I try to keep up with the news in this field, but do not always have time to comment on everything I would like to - the field is wide. So I put off writing about this one for later, and did not look too carefully at the photos. It got a lot of coverage elsewhere (Guardian, Washington Post, Houston Chronicle) all closely based on the original AP release (by Nicholas Paphitis). According to this Greek police report recovering:
an ancient statue worth €12m (£10m) that was illegally excavated and hidden in a goat pen near Athens, and arrested the goat herder and another man who were allegedly trying to sell the work for €500,000. The marble sculpture of a young woman dates to about 520BC and belongs to the kore type, a police statement said on Wednesday. The 120cm (4ft) work was largely intact, except for a missing left forearm and plinth.[...] Archaeologists who inspected the find estimated its market value at €12m. A spokesman for Athens police said: “They told us that this is a unique piece.” Still bearing traces of soil, the statue has the hint of a smile on its lips, elaborately braided hair and an ankle-length gown. Police said it had been concealed near the village of Fyli, in the foothills of Mount Parnitha on the north-western fringes of Athens. The goat herder, 40, and a 56-year-old man were arrested.
I am glad I waited. It turns out matters are not so cut-and-dried, see the interesting post over on RogueClaccicist ('Goat Pen Kore?', March 30, 2012), various scholarly discussion lists (most notably Classics-l and AegeaNet) have been questioning the authenticity of the piece:
Red faces all around, this blog has reported several other instances of police in source countries making a loud fuss about the seizure (or return) of obvious fake items. In some cases genuine mistakes are involved. In this case it has to be wondered whether even the most ignorant policeman in Greece really cannot tell the difference between 'marble' and what seems from the photos fairly soft eroded plaster. Nasty sceptic that I am, I wonder whether the whole news story is not staged from front to end for for its 'feelgood' effect in the wake of the recent disastrous museum thefts and to keep looting - and the need for resources for effective police action - in the public eye.
As Elena Drakaki (and others) astutely noted early on, the Goat Pen Kore is an obvious copy of the Peplos Kore in the Acropolis museum, right down to the ‘damage’ being duplicated (along the bottom and the left arm). As of this [morning], assorted folks are wondering what the thing is made out of, and plaster seems to be the most frequent suggestion. Whatever the case, it probably isn’t worth whatever the goatherders thought they could get for it, much less what the police seem to be valuing it at.
It is worth noting that we never heard of the outcome of the reported arrest of one of the suspected Olympia Museum robbers. If the arrested man had been involved, one might expect he'd have given them a lead by now as to where the stolen objects now are. The fact that they have not been recovered suggests that they got the wrong man.
Photos from the Washington Post article (Getty)
UPDATE 3rd April 2012:
From the BBC: 'Ancient' Greek statue found in sheep pen is fake':
At first, archaeologists at Greece's Culture ministry thought the figure of a woman dated from the 6th century BC. Now, a closer examination has found moulding marks and traces of bubbles which prove it is a copy, sources at the ministry told news agencies. Two men were arrested last week [...] are currently awaiting trial on charges of looting antiquities.The question is whether they knew that the object was not an authentic antiquity. This could be an interesting case.