Once again, New Scientist delivers a headline I can’t beat. A statue the Nazis brought to Germany from Tibet has been found to have been made of stuff from space:
Known as the ‘iron man’, the 24-cm high sculpture may represent the god Vaisravana 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, and his colleagues.
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 it could have been produced by the 11th century Ben 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.”