This work is dedicated to the memory of Gero Kurat († 27.11.2009).
Buddha from space—An ancient object of art made of a Chinga iron meteorite fragment*
Article first published online: 14 SEP 2012
© The Meteoritical Society, 2012
Meteoritics & Planetary Science
Volume 47, Issue 9, pages 1491–1501, September 2012
How to Cite
BUCHNER, E. , SCHMIEDER, M., KURAT, G., BRANDSTÄTTER, F., KRAMAR, U., NTAFLOS, T. and KRÖCHERT, J. (2012), Buddha from space—An ancient object of art made of a Chinga iron meteorite fragment. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 47: 1491–1501. doi: 10.1111/j.1945-5100.2012.01409.x
- Issue published online: 26 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 14 SEP 2012
- (Received 26 August 2011; revision accepted 24 July 2012)
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.