Since 1890 people have been extracting peat in the vicinity of Kirovgrad, Sverdlovsk Oblast (the Urals), and founding amazing artifacts. The Shigir Idol, or the Big Shigir Idol, is among the most popular trophies in the so-called Shigir storage (the Shigir collection).
The Shigir Idol was made in the Stone Age when the world-oldest Ural Mountains were inhabited by hunters, fishermen and foragers.
The Shigir Idol / Vladislav Falshivomonetchik (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Shigir Idol
The Shigir Idol had been initially 5.3 m (17.4 ft) high but once it was exposed to the influence of air, it started to crumble and fell into several fragments.
The body of the statue is long with a massive head on the top of it.
Ancient people carved the Shigir Idol out of a single larch-tree (about 150 years old) using various stone tools.
Archaeologist tried to assemble the statue by combining its fragments in different ways. They got the figure 2.8 m (9 ft). It was only later, when Russian scientists could restore the Shigir Idol in its initial size (5.3 m/17.4 ft).
More likely, the statue was attached to a pole bedded into the ground.
In the early 20th century Russia underwent a drastic change of social structure. In the course of the revolution the lower part of the Shigir Idol (195sm/77 in) was irretrievably lost.
The whole statue is covered with ornaments.
The ornament of the Shigir Idol
The Shigir Idol is decorated with geometrical ornaments and several images of human-like faces. The latter ones resemble the Idol’s head, with each of them being framed by a geometrical pattern and put on the top of the ornamental group.
The head of the Shigir Idol is marked with lines which look exactly like scars. Probably ancient people were scarred during some coming-of-age ceremonies.
The Big Shigir Idol / Tolmachev’s drawing (1914)
The glass coffin
The Shigir Idol had been gathering dust in the museum storage for a really long time. In 2003, it was finally put into a special glass coffin which could control gas composition, humidity and temperature.
The concern of the Russian officials
There are non-destructive methods of examining ancient artifacts. However, the Russian-German scientists decided to slightly saw the Shigir Idol.
This fact aroused concern of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and later the institution filed a charge against the international scientific group.
We are not entitled to judge the adequacy of their surveying technique which was based on taking a sample from the sawn Shigir Idol.
From a scientific viewpoint, the Shigir Idol is a unique ancient artifact that surely deserves to be examined with the help of advanced non-destructive methods, even if the development of such techniques takes decades.
Furthermore, the Shigir Idol is protected as cultural heritage on the highest governmental level.
If the analysis of Shigir Idol had been postponed until certain non-destructive methods were established, many scientists would not have lived long enough to get these scientific results. However, if they had not tickled they vanity, it would have encouraged the further development of science.
Where to find the Shigir Idol
The Idol along with other artifacts from the Shigir collection can be found in the Local History Museum of Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast.
The Shigir collection embraces, in particular, an antler-dagger made of an extinct gigantic deer and a wand-finial mimicking the head of a mythical predator.
Beside the so-called Big Shigir Idol, there is also the Small Shigir Idol that is almost neglected by scientists engrossed in studying its bigger counterpart. We wonder what scientific discoveries it conceals.