Twice as old as the Egyptian Pyramids, samples of the Shigir Idol are sent to Germany for testing.
Made of 159 year old larch, it is covered with Mesolithic era symbols which are not yet decoded. Picture: Constantin Voutsen
This ancient example of human creativity was recovered in January 1890 near Kirovgrad but there remains uncertainty over its age, believed to be around 9,500 years old. Made of 159 year old larch, it is covered with Mesolithic era symbols, which are not yet decoded. Some 2.8 metres in height, it appears to have seven faces.
It was protected down the millennia by a four metre layer of peat bog on the site of an open air gold mine.
Now held in Yekaterinburg History Museum, lack of funding has until now prevented the proper testing for age of this Urals treasure.
'The ornaments, which cover the Idol, are the encrypted information of the knowledge which people passed on.' Pictures: V. Tolmachev, Ura.ru
Now, German scientists secured a grant which they hope will provide the Idol's age to within half a century.
'There is no such ancient sculpture in the whole of Europe. Studying this Idol is a dream come true', said Professor Thomas Terberger, of the Department of Cultural Heritage of Lower Saxony.
Uwe Hoysner, from Berlin Archaeological Institute said: 'The Idol is carved from larch, which, as we see by the annual rings, was at least 159 years old.
'The samples we selected contain important information about the isotopes that correspond to the time when the tree grew.'
Mikhail Zhilin, professor of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: 'This is a unique sculpture, like nowhere else in the world.
'The Shigir Idol is both very lively, and very complex.
'The ornaments, which cover the Idol, are the encrypted information of the knowledge which people passed on'.
'Studying this Idol is a dream come true'. Pictures: Ura.ru, Constantin Voutsen
The samples used for testing were cut in 1997. The was extracted in several parts from the peat bog.
Professor Dmitry. I. Lobanov combined the main fragments to reconstitute the sculpture 2.80m high but in 1914 the Siberian archaeologist Vladimir Tolmachev proposed a variant of this reconstruction by integrating previously unused fragments.
Some of these fragments were later lost, so only Tolmachev's drawings of them remain.
However, these suggest the original height of the statue was 5.3 metres.
Some 1.93 metres of the statue did not survive the 20th century's revolutions and wars and it is only visible on his drawings.
But even the size is it now makes it the highest wooden statue in the world.
Drawings of archeologist Vladimir Tolmachev with 'faces' marked red; Vladimir Tolmachev by the bog where the Idol was found, two earliest reconstructions of the idol - the walking and the standing upright, and a building of Urals history museum in 1910. Pictures: Urals history museum
One question debated by Russian scientists is how the Idol - as high as a two-storey house - was kept in a vertical position?
Museum staff believe it was never dug into the ground to help it stand upright, and that it was unlikely it was ever perched against a tree, because it would have covered more than half of its ornaments.
Museum staff suggest that the Idol was an ancient 'navigator', a map. Straight lines, wave lines and arrows indicated ways of getting to the destination and the number of days for a journey, with waves meaning water path, straight lines meaning ravines, and arrows meaning hills.
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