The Mysterious Shigir Idol
Originally standing over 17 feet tall, and dating back to approximately 7500 BC, the Shigir Idol is considered the oldest wooden sculpture known in the world. It was discovered in the 1890’s in the Ural Mountains of Kirovgrad. Archaeologists working in the area, where other ancient pieces were being unearthed near excavation of a gold mine, were surprised for such a find.
The mysterious artifact was created from a large piece of Larch. Because the Shigir Idol was encased within a peat bog, 13 feet down, which naturally preserved the wood for thousands of years, it’s features of intricate carvings can be realized and studied today. What might they mean? Are the images and designs merely decorative or something more?
The answers to those questions continue to be researched and speculations persist. Some believe the Shigir Idol shares coded messages about the creation of the world, while others suggest the markings relate to the clan who crafted the totem-like pole. Might this even be one of the first ever inspirations for the making of totem-poles? No one knows for sure.
The idol is covered with numerous carvings. These are believed to have been made by chiseling the wood with tools of stone, bone, and animal teeth. There are what look like 7 different depictions of faces carved onto the large stake (circled on sketch below). These are incorporated amongst other various geometric figures and shapes on the idol.
The top of the Shigir Idol portrays the upper part of a human body; the head, shoulders, and horizontal lines which are possible markings of ribs.
The mysterious relic then continues with other incredible patterns, and other faces, on front, back, and sides to complete the Idol. Not an inch seems unused.
Besides the uncertainty for the meaning and purpose of the Idol, it also isn’t known how the idol stood or was displayed? There isn’t any indication of a base which was buried in the ground to allow the two-story structure to stand freely.
Since carvings surround the entire piece of wood, it is believed to have been created so to be seen from every angle, and therefore not made to attach to another object where the back could not be appreciated. But this is just assumed. It’s possible it was created to be ceremonially buried and demonstrated the rising of a new clan or family in the area.
While conjecture to actual meanings continue, it certainly can be said the people/person who hewed the ancient sculpture did so for some purpose, and no matter what that purpose is, the piece is an amazing piece of history. It demonstrates man’s desire to create and express thought/ideas in a form we are fortunate enough to have discovered.
Maybe someday its secret will be revealed.
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