Buddha from space—An ancient object of art made of a Chinga iron meteorite fragment

Figure 3.  Front and rear side of the “iron man.” The sculpture was chiseled from the iron meteorite, forged at the edges and the basis, and shows the Buddhist god Kubera (Vaiśravana); the scale armor was formerly gilded.

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Buddha from space—An ancient object of art made of a Chinga iron meteorite fragment

Abstract–  The fall of meteorites has been interpreted as divine messages by multitudinous cultures since prehistoric times, and meteorites are still adored as heavenly bodies. Stony meteorites were used to carve birds and other works of art; jewelry and knifes were produced of meteoritic iron for instance by the Inuit society. We here present an approximately 10.6 kg Buddhist sculpture (the “iron man”) made of an iron meteorite, which represents a particularity in religious art and meteorite science. The specific contents of the crucial main (Fe, Ni, Co) and trace (Cr, Ga, Ge) elements indicate an ataxitic iron meteorite with high Ni contents (approximately 16 wt%) and Co (approximately 0.6 wt%) that was used to produce the artifact. In addition, the platinum group elements (PGEs), as well as the internal PGE ratios, exhibit a meteoritic signature. The geochemical data of the meteorite generally match the element values known from fragments of the Chinga ataxite (ungrouped iron) meteorite strewn field discovered in 1913. The provenance of the meteorite as well as of the piece of art strongly points to the border region of eastern Siberia and Mongolia, accordingly. The sculpture possibly portrays the Buddhist god Vaiśravana and might originate in the Bon culture of the eleventh century. However, the ethnological and art historical details of the “iron man” sculpture, as well as the timing of the sculpturing, currently remain speculative.

Source: Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Volume 47, Issue 9, September 2012, Pages: 1491–1501, Elmar BUCHNER, Martin SCHMIEDER, Gero KURAT, Franz BRANDSTÄTTER, Utz KRAMAR, Theo NTAFLOS and Jörg KRÖCHERT
Article first published online : 14 SEP 2012



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