Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Statue Snatched from the Sea Volume 51 Number 3, May/June 1998
by Andrew L. Slayman

Italian fishermen netted a bronze statue of a young man between the island of Pantelleria, Italy, and Cap Bon, Tunisia. They took the find to the port of Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, where archaeologists determined that it probably represents one of the cardinal winds, or the wind-god Aeolus, and dates from the third or second century B.C. The piece was immediately compared to the Riace Bronzes, two spectacular sculptures found off the coast of Calabria, southern Italy, in 1972.

The statue is missing both arms, one leg, and both feet; the remaining leg was found some time ago by the same fishermen. The bone inlays of the eyes survive, though the pupils, presumably made of some other material, do not. Together, torso and head are 5'4" tall, indicating that when complete the statue stood more than six feet tall.

The bronze is being desalinized in a tank of fresh water in Mazara, and will then be sent to the Central Institute for Restoration, in Rome, for further work. Mazara's mayor, Giovanni d'Alfio, has vowed that ultimately the Aeolus will be returned to his town, where a museum will be built to house it. Fearing treasure hunters, officials have not revealed exactly where it was found.

© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America