In 1894, a strange looking wooden sculpture was pulled out of a peat bog in Siberia by gold prospectors, and what has now been discovered to be an 11,600-year-old carving is also believed to be the world’s first portrayal of a demon or evil force.
The 16.4 foot carved idol that was found near Yekaterinburg was originally thought to be a much newer relic until scientists extracted samples of the sculpture and used Accelerator Mass Spectrometry to properly date it, according to ScienceAlert.
This particular method of dating is much more exact and is able to precisely measure carbon atoms that have decayed, and the creation of the demonic sculpture can now be placed firmly in the Early Holocene period.
During this period of time in the earth’s history Eurasia was growing steadily warmer and forests were encroaching over land as the ice that had once been covering these areas slowly melted and withdrew.
One of the many things that makes this find so remarkable is that figurative art of this kind was previously believed to have stopped after the last Ice Age, as archaeologist Peter Vang explained.
“Figurative art in the Paleolithic and naturalistic animals painted in caves and carved in rock all stop at the end of the ice age. From then on, you have very stylized patterns that are hard to interpret. They’re still hunters, but they had another view of the world.”
The spooky statue of the evil spirit was carved out of a single larchwood tree an astonishing 11,600 years ago and its portrayal was found to be quite similar to other sculptures that were found as far away as Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, as Science Magazine report.
Crucially, while the first farmers were previously believed to have been responsible for complex art such as this, the depiction of the wooden demon clearly shows that hunter-gatherers had their own form of figurative art, according to archaeologist Thomas Terberger.
“We have to conclude hunter-gatherers had complex ritual and expression of ideas. Ritual doesn’t start with farming, but with hunter-gatherers.”
Besides what may be the world’s first known depiction of an evil force in nature, archaeologists are currently in the process of excavating yet another peat bog which is just 50 kilometers away and have already discovered antlers that have unique faces carved into them.
As the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Mikhail Zhilin noted, these prehistoric hunter-gatherers were actually experts when it came to creating artistic representations out of wood.
“They knew how to work wood perfectly. The idol is a reminder that stone wasn’t the only material people in the past used to make art and monuments—just the one most likely to survive, possibly skewing our understanding of prehistory.”
The new study on the 11,600-year-old wooden carving of a demon or evil spirit can be read in the Cambridge journal Antiquity.