In DepthArchaeology

Siberian sculpture is among the oldest monumental art

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Science  27 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6387, pp. 364
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6387.364

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In 1894, gold prospectors digging up a peat bog in Yekaterinburg, Russia, unearthed something bizarre: a carved wooden idol 5 meters long, with a recognizably human head—mouth open in a perfect "o"—and covered front and back with mysterious carvings. For more than a century, the statue was displayed as a curiosity in a Siberian museum, assumed to be at most a few thousand years old. This week, a paper published in the journal Antiquity argues that the statue was crafted 11,600 years ago, making it one of the world's oldest examples of monumental art. The idol also shows that large-scale, complex art emerged in more than one place—and that it was the handiwork of hunter-gatherers and not, as was once assumed, of later farming societies.

  • * Andrew Curry is a journalist in Berlin.