Rare bronze statue of Greek god Apollo appears in Gaza
An incredibly rare 2,000-year-old bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo has recently appeared in Gaza, only to be seized immediately by police and vanish once again from view. It is not known where the ancient statue came from and whether there are many more artefacts like it; what is known is that someone was trying to make a hefty profit out of this ancient god.
According to reports, a local fisherman says he scooped up the 500 kilogram statue from the sea floor last August and carried it home on a donkey cart. But already something is ‘fishy’ about this story. The statue is in pristine condition with no sign of metal disfigurement and no barnacles, which would be typical signs of being underwater for a long period of time.
Palestinian fisherman Joudat Ghrab said he found the statue lying in shallow waters some 100 metres offshore, just north of the Egyptian-Gaza border. He says it took him and his relatives four hours to drag the treasure ashore. "I felt it was something gifted to me by God," Ghrab said. "My financial situation is very difficult and I am waiting for my reward."
The statue briefly appeared on eBay with a $500,000 price tag – well below its true value. “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.
Police from the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, swiftly seized the statue, much to the frustration of archaeologists who have not yet been able to examine the ancient relic. Instead, all they have had to go by are a few blurry photographs that depict the statue laid out on a smurf blanket!
From what they can tell, it was cast sometime between the 5th and the 1st century BC. The discoloured 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. Unfortunately, he is missing two of his fingers after Ghrab and his brother removed them in order to have them assessed by a metals expert, thinking it might have been made of gold. The uniqueness of the statue lies in the material it was constructed from. It is very rare to find a statue of this era in metal, rather than marble or stone.
"It is a precious treasure, an important archaeological discovery," said Ahmed al-Bursh, the ministry's director of archaeology. Once the statue has been released by police, his ministry plans to repair it and put it on show in Gaza.
Tarragon said it was vital to know the true location of its discovery. 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. Statues such as the Apollo cast would not have been held in isolation, meaning it may be the tip of an historical iceberg.
"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.