Now believed to be twice as old as the pyramids, the Shigir idol, was discovered in1894 in a peat bog in the Middle Urals.
Radiocarbon dating initially gave an age of 9,500 years, while a later German analysis suggested 11,000 years, making the idol the oldest known wooden sculpture of its kind in the world. The sculpture was made from a larch which was itself at least 157 years old.
Made from a freshly cut tree, the body is flat and rectangular. Using stone tools, the idol was incised with mysterious carvings which have yet to be deciphered, but could depict snakes and spirits.
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. So what’s its value today?
Imagine the following scenario:
- You are the owner of a high end art gallery (Shyster)
- You are the owner of an apparently ancient wooden popsicle man (Twit)
- You are a total philistine (that’s my man)
As a gallery owner, you know that even a boring looking brown bowl could turn out to be a Tang Dynasty glazed bowl – or something your aunt made in pottery class in 1970. Experience is your best guide in such matters. What appears to be a crudely carved giant wooden popsicle man may be a relic from an early 20th century scout camp OR a priceless example of ethnic art that has museum grade artefact/of considerable interest to wealthy specialist collector radiating from it.
“What do you expect to get for it?”
“I have no idea – my grandfather brought it back from one of his travels to Siberia.”
“Will you take R5 000?
“That thing looks at least twice as old as the pyramids. Must be some sort of stone age fetish. Probably bring you bad luck. You know, if it had a nominal value of US$01 11 000 years ago, at compound interest of 3 percent per annum, it would now be worth (whips out calculator):
Friend, he’s robbing you.”
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