Nazi Space Buddha (Iron Man Indiana Jones)

It’s a headline that writes itself.  The story is that in the late 1930s, a Nazi-sponsored German expedition to Tibet brought back a statue that, after recent testing, turns out to have been carved from a meteorite.
Cool, right?
The problem is that I smell a rat.  The statue doesn’t look right.  I can’t prove anything, and I’m not an art historian, but my bs meter went off when I saw a photo of it.  The iconography of Vaiśravaṇa is wrong, the posture of the figure, the face and beard — it just doesn’t look right.  I’ve seen enough Tibetan Buddhist sculpture to know that the surprises are endless and there is always more to learn, but I don’t think that uncritical acceptance of this figure is justified.
I don’t doubt the meteorite origin of the piece; it’s that I suspect it was carved in 1930s Germany,or somewhere besides Tibet.
[update: recent article (.pdf) supporting the counterfeit thesis]

Bactrian disks

Sotheby’s auction house recently had a sale of miscellaneous antiquities, including a 14″ stone disk dated to 2200-1700 BC from the “Bactrian/Margian Region.”  This is the so-called “BMAC” (Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex), centered around Merv in present-day Turkmenistan, which was first described by Soviet archeologists in the 1970’s.  I don’t know enough about it, but this disk — how did it end up at Sotheby’s? — is apparently not the only example of its kind.   Continue reading

and so it was, and is, and shall be

12 August 1987, NYC

Driving through Brooklyn recently I slightly freaked out, to great benefit.  Since most of my prior experiences of the borough were through nostalgic movies and books and other remiscences of adult Brooklyn kids (Niel Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, Woody Allen’s Radio Days) I know the Brooklyn of the 1930s, Mr. Frommer’s Brooklyn, better than the Brooklyn of today.  It is very easy to imagine that past onthe reality of the present — Brooklyn doesn’t look like Manhattan.  But what I did, I took this one step farther and imagined that the reality is the past as if I am an observer from the future, Woody Allen’s next generation.  It was cool, especially since it gave me a good idea of what old people mean when they describe things — oh, cars in those days were so different, with rubber wheels and gas motors.  For instance (not in Brooklyn) I know that the meat market where the office is will be replaced by expensive housing in the future, and I will say to my kids [true: December, 2010], “I remember when this was a market, bustling with trucks and people, deliveries and blood and cars parked on the sidewalk and butchers and meat all over the place.”  Hopefully I’ll be as poetic in my New Old Age.
The thought that I am going to be in Asia a couple of weeks, flying over E. Europe and Turkey and the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, takes my breath away.  And, I keep reminding myself, only nineteen!