11 Feb Lost for centuries, a rare bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo has mysteriously appeared
Lost for centuries, a rare bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo has mysteriously appeared in the Gaza Strip, only to be seized by police and vanish almost immediately from view.
A local fisherman says he scooped the 500kg, life-sized bronze from the sea bed last August, and carried it home on a donkey cart, unaware of the significance of his catch.
From what they can tell it was cast sometime between the 5th and the 1st century BC, making it at least 2,000 years old.
“It’s unique. In some ways I would say it is priceless. It’s like people asking what is the (value) of the painting La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa) in the Louvre museum,” said Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.
“It’s very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal,” he told Reuters television.
The apparently pristine condition of the god suggested it was uncovered on land and not in the sea, he said, speculating that the true location of where it was unearthed was not revealed to avoid arguments over ownership.
“This wasn’t found on the seashore or in the sea … it is very clean. No, it was (found) inland and dry,” he said, adding that there were no tell-tale signs of metal disfigurement or barnacles that one normally sees on items plucked from water.
Palestinian fisherman Joudat Ghrab tells a different tale. The 26-year-old father of two said he saw a human-like shape lying in shallow waters some 100 meters offshore, just north of the Egyptian-Gaza border. At first he thought it was a badly burnt body, but when he dived down to take a closer look he realized it was a statue. He says it took him and his relatives four hours to drag the “treasure” ashore.
The discolored green-brown figure shows the youthful, athletic god standing upright on two, muscular legs; he has one arm outstretched, with the palm of his hand held up. He has compact, curly hair, and gazes out seriously at the world, one of his eyes apparently inlaid with a blue stone iris, the other just a vacant black slit.
“It is a precious treasure, an important archaeological discovery,” said Bursh. Once the statue was released by police, his ministry plans to repair it and put it on show in Gaza.
Some 5,000 years of history lie beneath the sands of the Gaza Strip, which was ruled at various times by ancient Egyptians, Philistines, Romans, Byzantines and Crusaders.
“A statue at that time was (put) in a complex, in a temple or a palace. If it was in a temple, you should have all the other artefacts of the cult (at the site),” he said, adding that he hoped Hamas appreciated its potential importance.
“There is a feeling that they could find more and more (items) linked to the statue, more and more artefacts, so this is very sensitive,” he said.