CULTURE

Antiquities traffickers nabbed outside Kavala

When Greek police from Thessaloniki and Kavala stopped and searched the car carrying two suspected antiquities traffickers on the night of February 26, 2010, they had no idea they were about to recover what may be the first original work ever found of the 4th-century BC sculptor Lysippos. Law enforcement authorities, working jointly with archaeologists from the Ministry of Culture, had kept the two men from Drama ? a 48-year-old businessman and a 51-year-old farmer ? under surveillance for several months following reports that they were trying to sell antiquities. Discovered in the suspects? car was a bronze statue of Alexander the Great. The standing figure, about 60 centimeters in height, belongs to the distinctive Doryphoros type of Lysippos, according to a statement made by the Ministry of Culture on March 1.

The original Doryphoros (Spear-bearer) was a bronze statue sculpted by Polykleitos around 440 BC, which exhibited a heavily muscled, ideally proportioned anatomy and the perfected use of weight shift (contrapposto) evident in the nude figure?s S-curved body. Later sculptors copied Polykleitos? famous work but Lysippos created a slightly new style by adding his own refinements: a proportionately smaller head and slimmed-down musculature. Lysippos served as Alexander?s cherished personal sculptor and today is credited with having introduced the stock, heroizing portrayal of the great Macedonian leader. Until now, Lysippos? artistry has been preserved only through later Hellenistic or Roman copies. The bronze statue just recovered depicts Alexander looking right, with his left foot forward and right arm raised. Both his hands are missing.

Following their discovery of the Alexander statue and swift arrest of the two suspects on the Egnatia Highway outside Kavala, authorities also searched the traffickers? homes in Drama. There they found a further cache of valuable artifacts including a bronze head of a boy that appears to be a Roman original; a larger bronze head of a young man not considered original; 14 gold, silver and bronze coins of ancient and medieval date; a portion of a carved stone relief depicting a woman; two rare volumes of the Quran; and at least two computer disks containing photographs of ancient statues and other antiquities. The suspects were reportedly attempting to sell the Alexander statue and the head of the boy for 11-13 million euros.

Now in the conservation laboratory of the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, the recovered artifacts are considered to be of significant archaeological, historical and commercial value. As their analysis continues, specialists examining the Alexander statue?s body and head hope to confirm whether the bronze figure is wholly or only partly the product of one of the greatest sculptors of Classical Greece.