Shigir Idol: World's oldest wooden sculpture much older than Egyptian pyramids

Much older than previously thought

Shigir Idol
Русский: Большой Шигирский идол - самая древняя деревянная скульптура в мире. Проведённый в 1997 году радиоуглеродный анализ показал, что что её возраст составляет около 9,5 тысяч лет. Хранится в Свердловском областном краеведческом музее (г.Екатеринбург). Own work/ Владислав Фальшивомонетчик/ wikimediacommons

Shigir Idol, the oldest wooden sculpture in the world made during the Mesolithic period, is much older than researchers had previously thought. A team of researchers in Germany has revealed their new findings based on a new analysis.

Researchers discovered the giant wooden statue in Russia back in 1894. The 11 feet tall sculpture was made by using larch wood. The well preserved Shigir Idol is stored at Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore in Yekaterinburg, Russia but it was brought to Germany for further study. It remained in tact because of the antimicrobial properties that found in the peat. The statue is covered with geometrical ornamentation and some of them represent tiny human faces.

In 1997, a radio-carbon dating carried out by G. I. Zajtseva of the Institute of the History for the Material Culture to estimate the age of the icon, found that it is approximately 9,500–years-old, which made the sculpture the oldest wooden statue in the world.

But after almost 21 years, the latest analysis has shown that statue is much older than previously thought. The group of German researchers, who came out with this historic revelation, have used accelerator mass spectrometry to find out the real age of the sculpture and they discovered that the Shigir Idol is around 11, 500 years old.

This path-breaking finding has indicated that the idol was created at the end of the 'Ice Age', which began almost 2.6 million years ago and it is more than twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids, which are found at Saqqara, northwest of Memphis. History says that Pyramid of Djoser is considered as the earliest among all these which was built during the third dynasty (probably 2630 BC–2611 BC).

The Shigir Idol, the most ancient wooden sculpture in the world
The Shigir Idol, the most ancient wooden sculpture in the world. Толмачев В. Я. Деревянный идол из Шигирского торфяника // Известия Императорской Археологической Комиссии. Вып. 60. СПб. 1916. С. 94—99/ Tolmachev V.Y.

The team of the researchers have documented their work and the findings in a paper published on the Cambridge University Press site Antiquity.

During the recent analysis, researchers found that some of the original pieces of the idol are not in place. If those missing pieces were intact, then the statue could have stood around five meters tall. The new analysing techniques also showed a new face on the sculpture that was not revealed previously and that makes the total number of sculpted faces on the structure to eight. But as of now none of the scientists has successfully decoded the meaning of the faces and marks on the idol.

Another archaeologist from The National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, who was not involved in the recent study, Peter Vang Petersen said, "Figurative art in the Paleolithic and naturalistic animals painted in caves and carved in rock all stop at the end of the ice age. From then on, you have very stylized patterns that are hard to interpret. They're still hunters, but they had another view of the world."