragments of the Chinga meteorite. The original wax figurine WAS carved with a fine knife and other pointed tools to achieve the evidence minute details. This, by itself, is NOT rare. Smelted (meteoric) iron is then poured into the mold and displaces the wax figurine. I own 2 such statu(ettes) – one of which is illustrated at http://on.fb.me/R0W77O

    Lastly, is the identity of the portrayed figure. Prof. Buchner’s team asserts he is Vasravana, a Bön figure. Perhaps. This individual is wearing a characteristic lama’s hat; has a pointed beard (so he clearly is a lay teacher – like his contemporary, 11th century Marpa); and is wearing chain mail… so perhaps was a regional administrator or important prince (not incompatible with Buddhist teaching). His right hand is extended in the Buddhist “offering” gesture; his posture is characteristic of one called “ease;” and his left hand holds not a sword (as some misinformed articles assert) but the Tibetan Buddhist power object called “wish-fulfilling gem.” This does not seem like a Bön figure although greater scholars than myself may disagree.

    Ngakpa K. Jigme Tonpa (Michael Billingsley)

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    Tenzin Peljor said:

    There is no proof whatsoever for the claim: “A Buddhist statue brought to Germany from Tibet by a Nazi-backed expedition has been confirmed as having an extraterrestrial origin.” This is a mere claim for which there is no back up.

    There exist a detailed list if the items the Ernst Schäfer Expedition bought in Tibet. This could be looked up. But for this it were needed to contact Tibetologists who have knowledge in that field, an aspect Prof Buchner and the press missed to do. The whole is discussed highly controversial among the science community.

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    Rand Vee said:

    In a technical sense yes, everything is extraterrestrial in origin. We sometimes overlook this fact when discussing objects from falls. I would enjoy seeing further research done as to the origins of the artistry as it is a fascinating piece and quite beautiful.

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    Tenzin Peljor said:

    There is now a paper by Achim Bayer (Dongguk University, Seoul), a Tibetologist, “The Lama Wearing Trousers: Notes on an Iron Statue in a German Private Collection” online: http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/pdf/publikationen/Bayer_2012-Trousers.pdf

    Also a paper about the Ernst Schäfer Expedition has been posted online: http://info-buddhism.com/Tibet-1938-1939-Ernst-Schaefer-Expedition-Engelhardt.html

    I think both papers can contribute to settle a lot of the misunderstandings and the sensationalist and distorted media coverage.

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    Tenzin Peljor said:

    Sorry for the double comment. The first comment wasn’t approved due to the spam filter. When I realized that I posted the comment again as single comments with a single link. Obviously the admin has now detected the comment in the spam queue and approved it …

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