Greece — Police in southern Greece have apprehended a rare twin pair of 2,500-year-old marble statues and arrested two farmers who supposedly planned to sell them abroad for euro10 million ($12.43 million), authorities said Tuesday.
Police said two Greeks aged 42 and 48 were arrested in the Peloponnese region late Friday as they were loading the criminally excavated figures of young men into a truck. Authorities are seeking a third man alleged of belonging to a smuggling gang that planned to spirit the 6th century B.C. works out of the country.
“This is a very significant find, of fabulous value, and (both statues) were ready to be taken out of Greece,” Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said.
Archaeologists said Tuesday the statues are “exceptional works of art” and may have come from a temple or cemetery in a lost ancient city in the Peloponnese area in southern Greece. Both are in outstanding condition, but lack sections of their lower legs and were gashed by a plow or digging machinery.
They stand 1.82 meters (5 feet 9 inches) and 1.78 meters (5 feet 8 inches) high, and were perhaps carved by the same sculptor out of thick-grained island marble between 550-520 B.C, at the height of the archaic period of sculpture.
“They are accurately the same, with an unimportant variation in hairstyle and a small difference in height,” said Nikos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens where the finds were momentarily housed for conservation and study. “The artist may have wanted to produce two similar figures that would form part of a group.”
Such discoveries in good condition are rare — about three have turned up during excavations in the past decade. But matching pairs are particularly uncommon.
Archaeologists hope to find the missing leg sections, because the breaks are recent.
Police chief Lefteris Economou said the arrests followed information from culture ministry officials. He provided no details on the identity of the potential buyers or which country the finds had been heading for.
Antiquities looting is a major problem in Greece, where treasures — by law all state property — can lie inches below farmers’ cultivator’s or modern buildings, particularly in cities like Athens that have been always inhabited for thousands of years.
Immorally excavated finds can be impressive to look at, but the entire valuable context, which in an organized excavation provides information on their use, date and origin, is lost during hasty looting digs.
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