A new discovery revealed that a famous Russian monument is almost a couple thousand years more ancient than previously thought. The codes engraved on the wooden statue, however, remain a mystery up to now.
Originally 5.3 meters tall, the Big Shigir Idol lost about two meters of its height during the political turmoil of 20th century Russia. It still currently stands tall at about 2.8 meters, and is enclosed in a controlled glass box for viewing at the Sverdlovsk Regional History Museum in Russia.
The Big Shigir has an actual face, complete with eyes, a nose and mouth. Its flat body is covered with geometrical motifs whose meanings are up to now unknown. The Big Shigir Idol is believed to have existed thousands of years even before the pyramids of Egypt and the Stonehenge. The massive wooden monument fell into a peat bog in western Siberia, and remained there for thousands of years, until it was discovered in 1894.
In 1997, scientists used radiocarbon dating in an initial analysis and found the wooden statue to date back to approximately 9,500 years. Just this year, researchers used a different method and found that the Idol is much older, roughly 11,000 years old. German scientists took a few wooden samples from the statue and placed them inside an accelerated mass meter. The seven small samples revealed that the Big Shigir Idol is actually about 1.5 thousand years older than previously believed.
"The results exceeded our expectations," said Thomas Terberger, a professor at the Department of Cultural Heritage of Lower Saxony, who also took part in the new analysis that dated the statue.
"This is an extremely important data for the international scientific community," he added, highlighting developments of civilization and Eurasian art.
"We can say that in those times, 11,000 years ago, the hunters, fishermen and gatherers of the Urals were no less developed than the farmers of the Middle East."
While the scientists brag of this new discovery on the Idol's age, the codes engraved on it remain an unsolved puzzle. According to Svetlana Savchenko, Shigir's chief keeper at the museum, a straight line could represent land, or probably horizon. It could denote the boundary between the sky and earth or water, or the "borderline between worlds." A wavy line, on the other hand, represented water, a snake, a lizard or a certain border. A zigzag line was also a representation of danger, say, a pike. Shapes like the circle, square, rhombus or cross depicted the sun or fire.
Experts, however, cannot really say for now what exactly those codes mean. While they figure out what message the Big Shigir Idol's creators were trying to send out through the statue, scientists emphasize how people at the time had intellectually advanced in a 'complicated spiritual world.'