Khotanese Maitreya head

There’s a beautiful Khotanese Buddha (or bodhisattva) piece at the Tokyo Museum, presumably from one of the Otani expeditions, dated to the 3rd-4th century. If that dating is accurate, it would be very old, especially for a metal work. I don’t recognize it as similar to anything I know about from Khotan.



The cord around the topknot is distinctive: it looks like Gandharan bodhisattva hairdos to me, perhaps representing Maitreya. The urna with the eight (presumably) jewels is likewise distinctive. More than anything, to me it looks like someone’s portrait, with the prominent nose and the jutting chin.

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]

Cocoa production by region

76% of cocoa comes from west Africa.  Another 17% comes from southeast Asia; Brazil produces the rest.  (Nominal values are in thousands of tons.)  This data is from the International Cocoa Association.

Côte d’Ivoire 1150 1150 49% 49%
Ghana 370 1520 16% 64%
Indonesia 310 1830 13% 77%
Brazil 160 1990 7% 84%
Nigeria 155 2145 7% 91%
Cameroon 125 2270 5% 96%
Malaysia 100 2370 4% 100%

5102 BC: Carpentry and sorcery, also something about loess

From this article, news of a fascinating archaeological find near Leipzig, Germany from the Linear Band Ware (aka LBK) period of the Early Neolithic.  The find can be dated exactly because the site includes — besides nearly 100 LBK longhouses and two dozen graves — four wells lined with oak wood with known tree ring series. The wood comes from thirteen individual oak trees, with 1m DBH, felled in 5102 BC.

The excavation report itself (and details, .pdf) are worth reading.  Besides the spectacular wooden wells (the excavation of which is really exemplary), the sites yielded the usual LBK pottery and cultivated crops.  These include emmer and einkorn wheat, lentils, and peas; but also plenty of poisonous black henbane, a nasty plant which was either used in small quantities as a psychoactive agent (Germans were putting witches to death up until the middle ages for using henbane in gruit for flavoring beer) or as a medicine.

German Archaeologists Discover World’s Oldest Wooden Wells

This map is a little bit confusing, but worth the effort.  The four time bands are an attempt to date the spread of the LBK toolkit.  The coloring is an attempt to illustrate one of the prevalent theories about the spread of the LBK — their association with a particular landscape, fertile loess, a type of rich, dust-like soil composed of wind-blown sand and silt.  The sites referred to in the article are numbers 5,6,8, and 9 on the map.  The general aim, then, is to show the spread from east to west on a particular soil type, of this LBK material culture.