OK, that’s a weird headline, read on. Remember this story? Ironman Buddhist King from Space Well, not all is as appears.
The narrative was, perhaps, just a little too good to be true. When news broke last month of the so-called “buddha from space” – a swastika-emblazoned statue, apparently 1,000 years old, that had been carved out of a meteorite and looted by a Nazi ethnologist – the world was enthralled.
There were only, it turns out, a few slight catches. According to two experts who have since given their verdict on the mysterious Iron Man, it may have been a European counterfeit; it was probably made at some point in the 20th century; and it may well not have been looted by the Nazis. The bit about the meteorite, though, still stands.
According to Buddhism specialist Achim Bayer, the statue bears 13 features which are easily identifiable by experts as “pseudo-Tibetan” – and which sit uneasily with speculation by researchers last month that it was probably made in the 11th-century pre-Buddhist Bon culture.
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Achim Bayer of Dongguk University in Seoul has written a scathing analysis of the statue — available in English from the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg — in which he points out several indications that the statue was likely produced in Europe sometime between 1910 and 1970. He writes that several of the statue’s features, including its “European shoes,” the trousers it is wearing and the full beard carved on its chin rather than the thin, wispy beards generally associated with deities in Tibetan and Mongolian art, testify to its more recent origin. In total, Bayer lists 13 such inconsistencies.