Masterpiece revealed

The marble statue of a young man that was discovered in the ancient Kerameikos cemetery last month is a masterpiece created by the first great sculptor of Attica, officials said yesterday. The 2.10-meter-high statue is the better-preserved twin of a kouros, as the archaic type is known, part of which was found in 1916 and is on display at Athens’s National Archaeological Museum. A slightly smaller one (1.84 meters), found in 1932, is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The statue was found lying face down on April 5 during a German Archaeological Institute excavation aimed at cleaning a channel associated with the Eridanus River, which traversed the cemetery in antiquity. The statue, dating from about 600 BC, was the most important of several other finds, including a sphinx (dated to about 560 BC and whose twin is also in the Athens museum after being found in 1907), two early-sixth century marble lions (one of which is in perfect condition) and fragments of columns. «After 140 years of excavations at the Kerameikos no one could have imagined a new work by the Sculptor of Dipylos coming to light. And yet this happened,» archaeologist Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, who is responsible for the digs, said at an official presentation at the Culture Ministry yesterday. The artist’s name is not known but he has been named for the fact that the first kouros was discovered at the Dipylos, or Double Gate, on the eastern side of Keremeikos. «We have a new masterpiece by a known sculptor, the sculptor of Dipylos,» said Culture Minister Evangelos. Niemeier said that the finds were discovered near the Sacred Gate (on the west side of Kerameikos) under a dirt track which was created during the construction of Athens’s new defensive walls by Themistocles in 479-478 BC. «It appears that the Eridanus would flood at this point now and then. The sculptures show marks of wagon wheels that passed over them. In a way, they held up the road surface,» Niemeier said. Further research will indicate their original placements. Niemeier surmised that Persian invaders destroyed the burial plots and the Athenians had then used the fragments in construction work. «The new finds from Kerameikos enrich our picture of Athens’s archaic sculpture. It is especially important that we have a new masterpiece by the first great Attic sculptor, the Dipylos sculptor,» he said.