New dating of the Shigir Idol, the oldest known wooden monumental statue in the world, has revealed that it was created even earlier than previously thought. The human-shaped statue, which is believed to have been over 5m tall originally, was discovered in 1890 in a peat bog at Shigir in the Ural Mountains in Russia. Initial dating in 1997 indicated that the Idol was c.9,500 years old, while later tests in 2018 suggested that it was around 11,500 years old (CWA 74). However, new dating of samples from the statue’s interior (rather than the surface, which was found to have been treated with wood and wax pigment in the years since its discovery) indicates that the Shigir Idol was actually created c.12,100 years ago, around the end of the last Ice Age. The research has been published in Quaternary International.
Constantine’s missing finger
A large bronze statue of Constantine the Great has been reunited with its missing index finger after 500 years. The surviving fragments of the 12m-tall statue of the Roman emperor – including the head, the orb that it once held, and the left hand – are kept in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, but the hand had been missing its index finger since the statue was damaged in 1584. In 2018, a researcher at the Louvre in Paris discovered that an object in the museum’s collection, which had been catalogued as a toe, was the right size to be the statue’s missing finger. A resin replica of the 38cm-long digit was then sent to Rome to see if it would fit Constantine’s hand, confirming that it did belong to the statue. Now the original finger has been transported to the Capitoline Museums and reattached to the statue using a non-invasive, reversible, and invisible process.
Sharpened turkey bones found at the Native American site of Fernvale in Tennessee are believed to represent the earliest known examples of tools used for tattooing. Dated to c.3500-1600 BC, the two turkey leg bones – which have sharpened tips and evidence of staining by both red and black pigment – were found in a male burial pit in 1985. New research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports has used microscopic analysis of the wear and pigment residue around the tips of the bones to determine that they may have been used as tattoo needles. If this is the case, it would mean that tattooing was taking place in North America more than 1,000 years earlier than believed.