The Shigir Idol (Russian: Шигирский идол), is the most ancient wooden sculpture in the world, made during the Mesolithic period, around 7,500 BCE. It is displayed in the "Historic Exhibition" Museum in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
The idol was discovered on January 24th, 1894 at a depth of 4m in the peat bog of Shigir, on the eastern slope of the Middle Urals, approximately 100 km from Yekaterinburg. Investigations in this area had begun 40 years earlier after the discovery of a variety of prehistoric objects in an open-air gold mine.
It was extracted in several parts; professor D. I. Lobanov combined the main fragments to reconstitute a sculpture 2.80m high.
In 1914 the archaeologist Vladimir Tolmachev proposed a variant of this reconstruction by integrating the unused fragments.
Some of these fragments were later lost, so only Tolmachev's drawings of them remain.
The radiocarbon dating carried out by G. I. Zajtsevoj of the Institute of the History for the Material Culture in Saint-Petersburg, confirmed by the Institute of Geology of the Academy of Science of Russia in Moscow, gives an age of 9,500 years. It is the most ancient known wooden sculpture in the world.
Since 2003 the sculpture has been displayed in a glass box filled with inert gas. The head reproduces rather faithfully a face with eyes, nose, and mouth.
The body is flat and rectangular. Geometrical motifs decorate its surface. Horizontal lines at the level of the thorax seem to represent ribs, and lines broken in chevrons cover the rest of the body.
No consensus exists about the meaning of these motifs, or what the sculpture represented.