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Lošinj (Lussino) Island
Archeology



 

Apoxyomenos of Lošinj (Lussino), Istria

He’d been relaxing off the coast of Croatia [off Vele Orjule, near the island of Lošinj] on the floor of the Adriatic for almost 2,000 years before a passing scuba diver spotted him in 1997. He was already a few hundred years old and not in the best shape when he came to rest there — lost while being moved from his original home in Greece or present-day Turkey. Now scientists restoring this fourth-century B.C. bronze are getting clues about the figure’s history from a most unlikely source: an ancient mouse nest in his hollow right leg. Because of the positioning of the nesting material and nuts, “we know it had been lying on its back for some time before it was lost at sea,” says archaeologist Robert Sténuit. Pieces of worked wood suggest the figure had been repaired before its fateful voyage, which took place in the 1st century A.D., according to carbon dating of the nest.

The statue can be dated to the 2nd or 1st century BC, a copy of a 4th century Greek original. Systematic underwater archaeological investigations were carried out at the site and, although no trace of a shipwreck was found, it can be assumed that the statue was part of the cargo of a Roman ship. C14 analysis of organic material (the nest and food of a small rodent!) found inside the statue dated the period between the fabrication and the transportation of the statue to about 20 BC-110 AD. Once hundreds of these life-size athlete statues, called apoxyomenoi, stood in public spaces all over Greece. Only a few remain, and most have been found underwater, according to Sténuit. “The rest were probably melted down for the bronze,” he says.

This life-size bronze figure depicts a young athlete, in the act of scraping his body clean after exercise. Discovered in 1996 on the floor of the Adriatic at a depth of 45 metres just off the island of Vele Orjule near Lošinj, it was finally raised to the surface in 1999 under the initiative of the Croatian Ministry of Culture. Over seven long years, the statue was thoroughly analysed and restored at the Croatian Conservation Institute in collaboration with some fifty experts from Croatia, Italy, Belgium, the UK, France, Germany and the USA. The statue’s painstaking restoration, begun in 1999, was finished in 2006. The mouse nest, of course, was removed.

The bronze statue of Apoxyòmenos was first put on exhibit at Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence until January 30, 2007. [See http://www.palazzo-medici.it/index.php]

Sources:

  • National Geographic Magazine - Bringing Back the Bronze - http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0209/resources_geo5.html
  • Europa Nostra - http://www.europanostra.org/lang_en/awards_2006/hr_apoxyomenos.htm

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Created: Saturday, August 14, 1999; Last updated: Friday, July 24, 2015
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