STUTTGART, Germany, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- German scientists analyzing an ancient Buddhist statue discovered by a Nazi expedition to Tibet in 1938 say it was carved from a rare form of meteorite.
The 22-pound statue, known as the Iron Man, was discovered by an expedition of German scientists led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schafer and supported by the Nazi party.
Historians believe that support may have been based on a belief the origins of the Aryan race could be found in Tibet.
A large swastika carved into the center of the figure may have encouraged the team to take it back to Germany where it became part of a private collection and only became available for study following an auction in 2009.
Researchers at Stuttgart University where able to determine the statue was carved from a class of iron meteorite known as ataxite, with high nickel content.
"The statue was chiseled from an iron meteorite, from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15.000 years ago," Stuttgart research leader Elmar Buchner said in a university release.
"The Iron Man statue is the only known illustration of a human figure to be carved into a meteorite, which means we have nothing to compare it to when assessing value," Buchner said.
"Its origins alone may value it at $20,000; however, if our estimation of its age is correct and it is nearly a thousand years old, it could be invaluable."
The findings have been published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.