Ancient Statue Discovered By Nazis Is From Outer Space, Study Finds

By Amir Khan on September 27, 2012 12:11 PM EDT

Statue
An ancient Buddhist statue discovered by Nazis in the 1930s is from outer space, according to a new study (Photo: Buchner)

An ancient Buddhist statue discovered by Nazis in the 1930s is from outer space, according to a new study, published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Researchers found that the statue is made from a piece of the Chinga meteorite, which crashed into Earth 15,000 years ago.

The statue was discovered in Tibet in 1938 by a German scientist, whose expedition was backed by the Nazis. The statue became part of a private collection until 2007, when it disappeared. A new owner then sought it out to study it further.

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"I was absolutely sure it was a meteorite when I saw it first, even at 10 metres" Dr. Elmar Buchner, a researcher from the University of Stuttgart, told BBC News.

Buchner said he was clued in when he found a small, thumb-sized depression in the surface of the statue. When further analyzed, he discovered that it was made from a rare ataxite class, a type of meteorite that is very rare on Earth.

"It is rich in nickel, it is rich in cobalt. Less than 0.1% of all meteorites and less than 1% of iron meteorites are ataxites, so it is the rarest type of meteorites you can find," he said.

Researchers said the statue was likely carved from a piece of the Chinga meteorite, which fell on the border between Siberia and Mongolia 15,000 years ago. The debris from the crash was found in 1913 by gold collectors.

"We were quite astonished by the results," Buchner said. "OK, it's a meteorite but what amazed me was that we could also say it was from Chinga, that we could find the provenance. That was really astonishing for me."               

The statue is thought to portray the god Vaisravana and have been sculpted by the pre-Buddhist Bon culture that existed in Asia about 1,000 years ago.

"If we are right that it was made in the Bon culture in the 11th Century, it is absolutely priceless and absolutely unique worldwide," Buchner said.

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