Where in the world is the Apollo of Gaza statue?
In a baffling case of archaeological hide-and-seek, an ancient and extremely rare statue was reportedly dragged from the ocean by a Palestinian fisherman, only to vanish in Gaza before its authenticity could be independently verified.
The bronze statue depicts the Greek deity Apollo and appears to date back to sometime between the fifth and the first century B.C., according to a very preliminary photographic examination, reports Reuters.
Almost 6 feet tall, the bronze statue is mostly green from age, with curly hair and one hand reaching outward. In the few photographs of the statue that were released, the rather exquisite artwork appears in excellent shape, resting bizarrely on a Smurfs blanket.
"It's unique," Jean-Michel de Tarragon of the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem told Reuters. "In some ways I would say it is priceless. It's like people asking what is the [value] of the painting La Gioconda [the Mona Lisa] in the Louvre museum. ... It's very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal."
Local fisherman Jouda Ghurab, 26, claims he pulled the 2,000-year-old statue from a section of Gaza Strip beach last August and brought it home, unaware of its worth, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The statue was soon confiscated by relatives associated with Hamas, and it briefly appeared on Ebay with a $500,000 price tag before it was obtained by government officials from Gaza's tourism ministry, per Businessweek.
The statue has not been seen since.
Its odd discovery and disappearance have baffled and frustrated experts who would give almost anything to get their hands on what could be an incredibly rare artifact. While the cultural worth of the statue is hard to pin down, some experts believe it could be sold for tens of millions of dollars at auction, reports The Times of London. It's also possible the statue may never be able to leave Gaza because of the complicated political situation in the region.
However, the fisherman's story has changed somewhat in its various retellings, which is cause for some skepticism, according to Businessweek.
Others are more convinced of the statue's authenticity. Fabio Scuto, a reporter for Italian newspaper La Repubblica who covered the story in October, thinks this work is a genuine article.
"The circumstances surrounding the discovery are only one detail: what is important is the discovery of the statue, the fact that it was seized by Hamas and that someone has tried to sell it on the black-market," Scuto wrote recently.