Why were the Nazis so interested in a statue carved from a meteorite?

Illustration for article titled Why were the Nazis so interested in a statue carved from a meteorite?

As many media outlets are reporting today, an analysis of an ancient statue uncovered by Nazis in 1938 shows that it was carved from a meteorite fragment. Dating back to the 11th century, the priceless "iron man" sculpture (cue the music) weighs 10kg and is believed to be the very first carving of a human in a meteorite — one that crashed to the Earth over 15,000 years ago. Of course, the Nazis didn't know that the statue was made from a meteorite — so why did they bring it all the way back to Germany? And what were they doing in Tibet in the first place?

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According to some experts, the statue is a stylistic hybrid between the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon culture that portrays the god Vaisravana, the Buddhist King of the North, also known as Jambhala in Tibet. It also features an apparent swastika on the front — something that would have surely attracted the attention of the Nazis who discovered it.

Illustration for article titled Why were the Nazis so interested in a statue carved from a meteorite?
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The 1938 expedition to Tibet was led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schäfer (and no, it was not René Emile Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark). After the war, Schäfer claimed that the SS-backed expedition was to further his investigations into the wildlife and anthropology of Tibet. Historians, on the other hand, suspect that Heinrich Himmler — Chief of the German police at the time — supported the expedition for his own reasons.

And in fact, he forced all the archaeologists to become SS members in order to take part in the expedition. This was to ensure that Hans Hörbiger's pseudoscientific theory of "Glacial Cosmogony" (a bizarre theory suggesting that ice was the foundational substance of all cosmic processes) would be adhered to. Moreover, he could use the expedition to further his interest in Asian mysticism.

Indeed, Himmler, who was fascinated by mysticism and the occult, was interested in finding proof of Aryan and Nordic superiority from ancient times. He suspected that some of this "proof" could be found in Tibet, hence the expedition. Nazi archaeology, such that it was, was rarely conducted for the purposes of genuine research. Instead, it was a propaganda tool used to perpetuate nationalistic pride in Germans and provide scientific justifications for conquest.

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Eighteen years earlier, the Nazi party had adopted the swastika as their official insignia. It was an ancient symbol, one that dated back to the Neolithic period and was first discovered in the Indus Valley and India. It was later used in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism to symbolize good luck. Other meanings included "to be good," "being with higher self," and even "eternity."

The Nazis, on the other hand, completely co-opted the symbol, using it to symbolize Aryanism, anti-semitism, and perpetual forward momentum. It has since become the universal symbol for hate and intolerance — a complete bastardization of its original meaning.

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Looking back at the 1938 expedition, one can only imagine the Nazis' delight when Schäfer's team uncovered the ancient relic with a swastika adorned on its chest. Blinded by ideology and Himmler's bizarre interpretation of history, they would have remained completely ignorant of the object's true meaning and significance.

Which is actually really sad when you think about it.

Image of pot via.

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While traveling back to the airfield with the ancient pot and statue, they approached point where an apparent landslide covered the roadway. As the convoy slowed, an ominous shadow fell on the Nazi’s. Looking up the cliff side to the right, they saw its origin. A band of 15 Tibetan horsemen with ancient rifles and spears sat nervously on equally anxious horses. Their furtive glances betrayed the fact that they had not yet seen modern machines of war. Their manner of dress reminded the convoy commander of Ghengis Kahn. All had tattered rags worn loosely with pieces of iron and wood patchwork armor, all except for the leader. The man in the center of the formation was in modern dress. The sun was directly behind him so Hauptsturmfuehrer Reimann could not see great detail, but the outline of a fedora was obvious, as was the easy manner with which he looked down on the convoys many mechanical beasts.

Hauptsturmfuehrer Reimann rose from the back seat of his convertible sedan and stood. “Halt! Shau das an,” he declared in a booming command voice as he swept his arms over his majestic convoy of half-tracks. “I heiße Reimann. Hauptsturmfuehrer Reimann, Waffen SS, die besten Des Fuehrer. Löschen Sie die straße, und Sie werden belohnt.” The modern man stood silent for a long moment as his compatriots mumbled to one another and their horses brayed. “I don’t speak German, Hauptmann. Leave the statue here and find another way back to the Fatherland.”

Reimann’s English was not as good as his French or Italian, but he could hear the commanding tone of the modern man’s own words. He called Unterscharfuehrer Braun to the front and commanded him to translate. As Braun was threading his way through the vehicles, Reimann’s fury with the situation grew. He hated, HATED, these shit-hole countries he had been pushing through for the last years. He hated being a mule for old junk. Above all, he hated being delayed. But, he mused to himself, he loved correcting delays. Unterscharfuehrer Braun breathlessly translated the modern man’s words as soon as he arrived at the command car. At this, Reimann’s face flushed and he blurted out, “Rauber! Untermensch! Wissen Sie nicht Ihren Vorgesetzten?” as Braun began translating back and forth.

“Rauber?” said the modern man indignantly. “You’re the ‘rauber’ here, Hauptmann. That statue has been here for a thousand years. Leave it and go tell your ‘Fuehrer’ he can’t have the entire world’s history.”

Reimann exploded with rage, screaming that “The statue belongs where all great things belong, with the Master Race in -”

“It belongs in a museum!” the man interjected as he drew a revolver from his hip.

The Hauptmann saw this and puzzled. The modern man was too far for pistol range. There was no threat there. His tattered riders had rifles, but they… Wait a minute, there were more when he first looked up. He was sure there were 15, but now there were only 10. Where –

A shot rang out from the modern man’s gun and Hauptsturmfuehrer Reimann, Waffen SS, heard the whip of objects slinging through the air and the hiss of fuses. He turned to his convoy just as fire balls erupted from the half-tracks and soldiers spilled out, some under their own power, others with the limp physics of rag dolls. He smiled and began shouting orders. “Finally,” he laughed, “something that I do not hate.”