Made by hunter-gatherers, the wooden Shigir Idol is more than 12,000 years old
April 6, 2021 | 8:10 pm UTC
The Shigir Idol

A human-shaped wooden statue, one of the oldest manmade objects ever discovered, is likely even older than scientists had previously believed.

The Shigir Idol, named after the Shigir peat bog where it was found, was first discovered in Russia's Ural Mountains in 1890. Composed of ten larch fragments, the Idol is a nine-foot-tall totem pole featuring a face, limbs, and geometric patterns. It's believed to be the oldest surviving work of wooden ritual art in the world.

The Shigir Idol

In the 1990s, the statue was dated to be around 9,500 years old. Historians pushed back at the time, believing hunter-gatherer groups could not have crafted something as large and as sophisticated. 

The Shigir Idol
Photo: Sverdlovsk Regional Museum

An analysis carried out by German researchers in 2018 dated the object to at least 11,500 years old. And now, in 2021, that same team believes the statue dates back to 12,100 years ago. The new estimation comes from radiocarbon dating. If you're interested in the science, this LiveScience article goes more in-depth.

To get a feel for how old the statue really is, consider that Stonehenge is believed to have been built just 5,000 years ago, and the Great Pyramid at Giza just 4,500 years ago. Built just after the last Ice Age, the Idol was around while wooly rhinos and mammoths roamed the earth.

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Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected]