That Nazi 'iron man' space statue might not be what we thought

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

Last month, we told you a cool story about an ancient Tibetan statue carved from a meteorite and its eventual arrival in Nazi Germany after a mysterious German expedition. Well, it seems that story just got a bit less cool, because according to one expert, while it may be made from a meteorite, the statue's likely not as ancient as we thought.

Known as "iron man" or "Space Buddha" for the iron-heavy meteorite it's apparently carved from, the statue was believed to date back to the 11th century. The story goes that a Nazi expedition to Tibet in the late '30s brought it to Germany, apparently because of the swastika on its stomach.

Researchers at the University of Stuttgart believe the meteorite material fell to Earth 10,000-20,000 years ago, making this a very unique statue indeed. But while they may be right about the material the statue is carved from, a Buddhism expert now claims the researchers were very wrong indeed about the age of the carving itself.

According to Achim Bayer of Dongguk University in South Korea, the statue has numerous "pseudo-Tibetan features" that point to a much later production date than the original 11th century claim. For one thing, the statue's wearing shoes rather than the boots that would have been more likely at the time. It's also wearing trousers rather than robes, its cape seems more Roman than Tibetan, and the style of the sleeves is inconsistent with the traditional 11th-century Tibetan garb. Plus, Bayer notes, it has a beard, a feature not usually seen in depictions of Buddhist deities (the statute is believed to depict the deity Vaisravana).

Bayer doesn't dispute the materials making up the statue, but his interpretation of the image dates the carving to the early 20th century. And what's more, he doesn't believe the Nazis snatched it from Tibet. Rather, his claim is that was likely produced as a replica for the antique market, or to capitalize on the Nazi need to own lots of things with swastikas on them.

The University of Stuttgart researchers did note in their study that their dating of the carving was preliminary, and they even said that comments from cultural scholars who might know more were welcome. Bayer was happy to oblige, and now it seems that whole cool story about Nazis was just that: a story.

(Via Huffington Post)

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