CULTURE

Ancient korai and their roots in a new book

We admire them in museums but few of us know much about them: those beautiful statues depicting young women of perfect appearance, elaborate hairstyles, fine jewels and extraordinary grace. The statues of the korai and their world is the subject archaeologist Katerina Karakasi researched for her doctoral dissertation, and which she has now published in her book «Ancient Korai.» The book was launched in June at the Museum of the Athens Concert Hall by the Lambrakis Foundation. Karakasi studied at the University of Frankfurt, but most of the statues she writes about are exhibited in Greek museums. She explains what the korai represent, whether they are priestesses, historical figures or simply statues, according to their locations. She suggests dates, draws conclusions about the social standing and class of the people who ordered them made and the reasons why. Speaking at the book launch, Professor Kokkorou-Alevra of Athens University noted the significance of the research: «The observation that statues of korai usually were offered to temples of female divinities who were related to marriage, family life, and fertility in general, such as Hera, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite, is a serious indication of the reasons they were ordered.» Karakasi examines the size of the statues, which corresponds directly to their cost, and hence to the social status of those making the votive donation. She also refers to the quarrying of marble and the use of local or imported stone for the statues. Her book is in German and an English translation is due out soon, to be published by the John Paul Getty Museum.