Quaternary International ( IF 2.003 ) Pub Date : 2020-10-16 , DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2020.10.025 Thomas Terberger; Mikhail Zhilin; Svetlana Savchenko
In 1890 the so called “Shigir Idol” was found in a peat bog and for a long time discussion on the dating of the wooden sculpture was going on. In the 1990s first conventional radiocarbon dates suggested a Mesolithic context, but a series of recent AMS-results date the object close to the beginning of the Holocene (c. 10,000 calBC). The surprisingly early date makes the find the earliest monumental wooden sculpture of the world. A direct parallel is not available and this hampers the interpretation and contextualization of the find. Here we discuss the find according to aspects such as wood working and the type of sculpture and decoration in the Late Palaeolithic to Early Mesolithic context of Eurasia. We can show that there is a long tradition of wood working since the Lower Palaeolithic and the very limited evidence of wooden objects from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic is due to preservation conditions. Anthropomorphic figures are sometimes present in Late Glacial art and less anthropomorphic representations are available from the Early Mesolithic. The geometric patterns of the Shigir sculpture such as simple lines and zigzag-ornaments are common elements of Late Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic decoration. In conclusion the different elements of the Shigir sculpture fit better to the record of Late Glacial to Early Mesolithic art in Eurasia than expected. We see this as a confirmation of the early date of the monumental sculpture. The figure demonstrates a complex expression of symbolic behavior and art of hunter-gatherers at that time. The only general parallel of monumental anthropomorphic figures from that time can be mentioned from the far distant Göbekli Tepe site in eastern Anatolia.