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Meteorite carving first discovered by nazis.

It sounds like an artifact from an Indiana Jones film; a 1,000-year-old ancient Buddhist statue--which first was recovered by a 1930s Nazi expedition--has been analyzed by scientists and found to be carved from a meteorite. The research, published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science, reveals the priceless statue to be a rare ataxite class of meteorite.

The statue, known as the Iron Man, weighs around 22 pounds and is believed to represent a stylistic hybrid between the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon culture that portrays the god Vaisravana, the King of the North, also known as Jambhala in Tibet.

It was discovered in 1938 by an expedition of German scientists led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schafer. The expedition was supported by Nazi SS head Heinrich Himmler and the entire expeditionary team was believed to have been SS members.

Schafer later would claim that he accepted SS support to advance his scientific research into the wildlife and anthropology of Tibet. However, historians believe Himmler's support may have been based on his belief that the origins of the Aryan race could be found in Tibet.

It is unknown how the statue was discovered, but it is believed that the large swastika carved into the center of the figure may have encouraged the team to take it back to Germany. Once it arrived in Munich it became part of a private collection and only was available for study following an auction in 2007.

"The statue was chiseled from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago," explains Elmer Buchner of Germany's Stuttgart University. "White the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before."

Meteorites inspired worship from many ancient cultures ranging from the Inuit's of Greenland to the aborigines of Australia. Even today, one of the most famous worship sites in the world, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, is based upon the Black Stone, believed to be a stony meteorite. Buchner's team thinks the Iron Man originated from the Bon culture of the 11th century.

"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," concludes Buchner. "Its origins alone may value it at $20,000; however, if our estimation of its age is correct and it is nearly 1,000 years old, it could be invaluable."


Please note: Some tables or figures were omitted from this article.

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Title Annotation:"Iron Man" Statue
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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