Incredible underground chamber with 130 ancient Greek statues awaiting investigation
An underground chamber containing 130 ancient Greek statues was discovered in Athens 25 years ago. But no one, apart from the finders, has cared enough to battle the bureaucracy that has prevented the hatch from being opened and the remarkable treasures from being recovered. So what has stopped the Ministry of Culture from retrieving such precious relics of the past? Apparently the obstacle is as simple as the fact that the mysterious underground chamber lies on private property and no one wants to get involved.
The chamber was discovered in Athens when two friends found an opening in the ground in an area that was being excavated to lay the foundations for a new building. After throwing some burning paper in the opening they saw that there were stairs leading further under the surface. So they went down with the help of two lit candles. Here is the description of Constantinos Kyparissis, one of the two friends that made the discovery:
… We threw the lit newspaper and the rays of light have shown the stairs. At the end of the stairs and at a depth of 3 meters or more there was a room and at the right of the room there was the statue of a Goddess of a height of about 1.80 meters, a magnificent statue. The left side of her face was unfinished. At her right side there was the statue of a lion and next to it Diogenes naked and next was Goddess Athena. Alongside the tunnel on both the left and right side there have been multiple full body statues. After 20 meters there is no oxygen but the tunnel keeps going….
In total, more than 130 undamaged statues were counted by Constantinos and his friend.
There is a speculation that the room that was found at the beginning of the 4-meter wide corridor was one of the workshops of the great Greek sculptor, painter and architect Phidias, because many of the sculptures were similar to those once found in the Parthenon. Phidias was the creator of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the statue of Zeus at Olympia – as well as other monumental statues and gates at the Parthenon in Greece. Others have theorised that with such a large number of statues, it is possible that the corridor leads to a temple.
You would expect that with such a great discovery the Ministry of Culture and the archaeological department would rush to go and research further. However, this was not the case.
Constantinos spoke to a lawyer who advised him and his friend not to talk to anyone about the finding but to write a letter to the Ministry of Culture and let them know about the discovery, and so they did. The first letter was sent on 1 st March, 1988, and there have been multiple letters since then. Unfortunately, it appears that the importance of the discovery was lost with every change of Minister and every change of Government.
On the 20 th of August 2003, Constantinos sent another letter, and he sent new letters every time the Minister for Culture changed. In 2004, he sent a letter directly to the Prime Minister. He repeated the process in 2006 and again in 2007.
After nearly 20 years, Constantinos received his first reply. On 12 th March, 2007, the Ministry replied thanking him for his interest and asking him to declare what he had found. They wrote that if it was verified, he would receive a reward and recognition. On the same day, they sent him a second letter asking him to take them to the location to see.
A team of 17 people, including archaeologists, government officials, and lawyers went to the site where the discovery was made. The exact spot had since been covered with asphalt, but a simple process of drilling through the thin layer of asphalt would have revealed the marble entrance and no further excavation would be needed.
The following day, Government representatives sent a letter to Constantinos telling him that because the place is on private property and covered with asphalt, they are not permitted to drill and therefore they cannot verify if what Constantinos said was true or not. (Of course, there are devices that can easily measure if there is empty space below ground level and this would not require any drilling).
A few days later, Constantinos’ lawyer went to the site and found that the asphalt above the entrance was fresh – showing that someone had got into it and then resealed it. Nothing was heard again from the Ministry of Culture or the archaeological department. So Constantinos’ lawyer contacted the Archaeological Council and gave them all the papers, letters, and details about the place and the situation. The Archaeological Council was surprised as they had never been informed about it. They appeared very enthusiastic about the information and promised to investigate and get back to him. This never happened.
What could possibly explain the Government’s failure to intervene on a matter of such national importance? Did they ever investigate the chamber? If so, why did they do so secretly? Did they find something that they did not want to announce, or is it simply an extreme example of bureaucratic incompetence? We do not know, but we intend to find out. Stay tuned!
For those who speak Greek, here is a video from a Greek TV program in which Constantinos’ lawyer, and a number of others who have been involved, speak about the case.
Featured Image: Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends (1868) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - Wikipedia
By John Black