shigir idol

If you think Stonehenge is an ancient discovery, then you’re right. If you think the Pyramids hold the secrets of life, then that’s a possibility. Both these monuments are testimonials to a time long gone, a time where priorities were to live, eat, drink and worship Gods. Seems simple, but neither of these monuments points to primitive societies. That is where the discovery of the Shigir Idol comes into recognition. The Shigir Idol is around 9,700 years old, being the oldest known wooden artifact in history.

The Shigir Idol

As stated, the Shigir Idol is almost 10,000 years old – at least 4,000 years older than Stonehenge and double the age of the Egyptian Pyramids. This artifact was discovered in 1890 in the Sverdlovsk region of west Siberia, Russia, apparently 13 ft. below the earth and well-preserved. A protective layer of peat bog covered the idol in an open-air gold mine. The antibacterial properties of the peat kept the idol from rot during its millennial sleep. Presently, the idol is preserved in a glass sarcophagus filled with inert gases.


The Shigir Idol was found in fragments while some fragments remained missing. After arranging the pieces, Russian professor Dmitry Lobanov discovered the Idol was around 2.8 meters tall. Approximately 2 meters of fragments were never found, possibly due to Russia’s political turmoil. In 1914, with the use of sketches, Siberian archeologist Vladimir Tolmachev pieced together remaining unused fragments to boost the height of the idol to over 17 ft. tall! Later, the pieces were destroyed and all that was left were the drawings.

Artistic Expressions

At first glance, the idol seems simplistic. Upon closer inspection, it appears to be a detailed work of art. The idol is covered in Mesolithic symbols and geographical imprints. Zigzags, circles and wavy lines decorate the wooden sculpture along with chevrons, straight lines and herring-bone symbols.

Symbolic Meaning

Some think these symbols represent the meaning of life, some think they speak of the creation of the world.  The vertical arrangement of images suggests a timeline of historical events. The writing on the idol is also a sample of some of the first writings in the account of man. If this is true, the Shigir Idol could represent the oldest known code in history.

Another theory suggests the symbols are markers on a giant map with symbols showing the time of the journey and present location/destination. This idea makes just as much sense. An additional theory brings forth the idea that the idol is an ancient totem pole, much like what was used by the Native Americans – the wavy line used for water, the circle for the sun and maybe the angular lines representing mountains.

Among the symbols, there are various faces, each thought to be a visage of the sculpture’s creator. The top face, mistaken as an Aztec face because of its broken nose, could possibly be the main player in this piece of work.

shigir idolAs far as physical texture goes, the sculpture is made from Larch timber. The tree was 159 years old when cut for the Idol – the rings of the tree tell its secrets.

Mikhail Zhilin, professor and lead researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology, says,

“This masterpiece carries gigantic emotional value and force. There is nothing else in the world like this unique statue. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.”

In 2014, a new series of tests were completed by German researchers from the Lower Saxony State Office for Cultural history. With the use of Accelerated Mass Spectrometry (AMS), the idol was dated within decades of its creation. The Shigir Idol can be viewed at the Yekaterinburg Russian History Museum.



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Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.