Monumental Wooden Statues from the Ust-Voikary Fortifi ed Settlement, Northwestern Siberia: A Multidisciplinary Analysis
Monumental Wooden Statues from the Ust-Voikary Fortified Settlement, Northwestern Siberia: A Multidisciplinary Analysis
Y.N. Garkusha, A.V. Novikov, and A.V. Baulo
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Pr. Akademika Lavrentieva 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
This article presents the results of a comprehensive study of two unusual large wooden statues with anthropomorphic faces. They were excavated from the Ust-Voikary stratified site, in the southwestern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The site dwellers were native Siberians (Ugro-Samoyeds), who lived there from the Middle Ages to the recent centuries. This is one of the few sites in the region with frozen habitation deposits. The statues are unique in terms of attribution, size, preservation, and integrity of archaeological context. They were part of dwellings, being situated in the foundations of the walls near the entrance. Their faces are modeled in bas-relief. Iconographically, they conform to the Ob Ugrian sculptural tradition. The analysis of the architectural context of the location of the statues and certain details suggests a secondary use. Initially, they might have belonged to the frame supporting the roof. The statues are made of Siberian larch (Larix sibirica Ledeb.). The dendrochronological analysis has allowed us to estimate the date when the trees were felled—the late 17th century. A retrospective analysis of data on the ritual art of the northern Khanty and Mansi suggests an interpretation of the Voikary statues in comparing them with wooden sculptures representing menkvs—forest spirits. Thus, their ritual role was mostly to protect the home.