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Relic netted in Siberian river dates back 4,000 years; photos via Tisul History Museum

A fisherman dragging a net through a river in Siberia thought he had snagged a rock. Instead he had snared what experts believe is a 4,000-year-old pagan figurine of a god.

Nikolay Tarasov, 53, considered throwing the 12-inch statuette back, until he wiped away the muck and saw that a ferocious-looking face had been carved into the artifact.

pagan-statuette"I pulled it in by getting my pal to help and I was going to chuck it away," he told the Siberian Times. “But then I stopped when I saw it was a stone with a face. I washed the thing in the river—and realized it was a statuette."

On the back of the figurine, snagged in the community of Tisul, was what looked like hair, carved behind the head.

Tarasov was told that the relic could be worth its weight in gold, but decided to donate his rare catch to a local museum, free of charge. “Experts there quite literally jumped for joy, and quite high!” he said.

It was later determined, with the help of experts, that the statuette had been carved in horn, probably during the Bronze Age.

Marina Banschikova, director of the Tisul History Museum, said experts are still studying the relic but are reasonably sure that the figurine represents a pagan god and belonged to the Okunev or Samus culture.

"The only things we have dated approximately to the same age are a stone necklace and two charms in the shapes of a bear and a bird," Banschikova said.

The museum director added that Tarasov did not ask for any reward, even though the artifact "is probably worth more than if it was made of gold."

Tarasov, a Siberian driver who fishes on the side, offered a simple explanation.

"People should see it, and learn the history of their region. It was quite clearly precious for the museums of any country."

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