London: This one is straight out of an Indiana Jones adventure!
A rare 1,000-year-old Buddhist statue found by a Nazi expedition in 1938 and made from a meteorite that crashed into the Earth about 15,000 years ago has been discovered.
The statue, known as the `Iron Man`, weighs 10kg and is around 24cm tall, was found to be a rare ataxite class of meteorite, researchers said, the `Daily Mail` reported.
"The statue was chiseled from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago," said Dr Elmar Buchner from Stuttgart University, who made the discovery.
"While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before," Buchner said.
The research team was able to classify the statue as an ataxite, a rare class of iron meteorite with high contents of nickel.
The largest-ever known meteorite, the Hoba meteorite of Namibia, is an ataxite meteorite that could weigh more than 60 tonnes.
Iron Man is believed to represent a stylistic hybrid between the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon culture.
It was discovered in 1938 by an expedition of German scientists led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schafer.
The expedition was supported by Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler and the entire expeditionary team were believed to have been SS members .
"The Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite, which means we have nothing to compare it to when assessing value," said Buchner.
"Its origins alone may value it at USD 20,000; however, if our estimation of its age is correct and it is nearly a thousand years old it could be invaluable," he said.
The findings are published in the journal `Meteoritics and Planetary Science`.