Saturday, May 31, 2014

A fossilized idol

A fossilized idol carved from a horn, dated to 4000 years ago, found by
Nikolay Tarasov in Tisul, Kemerovo region, Russia.
Credit: Tisul History Museum.  Image source.
An interesting story came out of Siberia last week.  Nikolay Tarasov, a resident of Tisul in the Kemerovo region of Russia, was fishing with a friend when his net caught a small object with a face carved into it.  He took the object to a local museum, where experts identified it as a 4000-year-old pagan god.  It was carved into a horn that had since fossilized.

The news story does not specify the method used to date the idol, so I take the age with some amount of skepticism.  Nevertheless, this artifact does not at all conflict with the biblical timeline and may in fact assist it.  The person who brought this story to my attention expressed doubt that a culture could move from the Middle East to Siberia and develop its own pagan religion in the span of 400 years between the Flood and the supposed date of this carving.  However, I don't think that such a scenario is unlikely at all.

The Bible indicates that after Noah’s Flood about 4300 years ago, Noah’s descendants generally stayed around the region of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) until they were dispersed from the Tower of Babel.  The timing of this event is not clear, but there may be a clue.  Noah’s great-great-great-grandson, Peleg, was born 101 years after the Flood.  Peleg’s name means “division,” and Genesis 10:25 reveals that he was given this name because “in his time the earth was divided.”  Formerly, many creationists though this referred to the division of the supercontinent Pangaea into our modern tectonic configuration; however, this event is now generally attributed to the Flood itself.  Instead, it may be that this passage is referring to the dispersal of peoples and the division of the land among them.  Assuming Peleg was given his name at birth, we can date the Babel event to just before 2200 BC.

This leaves us with about 200 years for people to have migrated from Mesopotamia to Tisul, a distance of roughly 4200 kilometers or 2600 miles.  This would require an average annual migration of 13 miles, or 188 feet per day.  Such movement is not at all difficult and is entirely within the realm of realistic possibilities, particularly for nomadic tribes.  Even with quite a bit of wandering, people could have easily reached the Kemerovo region within 200 years or less.

Forming a new pagan religion within that timespan is equally feasible and possibly even easier.  Even with the obvious signs of God’s judgement on the world around them, it would only take a single generation to turn away from God and follow gods of their own making.  Recall how the Israelites turned to pagan worship of a calf idol mere months after the undeniable display of God’s power in their exodus from Egypt!  It should be expected that idolatry was rampant within a few hundred years after the Flood.

Turning aside from the people who carved the idol in question, I would like to briefly discuss the idol itself.  More specifically, I want to point out the fact that it is described as “fossilized.”  The process of fossilization can take many forms, including casting, permineralization, and mineral replacement.  There are no details about the nature of the fossilization of this particular object, but I am inclined to attribute it to mineral replacement, which is typically what people think of as fossilization.  In this process, water flows around and through a buried object, often a bone, and gradually replaces the native molecules with minerals dissolved in the water, thus turning it into stone but keeping the original form.  This and other fossilization processes were long taught as taking at least tens of thousands, if not millions, of years.  Yet, this fossilized horn is dated at only 4000 years.  Additionally, according to the article, the museum experts said that the idol was carved before the horn had fossilized.  That means it fossilized within the last 4000 years!

It should come as no surprise, then, that other bones, such as those of dinosaurs, could have fossilized within the last 4300 years since the Flood.  In fact, while researching this article, I came across a published study from The Journal of Paleontological Sciences that explained how an entire Stegosaurus can be fossilized in only a few hundred years!  No fossil, regardless of its claimed age, is evidence of long ages purely based on the fact that it is fossilized.  The entire fossil record can conform with biblical history when studied from a Christian worldview.

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