You know the saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably wasn't actually discovered by Nazis. Last month, headline-writers the world over lost their collective shit when researchers announced they had identified a "priceless," 1000-year-old, swastika-emblazoned, Nazi-ethnologist-discovered statue of buddha — and that this statue had been carved from a meteorite.
Now, experts are saying parts of this statue's epic story just don't add up.
According to The Guardian, Buddhism specialist Achim Bayer claims the statue features over a dozen "pseudo-Tibetan" characteristics that would cast serious doubts on the speculation, floated last month in the journal Meteorics and Planetary Science, that the figure was sculpted in the pre-Buddhist Bon culture of the 11th Century:
These include the 24cm-high statue's shoes, trousers and hand positioning, as well as the fact that the buddha has a full beard rather than the "rather thin" facial hair usually given to a deity in Tibetan and Mongolian art. In his report, Bayer says he believes the statue to be a European counterfeit made sometime between 1910 and 1970.
To be fair, paleontologist Elmar Buchner and his colleagues readily acknowledged that the statue's provenance was uncertain in their research paper, noting that "the ethnological and art historical details of the "iron man" sculpture, as well as the timing of the sculpturing, currently remain speculative." But there's more.
In his team's research paper, Buchner claims that the statue's previous owner told him it had been brought to Europe by Ernst Schäfer, a Nazi ethnologist who, in the late 1930s, commanded an SS expedition to Tibet in search of the Aryan race's origins. But as Der Spiegel reports, historian Isrun Engelhardt — an expert on Schäfer's expedition — is unconvinced:
"There is an extremely precise list of the purchased objects, including date, place and value," she says. Buchner's statue is not on it. The list includes over 2,000 pieces; the total purchase price for the collection is 12,119 reichsmarks and 80 pfennig. Many of the objects went missing after the war while others ended up in Munich's State Museum for Ethnology. Engelhardt says the meteorite statue is almost surely not a piece purchased privately by Schäfer.
Fortunately, the one piece of the statue's story most relevant to last month's publication in Meteorics and Planetary Science — that it was hewn from a piece of the famed Chinga iron meteorite — appears to be true. Hey, at least it's still a statue from space, right?