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Greek police seize ancient marble statues

Police say two farmers planned to sell the pair of statues, said by an official to have “fabulous value.’’ Police say two farmers planned to sell the pair of statues, said by an official to have “fabulous value.’’ (John Kolesidis /Reuters)
Associated Press / May 19, 2010

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ATHENS — Police in southern Greece have seized a rare twin pair of 2,500-year-old marble statues and arrested two farmers who allegedly planned to sell them abroad for $12.43 million, authorities said yesterday.

Police said two Greeks, ages 42 and 48, were arrested in the Peloponnese area late Friday as they were loading the illegally excavated figures of young men into a truck. Authorities are seeking a third man suspected of belonging to a smuggling gang that planned to spirit the works, which date to 6th-century BC, out of the country.

“This is a very important find, of fabulous value, and [both statues] were ready to be taken out of Greece,’’ Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said.

Archeologists said yesterday that the statues are “outstanding works of art’’ and may have come from a temple or cemetery in a lost ancient city in the Peloponnese region in southern Greece. Both are in excellent condition, but lack sections of their lower legs and were gashed by a plow or digging machinery.

They stand 5 feet 9 inches and 5 feet 8 inches high, and were probably carved by the same sculptor out of thick-grained island marble between 550-520 BC, at the height of the archaic period of sculpture.

“They are exactly the same, with a slight variation in hairstyle and a small difference in height,’’ said Nikos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where the finds were temporarily housed for conservation and study. “The artist may have wanted to produce two similar figures that would form part of a group.’’

The statues are of the stiff, highly formalized Kouros type widespread in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, which portrayed gods, heroes, or aristocrats and were painted in bright colors. From the 5th century on, Greek sculpture became more fluid and lifelike, culminating in the naturalism of the Hellenistic era.

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