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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 16:13 EDT

Nazi Buddha Statue Shows Inconsistencies, Most Likely Fake

October 25, 2012
Image Credit: Elmar Buchner, Stuttgart University

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

A Buddha statuette that has been steeped in mystery since first coming to light late last month, has finally had its truths uncovered. The artifact, supposedly purchased during a Nazi expedition to Tibet in the 1930s, was said to be carved from a meteorite and was likely more than a thousand years old.

While reports of the discovery seem eerily similar to that of an Indian Jones thrill ride, as redOrbit´s April Flowers described it in a previous story, the fact of the matter is the statue and the story do not jive.

According to reports, the statue´s previous owner said it was brought to Germany by the SS expedition led by ethnologist Ernst Schafer in the 1930s. Schafer reportedly found the 1,000-year-old swastika-emblazoned Buddha in Tibet and said it had been carved from a meteorite. Schafer had also reportedly returned with more than 2,000 items he had unearthed while on his expedition. And while most of those items have been lost, a list of those items remains–yet with no mention of the statue that has been dubbed “Iron Man.”

Based on these accounts, there exists a strong indication the Iron Man is nothing more than a fake.

In fact, a derisive analysis of the statue has been documented by Achim Bayer of Dongguk University in Seoul (available in English from the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg). In Bayer´s documentation, he points out several indications that the statue was more likely produced in Europe sometime between 1910 and 1970.

A fair amount of observation reveals significant intricacies about the Iron Man´s origins, including shoes that are more European than Oriental, trousers, and a full beard–most all deities in Tibetan and Mongolian art are depicted with thin, wispy beards rather than full-on facial hair. In total, Bayer was able to uncover 13 inconsistencies within the statue.

While the intricacies paint a pretty clear picture of its non-Tibetan ancestral relevance, Bayer is stopping short of criticizing the publication of the findings, which appeared in the September issue of Meteorics and Planetary Science, and unleashed the media frenzy.

University of Stuttgart geologist Elmar Buchner, who published the initial findings, focused more on the chemical makeup of the statue, rather than the historical details therein. And while he remained fairly convinced on the composition of the piece being meteoric, he said the “ethnological and art historical details of the “Iron Man” sculpture, as well as the time of the sculpturing, currently remain speculative.”

Buchner ascertained the statue most likely was carved from a piece of Chinga meteorite, which slammed into the Earth some 15,000 years ago along the border of present-day Mongolia and Siberia. “While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before,” noted Buchner in his work.

“Although this paper is addressed to a specialized academic audience,” Bayer wrote, “I would like to briefly address readers from outside our field and clarify that there is not any controversy among experts about the authenticity of the statue, the ‘lama wearing trousers,’ as I would like to call it. (So far), no acknowledged authority in the field of Tibetan or Mongolian art has publicly deemed the statue authentic and the issue has to be considered uncontroversial.”

German historian Isrun Engelhardt, who has studied Schafer´s expedition extensively, has also cast doubt on the suggestion that the Iron Man was brought back from Tibet during the Nazi SS expedition.

“There is an extremely precise list of the purchased objects, including date, place and value,” she told Spiegel. And the Buddha statue is nowhere to be found on that list, indicating the piece was not among Schafer´s artifacts, she added.

As for the Nazi provenance, Buchner claimed that the statue´s previous owner related to him that it had been collected in the late 1930s as part of a Nazi effort to discover the roots of the Aryan race. He said he had no reason to doubt the story told to him, adding that his interest lie with the origins of the composition of the piece rather than identifying its historical relevance.

Buchner suggested that the best home for the statue would be in a meteorite museum. “There, the art historical aspect wouldn’t be so important.”


Source: Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online