The iron-rich statue, 24 centimetres tall, has had a colourful past. It was apparently brought to Germany in 1939 by a Nazi-backed archaeological expedition to search for the roots of Aryanism.
A swastika on the armoured Buddha’s breastplate may have been a motivating factor in bringing the statue to Germany. The swastika is a common symbol in eastern culture and decorates many Hindu and Buddhist statues – although the version on the statue is a mirror image of the form favoured by the Nazis.
It’s unclear whether the Nazis found anything of unusual significance in the statue, but Elmar Buchner at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, and his colleagues certainly have.
“When I first saw the statue I was sure that it is made of an iron meteorite,” Buchner says.
Their chemical analysis of the statue confirmed the hunch. It showed that the concentrations of metals, including iron, nickel, cobalt and chromium, matched the values known from iron meteorites.