Greek police bust 2 looters with 2 ancient statues

Kouros statues recovered from looters, 6th c. B.C.Police in Greece busted two men in the act of loading a rare matched pair of ancient statues into a truck to smuggle them outside the country where they planned to sell them for 10 million euros ($12.43 million). The police are also looking for a third member of the gang who was going to help get the works out of Greece.

They haven’t commented yet on where the statues were headed or who was meant to be on the receiving end.

Archaeologists said Tuesday the statues are “outstanding works of art” and may have come from a temple or cemetery in a lost ancient city in the Peloponnese region in southern Greece. Both are in excellent condition, but lack sections of their lower legs and were gashed by a plow or digging machinery.

They stand 1.82 meters (5 feet 9 inches) and 1.78 meters (5 feet 8 inches) high, and were probably carved by the same sculptor out of thick-grained island marble between 550-520 B.C, at the height of the archaic period of sculpture.

“They are exactly the same, with a slight variation in hairstyle and a small difference in height,” said Nikos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens where the finds were temporarily housed for conservation and study. “The artist may have wanted to produce two similar figures that would form part of a group.”

The statues are in the kouros style, the stiff, posed style of sculpture that preceded the Hellenistic embrace of naturalistic statuary.

Archaeologists hope to find the missing pieces of the legs since the breaks are recent, but they haven’t pinpointed the exact location where the statues were excavated. Authorities suspect the site might be lost ruins of Tenea because a similar but slightly earlier statue was found in what may be Tenea’s cemetery. Here’s hoping the men they arrested spill all the details.

For now, the kouros will remain in the National Archaeological Museum for further analysis and conservation.