Glamorous Kore of Thera takes center stage

The Kore of Thera, one of the finest and largest Archaic Greek female sculptures ever found, is going on public display for the first time since she was discovered 22 years ago. She makes her debut September 4th at the Archaeological Museum of Thera in Santorini after more than two decades in archaeological storage.

Archaeologists found her in November of 2000. She was under just 28 inches under the soil of ancient Thera’s necropolis in the mountain pass of Sellada in southeastern Santorini. She was in supine position next to the road that ran through the cemetery to the city in the southern part of the cemetery. The statue is larger than life-sized at 7’6″ and weighs 1653 pounds. It was carved out of prized white marble of Naxos in the Daedalic sculptural style and bears its distinctive features, including her wig-like hair and her long Doric chiton worn with a wide belt.

The Kore of Thera is one of very few female statues of this size from the 7th century B.C. known to exist and she is remarkably intact. Only the tip of the nose and the bent arm of the right hand (which is still present, carved into the chest of the kore) are missing. Even the inset peg at the base is present. The details in her hair — the headband decorated with a swirl pattern on her forehead then tied behind the back of her head with a tidy square knot, the combed locks in the front, the plaits in the back — are pristine, as is the pleating and pattern of the chiton. Other korai have been found at the cemetery, but they are in pieces and heavily worn.

Funding and adequate museum space woes have kept this masterpiece from public view until now. There was talk in 2015 of exhibiting the kore in the atrium of the Archaeological Museum of Thera, but the plan did not come to fruition, so alas she languished for another seven years. She will become the centerpiece of the newly refurbished museum when it reopens next year.

3 thoughts on “Glamorous Kore of Thera takes center stage

  1. You didn’t mention those adorable toes peeking out from her chiton! Exquisite.

    Any idea if she would have been painted? Or were brightly (gaudily, some might say) painted statuary were a Classic Age affectation?

  2. After the eruption around 1600BC, people resettled on what was left of the island.

    Near the coastal town of Kamari, the massive slopes of Sellada (Σελλάδα), at the base of the mountain, accommodated the mentioned cemetery of the city of “Ancient Thera”.

    The city itself is atop those slopes. Sellada, however, continues as a pass between the peaks of ‘Profitis Ilias’ and ‘Mesa Vouno’.


  3. From 2001 (apparently updated 2008)

    “…She looks great, but on the right she has a double chin. Although she spent some 2,700 years underground, her body shows no signs of erosion and the aristocratic lady of Theraean society, sculpted in the late 7th century BC, retains the freshness of a work that heralds the coming of the great Aegean sculpture of the late Archaic and Classical periods.

    ‘Daedalic art’ in large sculpture begins around 660-650 BC and so far few large-sized Daedalic Korai have been found. The most famous of course is the famous Nicandra of Naxos, dedicated to Delos, who, although her torso is broken in the middle, still stands upright on her base where her maiden name and her husband’s name are engraved. Next is the ‘goddess from Astritsi’ in Crete, she is the also very famous ‘Lady of Auxerre’, which is in the Louvre. Now the Kore of Thera is added to the group, which is considered one of the most important finds of recent years.

    The Kore was accidentally found late last year in the cemetery of ancient Thera and a brief announcement of the find was immediately broadcast around the world. “It was a Friday afternoon, November 24,” Mr. Sigalas recalls, “and I had gone with a colleague and my goddaughter to the cemetery of ancient Thera because I wanted to see again a tomb I was studying.

    We dug around a bit and saw that it belonged to a tomb from the late 5th century BC. We dug a little too far out into the dirt for the foot of the palanquin that would lift the spear so we could get a better look at it and there suddenly appeared a piece of worked marble, which we later realized was the bottom of the statue. That night we were not at all sure that it was a statue. We left it like that overnight and the next morning we saw that it was a Kore as the legs and the folds of the back of her garment were revealed.

    The Daedalian Kore was found at a depth of only 70 cm, south of the cemetery of Sellada, which stretches over a large area under ancient Thera in the southeastern part of Santorini. It is a rocky slope joining the middle mountain and the peak of ‘Profitis Ilias’… Perhaps it should be clarified here that there are two museums. The archaeological one with the findings of Thera in historical times and the prehistoric one with the also excellent exhibition of selected finds from Akrotiri..” (i.e. before the ‘Minoan eruption’ from around 1600BC).

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