The world famous Shigir Idol is twice the age of Stonehenge! [New Study]

The incredible Shigir Idol, a wooden wonder from the prehistoric world, was dated to about 11,600 years old in 2018. Now a new study has pushed that date back another 900 years. This means that the world’s oldest known wooden statue is more than twice as old as Stonehenge!

Locating the Amazing Age of Shigir Idol

The new study is published in Quaternary International and shows that given its age of 12,500 years, the haunting hominid statue is also more than twice the age of the pyramids at Giza – a status made even more astonishing by the fact that it is made of wood. The article’s lead author, Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Cultural Heritage Department of Lower Saxony, Germany, suggested a rationale for the statue’s creation to the New York Times

The idol was carved during an era of great climate change, when early forests spread across a warmer late glacial to post-glacial Eurasia. The landscape changed and the art – figurative designs and naturalistic animals painted in caves and carved into rock – also perhaps became a way of helping people come to grips with the challenging environments they encountered. ”

Illustration of the Shigir Idol.

Illustration of the Shigir Idol. Public domain

The Many Faces of the Shigir Idol

It is taller than a two-story building – it is 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) long, although it was originally 5.3 meters (17.4 feet) before the lengths of the artifact were accidentally destroyed during the Soviet era – the idol is said to be a large tree that was more than a century old, which was shaped and decorated with the help of a stone spoon.

The body of the prehistoric sculpture is flat and rectangular, and horizontal lines intersect at approximately chest height and appear to represent ribs. The ancient artists gave the idol seven faces at different levels of the image, suggesting academics that the positions are likely related to a hierarchy. Three figures are on top of each other on both the front and the back, and a seventh figure connects both sides and completes the composition.

An early reconstruction of the Shigir Idol from 1894. (Sverdlovsk Regional Museum)

Researchers believe the idol’s high cheekbones and straight nose may reflect what its creators looked like at the time.

Does the image contain an encrypted message?

The incredible wooden sculpture was pulled from a peat bog in the western edge of Siberia, Russia, 125 years ago. As if in a time capsule, the idol was excellently preserved, some four meters underground, protected by the antibacterial properties of peat, preventing decomposition.

Shigir Idol - the oldest wooden sculpture in the world, now 11,000 years old.

Shigir Idol – the oldest known wooden sculpture in the world. CC BY-SA 3.0

The sculpture was found in numerous fragments, but when they were put together, the surface was discovered to be covered with Mesolithic symbols and geometric designs, including chevrons, straight lines, herringbone hatching, squiggly lines, and more. If this is a targeted message of primitive script, it would make Shigir Idol the world’s oldest code in the world.

These mysterious markers have not yet been deciphered, but many suspect they contain encrypted information. If translated, we can collect information about the Mesolithic human understanding of the natural and spiritual world.

Does the Shigir Idol contain encrypted messages?  Faces appear throughout the image.

Does the Shigir Idol contain encrypted messages? Faces appear throughout the image. YouTube screenshot

Professor Mikhail Zhilin of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences believes this may be the case, saying: “This is a masterpiece of immense emotional value and power. It is a unique sculpture, there is nothing else in the world like this … The ornament is covered with coded information only. People passed on knowledge with the help of the idol. ”

The reports remain “a complete mystery to modern man,” but Zhilin says the prehistoric artisans “must have lived in total harmony with the world, had advanced intellectual development, and had a complicated spiritual world.”

The new research is a victory for Russian academics, who had defended the idol’s age against some skeptics in the scientific community. Said Natalia Vetrova, general director of the Sverdlovsk Regional History Museum the Siberian Times in 2018 that earlier claims about the antiquity of the Shigir Idol “were not recognized by the international scientific community. And we wanted to make sure and tell the world how old our Idol is. ”

A glimpse into the lost world of prehistoric woodworking

Terberger also says, “This is extremely important data for the international scientific community. It is important to understand the development of the civilization and art of Eurasia and humanity as a whole. ”

With its complex iconography, the Shigir Idol also offers archaeologists new perspectives on the hunter-gatherer societies of Europe and Asia at the time of its founding and on prehistoric woodworking. It shows that the artworks of the era were more diverse than the animal depictions and hunting scenes often associated with that period.

Despite the fact that Paleolithic artists living in wooded regions would have had ample supply of wood at their disposal, much of their artwork was likely lost as the wooden creations would have deteriorated over the centuries unless they were preserved in ideal conditions . like the peat bog that saved the Shigir Idol. As the scientists argue in their paper, “Woodworking was probably widespread during the late Ice Age to the early Holocene. We see the Shigir sculpture as a document of complex symbolic behavior and from the spiritual world of the Late Ice Age to early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of the Urals. ”

Head of the Shigir Idol, the world’s oldest known wooden sculpture. (Sverdlovsk Regional Museum)

Further excavations of the many unexplored peatlands in the Urals may reveal more examples of prehistoric wooden artworks. However, Artnet notes that “a lack of funding means that there are currently no ongoing excavations” in this area.

Top image: The Shigir Idol. Source: Terberger et al. Quat. Int., 2021

By Liz Leafloor

Updated March 25, 2021.