'Space Buddha' statue may be 20th century fake
London: A supposed Buddhist statue allegedly carved from a meteorite 1,000 years ago may not be as ancient as thought, according to an expert who argues that the sculpture may be a 20th-century fake.
Experts are questioning the statue's origins and not the material it is carved from, which is an iron- and nickel-rich meteorite from the Siberia-Mongolia border.
Achim Bayer, a Buddhism expert at Dongguk University in South Korea, argues in a new report that the Buddha statue has obvious "pseudo-Tibetan features," marking it as a European reproduction likely made between 1910 and 1970.
Among these features are European-like shoes that come to the ankles rather than boots; trousers instead of robes; tube-shaped sleeves unlike those seen on traditional Tibetan or Mongolian garb; a full beard, which is not seen on Tibetan and Mongolian deity sculptures; an unusual single earring; and a cape that resembles one worn by Romans rather than ancient Tibetan deities.
In their original paper published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science, Stuttgart University researcher Elmar Bucher and colleagues reported that the Buddha statue first came to Germany after a 1938-1939 Tibet expedition by zoologist and ethnologist Ernst Schäfer, who was sent to the region by the Nazi party to find the origin of Aryan language and culture. The statue then passed into the hands of a private owner.
In their paper, the researchers estimated the age of the Buddha statue to be approximately 1,000 years old.
Although the researchers were careful to mention that the estimated age of the Buddha statue was just that, an estimate, Mr. Bayer is concerned that this acknowledgement was overlooked in media reports of the discovery.
“While any expert for Tibetan art can easily identify the typical pseudo-Tibetan features of this statue, Buchner et al. did not seriously consider the possibility or an imitation, and their warning as to the ‘details’ was either silently passed over or condemned to the less prominent sections of the news reports, which focused more on the ‘buddha from space,’ the ‘ancient object of art’ and the Schäfer-svastika amalgam,” Mr. Bayer notes in his paper.
Beyond the origins of the statue, Bayer also called into question the idea that it was brought to Germany by a Nazi expedition in the late 1930s.
Isrun Engelhardt, a German historian who has studied these expeditions, told Bayer that the controversial statue likely did not arrive in Germany in Nazi hands, Discovery News reported.
Bayer suspects the statue was either produced for the antique market or for the Nazi memorabilia market, with the expedition story meant to increase the value of the statue.