A rare bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo was mysteriously recovered in the Gaza Strip, only to be seized by police and vanish almost immediately.
The discolored green-brown figure shows the youthful god of Greece standing upright on two muscular legs, with one arm being outstretched and with the palm of his hand held up. He has compact curly hair and one of his eyes is apparently inlaid with a blue stone iris.
A local fisherman says he scooped the 500-kilo-heavy god from the seabed last August and carried it home, unaware of the significance of his catch.
Upon briefly appearing on the online auction site eBay with a $500,000 price tag, the police from the Islamist group Hamas, who rule the isolated Palestinian territory, seized the Greek statue and launched an investigation into the affair.
Several archaeologists have already expressed their interest in studying the life-sized bronze statue, but the police cannot confirm when the finding might be put on display.
From what the archaeologists can tell from the provided pictures, it seems that Apollo was cast sometime between the 5th and the 1st century BC, making it at least 2,000 years old.
“It’s unique. In some ways I would say it’s priceless. It’s like people asking what the value of the Mona Lisa is,” said Jean-Michel de Tarragon, a historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.
“This couldn’t have been found on the seashore or in the sea. It is very clean,” he added, “as no signs of metal disfigurement or barnacles are visible, like the ones normally found on items plucked from water.”
According to the historian, finding the true location of the statue’s discovery is vital, because some 5,000 years of history lie beneath the sands of the Gaza Strip, which was ruled at various times by ancient Egyptians, Philistines, Romans, Byzantines and Crusaders.
Statues of Greek origin such as the Apollo would not have been held in isolation, meaning it might prove to be the tip of a historical iceberg, Tarragon said, adding that he hoped Hamas appreciated its potential importance.