This is a story that could be straight out of an Indiana Jones movie: An ancient artifact made from space rock, stolen by Nazis and recovered decades later!
Sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly what happened! In 1938, a Nazi expedition recovered a thousand-year old Buddhist statue that weighs about 10kg and is 9.5 inches tall. No one is quite sure how the statue was found, but a large swastika carved into the statue may have been the source of encouragement for the team to take it back to Germany (note that before the Nazis adopted the swastika for their own purposes, it was simply a geometric shape used by many ancient cultures).
Once the statue arrived in Munich, it went through its paces and ended up as part of a private collection… until 2009.
The statue, also called the “Iron Man,” was studied by a team from Stuttgart University. They were able to determine the statue is made of ataxite, a very rare class of iron meteorite. According to team leader Dr. Elmar Buchner, “the statue was chiseled from an iron meteorite, from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago.”
Now, the statue itself isn’t actually of Buddha, but portrays a Buddhist god named Vaisravana, god of wealth and war. It’s believed to have originated from an 11th-century pre-Buddhist Tibetan Bon culture.
It’s not that unusual that this ancient culture would have carved a statue out of meteorite, either. Many ancient cultures worshipped meteorites through their own rituals and tributes, and it makes logical sense that a devotional statue would be created from the material… despite how hard it is to work with.
It’s also the only known meteorite statue to depict a human figure.
Little else is known about the statue at this time, due to the lack of information surrounding its Nazi retrieval. However, it’s still considered an invaluable artifact that reveals more about the ancient Bon culture—and Nazi artistic preferences.