Archaeologists Find Ancient Statue

May 11, 2002

ATHENS, Greece –– German archaeologists digging in a Greek burial ground have found a 2,600-year-old statue that appears to be another masterpiece by an acclaimed – but anonymous – ancient artist.

The find – a nearly complete statue of a young man called a “kouros” – bears the stylistic hallmarks of works attributed to a sculptor known only as Dipylos after the neighborhood where his works were found.

“After 140 years of excavations … no one could imagine that a new work by the Dipylos sculptor would come to light. But it happened,” Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, head of the German archaeological digs in the area, said Friday.

The new statue was discovered in March along with other antiquities, including two lion sculptures and a sphinx, near the Sacred Gate, one of two portals into ancient Athens. The finds date from the Archaic period, which was about 900-510 B.C.

Another Dipylos kouros is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The National Archaeological Museum in Athens also has one.

Digs in the area have been going on for more than a century and fragments of several kouros figures have been found. But it is rare to find one as complete as the latest find, which is missing portions of its legs and face.

Similarities in facial features, hair and body type among all the finds have led experts to believe they were created by the same artist or workshop.

Niemeier said the newly uncovered statue has striking similarities to the Dipylos work in New York. When it was complete, the statue may have stood as tall as 6 feet 6 inches tall.

“This find is important … Greece, which is a vast archaeological area, provides and will always provide the joy of this kind of discovery,” said Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Kouros are sculptures of standing young men, typically with one leg slightly forward. Their original use or meaning is unknown. Some were later used as building material for roadways, presumably after they lost their cultural significance.

The sphinx dates back to 560 B.C. and is the twin of one found in 1907. One of the two lions was found in fragments, but the other was intact, Niemeier said.