Russia’s oldest idol turned out to be older than the Black Sea
The wooden figure found the Mesolithic – the middle stone age and was the oldest of the large surviving sculptures of mankind. An international group of researchers with the participation of Russian scientists conducted radiocarbon dating of the Big Shigirsky idol, which is stored in the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Yekaterinburg and initially had a height of more than five meters.
The dating showed that it was created 11,600 years ago — earlier than any other large-sized sculpture known to people.
The idol was made thousands of years before the freshwater lake at the site of the Black Sea connected to the basin of the Atlantic Ocean and became salty. Previous idol datings underestimated its antiquity. Earlier, the scientists who studied the age of the artifact were tried to bring to justice in court under article 243 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The corresponding scientific article was published in Antiquity.
The oldest sculpture of wood, Shigirsky idol, in the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore.
The big Shigirsky idol was found on the Ural peatlands in the 19th century. The owner of the land, Count Alexey Alexandrovich Stenbok-Fermor, gave the idol to the Ural Society of Natural Science Lovers (now the Sverdlovsk Museum of Local Lore) and at that time the height of the carved sculpture was 5.3 meters. However, in the unrest following the revolution, its lower part was lost under unknown circumstances, and now it is only 3.4 meters in height.
The idol, besides the head with clearly distinguishable features of the face, has seven more “guises” – areas on the body where this or that animal or object is depicted.
The question of its dating has always been quite acute. It is not like other famous idols and is not related to any known archaeological culture. Therefore, it was dated either with the Iron, or the Bronze Age, or the Neolithic. Doubts of his age led to several radiocarbon datings, which showed unusually ancient dates – up to 9,000 years ago.
Fragment of an ancient wooden sculpture, Shigirsky idol, in the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore.
The new work used the most modern radiocarbon dating tools. With their help, archaeologists obtained an age of 11,600 years — a deep Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age). Thus, the Big Shigirsky idol turned out to be the most ancient large sculpture known to mankind. Only small wearable Paleolithic figures of several centimeters are older than it. The age of the idol indicates a developed religious concept even before the transition of mankind to agriculture and cattle breeding.
The idol is so old that it was made almost four thousand years before the Black Sea. According to a number of theories substantiated by a multitude of geological and archaeological discoveries, prior to the events that occurred between 7,500–8,000 years ago, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake. And then the isthmus, which separated it from the Mediterranean, was overcome by the titanic volume of salt water, which flooded the coastal area and turned the lake into the sea.
For almost a year, the amount of sea water that poured in the form of a colossal waterfall was 200 times the daily volume of Niagara. In the mythology of the ancient Greeks, this event was depicted as the “Dardan flood”, and researchers also associate it with the description of the Old Testament Flood, which also occurred in the area of the modern Black Sea.
In 2014, Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov wrote to the police of the Sverdlovsk region a statement in which he accused researchers (not the authors of the new work, but one of the first groups involved in radiocarbon dating) that they had damaged an idol made of Siberian larch in the analysis. . Only in 2016, the case was closed due to the fact that the experts did not find any signs of the corresponding damage on the idol.