Why were the Nazis so interested in a statue carved from a meteorite?

As many media outlets are reporting today, an analysis of an ancient statue uncovered by Nazis in 1938 shows that it was carved from a meteorite fragment. Dating back to the 11th century, the priceless "iron man" sculpture (cue the music) weighs 10kg and is believed to be the very first carving of a human in a meteorite — one that crashed to the Earth over 15,000 years ago. Of course, the Nazis didn't know that the statue was made from a meteorite — so why did they bring it all the way back to Germany? And what were they doing in Tibet in the first place?

According to some experts, the statue is a stylistic hybrid between the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon culture that portrays the god Vaisravana, the Buddhist King of the North, also known as Jambhala in Tibet. It also features an apparent swastika on the front — something that would have surely attracted the attention of the Nazis who discovered it.

Why were the Nazis so interested in a statue carved from a meteorite?

The 1938 expedition to Tibet was led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schäfer (and no, it was not René Emile Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark). After the war, Schäfer claimed that the SS-backed expedition was to further his investigations into the wildlife and anthropology of Tibet. Historians, on the other hand, suspect that Heinrich Himmler — Chief of the German police at the time — supported the expedition for his own reasons.

And in fact, he forced all the archaeologists to become SS members in order to take part in the expedition. This was to ensure that Hans Hörbiger's pseudoscientific theory of "Glacial Cosmogony" (a bizarre theory suggesting that ice was the foundational substance of all cosmic processes) would be adhered to. Moreover, he could use the expedition to further his interest in Asian mysticism.

Indeed, Himmler, who was fascinated by mysticism and the occult, was interested in finding proof of Aryan and Nordic superiority from ancient times. He suspected that some of this "proof" could be found in Tibet, hence the expedition. Nazi archaeology, such that it was, was rarely conducted for the purposes of genuine research. Instead, it was a propaganda tool used to perpetuate nationalistic pride in Germans and provide scientific justifications for conquest.

Why were the Nazis so interested in a statue carved from a meteorite?

Eighteen years earlier, the Nazi party had adopted the swastika as their official insignia. It was an ancient symbol, one that dated back to the Neolithic period and was first discovered in the Indus Valley and India. It was later used in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism to symbolize good luck. Other meanings included "to be good," "being with higher self," and even "eternity."

The Nazis, on the other hand, completely co-opted the symbol, using it to symbolize Aryanism, anti-semitism, and perpetual forward momentum. It has since become the universal symbol for hate and intolerance — a complete bastardization of its original meaning.

Looking back at the 1938 expedition, one can only imagine the Nazis' delight when Schäfer's team uncovered the ancient relic with a swastika adorned on its chest. Blinded by ideology and Himmler's bizarre interpretation of history, they would have remained completely ignorant of the object's true meaning and significance.

Which is actually really sad when you think about it.

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