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Pagan god 'caught' in river by fisherman confirmed as being up to 4,200 years old and 'unique'

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16 September 2016


'We can say that this figurine is unique, as nothing identical has been found so far. Picture: Pavel German & Vladimir Bobrov

The 'very distinctive expression of ferocity and rage' never seen before among ancient Siberian statuettes, say experts.

Fisherman Nikolay Tarasov, 55, made the remarkable Bronze Age 'catch' when he dipped his net in the Dudet River near his home in Tisul, Kemerovo region, on a fishing expedition for tench and carp. 

Instead of a fish, he netted a strangely shaped stone - a fossilised figurine - the catch of a lifetime. 'I was about to throw it back in the water - but at the last second I looked at it more closely,' he said. 

'And I saw a face. I stopped and washed the thing in the river - and realised it wasn't a stone of an unusual shape, as I thought earlier - but a statuette.'

It has almond shaped eyes, a large mouth with full lips, and a ferocious facial expression. 

Tisul figurine

Villager dipped his fishing net in the river and caught a 4,000 year old pagan god 

Location of the find

Fisherman Nikolay Tarasov, 55, made the remarkable Bronze Age 'catch' when he dipped his net in the Dudet River near his home in Tisul, Kemerovo region. Pictures: Tisul History museum, The Siberian Times

'On the reverse side on the head the carver had etched plaited hair with wave like lines. Below the plait there are lines looking like fish scales,' he said. 'I went to the local museum - and experts there quite literally jumped for joy, and quite high.'

Speaking exclusively to The Siberian Times, Dr Pavel German, researcher at the Institute of Human Ecology, Kemerovo, who investigated the 2014 find with colleague Professor Vladimir Bobrov, said: 'We can say that this figurine is unique, as nothing identical has been found so far.

'It is interesting that the face depicted on this figurine has a very distinctive expression of ferocity and rage. Usually the ancient - Neolithic and Bronze Age - anthropomorphic sculptures do not have any distinctive expression.

'This is the other reason, why the figurine is unique. We argue that is was a god or a spirit.'

Tisul figurine

Tisul figurine

'It is interesting that the face depicted on this figurine has a very distinctive expression of ferocity and rage.' Pictures: Pavel German and Vladimir Bobrov, Tisul History museum

The experts believe the figurine is from the ancient Okunev culture 'judging by the style'. But recent discoveries at an Okunev site some 300 kilometres northwest have led to a new theory about this river find.

Eight horn figurines were found at Lake Itkol in Khakassia which have been described as akin to modern-day children's rattles but with the purpose of fending off evil spirits. They were disciovered in the grave of a baby less than a year old at death. 

While far from identical, they are said to be stylistically similar to the fisherman's pagan god, which is now on display at Tisul History Museum.

'Our figurine shows a resemblance to those found in child burials at Itkol Lake,' said Dr German. 'When we undertook our research we did not know about the Itkol figurines. Yet while there is a resemblance between them, they are not completely similar.'

For now it remains a mystery how the ferocious find came to be in the river.

Itkol burial


Eight horn figurines were found at Lake Itkol in Khakassia some 300 kilometres northwest have led to a new theory about this river find. Pictures: Andrey Polyakov & Yuri Esin, The Siberian Times

'The find could got into the water due to different circumstances, among them - the destruction of an ancient child's burial,' said Dr German. 'The figurine was found in a local river, and we went to the site, hoping there would be more (archeological items), but sadly we had no luck.'

He added: 'It is hard to tie this figurine to specific Okunev settlements or burials. The closest known settlement from the Okunev culture is  located (underwater) in the modern Tambarskoye Reservoir, 10 kilometres from where the figurine was found.'

The find was made upstream of this submerged archeological site. The figurine is made of antler and 'lines on its head depict the hairs. And on the back  there is an ornament which resembles scale. We suppose that it depicts a cape or mantle made of scale.'

It is unclear if it is fish or snake scale, possibly relating to the Lower World in the belief system of this ancient culture.

The Kemerovo object also shows signs that it might have been attached to a tree or perhaps to a baby's cot.

Itkol figurine

Itkol figurine Itkol figurine

While far from identical, Itkol figurines are said to be stylistically similar to the fisherman's pagan god. Pictures: Andrey Polyakov & Yuri Esin

'There is a hole drilled in the figurine,' he said. 'We found a small wooden stick, a  twig, inside it.' So another theory is that 'the figurine was fixed on a tree branch and at some point it broke, with the small twig left embedded in it'.

Museum guide Yulia Vambrikova said: 'It is true miracle that Nikolay Tarasov found it. We are very proud that the figurine made by legendary Okunevs is in the collection of our museum. 

'It is one of the most significant archaeological exhibit in our collection. It is on display now and we welcome people to come to us and see it. We think that this figurine may depict one of the gods or sprits in which Okunevs believed. It looks a little scary but fascinating, and our visitors love to see it. 

'We heard that the scientists from St Petersburg have found some similar figurines in the grave of the baby (at Lake Itkol) possibly adorning the cradle. So perhaps our figurine was also this kind of such an adornment.' 

Comments (20)

The people of those times lived each day knowing and fearing these things they came to men after man begged for there return and they were very evil and demanding total subjection and worship and these things are returning soon for one last time and they will change all things as we know them even matter itself and bring in the times of doing away with time bringing darkness and light together total confusion there one last chance to conquer and destroy what Gods only begotten son has done , But he has a special way of destroying there plans and finally placing them where they belong ,blessed be the name of IMMANUEL all mighty
David Johnson, Hamden ohio u.s.
11/06/2018 04:50
A fascinating find! "Props" to the fisherman for realizing it's importance. The bottom of the piece looks a little bit like a tool used by archers to draw a bowstring back. Otherwise, why is the bottom shaped like that?
18/12/2016 08:27
The fisherman's pagan god suggest a mythical culture probably based on a develop language at that times. 
Gualterio Nunez Estrada, Sarasota, Florida.
24/11/2016 08:57
Obviously, the "God looks like Morgan Freeman" poster is quite young.

God looks like George Burns.
Frank Johnson, USA
25/10/2016 04:33
To put this remarkable find in the proper context, one must first understand Julian Jaynes's bicameral mind theory.
Marcel Kuijsten, United States
20/10/2016 12:17
This area is antic Turkish land
Mithat Abakan, Manavgat / Turkey
15/10/2016 02:49
I think I may have a hypothesis as to why they only found a single rattle and nothing else in this area. This is a baby's toy, right? It turns out, babies do not care what guardian spirit is contained in, or how long it took to carve, their rattle. They tend to throw the things on the floor they like best, so their large parental slaves can retrieve them, over and over, and then over again. One did not take into account that no one wanted to jump into the river to get their favorite fetish. And as for the face? It's a rattle. You get the kid what he likes. This one probably just laughed like crazy at oogedy boogedy fishy faces, so that's what daddy carved him. There are other explanations besides religion. If my baby lost a shoe at the market and a thousand years later someone thought I worshipped Spongebob as a consequence, I would be as embarrassed as a shade can be.
Evie, USA
05/10/2016 10:22
Michelle K-M, Abby, Canada

Thank you so much for seeing the obviously intended humor. I was academically afraid that any responses might end up bone dry, and I do admit to having had quite the chuckle myself while typing. The thing I love so much about stirring satire stew, is that the nuggets of truth therein get so tough and stringy that they can't be swallowed or digested with a straight face. Therefore over the top humor can be a dietary aid to reality.

I mean seriously, we 21st century women and men of science, are surely mentally and morally superior to peoples 200, 2000, 20,000, and 200,000 years ago, right. Peoples of those ages were not capable of figurative artwork or literature, it is only logical (think Vulcan) that we take everything they produced literally. I mean it is obvious by the look on that bone dolls face that not only did the person who made it believe in Pagan Gods, but obviously by the look of that face, all peoples of that region and time lived their whole lives shaking magic rattles at evil spirits. Is it not undeniable?

We 21st Century people of science all understand that this is REAL world we live in, and in the real world there are no such things as "magic", "luck", "accidents", "random", and "chaos". Those words only have meaning in pretend, imaginary, and make believe worlds. We modern peoples invented figurative artwork and literature in Hollywood, California, USA in 1919, and it has been fully documented for future generations of archaeologists. This is how 1000 years from now, when they find our early 21st century artwork, they will be able to determine that we did not believe that "God was a light skinned, freckle faced black man, with a funny voice (who happened to look incredibly like Morgan Freeman), who would magically pop down to Earth whenever in a frisky mood(usually dressed in an impeccable white suit). Who would grant temporary supernatural deity powers to the Almighty Bruce, so that Bruce the Almighty could recite magical words known as prayers, which he uses to increase the breast size of his girlfriend(who happens to look incredibly like Jennifer Aniston). ;)
Chris Vaught, Maryland USA
24/09/2016 00:38
This is an authentic amcient piece obviously a god or spirit of the region. To those naysayers, spiritual practices of africa are ztill in practoce today some of the oldest spiritual paths on earth involving many dieties, so whynot other regions of the world as well
Jan Boren, USA
23/09/2016 23:03
Chris Vaught, Maryland, USA
That was the funniest thing I'd seen in a long time. I laughed for 10 minutes straight.. Be careful though, people might think you're being serious. Hilarious!!!
Michelle K-M, Abby, Canada
22/09/2016 13:17
This was most likely a psychological weapon, it's scowling form used to strike fear into the hearts of enemies
Brian C, Nebraska
22/09/2016 04:49
Hey, look at all these archaeology pros with their scientifically comments below the article. ^^
I totally stand with Benedict from Moskwa.
Mel, Germany
21/09/2016 18:33
It is so embarrassing how these 20th & 21st century archeologists have deep set, and uncontrollable knee jerk reactions to allocate everything they find to supernatural deities and other fantasies. Ancient peoples had no concept of such things. They woke up everyday surrounded by nature and the real world, and pretty much nothing but nature and the real world. It is only within the last 150 years that people have been bombarded from cradle to grave, sunrise to sunset, and sunset to sunrise with all these pretend, imaginary and make believe fictional characters. For heavens sake they found a doll, and there is no evidence what so ever to believe the people who made or owned the doll believed in the fantasies that this archeologist brings to mind. Any day of the year I could dig through this archeologists trash and find piles of physical archaeological evidence(using his reasoning) that he believes in vampires, zombies, Mickey Mouse, ghosts, Superman, and millions of other fictional characters with superhuman deity powers that pollute current thoughts and cultures.
Chris Vaught, Maryland, USA
21/09/2016 08:12
I would like to suggest that it is made to look like a fish with the down turned mouth and the scales. Very interesting find.
Cia Maria Rising, Etna, NH, USA
20/09/2016 23:47
could it be made by the catawba. cat eating a head in shape of a tooth? sometimes what is on the nose is what tribe made it. on the top of the head is the tribe it represents
michael shea, kankakee, il. u.s.a.
20/09/2016 21:37

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