Stunning statue with 'encrypted codes' is 11,000 years old, even more ancient than previously believed.
The Idol is more than 6,000 years older than the UK's Stonehenge. Picture: The Siberian Times
One of Russia's greatest treasures, the Big Shigir Idol, has been dated by German scientists - and the results are 'sensational'.
More than twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids, the wooden monument - found in a peat bog in the Urals in 1890 - is 1,500 years older than previously suspected, according to the world's most advanced dating technology.
'We can say the results are sensational,' said a source at Sverdlovsk Regional History Museum, where the breathtaking monument is on display.
'The first attempt to date the idol was made 107 years after its discovery, in 1997. The first radiocarbon analyses showed that idol was 9,500 calendar years old, which led to disputes in scientific society. To exclude doubts, and to make the results known and accepted, a decision was made to use the most modern technologies to date the Idol again.
'Researches were conducted in Mannheim, Germany, at one of the world's most advanced laboratories using Accelerated Mass Spectrometry, on seven minuscule wooden samples. The results were astonishing, as samples from inside parts of the Idol showed its age as 11,000 calendar years, to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch. We also learned that the sculpture was made from a larch which was at least 157 years old.
'Clear cuts on the tree trunk leave no doubts that the Idol was made from a freshly cut tree, by stone tools'.
There is nothing else in the world like this. Picture: The Siberian Times
More details will be revealed at a press conference on Thursday but the source insisted: 'The research proves that the Big Shigir Idol is the world's oldest wooden sculpture, and an outstanding discovery, a key to understanding Eurasian art.'
The Idol is around the same age as anthropomorphic stone stelae found at the ancient site of Gobekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey.
'This confirms that hunters and fishermen from Urals created works of art as developed and as monumental as ancient farmers of the Middle East,' said the museum.
The Idol - more than 6,000 years older than the UK's Stonehenge - was preserved 'as if in a time capsule' in the peat bog on the western fringes of Siberia.
Experts have surmised that its hieroglyphics contain encoded information on the 'creation of the world' from ancient man. It stands 2.8 metres in height but originally was 5.3 metres tall, as high as a two storey house. Almost two metres of the artifact went missing during Russian's 20th century political turmoil, though Siberian archaeologist Vladimir Tolmachev drew images of all the pieces.
The Idol was preserved 'as if in a time capsule' in the peat bog on the western fringes of Siberia. Pictures: The Siberian Times
Professor Mikhail Zhilin, leading researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archeology, has said previously: 'We study the Idol with a feeling of awe.
'This is a masterpiece, carrying gigantic emotional value and force, a unique sculpture; there is nothing else in the world like this.
'It is very alive, and very complicated at the same time.
'The ornament is covered with nothing but encrypted information. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.'
While the messages remain 'an utter mystery to modern man', the Russian academic said its creators 'lived in total harmony with the world, had advanced intellectual development, and a complicated spiritual world'.
With Svetlana Savchenko, chief keeper of Shigir Idol at Yekaterinburg History Museum, he concludes that 'a straight line could denote land, or horizon - the boundary between earth and sky, water and sky, or the borderline between the worlds.
'A wavy line or zigzag symbolised the watery element, snake, lizard, or determined a certain border. In addition, the zigzag signaled danger, like a pike.
'Cross, rhombus, square, circle depicted the fire or the sun, and so on'.
This is a masterpiece, carrying gigantic emotional value and force, a unique sculpture'. Pictures: The Siberian Times
But the marks could have multiple meanings for the ancient statue-makers who gave the Idol seven faces, only one of which is three-dimensional.
'If these are images of spirits that inhabited the human world in ancient times, the vertical position of figures (one above the other) probably relate to their hierarchy,' said author Petr Zolin, citing scientific work by Savchenko and Zhilin.
'Images on the front and back planes of the Idol, possibly indicate that they belong to different worlds. If there are depicted myths about the origin of humans and the world, the vertical arrangement of the images may reflect the sequence of events. Ornaments can be special signs which mark something as significant.'
The results of the German analysis are stunning in scientific terms, but the testing procedure has caused political controversy in Russia. A criminal case was opened on 'damaging world's oldest wooden statue' amid claims the samples used for testing were 'illegally obtained'.
Since last year, the Culture Ministry in Moscow has been seeking legal redress over the way samples of the wooden statue were taken, and then exported by eminent German scientists for analysis.
A source in the Culture Ministry in Yekaterinburg said: 'The examination of the idol was conducted without coordination with the relevant ministries and even the director of the Yekaterinburg History Museum Natalia Vetrova was not informed about the methods of the expertise.'
It is unclear if this legal action is why the German scientists who conducted the testing are not expected to attend Thursday's press conference.
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