When Russian gold miners encountered a giant wooden sculpture in 1894 north of Yekaterinburg in the so-called Shigir Moor, it quickly became clear that this was an important find. However, the exact age of the artifact was unclear for a long time. Now, a German-Russian research team has made a systematic radiocarbon dating of the find. As the scientists report in the journal “Antiquity”, the figure is about 11,500 years old. Not only much older than expected, it is even the oldest known wooden sculpture in the world.
The figurine, made from a larch trunk, is still about 3.80 meters tall today. On its body, decorated with ornaments and anthropomorphic faces, sits a large round head with a carved face. The researchers were able to show that the wood was processed in the fresh state with stone tools. The figure apparently remained upright for a long time and probably served as a ritual stake, according to the scientists.
In Europe, geometrically ornate objects made of bones and antlers are known from this time. Rarely people were ever depicted as little stick figures, said study director Thomas Terberger of the University of Göttingen. “With its monumental appearance, the figure of Schigir shows a hitherto unknown side of the art of the first post-glacial hunter-gatherer societies.”
“At the same time, the artifact illustrates how the Ice Age cave paintings evolved and took on new forms in the post-glacial period.” So far, the approximately 11,000-year-old stone steles of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey have been the only monumental evidence of that time. ” Moor shows that in the Urals similarly complex objects were manufactured,” said Terberger.” The hunter-gatherer communities of the early post-glacial era thus appear in a completely new light. “