A team of researchers in Germany has found evidence to suggest that the famous wooden Shirgir Idol is actually 11,500 years old. The team has documented their efforts and findings in a document published on the Cambridge University Press site Antiquity .
The Shigir idol was discovered in an old peat bog by the miners in Russia in 1890. Early analysis showed that it was made entirely of larch wood and that it was built from several pieces. It was preserved for thousands of years due to the antimicrobial properties found in the peat. The idol was also covered extensively with markings, some of which represented small human faces. To this day, nobody knows what most brands represent. It was also noted that some of the original pieces of the idol had been lost; it is believed that originally it had an approximate height of five meters. In 1997, a team in Russia used radiocarbon dating to estimate the age of the icon and discovered that it was approximately 9,500 years old.
Experts have studied carvings on the idol over the years, and many have suggested that they probably represent an art form, possibly linked to spiritual or religious activities.
Recently, the German team expressed interest in looking more closely at the idol, which is usually found in the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum in Russia. Arrangements were made for the idol to be sent to Germany, where it was studied, along with other original material found in the peat bog. Using accelerator mass spectrometry, the team discovered that the true age of the idol was approximately 11,500 years old, and its creation occurred around the end of the Ice Age. That age is also made by the oldest wooden monumental sculpture ever found and more than twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids. The researchers report that they also found another carved face in the wood, which gives a total of eight. Their findings suggest that researchers seeking to better understand early human behavior may need to expand their search beyond the Fertile Crescent.
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Mikhail Zhilin et al. Early art in the Urals: new research on the wooden sculpture of Shigir, Antiquity (2018). DOI: 10.15184 / aqy.2018.48
The carved wooden object discovered in the peat bog of Shigir in the Sverdlovsk region towards the end of the 19th century remains one of the oldest and best-known examples of the monumental anthropomorphic sculpture from anywhere in the world. The recent application of new analytical techniques has led to the discovery of new images on its surface, and has brought the date of the piece to the first Holocene. The results of these recent analyzes are here in the context of local and extralocal traditions of comparable prehistoric art. This discussion highlights the unique nature of the find and its importance to appreciate the complex symbolic world of early Holocene hunter-gatherers.