The electrooptical holding Shvabe has developed a climate-controlled showcase to preserve the Shigir Idol, the most ancient wooden sculpture in the world. The main feature of this showcase is its ability to maintain specific climatic conditions inside the box.
According to the Shvabe press service, temperature and humidity conditions are controlled so that in practice the wooden sculpture is prevented from being damaged by decay. An international group of scientists recently began to study the ancient artifact. Using accelerator mass spectrometry, researchers plan to determine the age of the idol with an accuracy of up to half a century as well as to understand by what tools were used to carve it. Scientists hope to finish studying the discovery within a few months, and in six months they plan to publish their results.
The Shigir Idol was discovered in 1890 in the vicinity of modern Kirovgrad while mining gold. The five-meter sculpture was found under a four-meter layer of peat. The owner of the gold mine, Count Stenbok-Fermor, presented the discovery to the Ural Society of Naturalists. The idol found its way into the showcases of the regional museum, where it was displayed at almost half of its actual height. Now it resembles a three-meter body with seven faces.
The approximate age of the artifact (the 73rd century BC) was established only in 1997 using radiocarbon analysis. For comparison, the Pyramid of Djoser, the oldest structure in the world, was built in the 27th century BC.
According to Professor at the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences Mikhail Zhilin, a sculpture like the Shigir idol has not yet been found anywhere else in the world. "It is covered by ornamental carving that presents a kind of encrypted message that people used to pass on their knowledge," the professor noted.
An antiseptic agent has been used to help preserve the sculpture: The idol was carved from phytoncide larch, and then the peat preserved it. This resulted in the creation of an acidic anaerobic environment that killed microorganisms that could decompose the wood and provided a tannic effect.
Unfortunately, since the discovery of the idol the favorable environment has been compromised, and the main challenge has been to come up with a mechanism to preserve the idol, as wood like no other material is subject to becoming dried out and cracking. During this time the ancient artifact has been stored in wax.
A unique climate-controlled cabinet developed by Shvabe will now be able to preserve the condition of the artifact. After this the question of the decomposition of the artifact will no longer be as pressing. Interestingly, the equipment used to store the sculpture is a modification of an incubator intended for premature babies.